All opinions in this article are my own and not necessarily representative of the rest of SiegeGG’s staff.
With the conclusion of the 2018 Six Major Paris, tournament favorites, G2 Esports, would take a convincing victory to give themselves wins at both Majors in 2018. The end result, while maybe not a surprise, certainly came with a rollercoaster of outcomes, ranging from dominant victories to inexcusable defeats. Unfortunately, the Brazilian squads mostly experienced the latter, taking losses not just from being outplayed, but from their own mistakes that you would not usually expect.
Latin America (LATAM) is a region long considered to be a wild-card in their style of play. While a majority of the world plays Siege in a more “matter of fact” way, sticking more stringently to their strategies -- what you could call a more predictable game -- LATAM seems to throw that to the wayside.
Whether it be in their strategy and macro play, or micro plays in gunfights and peeking angles, their only expected play is the unexpected one. Generally speaking, when Brazilian teams go to international events, they seem to reel themselves in a bit, and their mixture of playstyles usually finds success. However, after an incredibly disappointing showing in Paris, it seems that maybe the region is in need of some changes.
Starting off with the only LATAM team to make it out of the group stages, Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) managed to convincingly halt a motivated Fnatic squad with a 6-3, 6-1 victory in their first match. The first map of Clubhouse had NiP looking a bit hesitant on attack -- though that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing when playing the first match of a major against an opponent outside your region.
However, the problems they experienced here would show up again in their later matches against G2 and Evil Geniuses (EG). There were issues in taking map control, and their site pushes were slow and mostly one-dimensional. Even with man advantages, time would nearly always play a factor and force NiP to rush into late round situations.
With the switch to defense they seemed immensely more confident, not being afraid to roam and flank the attackers, and on the back of a great performance from Psycho, they took the map convincingly. Going into their match with eventual champions G2 though, NiP’s attacking woes would continue.
They found themselves once again on Clubhouse as the first map, but it would end in a swift 6-0 loss this time. While NiP definitely improved here in their ability to take map control from the defenders, they once again could not capitalize on G2 mistakes -- though admittedly there were few.
Site pushes still came too late in the rounds and NiP would only manage a single bomb plant across both maps that were played. Moving onto Coastline for their second map. it seemed that NiP was improving.
Coastline is already an attacker favored map, and they continued to improve their map control and roam clear. It could be seen that they were gaining momentum and finally getting more confident, however G2’s defense proved strong, and NiP could not hold a significant advantage going into defense that is needed to succeed on this map.
NiP did their best to throw a heavy roaming strategy at G2 and catch them off guard, but G2 simply hard pushed the site each time and had an easy time of preventing a retake with so many defenders off site.
With NiP currently sitting in 7th place in the Latin American standings, their performance being the best out of their region certainly came as a surprise. They have been suffering from mid-round missteps for a few weeks now in the regular season, where they are able to take an early advantage, but are not able to capitalize on it.
However, it could also certainly be argued that they had the easiest road of any LATAM team to the playoffs. Both of NiP’s wins came against Fnatic, who was a team they already had experience playing against when they defeated them 2-0 at the Six Invitational quarter-finals in February.
Once again, as had happened then, NiP also lost 2-0 to G2 in the semi-finals. After a disappointing performance at LAN, and their aforementioned lowly placing in Pro League standings, NiP needs to find some improvement and find it fast. With the new changes of auto-relegation to the lowest ranked Pro League teams, they are in danger of losing their spot, and to none other than their old organization.
For FaZe Clan we move to group D, which was given the fitting name of The Group of Death. Consisting of FaZe, Rogue, Orgless and Team Secret, we were guaranteed that a potential tournament favorite would not make it out of groups.
FaZe started this tournament off very similarly to their Brazilian brothers in NiP, not only with a 2-0 victory, but with very similar mistakes that made things needlessly difficult for them. The first map against Orgless, Villa, would go to a 7-6 scoreline, with FaZe not being able to deal with the roaming AceeZ. Time after time his free-roaming Bandit would show up to disrupt the FaZe attack, and late site pushes would lead to back and forth rounds.
