The ECS Season 5 North America Challenger Cup is finally upon us. Bravado Gaming has the opportunity to qualify for FACEIT’s ECS Season 5 North America. It is one of the most prestigious and grueling Counter-Strike: Global Offensive leagues in the world. Should Bravado qualify, it would mean some of our very own are in the big leagues. It’s a huge deal. Let’s take a look at how Bravado got here, take a slight detour and then delve into who they’ll need to beat to make it all the way through.
Unlocking the Closed Qualifier
Bravado managed to get through the Closed Qualifier with two important wins. The first of those came against Iceberg, with the South African side pushing their way past with a 2 – 1 victory. Maps one and three were straightforward 16 – 4 (Inferno) and 16 – 3 (Mirage) victories to Bravado. On the middle map, Train, they had a tougher time of things. They eventually dropped the map 12 – 16 to the North American organization. The defence of B bombsite was particularly troublesome for site anchor Aran “Sonic” Groesbeek. A number of rounds went against the SA team after losing control of the inner bombsite. Overall, against Iceberg Sonic still found himself in his customary position atop the scoreboard come to the end of the series with a ludicrous 1.71 HLTV rating. Clearly, the star player didn’t allow CT side Train to affect his performance in the best of three series as a whole.
Next up was Team Dignitas, an ESL Pro League team that was widely regarded as favourites going into the match based on their recent achievements. This was going to be no easy task for the South Africans. First up was Mirage. After a porous defensive showing in the first half Bravado capitulated 7 – 16 to Dignitas. On Cobblestone, BVD struck back with an emphatic 16 – 8 triumph born off the back of a much improved defensive showing. It all came down to Inferno as the decider. In a very close encounter, Sonic proved to be the key difference maker in the team amassing 28 kills for a mere 13 deaths. Dimitri “Detrony” Hadjipaschali also had a great outing on Inferno, with the sniper claiming 24 kills to his name. Bravado closed out the map 16 – 14, taking the series 2 – 1. The most valuable player on the BVD side in this win was undoubtedly Johnny “JT” Theodosiou who put on a consistently impressive showing, even on the map they lost. He ended with a series-leading 1.25 HLTV rating.
I need to emphasize that while most South African fans might not have heard of the current Team Dignitas players, that they are a team of considerable pedigree in comparison to Bravado. As fans, we generally tend to only be aware of tier one and tier two international players because of the top level tournaments we watch on Twitch. We need to remember that Bravado is not at that level yet. The point of Project Destiny is to close the gap to the tier two teams and eventually become more competitive at higher levels. It’s a proactive step towards improving. Beating team Dignitas is a massive achievement at such an early stage of Bravado’s journey in the USA. This is a significant step forward for the team. Based on the communication I’ve had with some of the pundits in the North American CS:GO scene, this win caused a lot of people to take notice of Bravado.
With the win, Bravado found themselves qualified for the ECS Season 5 North America Challenger Cup. From here, it gets even more difficult.
A short detour on the journey – PreGame Launch Cup
Last weekend, Bravado entered the PreGame Launch Cup. Their results at this small tournament only served to underline the legitimacy of their win over Team Dignitas. In the Semi-Final against F1-racecar-PEEK they again won out 2 – 1. Interestingly we saw them do far better on Train with a much revised Counterterrorist defensive setup. Sonic was moved to the Ivy area while JT replaced him on B site. The new look BVD defence appeared much more solid in that outing. While Sonic may have just had a bad map against Iceberg on Train, clearly BVD have put some work into fixing whatever was going wrong. It speaks to their commitment to improvement that they were willing to do something as drastic as shifting the players’ spots overall to that end.
In the Grand Final, they faced another more fancied opponent in Torqued. This is probably the best team they have played against in a tournament to date. Currently at the top of the ESEA Mountain Dew League leaderboard, Joshua “steel” Nissan’s Torqued were no pushovers. With the match poised at 1 – 1 after Mirage and Inferno, the series decider was rather curiously the much-derided Nuke. A map that neither team plays often and generally ban. Sadly, this wasn’t BVD’s day with them losing 11 – 16 to the American/ Canadian outfit. It was a very respectable showing and indicative of Bravado’s growth.
On to the good stuff
First up at 4 am on Saturday morning for Bravado in the Challenger Cup are compLexity in the Quarter Finals. They are a team with some pedigree in their lineup in the form of former CLG in-game leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta and another former CLG player in Peter “ptr” Gurney. I do feel as though Torqued are a better team than compLexity so Bravado should be more than a match. It’s still a big potential banana peel as compLexity have an astute tactical leader that will have done his homework on BVD now that more demos are available of them. This matchup is the most important for the team and will both set the tone for the competition and give us a lot of information about Bravado’s relative level of competitiveness.
Should Bravado slip up, they will at least have a second chance as the tournament has a double-elimination bracket. In the other Quarter Final match on their side of the bracket, Rise Nation and the Brazilians of Team One will be going at each other. Rise Nation and Team One are both teams of a similar level. BVD should be competitive against them, whether it is facing either of them in the lower or upper bracket. I would favour Rise Nation to beat Team One and Bravado to beat compLexity.
The other pair of Quarter Finals are Splyce vs Blackout and Rogue vs Ghost. These are all teams that Bravado should again potentially be competitive with based on recent results. I would be a bit worried if Bravado gets far enough in the competition to face Rogue, however. They have a good blend of experience and skill in Spencer “Hiko” Martin, Casper “cadiaN” Møller and Hunter “SicK” Mims. Splyce also has a similar combination between Kory “SEMPHIS” Friesen, David “Davey” Stafford and Daniel “roca” Gustaferri but are perhaps slightly less dangerous than Rogue.
Can they do it?
With two spots available for ECS Season 5, Bravado doesn’t necessarily need to win the whole thing. They need to make it to the Final. When they first went to the USA just over a month ago, I wouldn’t have thought BVD would have so quickly reached this level of competitiveness. The team has proven enough against teams at this level to believe that they can make it to the sharp end of this field. Victory is far from a foregone conclusion now that BVD is no longer an unknown quantity to these teams. Still, Bravado has a very good chance.