Who will win Dreamhack Tours?

Despite SK’s win at IEM Sydney stealing the headlines, this weekend Dreamhack hosted one of their many open events in Tours, France. The tournament has provided some of the most entertaining Counter-Strike we’ve seen in some time. Na’Vi embarrassed themselves, Robin “ropz” Kool made his LAN debut, while Misfits have given North America some hope. There were eight teams in attendance with only four now remaining. Although we might have lost some big names, today’s semi-finals will be a real treat.

HellRaisers vs Misfits

Misfits caused one of the biggest upsets we’ve seen by defeating Na’Vi in a best of three in their decider game. The North American team lost the opener in a crushing defeat on Cobblestone before reverse sweeping their opposition in dominating fashion. The win largely came through primary AWPer Shahzeeb “ShahZaM” Khan, who outplayed his Na’Vi counterpart Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács all series long. ShahZaM averaged more than a kill a round and was responsible for multiple clutch plays.

HellRaisers advanced straight to the semi-finals after two best of one wins in the group stage. The first was a crushing victory over home team EnVyUs. Their second game was against Danish squad Tricked, who they narrowly beat 16-13 on Train. HellRaisers’ two Slovakian players Patrik “Zero” Žúdel and Martin “STYKO” Styk were the defining players closing out rounds with an array of multi kills across both maps.

This semi-final is hard to predict for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is unknown whether ShahZaM will turn up in the same way for today’s games. The AWPer has shown flickers of this potential in the past although, it has never stuck, leading him to lose his spot on both Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming. In spite of that, Misfits’ usual star player Hunter “SicK” Mims was absent for the majority of the series, meaning he can bring firepower if he can find his footing.

However, HellRaisers will be a more formidable opponent than Na’Vi since they have a more structured style. Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow stated that he has been working hard with his former In-Game Leader, now the HellRaisers coach, to further develop a tactical approach. Both Zero and STYKO have been consistently on point these past months, so it’s likely to continue into the semi-final. The key player for the CIS team will be their own AWPer Bence “DeadFox” Böröcz, who has been on the decline for some time now. If ShahZaM turns up in-form he will have a hard task trying to do what GuardiaN couldn’t.

In my opinion, HellRaisers will win the series, most likely in three maps. I think their tactical presence will feel completely different to Misfits’ previous game. The Americans will at least win one map if their players step up again, it’s also not completely out of reach that they take the series themselves. HellRaisers are the logical pick because they have consistently shown they are capable of beating the lower opposition.

G2 Esports vs mousesports

Hometown heroes G2 Esports easily has the most hyped roster we’ve seen in CSGO, however, they are yet to live up to that potential. A win at this event will put some of the critics on the backburner for a short time.

G2 stumbled early by losing 16-7 to Tricked on Inferno, one of their better maps, forcing them to play against fellow countrymen in Team EnVyUs. In that series, they were always in front thanks to Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro, who finished the series +20 in kills.

Following the victory, G2 were to play Tricked again in a best of three. This time, all of the team performed to the level it should with Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt topping the board. It was refreshing to see the likes of Bodyy and NBK dishing out the damage and is a promising sign for G2’s title hopes since then they would only need one of their stars firing on all cylinders to win against just about anyone.

G2’s support player Bodyy contributed highly against Team EnVyUs. [Source: Dreamhack]

G2’s opponents are international team mousesports, who recently picked up Faceit Pro League star Ropz. They advanced straight to the semi-final after two wins over Heroic and the faltering Natus Vincere. It’s hard to gauge how strong the roster really is after these wins since both opponents underperformed at the event. One thing that is clear however is that there is more to come from this lineup and particularly from Ropz himself. However, even though mousesports has some dangerous players, G2 simply has too much individual firepower. That, combined with mousesports lack of time with Ropz, means I find it extremely unlikely that they drop the series.

Highly sought after, Ropz rose through the ranks by playing FPL. [Source: HLTV]

Grand Final

The safe and logical pick for the winner of Dreamhack Tours is, of course, G2 Esports. The Frenchmen have shown a willingness to improve from game to game and their individual prowess should be in full effect by the time the grand final comes around. HellRaisers have a small chance to take a map if they build some momentum following a pistol round win, but otherwise, I see G2 and the sixth man – the crowd – overwhelming the CIS team with raw skill.


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Kiev Major Group Stage

The Kiev Major Group Stage Preview

The first Major of the 2017 season is upon us and it looks as though it will be amazing. The Kiev Major will take place from April 24th – April 30th. The event will be split into Group Stages followed by a single-elimination main event bracket. Let’s take a look at the Kiev Major Group Stage.

