At Fragadelphia 15, the first edition of Nerd Street’s open Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament since the pandemic began, the teams were playing for more than just a share of the biggest Frag prize pool in history. This year, the top teams would receive a spot in the Fragadelphia Invitational, a qualifier for BLAST Premier’s Fall Showdown.
The Fall Showdown offers a chance to reach the Fall Finals, which provides one of the final opportunities for a team to reach BLAST Premier’s prestigious World Final in December. It’s a long route to be sure, but for the first time ever there is a direct path from Frag to one of the most prestigious CS:GO events of the year.
After Frag 15, five teams moved to the second step in the ladder. They were Bad News Bears, Party Astronauts, RBG Esports, Coldest Riders and Third Impact. In addition, three other well-known teams were invited to join them to truly up the level of competition. Those additions were Brazilian squads PaiN Gaming and GODSENT, as well as North American and South African team Extra Salt.
These eight teams were split into two groups, with the top four teams moving to a single elimination bracket. Here’s how it went down:
In Group A, the Brazilian teams rolled early. PaiN took down Third Impact 16-8 and GODSENT ran over RBG 16-2. In a format where teams only played one map, the potential for upsets was higher than if the teams had to play a full series. To start, the top teams showed why they were the heavy favorites entering the group.
After the two Frag qualifiers lost early, they played an elimination match that saw RBG defeat Third Impact 16-11. TI was the lowest finisher of all the teams who qualified through Frag and were the first ones to leave the Invitational.
After PaiN just narrowly beat GODSENT to move to the bracket stage, RBG got a chance for a rematch against the team that trounced them just a few hours ago. This time, things seemed different. RBG won a couple rounds early and the match was close through the first half. The second half was more of the same, RBG played well, winning 11 rounds but GODSENT were just the better team at the end of the day.
When one team has Epitacio “TACO” de Melo, and the other team, well, doesn’t, it’s difficult to win. For people unfamiliar with CS history, TACO is one of the most accomplished players of all time as a core part of the LG-SK Gaming dynasty that won multiple majors in 2016.
In Group A, which featured the weaker teams from Frag, the Brazilian teams handled business to move to the bracket stage.
Group B, however, promised a bit more intrigue. The invited team here was just Extra Salt, an organization founded from the pieces of Cloud9’s former American-South African lineup. This group also featured the two top finishers from Frag 15 in Bad News Bears and Party Astronauts.
To start, Extra Salt opened up against Coldest Riders, a team that made an impressive lower bracket run in Frag 15 to qualify for this tournament. Although the lower bracket runs are always fun, Coldest Riders quickly found they were outmatched at this level. Extra Salt won easily 16-5.
Then we got a rematch of the finals between Party Astronauts and Bad News Bears. Two of the top organization-less North American teams, they met twice at Frag 15 in the upper bracket finals and eventually the grand finals. Bad News Bears won both times, although the grand finals went the distance with a 3-2 final score. In the Frag Invitational, BNB once again had the upper hand, winning 16-7.
Party Astronauts easily handled Coldest Riders in the elimination matchup and awaited the winner of BNB and Extra Salt. This was one of the best maps of the entire tournament as Extra Salt took an early lead, but BNB almost completed the full comeback to force OT. The final score was 16-14 in favor of Extra Salt to push all three invited teams into the bracket stage.
Party Astronauts and Bad News Bears would then face off for their eighth and final map over four separate matchups with the final bracket spot on the line. The current score was 5-2 in favor of BNB, not including the one map they received for coming from the upper bracket. This time Party Astronauts, possibly peeved by the pretty sizable pay jump from second to first place at Frag, was out for BNB blood.
This map truly couldn’t have been closer. It seemed like every round flip flopped as both halves finished 8-7. Despite the best efforts of Paytyn “Junior” Johnson, on loan from Furia Esports, BNB just barely lost to Party Astronauts with both Josh “PwnAlone” Pigue and Jonathan “djay” Dallal having fantastic games.
Party Astronauts became the only Frag team to have a chance to move to the next level of BLAST tournaments in the bracket stage.
For a second, it looked like they may even continue that journey as they took down PaiN Gaming 16-11 on the first map. But the change to the bracket stage also brought a change to best-of-three. PaiN settled in and won Nuke and Dust II in increasingly dominant fashion. PwnAlone continued to lead Party Astronauts putting up an absurd +15 K/D on the first map.
Eventually PaiN’s duo of Wesley “hardzao” Lopes and Rafael “saffee” Costa flexed their skill, with both players finishing above +20 over the three maps. Unfortunately for Party Astronauts, some members of the team just didn’t bring their best performance. Ben “ben1337” Smith looked a bit outclassed as he finished -27 including a 1/15 on the final map. Djay, previously one of the leaders of Party Astronauts, also finished with a -26 on the match.
The other bracket matchup certainly seemed closer on paper. Extra Salt, ranked No. 25 in the world by HLTV heading into the match, went against TACO and GODSENT. This time, TACO didn’t play nearly as well and without their leader popping off, GODSENT went down 2-1. Extra Salt’s Josh “oSee” Ohm was the MVP of this match.
The final matchup between ranked Extra Salt vs. the talented Brazilian squad of PaiN Gaming certainly didn’t disappoint.
All throughout Frag 15 and the Frag Invitational teams were consistently losing their map pick to the point where I had to triple check HLTV after watching it live because it just seemed so unlikely for so many teams to lose their own map pick. The grand finals, fittingly, were no different. PaiN picked Inferno and Extra Salt beat them 16-7. Then Extra Salt, with a chance to close it out, picked Vertigo. PaiN beat them 16-6. The same thing happened against GODSENT in the round prior.
So that set up the final map on Ancient with a spot in BLAST Premier’s Fall Showdown hanging on the line. Extra Salt took an early first-half lead going up 10-5 behind more great play from oSee. Then PaiN came roaring back with safee fragging like crazy. They finished the second half 10-5 in favor of PaiN.
That forced the first OT of the entire Frag Invitational. In the deciding match of the grand finals, it doesn’t get much better than that. After going back and forth for a few rounds, PaiN finally closed out the series and the tournament with a 19-17 victory on Extra Salt.
That pushes PaiN into the Fall Showdown. They will join a crowded field filled with some great CS teams. Right now, BLAST Premier’s 12 partnered teams, including juggernauts like Astralis, Team Liquid, Natus Vincere and Vitality, are battling it out in the Fall Groups. The top finishers there will move directly to the Fall Finals, while the lower finishers will join PaiN and the other qualified teams in the Fall Showdown. The Fall Showdown begins Oct. 12.
Lead photo credit: David Patlut / Nerd Street