Written By Germanicus - 2021-01-17
The Nerd Street Gamers - Winter Championship was set to be one of the most interesting North American events we’d seen in a long time. Teams like Equinox Esports, Built By Gamers, and NRG Esports had been playing every week in smaller prize pool tournaments, mostly amongst themselves. This was the first chance in some time to see these teams go up against some of the best in North America in the form of Sentinels and Envy, for a rather sizable prize pool of $25,000. So how did things pan out?
Group A saw Dignitas, Andbox, Built By Gamers, and Sedated all face off. Group openers were straightforward - Dignitas and Andbox took away 2-0 wins, despite the best efforts of Tristan "Critical" Trinacty against the latter team.
The upper bracket final would prove to be one of the most controversial matches of the event: after two back-and-forth maps, the score was tied 1-1 when Chad "oderus" Miller’s internet cut out. Dignitas tried to bring in a substitute, but were rejected by the tournament admins, and Andbox was handed the victory. oderus’ internet fortunately came back for the lower bracket final against Built By Gamers, but Dignitas were too shaken by that point, and were rolled over by their opponents.
Favourites Sentinels, NRG Esports, Spacestation Gaming, and Moon Raccoons faced off in a stacked Group B. Sentinels’ opening match against Spacestation saw some sweet plays from the #1 ranked team in North America, including this clutch on Icebox from Hunter "SicK" Mims.
The upper bracket final between Sentinels and NRG was one of the most exciting matches all event. The titans of North America fell before NRG’s new roster, in a back and forth, ridiculous set reminiscent of the FaZe Clan VALORANT Invitational finals match widely considered one of the most exciting VALORANT matches ever played.
This sent Sentinels down to play Spacestation against, who had knocked out Moon Raccoons in yet another disappointing result for what was once a top unsigned team. The result was much the same as the group opener, with Sentinels progressing.
Most fans were interested in XSET in Group C. Coming off a victory in the NSG x Complexity Invitational, they were considered a top candidate to put up a fight against Envy in their group. But first, Envy had to stave off a hungry Team 2D, who came from essentially nowhere to nearly beat Envy and Luminosity Gaming in the lower bracket. In the promised Envy vs. XSET match, the favourites clawed back from a 13-3 defeat on Haven to ultimately take down the upstarts. XSET wouldn’t look quite the same in the lower bracket, getting defeated in another close set against eventual finalists Luminosity.
Finally, Group D was set to be one of the most interesting in the whole event. eUnited and Ghost Gaming debuted under their new organizations, while Equinox Esports were coming off a surprisingly strong NSG x Complexity performance thanks to star fill-in Ian "tex" Botsch, and Cloud9 Blue were in the throes of roster change following the departure of Tyson "TenZ" Ngo, and had Son "xeta" Seon-ho playing with them from Korea on high ping. Things didn’t go as smoothly as Cloud9 would have liked, but they got over a close match against eUnited and to the upper finals against Equinox. The three-map series was marked by this play by tex on Ascent, reminding everyone why their first impressions had been as good as they were. The map went to 6 overtimes before Equinox pulled out the win to take the first seed.
This sent Cloud9 to play Ghost in the lower bracket, who had taken down eUnited in a battle of the newly signed rosters. Again, it was marked by an incredible play, this time by xeta as he made a huge amount of fans in his first North American event.
Cloud9 won the match and went through to the bracket stage.
Due to some of the upsets we saw, the bracket on the surface was quite one-sided. Andbox took on Cloud9 and Sentinels faced Envy in the upper side. The first match went Andbox’s way, but not after Cloud9 put up a fight, beating Andbox on what had historically been one of their best maps, Split. Envy and Sentinels, a matchup we’d seen countless times before, went the way of the favourites, though not without Envy somewhat dominating them on Ascent. NRG and Luminosity played a ridiculously close match, going to overtime in two of the three maps, but Luminosity ultimately pulled it out. And lastly, Equinox played Built By Gamers in a series they controlled the entire way. tex again averaged over 300 ACS as they won 2-0.
Andbox vs. Sentinels was a match many were excited for. Andbox had been one of the very best teams in most tournaments they’d played, but had not yet matched up against the teams most would consider North America’s elite. This was our chance to finally see how they stacked up. And ultimately, they weren’t any match for North America’s #1. Sentinels took Icebox 13-9 and Ascent 13-6, en route to a finals appearance.
On the other side, two teams that had been rapidly improving over the last few weeks faced off: Equinox and Luminosity. Luminosity’s overall firepower couldn’t be matched by Equinox, and they’d shown development through the event by expanding their roles and agent pools. Though Equinox did snag a map, Luminosity won 2-1 without taking a map to overtime. tex was quite successfully shut down, and the always-solid Luminosity were off to the finals.
The match started off on Icebox, with Luminosity showing off the agents they’d been working on as Brady "thief" Dever took Jett and Diondre "YaBoiDre" Bond played Omen. The back and forth map was generally favoured towards the defenders, with the A site receiving far more hits than B. Luminosity IGL Brenden "stellar" McGrath also hit multiple clutches to keep LG in it. Eventually, things went to overtime - something Luminosity were becoming accustomed to - where on the second try, after every single round going A, Luminosity closed it out on their attack.
Next up was LG’s pick, Bind. They absolutely stomped the first half, 9-3, with Shahzeeb "ShahZaM" Khan being Sentinels’ only saving grace. Sentinels began bringing it back on their attack, getting things all the way to 12-10 for LG, but a tremendous final round from thief’s Phoenix closed things out and brought the score to 2-0 Luminosity.
Sentinels’ next pick of Split was an interesting map. Luminosity looked great on their defence - their retakes were working out incredibly well, and some sweet rounds from Diondre "YaBoiDre" Bond were leading the way. Along with the attacking round pistol and follow-up, they brought the score to 10-4. But it wasn’t to be. Sentinels did them one better on their own defence, winning 8 rounds straight to take the map 13-11.
Haven was next, traditionally one of Sentinels’ best picks, and things were no different here. They took control early and didn’t look back. thief picked up another highlight play, but it wasn’t enough to stop Sentinels from winning in a comfortable 13-8.
We were going to a map 5: Ascent. Traditionally, it favoured Sentinels - what doesn’t - but they’d stumbled there as of late. We couldn’t get a better finish.
The first half of Ascent was action-packed, with both sides putting up great individual efforts. Sentinels took a 7-5 lead at the half, but it felt much closer. This play especially from Alex "aproto" Protopapas shocked:
The second half was back and forth, with each team snagging rounds off each other, until it wasn't. Luminosity strung together multiple good rounds to finally, after 3 maps of trying, finish Sentinels off and secure the upset victory.
Final Standings for the Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championship:
1. Luminosity Gaming - $15,000 2. Sentinels - $7,500 3. Andbox - $2,500 4. Equinox Esports 5-8. Cloud9 Blue 5-8. Envy 5-8. NRG 5-8. Built By Gamers 9-12. XSET Gaming 9-12. Ghost Gaming 9-12. Spacestation Gaming 9-12. Dignitas 13-16. Moon Raccoons 13-16. Sedated 13-16. Team 2D 13-16. eUnited
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