The Kiev Major Prize Pool

The prize pool of the tournament is $3,000,000 USD.

Place $ USD Percent Team
1st $1,000,000  33.33% TBD
2nd $500,000  16.67% TBD
3rd-4th $250,000  8.33% TBD
TBD
place 5 to 16
5th-8th $125,000  4.17% TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
9th-16th $62,500  2.08% TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD

Courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2/Kiev_Major/2017

Kiev Major Group Stage Format

For the first time at a Dota 2 event, Kiev will use the Swiss-system format. A format commonly seen at CS:GO events, it will be interesting to see if it creates better seeding heading into the main event.

  • 16 teams are placed in a single group where they play in a Swiss-system format.
    • Four rounds of matches.
    • All matches are played in a Bo3.
    • Opponents will always have the same Win/Loss record.
    • Teams will never play an opponent twice.
  • Round 1
    • Initial eight matches are seeded.
  • Round 2
    • Divided into two groups:
      • Winners of Round 1 (“high”)
      • Losers of Round 1 (“low”)
    • Teams will be drawn an opponent from their group.
  • Round 3
    • Divided into three groups:
      • Teams with a record of 2-0 (“high”)
      • Teams with a record of 1-1 (“mid”)
      • Lastly, teams with a record of 0-2 (“low”)
    • All teams will be drawn an opponent they have not played yet from their group.
    • Winners of the high group are the highest seed for the playoffs.
    • Losers of the low group are the lowest seed for the playoffs.
  • Round 4
    • Divided into two groups:
      • Teams with a record of 2-1 (“high”)
      • Teams with a record of 1-2 (“low”)
    • All teams will be drawn an opponent they have not yet played from their group.
    • Winners of the high group are the 2nd highest seed for the playoffs.
    • Losers of the low group are the 2nd lowest seed for the playoffs.

Courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2/Kiev_Major/2017/Group_Stage

The Kiev Major Group Stage – Round 1 Thoughts and Predictions

The Kiev Major Group Stage Round 1 Matches

Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/wykrhm

Team Secret v VG.J

In the first game of the first round, Team Secret will face off against VG.J. Both of these teams will likely finish in the middle of the pack somewhere. VG.J on paper are the stronger squad. However, outside of the second place at StarLadder, they have yet to live up to the hype.

Both Team Secret and VG.J have a point to prove at Kiev, this will be one of the closest series of the group stages. When the dust settles, I think Team Secret will take the series 2-1. Mainly because VG.J have been inconsistent in recent times. This is also Team Secret’s return to the Major’s after missing out on a place in Boston. Team Secret will be the sharper team heading into round one and should take a close series.

Team Secret Kiev Major Group Stage

Image courtesy of teamsecret.gg

Invictus Gaming (IG) v Mousesports

No series on the road to a Major trophy is easy. However, Mousesports will be feeling unlucky with their round one match-up. Going up against one of the favorites and DAC winner, IG will be a huge challenge for the Greeks. This series will be the first that the former Ad Finem roster has played since the second place finish at the Boston Major. Since then they have changed orgs, failed to attend a single LAN and we have had a series of game changing patches. On the other hand, IG comes into this event in the form of a lifetime. A strong showing at DAC, which would eventually see them take home the crown, has catapulted them into a spot as favorites. IG and Mousesports are at opposite ends of the spectrum and IG should sweep the Greeks 2-0.

IG Kiev Major Group Stages

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Team Random v IG.Vitality

In the only all domestic match-up, Team Random will take on IG.V. This series looks to be another close match-up with both teams experiencing mixed form. Team Random, formerly Team Wings, are searching to recover the form they had leading up to TI6. IG.V are looking to establish themselves as a top team. Team Random have the stronger set of players but seem to out mind game themselves in most games. Team Random showed flashes of genius during DAC, but normally it was too little too late. IG.V, on the other hand, showed promise during DAC finishing in fourth place. At DAC IG.V started slowly and for this reason I am backing Team Random to take the series 2-1.

Team Randon Team Wings Kiev Major Group Stages

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

OG v SG esports

Favorites for the event OG take on newcomers SG in their first group stage game. For SG this series will be the hardest best of three they have most likely ever played. The current OG team are the most consistent team heading into the event. Since November, the lowest placing they have had is 3rd – 4th. Not bad for a team that everyone always rules out. SG will have to pull out a miracle to take the series from OG, think TNC at TI6. OG will come into the series full of confidence and will take it 2-0.

