Three takeaways from ESL One Cologne 2016

ESL One Cologne 2016 is in the books, and a cool $500,000 is in the collective account of SK Gaming. Here are a few takeaways from the thrilling CS:GO major:

SK Gaming
SK Gaming at ESL One Cologne 2016 (ESL)

SK Gaming is the best team in the world, and coldzera is a beast

The grand finals series between Team Liquid and SK wasn’t even close. After a 8-7 half on Train, SK posted a perfect 8-0 CT half without dropping a round. Cobblestone was even more brutal, as TL only managed to put up 5 rounds as Terrorist, and only one as CT.

But that’s because SK Gaming is playing absolutely stellar CS:GO right now. They’re only the second team to win back to back majors (a slightly different iteration of Fnatic managed this feat in 2015). While the team is stacked, their win in Cologne is in large part due to the unbelievable play of Marcelo “coldzera” David, who walked away with his second MVP trophy at a major. Coldzera had the highest Kill/Death ratio of the tournament and the most kills per round. More importantly, he made sure SK stayed on target even when they were tested in the semis by a game Virtus.Pro squad.

Team Liquid at ESL One Cologne 2016
Team Liquid at ESL One Cologne 2016 (ESL)

Team Liquid was terrific, faces an uncertain future

The North American team is about to undergo serious upheaval when they lose star player Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev after the tournament, but it’s safe to say TL shattered all expectations in Germany.

After losing Train – their first map against Na’Vi – Liquid came alive in a way that we’ve never seen from a North American team. Everyone stepped up. Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski in particular proved that he is a world-class caliber player who can contend with the best Europe can offer. Team Liquid sailed past Na’Vi 2-1 and shut down Fnatic 2-0 in the semifinals. They are officially the only North American CS:GO team to ever reach a grand final at a major.

But s1mple was the key ingredient here. When a round would look all but lost, s1mple would click on for miraculous clutch after clutch. It’ll be interesting to see how TL fare moving forward without the Ukrainian.

Ninjas in Pyjamas at ESL One Cologne 2016
Ninjas in Pyjamas at ESL One Cologne 2016 (NiP Facebook)

The field is open

ESL One Cologne was historic, featuring the first ever grand final without a European team. This is largely due to Team Liquid’s miracle run. Both Na’Vi and Fnatic were simply embarrassed by an opponent from a region that has been mocked for the better part of a decade in Counter-Strike.

However, the biggest surprises in the tournament were the teams that didn’t make it to the top eight, such as Ninjas in Pyjamas. With their loss to Flipsid3 Tactics in the group stage, NiP missed out; for the first time ever, they won’t be returning to a major as legends. With this win, Flipsid3 joins regional comrades Na’Vi and Gambit Gaming in the top eight, meaning all three teams from the CIS region have earned their berth at the next major.

And the open qualifiers for the next major will be brutal. EnVyUs, NiP, and G2 esports will join the likes of Dignitas, Mousesports, and FaZe Clan to compete for the 8 challenger spots. This qualifier could be considered a major tournament in itself.

Dylan Walker is on Twitter @dyluuxx.