Multiple times FaZe was able to pick up an early kill, but then would ignore the deep roam and choose to focus on setting their attack for a direct site push. This in itself can be a great way to deal with a far roamer, force the defense to play at a disadvantage, leading to a scenario when you can trade kills and take the site via brute force, leaving the roamer all alone.
Yet, multiple times, FaZe would simply take too long and allow AceeZ to flank them. Switching over to defense, FaZe mostly stuck with a heavy site hold as opposed to roaming, and OrgLess made them pay. Giving up all of their map control allowed the German squad to set up exactly how they like, take the gunfights they wanted, and if not for some huge Smoke clutches, this map would not have gone to OT.
Moving into their matchup with Rogue, troubles with attack would continue, as FaZe found themselves down 2-3 going into defense on map one. They were able to recover this map well enough, though, with defense being a somewhat consistent area of success across multiple matches, and go on to win the map 6-4.
However going into the second and third maps of this match. things would rapidly go downhill. Map 2 gave us yet another 6-0 Latin American defeat on Clubhouse, where FaZe were able to trade kills effectively, but only after starting (what seemed like) every single site push with less than 20 seconds remaining.
Rogue were simply able to wait for FaZe to have to start rushing, and with strong defensive positions already held, cleaning up the attackers was virtually no problem. The decider match of Border was more of the same, however FaZe was able to claw back a couple rounds; most notably in round 2 where they used their time effectively, and took one of their few decisive attacking victories.
FaZe has always been a consistently strong team. After having the best group stage performance at the 2018 Invitational with a 20-2 round differential, we know this team can perform. If NiP had the easiest road out of groups, then FaZe may as well have had the hardest.
They were able, although somewhat sloppily, to take out Orgless 2-0, and were then forced to go up against the number 2 seeded teams from both North America and Europe. The top of the Latin American standings is hotly contested right now, and so FaZe may just be able to sneak their way into this seasons championship.
The bottom half of our Latin American teams are, ironically enough, the two tied for first place in the Pro League standings. Immortals (IMT) only sits behind Team Liquid by virtue of a worse round differential in the regular season, and for this tournament they avoid the (virtual) absolute bottom spot by losing just 2 fewer rounds than their regional counterparts.
Starting off with their match against Millenium, IMT played their attacking rounds much more effectively than we had seen from the other LATAM teams mentioned above. The only problem was that this perfectly played into Millenium's defensive strategy.
Starting off with a Tower and then Kitchen defense on Oregon, the plan was to retake, and retake they did. One thing that IMT does exceptionally well is entry frag, and so Millenium essentially gave IMT the control to move into the bomb sites and go for defuser plants. Utilizing C4 and countless other utility allowed them to hang back to avoid early fights, and Millenium was eventually able to take this map 6-3.
For the second map of Coastline, IMT was able to show off their entry fragging ability, and used their opening kill advantages to gain a 3-2 head start going into defense. However Millenium proved extremely strong here, and took 4 rounds in a row to end this matchup 2-0.
Their final matchup in Paris came against the South Korean team Element Mystic (EM). After both squads came off of disappointing 2-0 losses, all bets were off to keep their Major dreams alive.
Going into Border for the first map, IMT held a strong roam game, but it seemed that if the edges of the defense failed the rest would degrade quickly. Yuuk, however, was able to salvage their defensive advantage with a 1v4 in round 2, and IMT would try and find their footing on attack.
What they found, however, was a wildly fluid roam game from the South Koreans and it felt like EM, not IMT, were employing the Brazilian strategy of unexpected play. Peeking outside, re-peeking for multi-kills, and long rotations where it seemed roamers would rather die than return to site kept Immortals on their toes.
IMT attempted to focus on pushing sites, but not until they usually lost one or two people, which meant that EM would not allow them to regroup. Even if Immortals did make it into the bomb sites, countless well placed holes in ceilings and floors allowed EM to stay off-site and still effectively defend, giving them the 1-0 lead in the series.