OG Kiev Major Group Stage

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Liquid v Thunderbirds

This series is my one to watch heading into the first round. Two teams who have championship pedigree but are currently having some issues. Liquid are more up and down than a yo-yo. They place first at StarLadder and then finish 9th – 12th at DAC. Liquid are another team that on paper should be challenging for every title. However, for whatever reason, they are struggling to convert talent into ability in-game. Thunderbirds, formerly DC, have struggled since winning ESL One Genting in January. The team has been struggling in-game and out of it. With the team now leaving DC, it is possible that they will make a return to winning ways. Similarly to Secret v VG.J, both these teams will likely finish in the middle of the pack. This is a difficult series to call, but I have Liquid edging it 2-1.

Liquid Kiev Major Group Stage

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Faceless v Virtus Pro (VP)

Kiev will be the first LAN that VP have attended since January. Starting off with a series against Faceless will be a tough test for VP. Faceless come into the event the same as always, dominant in SEA, disappointing internationally. VP come into Kiev with strong domestic form in the last few months. This is series will set the tone for both teams heading further into the event. Will VP choke again, will it be same old Faceless? Faceless are on the cusp of a strong performance. However, VP are the team in form at the moment and I have them taking the series 2-1.

VP Kiev Major Group Stage

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Digital Chaos (DC) v Newbee

In their first series as DC, the former Team Onyx squad will face off against Newbee. Newbee are one of the more consistent teams heading into the event with a first, second and third place finish in the three events they have attended in 2017. On the other hand, this will be DC’s first LAN event as a team. The nerves will be high for the new squad, especially with the controversy surrounding their move to the DC banner. Newbee are looking to go into the later rounds of the tournament and a strong performance in round one will set the tone. I have Newbee taking the series 2-0

Newbee Kiev Major Group Stage

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2

Evil Geniuses (EG) v TNC Pro Team

EG v TNC on paper should be a relatively easy matchup for the North American powerhouse. However, if one thing is certain in Dota it’s that EG always start slow. EG come into the event with questions hanging over the roster. The performance at DAC raised more questions on whether the roster is strong enough to be consistently at the top. On paper EG has one of the strongest rosters in the world, they just can’t seem to click consistently.

TNC come into Kiev in the same spot they always are, underdogs. TNC have had an up and down 2017, which has included winning WESG. Furthermore, TNC have been hit and miss domestically, which is concerning considering the lack of tier one times in SEA. I have EG taking the series but it will be a close 2-1.

EG Kiev Major Group Stage

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Kiev Major Group Stage – Final Thoughts

Every event since Boston has been building up to the Kiev Major. The first Major of 2017 will be hotly contested with at least five teams strong favorites to take the event. Near the top should be the likes of OG, IG, VP and EG. Teams like Secret, Liquid and Thunderbirds have questions to answer moving into the build up to TI7. At the other end, SG esports are looking to capture the hearts of fans as TNC and Ad Finem have done before them.

The new group stage format will provide more consistent seeding heading into the single-elimination main event. Teams that start slow will have the chance to repair things and get a decent seed for bracket play.

For more in-depth coverage of each region check out my Regional Roulette series:

South East Asia

The Americas

Europe and CIS

China

What are your thoughts on the round one matchups? Let me know in the comments below.

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The Kiev Major Regional Roulette – Europe and CIS

Welcome to day three of the Kiev Major regional roulette. Today it’s time to look at arguably the strongest region heading into the event, Europe and CIS

Europe and CIS – The Teams

When Valve announced the direct invites to Kiev, there were some fans who were unhappy. The inclusion of Mousesports, then Ad Finem, raised a few questions. Valve also announced that Europe and CIS regions would each be having their own qualifier. In total there will be four European and one CIS team attending Kiev. Let’s take a look at who is aiming to win it all:

OG – Direct Invite

OG DAC Group

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Notail

Position 2 (Mid) – Ana

Position 3 (Offlane) – s4

Position 4 (Support) – JerAx

Position 5 (Support) – Fly

Heading into Kiev, OG should be one of the favorites. They have won 75% of the majors since they were introduced in 2015. OG are a team synonymous with consistency when it comes to the majors. They come into the event in good form with only a few slip-ups in recent events.

The newest iteration of OG is arguably the best. Yes, they lack the flair of some previous players, but the current roster is more than that. The current OG is more a sum of its parts rather than the strength of the individuals. OG look to take a game over and rarely let go of that control.

On the flipside, one of the main concerns in recent times is closing out tournaments. Let’s take a look at DAC for example. OG dominated the event, all the way until the Grand-Finals. They would face IG in a rematch of the winners final, which OG won 2-1. IG made OG look confused, it was a complete domination. IG would take the series 3-0 and OG would leave the event wondering what if?

