The dust has settled on the Legends Stage of the PGL Major Stockholm 2021, the teams have been decided, and it's time for the knockout phase to begin. After a week of Swiss System tournament play, we're now into a world of single-elimination, best-of-three matches, where one wrong play or a slip in concentration can mean the end of the tournament.
Eight teams have made it to this stage, including a resurgent G2 Esports, a powerful FURIA Esports and a resilient Heroic. The road ahead will be a challenge for all three of these teams, but they've proved themselves up to it with their performances over the past few days. Here, we'll look at each team in turn, their path to the Champions Stage, and what lies ahead for them in these final battles.
Of these three teams, Heroic have had the longest road to the Champions Stage. The team entered the PGL Major Stockholm 2021 in the Challengers Stage, having placed eighth in the Regional Major Rankings for Europe following a hefty points penalty at the start of the season and narrowly missing out on a points-scoring finish at Intel Extreme Masters Season XVI - Fall: Europe. But their resilience in this competition means they're one of just two teams to have survived both the Challengers and Legends stages, and a strong performance in the latter scored them a third-place finish going into the final rounds.
Heroic got off to a great start in the Challengers Stage, taking down TYLOO and MOUZ in a succession of fairly even matches that ended 16-12 and 16-11 respectively. They could've secured an early spot in the Legends Stage were it not for a defeat at the hands of Copenhagen Flames, who dominated the first game of their best-of-three, with Heroic only securing seven rounds across the game. Heroic bounced back for a 16-11 win in the second match, but Copenhagen Flames managed to gather themselves enough to take the third game and force Heroic to stick around in the Challengers Stage.
Perhaps knocked by this defeat, Heroic went on to suffer another loss at the hands of Entropiq, who utterly dismantled the team in their third game of the series, with Heroic picking up wins in just four of their rounds. But Heroic once again found their energy, and managed to sweep Movistar Riders in the final games of the stage, snagging a sixth place finish in the process.
This surely was not where Heroic wanted to be, and it showed in their first game of the Legends Stage. Their first game against Natus Vincere ended in a loss, but the team were undeterred. They proceeded to beat Team Vitality and Astralis in quick succession, posting scores of 16-12 and 16-7 respectively. But an old nemesis was waiting round the corner – Copenhagen Flames.
Heroic clearly had not forgotten the defeat they faced in the previous stage, and went all out in their first game, destroying Copenhagen Flames for a 16-4 victory that saw rifler Ismail 'refrezh' Ali score 20 kills against just 12 deaths. A tense second game saw the two teams trading win streaks, with Heroic ultimately picking up 13 wins and narrowly missing out on an early victory. But the team rallied once more, and successfully took down the Copenhagen Flames squad in a 16-11 win that scored them a place in the Champions Stage.
Now, Heroic will face off against the only other team to have made it through two stages, Virtus.pro. VP's path to the final rounds has been slightly harder than Heroic's, but don't count them out just yet – both teams have shown that they can go the distance when the time comes, and their face-off is sure to be an exciting match-up.
We've already looked at how FURIA Esports seemed like they had something to prove going into the PGL Major Stockholm 2021 tournament, and they've proven just how hungry they are for victory in their Legends Stage run. Despite a setback in the first game, FURIA have proved a dominant force in this competition, and you can expect that to continue in the knockout portion of the tournament.
Their first match against Astralis didn't quite go in their favour, with FURIA picking up just 10 wins across the series. It wasn't a complete wash – FURIA rifler Kaike 'KSCERATO' Cerato scored the highest average damage per round with an impressive 94.5 – but it certainly wasn't the result FURIA were looking for.
Despite this initial loss, FURIA managed to find their feet in their next game against MOUZ, posting a 16-9 victory. They managed to repeat this winning score against Team Liquid in their next battle, managing an even split of wins as the terrorists and counter-terrorists. After tripping up in their first match of the competition, it looked like FURIA were finally back on form.
All that stood between them and a Champions Stage spot was Entropiq, and FURIA went into their first match ready to plough through the battle, winning the first match with a stunning record of 16-6. Entropiq retaliated in turn, leaving FURIA with just eight wins in the second match, before game three became a lot closer. FURIA seemed to have control of the game for many of the rounds, but a late-game boost from Entropiq kept the battle going until round 28, where Vinicius 'VINI' Figueiredo somehow managed to survive a 1v3 situation to wipe out the rest of Entropiq and secure the win.
FURIA will now face Gambit Esports in their first game of the Champions Stage, another team that has experienced some ups and downs throughout the competition. On the one hand, Gambit lost to Entropiq, a team that FURIA have already proven themselves better than. But on the other, Gambit swept Ninjas in Pyjamas to secure their Champions spot, and are therefore entering this stage with better momentum. We'll just have to wait and see how this battle shakes out.
We've already gone in-depth on G2's PGL Major Stockholm 2021 run so far, but it bears repeating just how dominant this team is looking right now. After a rough year, the players seem to have finally found their footing alongside star addition Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač, and have gone unbeaten so far.
Their first game of the Champions Stage will be against Ninjas in Pyjamas, who have had a real roller coaster of a tournament so far. An early victory against MOUZ led to the utter domination of Astralis, who only won a single round in their match. But NIP suffered a five-game losing streak from there, being sweeped by Natus Vincere and Gambit Esports in successive battles, before losing their first match against Copenhagen Flames. NIP did manage to claw back a victory after two very close matches, one of which went into overtime for a final score of 19-17 in NIP's favour, but this struggle to maintain their position in the tournament does give some hope for G2 to roll straight over them in their matches.