The MLG Major: Columbus 2016 finals
|Game||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive|
|No. of teams||16 teams (2013–2017)|
24 teams (2018–present)
|Astralis (4th title)|
|Most titles||Astralis (4 titles)|
|TV partner(s)||Twitch, Steam.tv, YouTube, GOTV|
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships, commonly known as Majors, are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) esports tournaments sponsored by Valve, the game's developer. The Majors were first introduced in 2013 and took place in Jönköping, Sweden and was hosted by DreamHack with a total prize pool of US$250,000. Six teams were directly invited, six teams were invited based on previous tournament results, and another four teams came from direct qualifiers.
Since then, the Major circuit has expanded significantly, now posing a US$1,000,000 prize pool and features twenty-four teams from around the world. The Major Championships are considered to be the most important and prestigious tournaments in the Global Offensive scene.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is a multiplayer first-person shooter video game developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and Valve. It is the fourth game in the Counter-Strike series. In competitive play, the game pits two teams against each other: the Terrorists and the Counter-Terrorists. Both sides are tasked with eliminating the other while also completing separate objectives. The Terrorists must either plant a bomb or kill the entire Counter-Terrorist team, while the Counter-Terrorists must either prevent the bomb from being planted by killing the entire Terrorist team or defusing the bomb. Once the bomb is planted, counter-terrorists have forty seconds to defuse the bomb; under normal circumstances, it takes ten seconds to defuse the bomb, but purchasing a defuse kit reduces the defuse time to five seconds. At the end of each round, players are rewarded based on their individual performance with in-game currency to spend on more powerful weapons in subsequent rounds. Winning rounds results in more money than losing, and completing objectives such as killing enemy players gives cash bonuses. However, the more consecutive rounds a team loses, the more money the losing team earns, with the loss bonus capping after five rounds; once that team wins a round, the loss bonus for each player reduces by one tier, winning the following rounds consecutively will reduce the loss bonus until the minimum tier is reached.
The current defending champions are Astralis, after winning their fourth major championship at the most recent event. Astralis currently hold the record for the most major titles.
Prior to Valve being involved with Counter-Strike tournaments, players and organizations had earlier versions of Majors, with the most prominent organizations hosting the Majors being Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), World Cyber Games (WCG), Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC), World eSports Masters (WEM), and Intel Extreme Masters (IEM). All the earlier Majors were from the first version of Counter-Strike. Swedish teams dominated, most notably SK Gaming, but the roster known as the Golden Five were the most successful lineup. Many other teams from other parts of the world would go on to win championships, such as Team 3D from the United States with CPL Winter 2002 and WCG 2004, NoA from Norway with CPL Winter 2004, mibr from Brazil with ESWC 2006, and WeMade FOX from South Korea with WEM 2010.
On September 16, 2013, Valve announced a US$250,000 community-funded prize pool for its first Major; the money was funded through The Arms Deal Update, which offers players in-game items and announced the tournament will take place in Sweden and will be hosted by DreamHack. The tournament took place in late November and would later be won by the Swedish team Fnatic. After the 2013 Major, Valve would make the Major a triennial event, with all six Majors featuring the same US$250,000 prize pool.
On February 23, 2016, with the MLG Major Championship: Columbus Major coming up, Valve announced a huge increase in the prize pool at one million dollars. All future Majors would feature the upgraded prize pool. However, Valve would reduce the number of Majors each year from three to two.
On December 13, 2017, the general manager of ELEAGUE, the hosts of the ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018, Christina Alejandre announced a partially new format designed by Valve and ELEAGUE that would expand the number of team in the Major from sixteen to twenty-four. This would also be the first Major that would take place in more than one city.
After the 2013 Major, the top eight teams would earn automatic berths to the next Major. These teams would be called "Legends." The other eight teams would be decided by regional qualifiers, mainly from Europe and North America. These teams would be called "Challengers." Few other teams were invited or came from a last chance qualifier. Starting with DreamHack Open Stockholm 2015, the qualifier to DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015, the bottom eight teams from the Major would earn automatic berths to the newly formed Major qualifier. The DreamHack Stockholm qualifier featured five teams from Europe, two teams from North America, and one team from Asia.