Immortals was able to bounce back with a dominant 6-1 win on Consulate to tie, and then once again ended up on Coastline. This was a map that IMT had found success on in the regular season, and as a decider matchup that is attacker favored should have been a great fit for them. However, they found more of the same trouble with EM’s roam game.
Their ability to move as a unit, generally rotating around the map with 2, sometimes 3 people together did not allow IMT to get entry picks that they generally expected. Once again, EM employed plenty of vertical play that allowed them to have just a single anchor, allowing them to keep the rest of team off site for a majority of rounds. They took an advantage on this side 3-2, and would not let up when switching to attack to send Immortals home.
With Immortals' performance in the regular season, currently tied for first in LATAM Pro League, I do suspect that we will see them later on in the year at the Season 8 Finals in their home country. However, this tournament can definitely give them some insight into what needs to be improved.
We saw two different teams with two very different strategies essentially halt the initial fragging power that IMT holds, and it will be interesting to see how the Brazilians adapt to that in the future. If they do find success in patching those holes, however, this will be a team that competes with the best, on the biggest stage.
If you were to ask nearly anyone who they thought the most surprising squad to not make the playoffs was, you would hear Team Liquid's (TL) name quite a lot. Why not? After all, they are the current number one team in Latin American Pro League, Pro League Season 7 champions, and one of the Paris Major's biggest disappointments.
Their 2018 Six Invitational performance had not been the most impressive as well, as they had then also failed to make it to the playoffs. Their only win from either tournament came back in that Invitational group, against the EU online qualifier winners of Room Factory.
We know that Liquid can perform on a big stage, but why can’t they make it to the biggest?
Their journey started against hometown heroes Vitality, but in the group stage without a crowd behind the Frenchmen, Liquid would need to take advantage of the absent home field advantage. They started relatively strong -- the first map of Coastline would go to 13 rounds, ending in a 7-6 Vitality victory. In the second map of Oregon, too, Liquid kept up the pressure with a swift 6-2 win to tie the series. However, it was on the third and deciding map of Bank was where Liquid began to showcase their weaknesses.
From the start we saw a slow and one-dimensional attack onto the CEO office, where TL essentially walked up the main lobby stairs to their deaths. Throughout their attacking effort, we saw countless lone-wolf pushes, whether against roamers, or onto the site itself. Much of the round time was spent droning and getting intel on the well established Vitality defenses, but in some rounds it seemed that Liquid would try to switch up their strategies on the fly a tad too much, and the players would seem to hesitate on committing to any proper push.
Vitality ended their defense with a 4-1 advantage, and after two attempts of the basement defense for Liquid, the series was over. Vitality definitely seemed that they were much more comfortable here, which is no surprise given that Liquid haven’t played Bank in a competitive match since July 1st against FaZe in the OGA PIT.
Going into their tournament deciding match, TL would face an Obey Alliance squad that surpassed the expectations of many. Starting off with Oregon, Liquid was unable to take the map, just as they had failed to in their first match due to many of the same reasons.
Consistent solo pushing, and ineffectual kill trades from Liquid gave Obey a 4-1 advantage going into the side switch. In the 5th round Obey executed a blindingly fast Ying push on the Dorms bomb site, and Liquid was unable to recover, with the final round ending after a steamroll through the kitchen.
Returning to Coastline for the second map, Liquid had a few rounds where their roaming setups held strong, and were able to trade kills onto Obey, but once again the same problems would arise and TL could never grab an advantage.
After a performance like this, you generally look to a team to basically have a full mental reset, and try to bounce back the best that they can. Liquid has shown in the past that they have no problem with this, going from a similar exit at the Invitational, to a Pro League championship win, and then a mid-season Pro League standings lead.
If they can continue their online performance back home then we should expect to see them at this seasons finals in their home country, and even with this unfortunate bump in the road, they are still a contender to defend their Pro League title.
Catch LATAM back in action when the Pro League resumes in just under two weeks, to see if these four teams are able to implement the improvements they sorely need.