Counter-Strike’s first Major of 2022, the PGL Major Antwerp 2022 started earlier this week, and what week it has been! We have seen various surprises across these past days, from Astralis ultimately failing to advance to Imperial keeping the Brazilian dream alive, and that was just the start of the tournament. This Saturday, we’ll be seeing the eight survivors from the Challengers Stage facing the eight Legends teams, and with the likes of FaZe Clan and Natus Vincere around, things will only get spicier.
Therefore, let’s make the best out of the small break the Major will take this Friday, right before the next stage of the competition kicks off. Here’s all you need to know about the Legends Stage as well as our traditional storyline previews, where we review the eight more interesting teams coming to the competition. Of course, feel free to look at our previous preview here as it includes a look at certain storylines which won’t be covered here, and don’t forget to have a glance at our Pick’em predictions, too!
The PGL Major Antwerp 2022: Legends Stage will be kicking off this Saturday, 14th. At 10 AM UTC, PGL will be hosting the first two matches of the day: Heroic will be taking on Team Liquid, while Bad News Eagles face Copenhagen Flames. The opening day of the Legends Stage will see a total of sixteen best-of-one series being played in total, with each taking playing twice.
As for the tournament format, the Legends Stage will see the same Swiss System bracket that was used in the Challengers Stage. This means that the Buchholz System will be used for seeding matches from the second round onwards. As for the matches, initial matches are best-of-one series. In the other hand, deciders and elimination games are best-of-three series. The top eight teams – these which manage to get three victories before three defeats – will qualify for the Major’s final stage.
Finally, you will be able to follow all the action through various ways. PGL will stream all games through Twitch and YouTube, and you can also follow the action through Valve’s Steam.TV. You can also follow players’ point-of-views through PGL official website, which can be found here. This mean that you can always have your favorite player POV once he’s on the server. Finally, let’s look at the opening round schedule, and the storylines to follow.
CLOUD9 – THE PRODIGAL ORGANIZATION RETURNS
Cloud9 leaving Counter-Strike last year certainly broke some hearts. The organization has been a household name in Global Offensive, and its Major title is fondly remembered to this day, after all. However, back then the organization promised it would be back one day, and they will finally debut their new roster in Antwerp this Saturday. The team which previously played under Gambit is now in Cloud9’s ranks, and fans have high expectation for that squad.
These expectations are understandable, though. Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov crew qualified for Antwerp undefeated, and they have been consistently one of the best teams from the CIS region. Now, this roster does have some issues that some have been criticising them for, and this Major will also be the grounds for these players to show whether these criticisms are unfounded. Antwerp will also be the place for Cloud9 to show that in a world with ENCE, FaZe, FURIA and G2, they have a place among the best.
At the end of the day, every team coming to Belgium this week has or had something to prove, and yet, for Cloud9, it’s like there’s something else here for them. This roster is going through a seemingly never-ending journey to prove themselves and beat expectations. They are seen as one of the teams affected by the end of the online era, and it’s difficult to argue against that. Instead, the discussion is about how much they were affected, and how far they have progressed since then at offline events.
Consequently, Cloud9 will finally answer this question later starting this weekend. Having an organization backing them once again certainly lifts a weight off their minds, and this crew needs to show that they aren’t “onliners” and instead show that they’re Cloud9’s ticket to the top of the scene.
ENCE – A DIAMOND IN THE CUTTING
PGL Major Antwerp marks a new point in Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer’s career. The Danish captain has been active for over a decade, but he mostly remained in the shadows of Denmark Counter-Strike. Despite being close to a breakthrough in the past, such as when his Heroic roster finished as one of the top four teams in IEM Katowice 2017, only now we’re seeing what the in-game leader is truly capable of. So much so that his first Major appearance was at last year’s Stockholm Major.
However, ENCE is not just Snappi’s show. In fact, it’s Lotan “Spinx” Giladi who is often at the spotlight from the roster. The 21-year-old rifler has been putting world-class performances consistently for a while now, and his 1.28 HLTV Rating at this week’s Challengers Stage is not even the best we’ve seen from him in these past couple of months. Spinx is a highlight machine but more importantly, he’s the kind of player every team aiming for the top needs.
Yet, ENCE isn’t just Snappi and Spinx either. If there’s one man that also needs a shoutout, it’s Pavle “maden” Bošković. The most recent addition to ENCE ranks has become an essential part of the roster. With him, Snappi has another strong player to work with but more importantly, Spinx has more freedom with maden around, allowing both to play to their best. Add in the fact that Paweł “dycha” Dycha has also been improving his consistency and it’s easy to understand why this team has been so good since he joined.