Starting with MLG Major Championship: Columbus, a Minor system took place. The Columbus Minor system originally featured one Americas team, two Asian teams, one CIS team, one European team, and three last chance qualifier teams. It was until ESL One Cologne 2016 in which a neater format was introduced. Four Minors – Asia, CIS, Europe, Americas – were introduced. Two teams from each qualifier would go on to join the bottom eight teams from the last Major to the Major qualifier. The top eight teams would move on. Starting with the ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018, the Major qualifier was scrapped and was instead combined with the actual Major itself, expanding the number of teams in a Major to 24. This would also mean that the top sixteen teams from the Major would earn automatic invites to the next Major, with the Legends getting automatic seeds in the second phase of the Major and the next eight teams earning automatic berths to the first phase of the Major. On August 28, 2018, about a week before the start of the FACEIT Major: London 2018, Valve announced that only the top fourteen teams from the London 2018 Major and on would earn direct invites to the next Major, meaning the two teams that go winless in the first phase would not get an invitation. The two spots would instead be filled in via a playoff stage featuring the four third place teams at the Minors.
Unlike traditional sports or other esports leagues, Valve's policy on a spot in a Major is based on whichever the majority of the players are on rather than the team itself. For instance, at the ELEAGUE Major 2017, Team EnVyUs placed ninth, meaning it would have an automatic berth at the next Major qualifier. However, before the next Major, three of EnVyUs's players transferred to G2 Esports, meaning G2 Esports would take EnVyUs's spot at the qualifier.
From 2013 to 2016, Majors used a four group GSL format for the group stage. The highest seed (the semifinalists and finalists from the last Major) in each group would play the lowest seed in each group and the other two teams would play. The two winners would then play to determine which team gets the top seed. The two losers then play to decide which team would go home. The remaining two teams play to determine which team takes the final playoff spot. All games were best of ones. The last Major of 2015 and both Majors in 2016 featured a best of three decider match to make it more fair and to have a more guarantee that the better team would come out on top.
Starting in 2017, the group stage would feature a Swiss group stage. This would mean teams would be divided into four pots, in which pot one had the four highest seeds, pot two had the next four highest seeds, and so on. A randomly selected team from pot one would face off against a randomly selected team from pot four. The same process is done with the pots two and three. After initial matches are done, teams with the same record would play, so that teams with a 1-0 record would only play another team with a 1-0 record. If a team gets three wins, then that team moves on to the next stage. If a team has three losses, that team is eliminated. All games were best-of-one up until the FACEIT Major: London 2018.[failed verification] The Boston 2018 Major featured two Swiss group stages; the stage formerly known as the offline qualifier was now known as the New Challengers stage and the group stage was now known as the New Legends stage. The Swiss system also guarantees no team would face each other twice unless necessary. The FACEIT Major: London 2018 revealed a slightly different form of the Swiss system called the Buchholz system, in which matchups would now be seeded instead of random and the last round would feature best of three sets. The next Major featured an Elo system, in which teams would rank the other teams they would potentially play in the group stages to create a ranking system, thus getting rid of randomization.
A controversial form of the group stage came from ESL One Cologne 2015. Initially, the first three matches started out the same way as the GSL format intended, so that the winner of the group was determined. However, teams were then reassigned afterwards so that the two losers played from different groups and then the decider match would also be teams from different groups.
The playoffs, now known as the New Champions stage, have featured eight teams since the Major's inception. All games are best of three series. With the GSL format, the group winners would earn top seeds and the group runner-ups would earn the bottom seeds. Each top seed plays a bottom seed in quarterfinals and teams play until a winner is decided. For the Swiss format seeding, the two teams that came out on top in the group stage earn the highest seeds. Two randomly selected teams from the bottom three teams would be pitted against the top seeds. Two randomly selected teams from the third to fifth place teams would be put together and then the last two teams would finalize the bracket.
