PGL Major Stockholm 2021 roundtable: the New Champions stage playoffs
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The New Legends stage of the PGL Major Stockholm 2021 is finished. There were upsets and triumphs, heartbreak and elation. What we’re left with is eight teams: Natus Vincere, Team Vitality, Gambit Esports, FURIA Esports, G2 Esports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Heroic and Virtus.pro. One of these eight teams will hoist the major trophy on Nov. 7. Our staff have gotten together to try and figure out which one, as well as answer a few more burning questions.

The roundtable members:

Colin McNeil – Director of Upcomer  Video Content
Coby Zucker – Writer for Upcomer
Zain Merchant – Writer for Jaxon

Who was your MVP for the PGL Major 2021 New Legends stage?

McNeil: While all eyes were on the agonizingly close series between Ninjas in Pyjamas and the dark horse darlings of the Copenhagen Flames, Natus Vincere’s Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi already dominated the competition in four very one-sided maps.

His place at the top of the tables when it comes to HLTV 2.0 rating is all the more impressive when you take stock of who he’s next to on the server. No less than the G.O.A.T himself, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, and the highest rated player at the last major, Denis “electronic” Sharipov.

Zucker: For me, it has to be b1t. Na’Vi cruised past the competition and it wasn’t even s1mple at the helm, it was his 18-year-old Ukrainian teammate that was absolutely dominating and taking names. In their best-of-three qualification match against NiP, B1T had a 1.55 rating across the two maps. He looked like an absolute superstar. Whether his form will continue in the arena, that remains to be seen.

Merchant: Martin “stavn” Lund is the clear MVP for me. Heroic asserted their dominance over the online era, but they needed an X factor to continue their heroics on LAN. While the entire team is normally even on the scoreboard, stavn stepped up in their games against Copenhagen Flames, Astralis and Vitality. Going into the remainder of PGL Stockholm, stavn will be a key component to Heroic’s survival in the tournament.

Which PGL Major 2021 quarterfinal matchup is the most exciting?

Zucker: I know we’ve got s1mple vs. Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut in the Vitality vs. Na’Vi matchup, but in all honesty I don’t think it’s going to be a close game if the French side plays the way they did in the Legends stage. The closest game should be Virtus.pro against Heroic, but the most exciting for me will be NiP and G2. It’s a Swedish team in front of a Swedish crowd so I expect it will be loud. I think NiP could level up playing in front of their fans and give G2 a serious challenge.

McNeil: s1mple vs ZywOo might be the eye candy in the quarters, but it’s the all-European matchup of Ninjas in Pyjamas against G2 Esports that really has my attention. While on paper their New Legends Stage performances might seem mismatched — G2 cruised to the playoffs and NiP squeaked in by the skin of their teeth after all — I think this regional derby has a good chance of delivering a banger of a series.

Besides, who doesn’t want to see Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz in the same server?

Merchant: Virtus.Pro taking on Heroic will be the most exciting match to watch. Both teams are relative underdogs in the stage with the potential to perform big. VP are known for their late comebacks while Heroic normally start strong: it’s a match made in heaven. Also, no one is sure of the true potential of either of these teams. Heroic are looking to prove themselves on LAN and VP just acquired Evgeniy “FL1T” Lebedev. This matchup is going to go the full nine yards and provide, possibly, the best match of the tournament.

Which team is your dark horse pick for the tournament?

Zucker: Heroic. Na’Vi are the clear favorites and Gambit are an easy second choice, but I think it’s going to be the Danes who have the best chance at completing a massive dark horse run. They’re no strangers to adversity and they’re revved up, having come all the way through the Challengers and Legends stages.

McNeil: The answer to this questions depends on your definition of dark horse.

They may have struggled to make it out of the New Legends stage alive but let’s not forget that NiP and Team Vitality are ranked among the top five teams globally and boast carry players of megastar status. G2 dominated their matches and Heroic only dropped points to the best team in the world. FURIA is a skilled squad and fun to watch, but it’s unlikely they’ll survive Gambit Esports. Na’Vi is Na’Vi, ‘nuff said.

That leaves Virtus.Pro, a team ranked outside the top 10 in the world at the start of the Major, and one not many people are looking at to make the finals. But if FL1T can find his form, Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis can do YEKINDAR things and Dzhami “Jame” Ali can show us why he’s already a Major Grand Final veteran, the CIS squad could surprise.

Merchant: No team, unless you’re insane and pick FURIA, is a dark horse for this stage. However, G2 are another one of my favorites to win the tournament. But, they are always hit or miss. In some events, they may be eliminated by a no name team but in others, G2 has the potential to perform at a level other teams can’t match. With many strong individuals, they have the possibility of winning the tournament, but only if they bring their A game.

Who are your picks to advance to the semis?

Zucker: Na’Vi for obvious reasons and Gambit (sorry FURIA) on the first side of the bracket. The other side is harder to predict, but I’m going to say NiP and Heroic. Even though G2 are probably favored in their game, I think NiP are going to pull out an unexpected win.

McNeil: Everyone’s top bracket pick ‘ems pretty much look the same for Stockholm’s New Champions semifinals, and if Na’Vi and Gambit don’t advance we’ll all be shocked. It’s the bottom two brackets that aren’t as easy to predict. G2 vs NiP is the old debate of rest over momentum, but given the French team’s dominant group stage performance, it’s hard not to put your faith in the Kovač boys.

Heroic vs VP could go either way, but unfortunately for the Danes the clock may just be striking Jame Time come the semifinals. One thing’s for sure, it’ll be a bloodbath either way.

Merchant: Unless Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato goes full s1mple mode on Gambit, there is no way they can survive the tournament. I expect Natus Vincere to take down Vitality and G2 should have an easy matchup against NiP. Heroic vs. VP will be a nail-biter but I have VP taking it. In the end, I have G2 and Natus Vincere in the final with Na’Vi taking home the trophy. There is no way s1mple lets anyone stand in his way.

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