Nevertheless, the truth here is that last year ENCE was a rough gem. We could see the markings of greatness, but they weren’t there yet. In Antwerp, though, this diamond is going to show how bright it can shine.
FAZE CLAN – GOLD IS NOT ENOUGH
Back in Stockholm last year, FaZe Clan came to that Major as underdogs after barely managing to qualify for it. Back then, the team seemed to be one player away from greatness and it was disappointing, yet understandable, to see Finn “karrigan” Andersen failing to make that squad work. Eventually that one roster move came, and in less than one year since its last Major, FaZe are now coming as favorites. The player responsible for this change is no one else but Robin “ropz” Kool.
At the same time ropz is a key factor for this team becoming contenders, he won’t be alone in Antwerp. FaZe, as a unit, wants this title. For that, they will need to step up even more than they did in IEM Katowice and EPL XV. This is, after all, the Major! This is the event Karrigan and Håvard “rain” Nygaard have been waiting for since the ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018. Back then, FaZe were favorites to win their first Major title, but they failed. Afterwards, the team crumbled, and both failed to dispute Major titles until now.
BACK FOR ANOTHER RIDE
Nonetheless, Karrigan and Rain are back together, and they have three world-class players with them. The difference here compared to Boston is that they replaced its fragging trio composed by veterans such as Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács with young yet experienced blood. Instead of GuardiaN, for example, we have the 21-year-old Helvijs “broky” Saukants in the AWPer role. FaZe’s young stars haven’t reached their potential, but they know very well how to perform on the biggest stages CSGO has to offer.
And this makes clear why many see the stars aligning for FaZe in Antwerp. This roster is the closest to perfection the organization has ever fielding. Furthermore, they’re going through a good phase after winning two premier events, and they know PGL Major Antwerp could be the third. The return of Cloud9 to Counter-Strike might’ve shaken fans that saw their dreams shattering back in 2018, but it will take more than a dream run to take FaZe off the trophy this time. Unless, perhaps, missing Robert “RobbaN” Dahlström, their coach, becomes too much of an issue for FaZe.
FURIA – ROAR HIGH
FURIA are the dark horses of PGL Major: Antwerp. The Brazilians have been playing very well lately, and much like ENCE, they chose the perfect time to step up. Coming to the Major, we’ve a more confident than ever Andrei “arT” Piovezan, a Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato eager to go further than FURIA ever did in Majors, and a Rafael “saffee” Costa who keeps proving that age won’t stop him from becoming one of the most fearsome AWPers in the game.
More importantly, though, the Brazilians seems to be better than ever. Even back when they had Henrique “HEN1” Teles and Vinicius “VINI” Figueiredo in their ranks this roster didn’t look quite as good. Whether this is due to their support player, André “drop” Abreu, becoming exactly what the team needs or saffee’s impact on the team’s morale, it’s undeniably that FURIA has never been so well rounded up.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how far FURIA goes in Antwerp, and how they will perform overall. As mentioned above, arT’s playstyle can be a blessing or a curse depending on how his opponent adapts to him. Yuri “yuurih” Boian will also be a player to keep a close eye on. The rifler went through a slump last year but he’s back, and I’m curious to see how well he will fare now.
FURIA is a powerful team, one no opponent should underestimate. For example, they were beaten by FaZe back in EPL XV, but that was a close match. Will arT be able to challenge teams like FaZe in Antwerp? Also, how not having Nicholas “guerri” Nogueira behind them as their coach will affect this team’s performance?
G2 – NO SECONDHAND DIAMONDS
Coming to Antwerp, G2 had yet to fully convince the world that they would be able to fight for the trophy. Sure, Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen has an incredible amount of firepower to work with in this team, including Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, but whenever G2 left the server, it felt like someone would point an issue with them. To truly be considered challengers against the likes of FaZe and Na’Vi, G2 needed to show much more than they did until now.
Fortunately, the Europeans did just that at the Challengers Stage, almost. G2 qualified for the Legends Stage undefeated, but it’s undeniably that the team had some troubles. More specifically, their match against Team Spirit highlighted that this roster still has issues with their T sides. Some improvements were noticed in their next match which saw G2 facing ENCE.
Ultimately, it seems that their attacking side is connected to how Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov plays. If the youngster can win duels against his opponents’ AWPer, G2 will perform much better than what we saw from their game against Spirit. With this in mind, m0NESY current form has to be discussed. It’s clear that he is far from reaching any ceiling, and he’s developing quickly. Yet, right now, is he able to compete with the best in the world? Will he be able to take on FaZe’s broky in a potential encounter?
