ESL Road to Rio – European Playoffs – May 14, 2020

     We have a couple of matches from the lower half of the bracket taking place on Thursday. The losers of Wednesdays matches will be playing on back to back days. NiP will be taking on Vitality in the early time slot and G2 will be taking on Heretics in the later time slot. Wednesday was a good day for us as we took a little over a unit back from the book. We were a couple NiP rounds away from a great day though. NiP had the 15-14 advantage on Train but an insane clutch from Brokey forced OT which they eventually lost. We ended up 1-1 on that match for a gain of 0.15 units. Astralis handled G2 quite easily which didn’t come as a surprise. We finished the day with a 2-1 record for +1.15 units. I’m looking to carry that momentum into Thursday!

Ninjas in Pajamas (-120) vs Vitality (+100) – 10:30am EST

     The lower bracket of the playoff resumes on Thursday starting with a match between Ninjas in Pajamas and Vitality. Vitality comes into this match off of a 2-0 win against Godsent in the first round of the lower playoff bracket. NiP on the other hand, comes into this one fresh off of a 2-1 loss against FaZe in the first round of the upper bracket. The match between NiP and FaZe was a marathon and it’ll be interesting to see how prepared they are to play against Vitality. I imagine there will be some fatigue in the NiP camp after playing 107 rounds against FaZe. Luckily for them these two teams are familiar with each other.

     Vitality and NiP have met in four best of three series throughout the last year with each team winning two series and losing two. The most recent series came at the start of group play at Road to Rio. Vitality won the first map, Overpass, by a 16-14 score. NiP won Nuke 16-12 before winning Inferno 16-4 to take the series. Interestingly enough, NiP had picked Overpass and Vitality had picked Nuke, so I’m curious to see how that effects each teams map pick this time around. Regardless, each team will stick with their regular first ban. Vitality will ban Train and NiP will ban Dust2. Vitality will have the first map pick and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them stick with Nuke, especially considering the only other maps they tend to chose first are Inferno and Dust2. Dust2 won’t be an option and they should be hesitant to pick Inferno after being destroyed 16-4 against NiP in the last meeting. I expect to see NiP veer away from what they tried last time and instead pick Vertigo as their first pick. NiP has lost to Vitality twice on Vertigo, but Vitality hasn’t played the map at all at the Road to Rio so I would expect to see some rust from them. NiP was a perfect 4-0 during group play on Vertigo. Vitality should use their second ban on either Vertigo/Overpass depending on which of these maps NiP choses. NiP will then use their second ban on Mirage, which will leave either Inferno or Nuke depending on which map Vitality picks first. Regardless of order, the map pool should be Vertigo/Nuke/Inferno.

     I would have to say the only edge that Vitality has in this match is in time to prepare for their opponent. I doubt NiP has much left in the tank for today so a majority of their preparation will come right before the match tomorrow. Vitality knew they were either playing NiP or FaZe, so I expect they spent time preparing for both and should put even more time into scouting NiP before tomorrows match. I give NiP an edge in regards to the map pool. They should be able to get the win on their map pick and will have a decent chance in stealing Nuke from Vitality. If it goes to a third map, we will most likely see Inferno. NiP is 3-1 on Inferno during Road to Rio with their only loss coming to Astralis, so I would have to make them a favorite on the tie breaker. I also consider NiP to be in better form. They played extremely well throughout group play and carried that play into the match against FaZe. Although they didn’t get the win they played great Counter Strike and put themself in positions to win on multiple occasions. If not for a couple crazy FaZe clutches NiP would have won. They need to forget about that loss and focus on the task at hand. If they can do that they should cruise to the lower bracket final and a potential rematch against FaZe. I also think we’re getting a discounted price considering the loss today. In current form, NiP certainly wins this match more than 54.5% of the time

Miner’s Money Pick: Ninjas in Pajamas (-120) 

G2 (-200) vs Team Heretics (+160) – 2:00pm EST

     The second lower bracket match features two French organizations in Team Heretics and G2. Heretics scored a big win over North in the first round of the lower bracket to advance to this game. G2 was beat decidedly by Astralis in the upper bracket which landed them in this spot. The winner of this match will move on to play the winner of the NiP/Vitality matchup. The psychological aspects of this match are extremely interesting. I expect Heretics to be thrilled to be in this spot whereas I think G2 has to be disappointed in themself. They had a rough time in group play that ended with a loss to a North team playing with a coach. That was followed up by a blow out against Astralis and now they find themself in the lower bracket against a team that they may be overlooking. I’m curious to see how motivated this team will be and I think we’ll find out within the first half of map one.

     Heretics and G2 come into this match without any competitive experience against each other. Heretics will be carrying the burden of having first map ban and pick as they are the lower seeded team. Theres always an advantage to be had having the second set of picks, but I think that is amplified in this match due to the fact each team tends to play a similar map pool. There’s a greater chance than usual for Heretics to use their first pick on a map that G2 would have chosen. Heretics will use their first ban on Train and G2 will use theirs on Overpass. G2 opted out of their usual first ban today in order to remove Nuke for Astralis, but Astralis punished them by picking Overpass before going on to beat them 16-7. I don’t think G2 will make the same mistake here. Heretics tends to use their first pick on Nuke and Inferno, but I think Nuke should be their pick here. G2 looked shaky against North the last time they played Nuke. That thought was cemented by the fact they opted to ban Nuke and roll the dice on Overpass against Astralis. Heretics has posted an 11-4 record on Nuke over their last 15 including wins over Fnatic and NiP. G2 should use their first pick on Dust2, although they may be hesitant to do so. G2 posted a 2-3 record on Dust during group play. Heretics carries a 67% win rate on Dust over the last three months, but they’re an ugly 1-3 during group play. I think the step up in the class of competition shows for them on Dust as they were 5-0 there before Rio. If G2 doesn’t go with Dust I would expect their pick to be Vertigo. If G2 picks Nuke then Heretics will use their second ban on Mirage. This would force G2 to pick between two maps each team is extremely comfortable on with G2 most likely banning Inferno and opting to play Vertigo. If G2 decides to use their first pick on Vertigo, then Heretics should use their second ban on Dust2. This will force G2 to ban Mirage and play Inferno which would certainly be more ideal for Heretics. G2 should realize this and opt into playing Dust2 and Vertigo instead of playing on all three of Heretics favorite maps.

     I like the over at plus money in this matchup. I think Heretics should be able to get the job done on Nuke and as long as G2 picks Dust2 we should see a third map. As I said earlier, I’m questioning how motivated G2 is to play this match. If they come out slow and over look Heretics they will certainly be punished, but if they’re focused and motivated to win this match then its likely their skill gap will show. I’ll be waiting to watch the some of the first map before I decide if I’m going to back either of these teams. The only way I’ll pick a side before the start is if the map pool is Nuke/Vertigo/Inferno. In that case I’ll opt in to back heretics as a dog in what I honestly see to be a true coin flip of a match. It’s also worth mentioning that those maps would also favor the over more so than having Dust2 in the mix. *UPDATE*: If Heretics can force map 3 I will be betting them live. G2 has a weak Mirage.

Miner’s Money Pick: Total maps o2.5 (+125) 

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