Live esports are back in action, and not just at the top level. Last weekend marked the 15th edition of Fragadelphia, one of North America’s longest running CS:GO events that tons of top talent can trace their roots to.
At Frag, 34 teams battled it out on LAN with five spots in the Fragadelphia Blast Qualifier Fall 2021 up for grabs as well as a $60,000 prize pool. Frag was a true double-elimination gauntlet with the winner from the upper bracket having to take down seven different teams without a loss.
As with most Fragadelphias, a few rosters at the top are known by fans but most teams are often playing one of their first major LANs when they hit Philadelphia. From qualifiers around the country featuring players from around the world, a ton of talent gathered to compete at Frag. Here’s how it went down:
Top seeds roll early
Frag has had plenty of upsets in its history, but this tournament certainly leaned toward the favorites. Teams like Bad News Bears, Party Astronauts and RBG Esports all feature players with a range of high-level CS experience in their past.
Each one was seeded on top of their respective section and had no trouble with any opponent in the first two rounds. Over each team’s first two BO3 games, the closest map any of them had was 16-5. That moved each of them to the upper bracket quarterfinals. TI and NA’s Favorites, two other top seeds, also moved to the quarterfinals but had some closer maps on the way there.
Photo credit: David Patlut / Nerd Street
Quarterfinals see back-and-forth games
Once the upper bracket quarterfinals started, some of the best teams in this tournament really had to fight for wins. Bad News Bears continued to roll, beating Big Chillin 16-8, 16-3 to move to the semis. But RBG had a tough time with Infinity Gauntlet. An impressive comeback on Vertigo forced a Map 3 for Infinity Gauntlet. They kept that deciding map close for a while before eventually losing 16-11. It was still an impressive performance for the team that qualified through Frag’s St Louis qualifier.
Party Astronauts didn’t have a tough time taking down the Faceit Freedom Fighters in that upper bracket quarterfinal. The final matchup of this round was the most interesting. NA’s Finest certainly came into this tournament with a reputation, but they took down one of the only signed teams at Fragadelphia in Third Impact.
The semifinals saw the crowded field narrow as Bad News Bears were set to take on RBG and Party Astronauts went up against NA’s Finest.
Semifinal matchups go the distance
Bad News Bears had hardly been challenged all tournament but that changed with RBG. In one of the best maps of the entire tournament, RBG took down BNB 16-14 on Inferno. But BNB showed their experience and didn’t let their first map drop of Fragadelphia knock them out of their rhythm. They took the next two maps 16-7. It was Paytyn “junior” Johnson who led BNB with an absolutely insane 73/33 K/D over the three maps, making up for a miscue at a crucial point in Map 1.
In the other semifinal matchup, the cadence was similar. NA’s Finest looked nearly unstoppable in the first map with Danny “cxzi” Strzelczyk going +13 on Mirage. Party Astronauts had other plans however. On Dust2, Josh “PwnAlone” Pigue really took over. He went +14 with an ADR of over 100 on the map. Each team played perfectly on their map pick, but when Inferno was left over, NA’s Finest seemed completely lost on the deciding map.
The final score of 16-2 tells you everything you need to know. PwnAlone went 23-6 and three Party Astronauts players had over 100 ADR.
That set up our upper bracket final between two talented teams in Bad News Bears and Party Astronauts, but first we need to look back on what happened in the lower bracket.
Coldest Riders fall just short of redemption but qualify for Blast anyway after lower bracket run.
Everyone loves a lower bracket run. When a team is knocked down early, it’s easy to see the gauntlet ahead and just lose a bit of hope. But the teams that play best with their backs against the wall to win over and over are some of the most impressive of the tournament. Two teams who were knocked down early really impressed throughout the lower bracket.
Coldest Riders went down 2-1 to NA’s Finest in just the second round. Considering NA’s Finest’s following run, taking a map there is a pretty good result. From there, they began eliminating opponents one by one. AGNB was the first victim. TPG and Big Chillin followed shortly afterward. Infinity Gauntlet, who gave RBG a tough challenge in the upper bracket, played one of the lower bracket’s best games with Coldest Riders.
After picking Nuke, Coldest Riders struggled a bit but managed to barely avoid OT with a 16-14 win. But Infinity Gauntlet should have still felt confident heading into their map pick of Vertigo. If they were confident, it didn’t show. The Coldest Riders looked phenomenal taking a 16-10 victory. That set up a rematch with NA’s Finest, the team that sent them down to the lower bracket so many rounds ago.
