The playoff matchups are set as we round to the final seven battles of the Major!
<h2><u>The Predictable</u></h2><p>Astralis and Liquid went through the group stage with relative ease. Liquid had some very tight matches on Overpass against both Avangar and Nip, but looked very good in their faceoff with Navi. Since adding Naf, Liquid has yet to drop a single map against the CIS squad so that was somewhat expected. Mirage was a tight affair, but Dust2 really was not. Astralis were a bit touch and go in their match against Renegades. They lost a 12-3 ct lead in overtime when the Aussie/Kiwi mix made an epic comeback to close it out. On Nuke, the Danes stomping ground, they were actually trailing RNG after the first half; something that has only occurred twice in the past 6 months. However after that it was business as usual. Astralis won 10 straight ct rounds to close map two and rolled map three, 16-2.</p><h2><u>The Surprises</u></h2><p>If we think back to prior to the Major, the clear unexpected result is that Renegades is still standing. This is by far the best iteration of this roster we have ever seen. It is clear that they have put in the time with Kassad to re-work their terrorist sides during the various stages of the Major. In regards to their counter-terrorist sides; world class. The fact the players have gelled has brought about a resurgence from veterans AZR and Jkaem. Old renegades heavily relied upon JKS, and while he still is at the top for them, everyone has performed consistently well.</p><h2><u>Matches</u></h2><p>Astralis v Ninjas in Pyjamas</p><p>Nip have had a solid run, but drew the final boss in the quarter-finals. This iteration of the Swedes (post-Draken) actually holds one of the better records against Astralis in 2018 (6-9, 3-6 on LAN). Even though I enjoyed several great wins from the Ninjas, they were far from convincing. Their map picks of Train and Overpass were not consistent. They posted a 2-2 result on Train, losing convincingly to Winstrike and Mibr due to a weak t-side. On overpass it was a worse result, 1-3. They actually looked alright against Liquid, but I am still not convinced it is a great map for them. Nip is only winning 35% of their t-rounds and that doesn't leave them with any leeway when they switch halves.</p><p>This represents the greatest conundrum for taking a shot on Nip. Astralis will ban Cache against them, Nip will ban Dust2. From there I am going to be a bit contrarian and say the Swedes should choose Mirage. This is a map they've beat Astralis on before, a map that the Danes just dropped to Renegades, and is not especially ct-sided. Additionally Nip hold an 80% win rate at this tournament and have a 50.65% win rate on t-side. Is it a lock for them to win? No, but it is their best shot. Assuming Nip banned Dust2, Astralis is likely to pick Nuke giving Nip the ct start. The problem is Astralis is currently riding a 34 map win streak there. I have been saying since Eleague last summer that teams are better off trying to prepare some gimmicky things to beat Astralis on a different map, even their permaban. Nip should do the same; prep their Dust2 rather than their ct-side of Nuke...I just can't imagine it doing enough.</p><p><strong>Tip: </strong>Nip (+1.5) @ 2.6 [<a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&a=4fd3c129-b898-4816-9a61-9f7e8f34295a" target="_blank">Unibet</a>] That is the current best price. Provided Nip play the veto the way I hope they will this is considerable value. If Nuke comes about, it would be better to play the individual map handicaps. I should preface this by saying I am still hoping my outright on Astralis will come in, but they haven't entirely been themselves and Nip has a greater chance than the line suggests. There is still a lot of work to do for the other three quarter-finals; feel free to dialogue with me about all the csgo action this week on Twitter [@lockeqwerty].</p>