IEM Cologne, the Cathedral of Counter-Strike. The Lanxess is once again fully booked for the 2023 IEM Cologne Playoffs. The last time that this iteration of Counter-Strike will see a big stage. CS:GO has truly been hallmarked as a classic, but it’s time to usher in the new in CS2. And what better way to mark the beginning of the end, than with the IEM Cologne Playoffs?
As the Ninjas in Pyjama’s securement of the first Cologne trophy in 2014 marked a beginning and secured their names in history. This, the last and 9th LAN event held in an arena that CS fans around the world hold dear in their heart. This perfectly bookends a wonderful chapter but with the murmurings of CS2’s release date in the background. Gently alludes to a bright future ahead.
Team Vitality vs ENCE
With the franchising and formatting nightmares involved in events in modern Counter-Strike, quality varies. Sometimes groups can be lacking, playoffs can look a little lopsided. But not in the case of the IEM Cologne Playoffs. Cloud9 are slated to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming months. With the acquisition of Electronic and Perfecto to complement Axile, Shiro and Hobbit everybody has their eyes on this new roster. Nevertheless, after a stand-in situation over a visa for groups, the full C9 lineup was sent packing in its first B03 by Vitality. Although I expect they will grow into a force to be feared, they were no match for the recent Major Champions. Vitality prevailed, with apparent ease as they took the series 2-0.
All may not be as it seems, however, as Vitality are slated to be a top 2 team in the world. Yet found themselves in a quarter-final after a loss to G2, who progressed immediately to the semis. They were also taken to overtime on their map pick against a Cloud9 who possessed match point, being the first to make fifteen rounds. A Cloud9 playing at an event with their full roster for the first time. This does not necessarily bode well for the grudge match to come.
And it is a grudge match, as Snappi time and again manifests winning teams out of unfound talent. Time and again they are taken away from him. ENCE have remained a formidable competitor in recent times. But they do not have coffers as deep as the likes of Vitality. The loss of Spinx was only softened by the acquisition of Nertz and the realisation of Sunpayus. Then for Spinx’s performance at the major to be a large contributor in Vitality’s success. Well, victory here against his former star would only further Snappi’s growing reputation as a leader. Then further validate eyes shifting his way as bigger teams look to make shuffles again. Each skull taken is another bullet point on each of these players’ resumes as they look to mark their names in the next generation of Counter-Strike.
G2 Esports vs Astralis
G2’s manager himself has come out to say that they were considering roster moves. After a fleeting set of successes, wherein G2 secured back-to-back LAN victories at the start of the year. There has been a drought in the G2 trophy cabinet. With the best Rifler in the world and the prodigal son on the Awp. It should be a done deal. A dose of victory should be assured. But they fell short of the playoffs at the major. At Dallas, they struggled. At Blast Premier they looked to be on an up, but could not contest Vitality. Niko’s consistency not enough. m0NESY’s high’s not outweighing the lows. HooXi being outmanoeuvred.
In the groups, all G2’s demons reared their heads. Astralis were the first to fall. Though in a closer fashion, a suggestion of weakness still showing. But then G2 struck through their old rivals FaZe and then even bested their mental block against Vitality in a stunning show of form. Could this be the rise back to form? A new beginning. G2 seems to have found their lease on life again. Anyone looking to bet on CS:GO, will ask if will this hold for the IEM Cologne Playoffs. It may just as well as the last of their demons have been vanquished already. As Heroic fell to Astralis in a surprising clean sweep. Buzz put on a career-defining performance, keeping up with Device as they came together to take down the World’s supposed #1.
Astralis have had a rocky year. The one light in the darkness has been the return of Dev1ce and his continued solid form. Dev1ce’s hardships seem to have brought him a new resolve, and even as Glaive makes his departure. Without the legendary IGL, the father of CSGO’s greatest team. Astralis are beginning to show true signs of life once more.
The Danish organisation’s commitment to a national team fostering young talent is bearing fruit. BlameF seems to have comfortably slotted back into the position of IGL. Used to the mantle from his time in Complexity and Heroic. As the sun sets on CSGO, and dusk creeps in. It’s easy to argue for Device as its greatest player throughout the course of its history. Rivalled in tenure and talent, but not necessarily by consistency and accolades only by S1mple. One accolade however escapes the purported king, the man who’s won it all has never won Cologne. Will he seize his last chance?
Header image: ESL