While the bracket lined up the spot at redemption, Coldest Riders just couldn’t quite get there. Like the upper bracket matchup, this one went 2-1, but the maps switched. Coldest Riders won Mirage, after losing it in the upper bracket, but lost Nuke, the map they won in the upper bracket. The deciding match came down to Dust II. Coldest Riders nearly had it, but NA’s Finest made a comeback toward the end with a 16-14 victory.
This was the last win of the day for NA’s Finest, however. RBG took them out fairly easily in the lower bracket semifinal -- including an incredible five-man boost -- but NA’s Finest would lock in a fourth-place finish.
Unfortunately, according to HLTV, NA’s Finest will not be able to compete in the Blast Qualifier despite finishing high enough to qualify. With that absence, both the fifth- and sixth-place finishers -- Coldest Riders and Third Impact -- will get to move on. Coldest Riders won the fifth-place tiebreaker, which normally would have had huge stakes, but with the departure of NA’s Finest, the game was just a seeding match for the following tournament.
Coldest Riders were the true winner of the lower bracket, but a solid string of wins from Levitate is also worth highlighting. They came up just short against Third Impact, which would have pushed them into the Blast Qualifier. Other than that, the lower bracket didn’t offer many more surprises as teams knocked down from the upper bracket would usually win a match before being eliminated.
Photo credit: David Patlut / Nerd Street
Bad News Bears and Party Astronauts reach the end
The upper bracket final seemed set to be an intense match with both teams looking dominant over the course of the tournament. But Bad News Bears didn’t have much of an issue in that match, with two fairly easy wins to move to the grand final.
Party Astronauts wanted a rematch though. After moving to the lower bracket to take on RBG, the squad went off. On RBG’s map pick, every single Party Astronauts player ended up at least +5 led by Gage “Infinite” Green’s 20-6. The final score was 16-3 -- again, RBG picked this map. That really felt like it was set to end the lower bracket final before it began, but RBG actually fired back on Party Astronauts’ map pick with a clean 16-10 victory. Jadan “HexT” Postma led the way with a clean +15 for RBG. Both teams should probably re-examine their map picks before the upcoming Blast Qualifier, especially RBG.
The final map was Inferno, often the one left over at the end of the second bans during this tournament. Party Astronauts shook off the loss and dominated this deciding map 16-5. This time it was Jonathan “djay” Dallal who took his turn leading the way with a 23/13 K/D.
In the grand final, it was time for a rematch: Bad News Bears vs. Party Astronauts. And this time, the astronauts weren’t about to be swept again. It’s always nice when the grand final of a massive tournament makes good on the change to Bo5 and truly goes the distance.
Rather than a bracket reset, BNB got the advantage of a one-map headstart in the Bo5. Party Astronauts went ahead and picked Inferno. Then they got swamped 16-5, not exactly a great start. With three straight losses to BNB, needing a reverse sweep to win, and facing down BNB’s map pick, it would have been easy for Party Astronauts to take the qualification and call the tournament a success.
But they still had some pop-off energy waiting. David “cynic” Polster played like a man possessed with one of the best individual maps of the entire tournament finishing with 27/7 K/D. After that, Party Astronauts continued the momentum, winning Ancient 16-9. And just like that, the series was tied with Astronauts having all the energy on their side.
The series all came down to Overpass, which BNB picked over Mirage for the deciding map. The grand final was heated, as both teams came out playing some of their best rounds of the entire tournament. When the dust settled, it was BNB who came out on top with a 16-11 win. It looked like Party Astronauts were in a place to potentially force OT or at least make BNB sweat, but they closed it out before it got too close.
The MVP of that final map had to be Jonathan “Jonji” Carey. He wasn’t usually on top of the leaderboards for BNB, but he came through when it counted with a 27/19 performance on the final map.
Bad News Bears, in one of the team’s first tournaments after the retirement of Peter “ptr” Gurney, previously the leader of this well-known amatuer team, showed a team that remains one of the best places to find CS talent in North America. A few former players on the team find themselves currently in Berlin for VALORANT’s Stage 3 Masters including Envy’s Victor “Victor” Wong, Austin “crashies” Roberts and Jacob “yay” Whiteaker. But The most high profile former member of Bad News Bears is Sentinels star Tyson “TenZ” Ngo.
It’s truly a team with a ton of talent who will move on quickly to the Blast Premiere Qualifier as a new batch of up-and-coming stars look to make a name for themselves like many former BNB members before them.
Lead photo credit: David Patlut / Nerd Street