Valve has permanently banned players in the past for a couple of reasons. A Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) ban is the most common way players get banned. VAC is a system designed by Valve to detect cheats on computers. Any time a player connects to a VAC-secured server and a cheat is detected, the user is kicked from the server and given a permanent lifetime ban and would not be allowed to play in any VAC-secured servers. Other servers, such as ESEA, which is owned by ESL, and FACEIT have their own anti-cheat systems and work with Valve to detect new cheats. Linus "b0bbzki" Lundqvist was the first known professional player to be banned in Global Offensive. Perhaps the most infamous VAC ban on a professional player was Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian's ban. KQLY was banned along with several other professional players, such as Gordon "Sf" Giry, while KQLY was playing for France's best team, Titan. Vinicius “v$m” Moreira from Brazil was most recent player to be VAC banned while he was playing for Detona Gaming. Most recently, Nikhil “forsaken” Kumawat of OpTic India was caught cheating at ZOWIE eXTREMESLAND Asia CS:GO 2018, although he was yet to be banned by Valve after the eXTREMESLAND staff and ESL confirmed the use of cheats.
The only other way in which players are banned thus far is due to match fixing. The first case of Valve banning players because of match fixing was the iBUYPOWER and NetcodeGuides.com match fixing scandal after a leak from esports journalist Richard Lewis found that one of North America's best team at the time was involved in a match fixing scandal. After Casey "caseyfoster" Foster – co-owner of NetcodeGuides.com – and Sam "DaZeD" Marine – the captain of the iBUYPOWER team – were found to have a joint venture, it eventually came out that the most of the iBUYPOWER roster and the owners of NetcodeGuides.com fixed the a best of three series at the CEVO Season 5: Professional tournaments; the deal was the iBUYPOWER would lose the game and in exchange the NetcodeGuides.com owners would give them skins. Valve indefinitely banned seven players who were involved in the scandal. Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham was the only iBUYPOWER not banned as Valve deemed that it did not have enough evidence that Skadoodle threw the game. Valve would later make the bans permanent, causing some controversy in the Counter-Strike community as Valve did not permanently ban Dota 2 players for the same reason. These bans would effectively ban two of North America's best in-game leaders (DaZeD and Joshua "steel" Nissan) and young talents such as Braxton "swag" Pierce. Skadoodle would go on to win a major with Cloud9. Afterwards, only two other cases of match fixing would take place that would ban nine other players.
Stickers are virtual items in the game in which players can buy or open from virtual capsules. There are four types of stickers: normal, holo, foil, and gold. Every player in the Major would get their autograph put into the game as a sticker, which fans put on their in-game weapon skins to show support. The teams and the tournament organizer also get their stickers. Each purchase of a sticker has half of its proceeds go to the player or the team and Valve takes the other half.
The older a sticker gets, the more expensive it tends becomes as that stickers become rarer to buy and with Valve not releasing any capsules for old tournaments, with an iBUYPOWER holo sticker from Katowice 2014 going for an average of US$4,500.
Souvenir packages are virtual packages that are exclusive to CS:GO Majors. These are map-based packages that are signed by the most valuable player of the round, which includes the gold stickers of the two teams playing in that round, the gold sticker of the most valuable player of that round, and the gold sticker of the tournament organizer. The Cobblestone packages are the most sought after cases as it contains the rare Dragon Lore skin of the AWP, which prices can go as high as US$61,000, with Cloud9's Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham's sticker on it after Skadoodle was named the most valuable player of the ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018 and Cloud9 became the first ever North American Major champion; this skin, however, was not from the Boston Major, but rather from the prior Major, the PGL Major Kraków 2017, against G2 Esports.
Beginning with the Berlin 2019 Major, players are no longer able to get random drops just by watching the match. Many players abused this option and kept streams running without actually watching the Major. It was impossible to know how many people really watched the match. Cobblestone was the most expensive case and every match that was played on Cobblestone had higher viewership than any other match.
