Earlier this week, Valve finally dropped the latest iteration of Counter-Strike’s Pick em Challenge game as the PGL Major: Antwerp starts in less than seven days. The much-loved minigame is back just as it was last year, but it’s always good to review the basics, right? And of course, this upcoming Major is set to be the field of many surprises, so the discussion regarding predictions is very welcome.
So, as always, I’ll be providing my tips and predictions through the course of the Major. Last year we were able to upgrade our PGL Major Stockholm coin to its highest level, and I aim to do the very same this time. So, make sure to tune up to EBT as I will cover not only the Major itself in the coming days, but also the Pick em Challenge.
In any case, let’s not delay our guide any longer and get right into it. First, here’s all you need to know about the Pick’em Challenge as well as how Souvenir drops will work for the upcoming Major.
The Pick’em Challenge for this Major works the same way as Stockholm’s did last year, which means that it’s included with the PGL Major Antwerp Viewer Pass. The Pass can be acquired in-game for $9.99 or your local currency equivalent. In less than a week, the first Viewer Passes should start showing up on Steam’s Community Market as well as third-party platforms too. However, waiting for this will cause you to miss the first batch of predictions.
Nonetheless, once you acquire and activate the Viewer Pass, you will get a set of bonuses from the get-go. For one, you will be able to set a team flair at Steam.TV. Then, you will also get access to chat stickers for all teams that are participating in the Major. You can use these at Steam Chat. Also, you will also be able to choose one team and get its graffiti with unlimited uses for the duration of the tournament. And of course, alongside with all that you will also get access to the Pick’em Challenge.
With the Viewer Pass activated, you will be able to immediately start doing the Pick’em Challenge. The Major-exclusive minigame has been a tradition in Global Offensive, and for a while now it has been the only way to get Souvenir Cases; more on that later. For now, it’s important to know how the Pick’em challenge works, so here it is.
The Pick’em Challenge, just like the Major, is divided in three stages. The Challengers Stage, the Legends Stage and the Champions Stage.In the first two stages, you will pick a total of nine teams. One to advance undefeated from said stage, one to leave without winning a single game and seven squads to advance with any score. In the final stage, you will predict the entire playoffs’ bracket.To upgrade your Major coin and get Souvenir cases, you need to complete objectives. These objectives can be seen in the screenshot below the previous section regarding the Viewer Pass.The Major coin has four levels: bronze, silver, gold and diamond. You will automatically get a bronze coin upon activation of the Viewer Pass. To upgrade it further, you need to complete three, six and nine objectives respectively.Each coin upgrade will award you with one Souvenir Token. These can be used to redeem a souvenir case of your choice: you will be able to pick any map played at the Antwerp Major and get a Souvenir Case from it. You can also buy tokens separately.If you participate in every stage of the Pick’em Challenge, you’re guaranteed to get at least a silver coin. In order to get any further than that, you will need to make the correct picks. And that’s where we enter.
Before we dive in our predictions for the Challengers Stage, let’s review one final and very popular topic that comes along CSGO Majors: the Souvenir packages. If you aren’t aware, souvenir packages are CSGO cases that contain skins much like normal cases you can drop while playing. Differently than those cases, though, the skins in the souvenir cases are designed by Valve themselves and are exclusive to these souvenirs. Also, you don’t need a key to open them.
Moreover, skins dropped from souvenir cases come in a different variation, much like StatTrak skins. However, instead of counting your kills, these skins come with unique stickers from the Major and the teams involved in a determined match. For example, once the match between G2 and Team Liquid is over, you will be able to head over CSGO and get a Souvenir Case from that map with stickers from these two teams. You can the skins which map’s souvenir case contains on CSGOStash.
Now, with all explained, let’s head to our predictions.
THE UNDEFEATED AND WINLESS TEAMS
To kick off our predictions, I’m starting with our choices for teams that will go 3 – 0 and 0 – 3 at the Challengers Stage. In these categories, I’m going with Imperial and Renegades. Now, you might be asking why I didn’t pick a favorite such as ENCE to be undefeated through this stage and the reason is simple: it doesn’t make sense.
The idea here is that since we don’t get any extra points for picking these categories right, it’s unwise to waste a team that we are sure will advance somehow as a 3 – 0 pick. It’s worth remembering that this stage will run in the Swiss System with best-of-three series only for decider and elimination matches. This means that there’s potential for upsets everywhere! Even stronger teams can fall to underdogs here, so let’s minimize our risks.
Furthermore, it’s also interesting to remember that PGL will be using the Buchholz system here, too. This means that a team’s opponents’ performances will impact in their match-ups from the third round onwards. Given that Imperial will be taking on Team Spirit first, I believe the Buchholz system might end helping them up. So, who knows, maybe they end up being the 3 – 0 team!