MAKE OR BREAK
Ultimately, despite having a roster of veterans, G2 will be relying plenty on their AWPer, just like any other team. As we mentioned above, m0NESY is developing well enough, but he still is a risk taker. His style is entertaining when it works, and thanks to his skill, it often does. When it doesn’t, though, m0NESY becomes a very frustrating player to watch. For every player there’s a line between taking risks and making dumb plays, and one only discover how far he can go before passing this line with experience.
Until then, though, fans better expect to see the young AWPer relying a lot on his raw skills, which can become a problem here. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that G2’s opponents are investigating what m0NESY tends to do as an attacker, and how to properly shut him as early as possible as he’ll eventually give openings. For a team like Na’Vi which has a strong AWPer, they might not even need this. If their player can outplay m0NESY with experience, G2 will be at a disadvantage immediately.
Still, admittedly this section has been overly negative about m0NESY. He might be one of the biggest risktakers in the top level right now, but he has skill to back his entertaining style. Furthermore, his explosive style can help G2 overwhelm opponents that don’t have such a proficient AWPer. Just like he might be frustrating to watch, he can also be quite the headache for his opponents.
IMPERIAL – NEVER LET THE SPARKLE FADE AWAY
Imperial keeps surpassing expectations. Earlier in the year, some expected Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo’s team to fail to qualify for the Major. Yet, they only lost once during the American RMR. Then, many considered them to be one of the teams leaving the Major in the Challengers Stage. Some even expected them to go out winless. Yet, Imperial is coming for the second stage of the Major.
It wasn’t easy, though. The Brazilians had a rough time against Team Spirit, who crushed them in their opener. Team Liquid was no match for Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, but after being beaten by Bad News Eagles, Imperial was on the verge of being eliminated. In the last days of the stage, IHC gave a scare to Imperial’s fans, but the Brazilians survived. Ultimately, Imperial faced forZe as underdogs, but as a gift to their massive fanbase, they crushed the CIS powerhouse and qualified for the Legends Stage.
Consequently, the only question that remains about this roster is how far can they take this dream? FalleN has been doing a good job as the team’s AWPer and captain. Fernando keeps delivering on the fragging front. Lincoln “fnx” Lau is performing like only he can, clutching like only he can. Ricardo “boltz” Prass has performed well in Antwerp and along with Vinicius “VINI” Figueiredo, they have been FalleN’s knights. Whether they take the initiative or become late-round bastions for the squad.
This, while this team doesn’t have a star like ENCE’s Spinx or G2’s NiKo, Imperial is making the best out of what they have. And truth be told, this team has experience, a good mind leading them, and a lot of fight in them. This isn’t a Major-winning roster. Imperial is a squad made to break expectations. And they’re doing this just fine.
NATUS VINCERE – ONLY THE NOW MATTERS
It’s difficult to wrap our heads about the fact that after Antwerp Natus Vincere might not be the same. Not due to results, but due to the current world events that are regrettably affecting esports. Even so, though, Na’Vi players are dedicated to make the most out of every tournament they attend. If this team asked for a break, it would be completely understandable. Yet, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and his teammates are still fighting, and still playing like one of the best CSGO squads in the whole world.
Hence, it’s no surprise to see why Natus Vincere is one of the favorites coming to Antwerp. This team is focusing on what’s going on now for them and are living one day at time. Right now, they are completely focused on this Major and this goes to show resilient everyone here is. It’s clear that some players aren’t playing at their best, such as Denis “electroNic” Sharipov who has faced a slump earlier in the year. Even so, it’s not like they have given up. Natus Vincere is competing with all they have.
As for Na’Vi chances of winning PGL Major Antwerp, it’s fair to say that have a decent shot at it. FaZe would be favorites in a possible encounter, but Na’Vi is a powerhouse on their own. There’s a very realistic world where Natus Vincere reaches the playoffs and eventually wins over FaZe. Unlikely, but still not impossible at all.
Overall, Natus Vincere should at least be targeting a playoffs finish. Anything after reaching the Champions Stage would be going above expectations for them, and a possible win over FaZe would be welcome. Still, if Na’Vi is taking one day at time – one match at time – why we should worry about what’s going to happen so far ahead?
This Saturday, sixteen teams will start writing the climax of their tales in Antwerp. For favorites and underdogs alike, their future is in their hands.
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