The CS Summit was the first tournament after the ELeague Boston Major. At the CS Summit, the two big favorites and the ones everyone had pegged for the finals was Cloud 9 and SK. Cloud 9 had just won the Major and SK was playing with Ricardo “boltz” Prass. The lineup with boltz had won 3 of their 4 last tournaments with the roster. Instead Liquid upended the script as they evolved throughout the tournament to eventually take the title by beating both Cloud 9 and SK.
The biggest reason Liquid’s run was so surprising was because they had changed rosters only one week prior to the event started. Before the ELeague Boston Major started the roster was: Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, Lucas “steel” Lopes, and Joshua “jdm64” Marzano. After the ELeague Boston Major, Liquid were able to recruit Keith “NAF” Markovic from Renegades. NAF was the star player of the Renegades lineup and was a great player. There were questions however.
Jdm64 is a primary AWPer, someone that Liquid had built a lot of their CT-side around. By bringing in NAF, there was no designated AWPer. Wilton “zews” Prado explained that they were going to do a modern style of CS where there were three hybrid AWPers with nitr0, NAF, and Twistzz and would depend more on the 5 rifle style. While the idea was good in theory, the team didn’t have time to practice and had to figure things out on the fly.
In the winner’s interview, the team talked about how they still had to distribute spots and depend more on communication and instincts than a set plan. This build up showed throughout their tournament run. In the first series against NiP, Team Liquid picked inferno as their first map because it was their best map with the previous roster with Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz. They were subsequently crushed. On NiP’s map pick of cobblestone Liquid won a solid win and then closed out the series in a close map on Overpass.
While it was a nice win, it was clear that Liquid still had a lot of questions on what they should play and how to play. So when they ran into Cloud 9 in the next round, it looked to be an easy victory for Cloud 9. The map pick showed how Liquid were feeling out their map pool. In this map pick they banned inferno and this time picked cobblestone. The first map certainly showed that as Cloud 9 crushed them in the first map. Cloud 9 also won their map pick of Mirage though it was much closer.
Despite losing that map, it showed Liquid they probably should play Mirage. Cloud 9 are one of the best Mirage teams in the world so being able to get to double digits showed some level of promise. This is why when Liquid when to the lower bracket, they picked Mirage into Torqued. As for Torqued, they picked train as their map. Liquid were able to win a close 2-0 against Torqued. The same maps were picked in the Heroic series and Liquid defeated Heroic in an even more convincing manner.
Once Liquid got to the loser’s finals it should have been the end of their run. The SK team with boltz were considered by many to be the best team in the world at the end of 2017. The map pick showed Liquid’s continued evolution. SK picked cobblestone as they are one of the best teams on the map. Liquid for their part went with Train as they had gained confidence from beating both Torqued and Heroic on it. It was a good choice as Liquid were able to defeat SK in overtime on Cobblestone and were able to shut down SK on Train.
It was a great victory for Liquid. While SK looked shaky and unlike themselves, Liquid had played their game and showed how far they had come since the beginning of the tournament. Liquid figured out that they could play Cobblestone, Mirage, and Train. With SK it was understandable as to why Liquid could win. Liquid were in a honeymoon phase and SK have always historically needed time to reach peak form after breaks. This could not be applied to Cloud 9 who had won the Major and defeated Liquid earlier. On top of that the finals was a bo5 with Cloud 9 being given a 1 win advantage.
This means that Cloud 9 was already up 1-0 and they had the advantage in map pick as they are an established team with more working synergy and Liquid were flying by the seat of their pants. However there was one aspect that Liquid could take advantage of in terms of styles. Cloud 9 as a team are based on their individual talent with a looser style of play which accentuates that style. They like to have players make individual plays and make the faster mid round adaptations based on those plays or information. They have a deep enough playbook to shake it up with set tactics, fakes, and changes of pace, but their primary way of play is based on their individualism and the loose structure which enables them.
The reason this style plays into Liquid’s hands is because Liquid were forced to play that style this event. They didn’t have the time to implement the full on zews structure which they prefer so in a battle between individual vs. individual play making, Liquid’s roster can match Cloud 9 man for man. On top of that Liquid’s makeshift map pool was perfect for an upset. Liquid now banned Inferno which was one of Cloud 9’s best maps. Cloud 9 banned nuke. Liquid then picked Train as it had been their most successful map at the event. Cloud 9 went for comfort in Mirage. Liquid realizing they were the underdog tried to throw a wrench in the gears with cache. While Liquid had yet to play cache, cache was a map Cloud 9 didn’t like. It was a calculated move to create a situation where they could maybe upset. Cloud 9 had the last pick of Overpass and Cobblestone. They made the smart choice of going to Overpass as Cobblestone had been successful for Liquid and Cloud 9 are one of the better Overpass teams based on recent results.
In the finals, the games played as I described. Each of the players were making individual plays. Both teams made good reads, rotations, and mid-round calls. Train was tightly contested, but Liquid were able to close it out in the end. Mirage had Liquid completely surprise Cloud 9 with a dominant Ct-side as they shut down the confidence plays of Cloud 9. The gamble on cache didn’t work out as Cloud 9’s better practiced synergy had them. The series went to the final map on Overpass where the first map see-sawed between the two teams. NAF was a critical player in Liquid winning the half and eventually the map as his persona individual performance continually stopped Cloud 9’s attempts and he ended the map 117.7 ADR.
At the beginning of the tournament they had no idea how they were going to play. By the end of it they were able to figure out basic roles on the Ct-side. From there they started to push forward trying to make aggressive plays so that they could disrupt enemy plans and force the game into a smaller man scenario where the set plays and structure in the early rounds had them at a disadvantage against more practiced teams. On the T-side, NAF found a natural fit as his style of play has him be on the passive end and follow up on the already strong entry players of Liquid. Nitr0 was able to balance his play as both an AWPer and a rifler. He had numerous highlight rounds using both. There were even rounds when he entried despite having an AWP. In those situations he switched to an entry role using a Czed to make space for his teammates and so the chemistry of the old line-up stayed in tact. The biggest gains made by Liquid was their ability to effectively communicate and use that to call constant mid-round adaptations. They started to make individual plays and then communicated the info and were able to make a cohesive plan in the mid-late rounds to take the series. By the end of the tournament, NAF had proven himself to be a strong consistent star that could make up for the difference if either EliGE or twistzz fell off. Nitr0 had another amazing tournament as both AWPer and entry-fragger, and steel has continued to bring impact plays in all of the important matches. As a team they had built up a map pool where they could comfortably play Mirage, Train, Cobblestone, and maybe Overpass. From beginning to end, Liquid were constantly evolving, learning and within four days were able to get big series wins against both SK and Cloud 9, and with it the trophy of CS Summit 2.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of BeyondTheSummit, by Todd Gutierrez