Finally, let’s quickly address our winless pick, Renegades. The Australians haven’t impressed us at all. Back in the Asia-Pacific RMRs they were completely overwhelmed by IHC and had a difficult clash against TyLoo to get a spot here. They aren’t looking particularly strong, and they don’t really have momentum like 9z, for example. Renegades aren’t looking great, and they haven’t been playing well enough either. This makes them a perfect candidate for this category.
THE (REALLY) UNDEFEATED TEAMS
Now, let’s get into the seven picks for teams that will advance no matter how. In order to make this guide direct to the point, we’ll keep things short, but make sure you follow EBT here as our Major previews are coming soon. This way you will be able to get a more detailed view in many of the teams we’ll be listing here. Also, for organization’s sake we’ll be dividing this section in how they will score. Once again, though, this doesn’t matter. No matter how these teams advance, they will count.
ENCE: the currently fourth-best team in the world is our first pick to go 3 – 0 in this stage of the Major. Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer has a team with enough back bones to support their stars, and while Aleksander “hades” Miskiewicz and Lotan “Spinx” Giladi often steal the show, ENCE’s most recent addition Pavle “maden” Bošković is proving to be one of the best roster additions we’ve seen recently.G2: our second pick for this category is Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen’s team. Our main worry about G2 making 3 – 0 here is their tendency of playing below their standards in opening matches. Yet, first and foremost they will be facing Team Liquid here, an opponent that has been far from perfect recently. Secondly, Aleksib has addressed this during the European RMRs. I believe he is working to address G2’s early-tournament flaws, and with such a roster, he shouldn’t have issues doing it.
THREE WINS, ONE LOSS
Next, here’s the teams I expect to advance with one loss to their name.
Astralis: the Danish powerhouse has been showing constant improvements ever since adding Asger “farlig” Jensen to their ranks. The AWPer has been working on his own game, and it shows. Thanks to him, Benjamin “blameF” Bremer has found more space in Astralis’ formation and with Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke is also recovering his consistency, the Astralis fragging squad is even deadlier. Astralis still must work on their T-sides, though, which is a main reason to think they will go 3 – 1.Imperial: our next pick is a bit controversial. We’ll picking Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo’s team as one of our 3 – 1 pick. The reason for that is while they need to work on their map pool and individual forms, this squad’s chemistry is off the charts. Chemistry alone won’t carry any team, but it’s essential for any team to work and when paired with experience, it can go a long way. Imperial can be a very difficult team to play against in BO1s, and I expect them to make the best out of their first two matches.Vitality: I’m not completely convinced by the Frenchmen. Yet, this roster has enough experience, firepower and tactical prowess to get through the Challengers phase with one defeat. This is, after all, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut’s team! Also, Vitality has also shown improvements when we last saw them at the RMRs, and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen is also performing well. Vitality will probably be in trouble if they face ENCE or G2, and I consider Astralis to be favorites over them. Still, besides a possible encounter with these three, it should be a smooth ride.
Finally, the last teams that will advance.
Team Liquid: the North American powerhouse hasn’t impressed us during the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown. Yet, while Richard “shox” Papillon place in this roster becomes more questionable by match, I believe that the core of Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, Joshua “oSee” Ohm and Keith “NAF” Markovic will be able to push Liquid through the finish line. It won’t be easy, though. Right off the bat Liquid will face one of our favorites after all. Still, this is a team composed by veterans that have been in dire situations before.MiBR: Adriano “WOOD7” Cerato team doesn’t cease to impress. While they might not be the best team Brazil has to offer, the duo composed by Jhonatan “JOTA” Willian and Marcelo “chelo” Cespedes will give any team trouble. With Raphael “exit” Lacerda right behind them, this squad is among one of the best at this stage of the Major, and while they will eventually find trouble – which isn’t uncommon for underdogs such as themselves – they will be able to ultimately advance here, I’m sure.Outsiders: Dzhami “Jame” Ali’s Outsiders have been heavily criticized by fans lately, and there’s a good reason for it. The passive roster seems to be even more passive these days, and their run at RMR was all but flawless. Teams are starting to punish Jame for his style, and this is affecting this squad more than it should. Combined with the unclear future this roster has, Outsiders is in a dire situation. Yet, if there’s one thing, we all learnt from Jame over these past months is to never count them out. This roster’s resilience knows no bounds, and with Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis around, they can get back on track no matter how difficult the situation might be.
HOW MY PICK’EM IS LOOKING:
With our advancing team’s list done, here’s how my Pick’em looks right now.
With the predictions over, it’s important to give a shoutout for all community members who are creating some very useful tools ahead of the Major. One of these tools is the Matchup Calculator, which allows you to simulate this entire stage here. Another great tool is the Pick’em Online, which allow you to make your picks through your web browser. Also, make sure to check out Redditor SaxOps’ prediction survey to give you an idea of how popular picks are in the community. If you found yourself a cool tool, make sure to tell us, too!
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