However, it is no longer possible to get a random souvenir package drop just by watching a match. Players would need a viewer pass to be eligible for Souvenir Packages. To gain one, players would earn points by completing challenges during the Major. After collecting enough points, they can upgrade the coin and choose a souvenir drop from any match that was played on that Major, even if that player's team did not watch that match. Players could then redeem a Souvenir Package each time they were to upgrade their Event Coin. Take note that the coin can be upgraded three times total during a Major, from Bronze to Silver, Gold, and Diamond. Viewer pass holders can also purchase Souvenir Package redemptions in-game.
Pick'em is an in-game challenge designed by Valve in which fans can buy stickers of teams and pick which teams will advance past certain stages or who will win certain matches. For more recent Pick'em challenges, players choose one team to go undefeated in the group stages, one team to go winless in the group stages, and another seven teams to move on to the next phase of the Major. For the New Champions stage, players fill out their brackets to determine which teams move on until a winner is decided. Valve also gives out virtual trophies in the forms of bronze, silver, gold, and diamond to players who earn enough points.
In-game cosmetic additions
When there are moments in the Major considered to be iconic or historical, Valve has decided to honor and immortalize them with cosmetic additions on maps, mostly in the form of graffiti. Thus far, there have been six moments that have been memorialized by Valve that relate to the Major.
- Fnatic wins the first Major, 2013 DreamHack Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Championship, two games to one after upsetting Ninjas in Pyjamas in the finals. The two aforementioned Swedish teams would go on to win the four of the first six Majors, with Ninjas in Pyjamas playing in five of those six finals.
- Virtus.pro wins EMS One Katowice 2014 to become the first team that was not a Legend coming into the tournament to win a Major. Virtus.pro placed ninth at the DreamHack Winter 2013 before winning the Katowice 2014 Major.
- Valve permanently bans seven players who were connected to the IBUYPOWER and NetcodeGuides.com match fixing scandal. Other tournament organizers followed suit and banned the same players indefinitely. In 2017, ESL and DreamHack both lifted their bans on the former iBUYPOWER players.
- Fnatic becomes the first team to win back to back Majors. Only two other teams would go on to claim the same achievement. In doing so, Fnatic was also the first team to win three Majors.
- Valve awards Columbus, Ohio the first North American Major. In addition, Valve raises the prize pool from US$250,000 to US$1,000,000 while the number of Majors each year decreases from three to two.
- Luminosity Gaming, from Brazil, becomes the first non-European team to win a Major. This roster would also go on to win back to back Majors, one with Luminosity at MLG Major Championship: Columbus and one with SK Gaming at ESL One Cologne 2016.
- Team EnVyUs was the first team to not renew its Legends status after winning the last Major. EnVyUs won DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015, but placed only 13th at MLG Major Championship: Columbus.
- Gambit Esports, from Kazakhstan, wins PGL Major Kraków 2017 to become the first Asian and CIS team to win a Major.
- Valve increases the number of teams at the Major from sixteen to twenty-four after agreeing with ELEAGUE's proposal. This would mean eight teams that would have been eliminated in the Major qualifier stage would now be part of the Major. Later on, Valve would also decrease the number of invited teams from sixteen to fourteen.
- Cloud9, from the United States, wins ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018 to become the first North American team to win a Major.
- Astralis wins StarLadder Major: Berlin 2019 to become the first team to win four majors and three in a row.
List of Major Championships
The list of Legends across every Major is shown below. A change in the background color indicates that a different roster took over the Legends spot or the Legends roster from before broke up. If the team name changes but does not change color, this indicates that the roster changed teams but did not lose its Legends spot. In some cases, a team may show up multiple times consecutively, but the color has changed; in this case, the organization has simply fielded new players for the majority of the roster. The asterisk next to a team's name indicates the team won the event.
Across the Majors, only six players have attended every Major: Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth, Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, Richard "shox" Papillon, Peter "dupreeh" Rothmann, Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko. Of those six, only one has been a Legend every single Major (except Berlin 2019): olofmeister, first with LGB eSports, then with Fnatic, then with FaZe Clan. Player Flusha has been a legend in all majors except Berlin 2019 and Katowice 2019, falling just short of Olofmeister's record.
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