OG are a strong team who should bounce back from the disappointment of DAC. They are surely favorites to take the event and could net you a pretty penny in your compendium predictions.

Mousesports (Formerly Ad Finem) – Direct Invite

Mousesports Dota 2 Kiev Major Europe and CIS

Image courtesy of Teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Madara

Position 2 (Mid) – ThuG

Position 3 (Offlane) – SkyLark

Position 4 (Support) – Maybe Next Time

Position 5 (Support) – SsaSpartan

Shortly after the announcement that the then Ad Finem roster would be receiving a direct invite to Kiev, the team parted ways with the organization. It was then announced that Mousesports would be returning to Dota 2 and picking up the roster.

Heading into Kiev, the Greeks are an unknown quantity, to say the least. Having only played in three qualification events since the second place finish at Boston, there is not much information on the squad. It has obviously been a difficult time for the roster, and Kiev may be just what the team needs to bounce back.

The Greeks are famed for a “can’t stop won’t stop” playstyle. They look to roll over their opposition, focusing more on team fights rather than out farming their opposition. However, since the high points in Boston, the meta has changed. The name of the game seems to be farming and using superior resources to win. It will be interesting to see how Mousesports can cope with this change and what effect it will have on them throughout the event.

Mousesports captured the hearts and minds of fans at Boston. They will be looking to do this again at Kiev.

Team Liquid – Direct Invite

Team Liquid DAC

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – MATUMBAMAN

Position 2 (Mid) – Miracle-

Position 3 (Offlane) – MinD_ContRoL

Position 4 (Support) – GH

Position 5 (Support) – KuroKy

Heading into DAC, many people had Liquid finishing in the top three. Instead, Liquid finished 8th – 12th, being knocked out in a best of one against Faceless. This came as a shock seeing as Liquid had won StarLadder a few weeks earlier. With this in mind, Liquid head into the event with a lot of questions hanging over the squad. Was StarLadder a one off? Is Liquid choking again?

On paper, this Liquid roster is a top five team in the world, without a doubt. However, in-game they seem to be on separate pages. As a fan, it always makes me worried when players swap around positions depending on the hero. This happened a few times at DAC with Miracle and GH swapping roles when Naga Siren was picked up. If you think back, this happened before Liquid made roster changes when Matumbaman and Kuro would swap roles when Drow Ranger was picked up.

Liquid comes into Kiev looking to capture the elusive major crown. They have the tools to win it all, whether they will is a separate discussion. Liquid is known for sticking with a roster, but time is running out for Liquid to prove they are one of the best teams in the world.

Team Secret – European Qualifier

Secret StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamsecret.gg

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – MP

Position 2 (Mid) – MidOne

Position 3 (Offlane) – Khezu

Position 4 (Support) – Puppey

Position 5 (Support) – pieliedie

Secret are a roster chasing their own shadow. The days of Secret being a tier one team seem to be behind them. They are now on the periphery, a strong performance at Kiev may well shoot them back to the top tier.

Secret have attended two LAN events this year and have placed a mediocre 5th – 6th at both. They had decent performances at both events but seemed a step behind the top teams. Heading into the event, Secret have been out of the spotlight for a couple months. The controversy with former players seems to be behind them. The stage seems set for Secret to place well at the event. It’s time for in-game actions to take precedent over the controversies of former rosters.

Virtus Pro (VP) – CIS Qualifier

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Ramzes666

Position 2 (Mid) – No[o]ne

Position 3 (Offlane) – 9Pashaebashu

Position 4 (Support) – Lil

Position 5 (Support) – Solo

Kiev will be the first LAN event that VP has attended since January. They were on the end of some unfortunate connection issues which would rule them out of DAC. Even with a lack of LAN games, they still come into Kiev as a potential favorite.

VP are always a favorite, but have yet to convert that into an event win. They came into Boston as a favorite, and failed. They came into ESL One Genting as a favorite, and failed. Do you see the theme? With this in mind, they are likely still a favorite.

They have a strong playstyle, which is a combination of typical CIS “can’t stop won’t stop” and the typical Chinese control. In many ways, VP are the best of both worlds. Their roster is filled with talent, although none of them are world-beaters alone, they are as a squad. VP are going into the event with strong performances in the CIS region, how much this counts for remains to be seen.

Will the VP boys fail again? Only time will tell.

Europe and CIS – Summary

Europe and CIS come into the event with three teams capable of winning. With a winner likely to come from this region of China, the pressure is on to perform. As always, all eyes will be on the Europe and CIS teams, meaning anything short of victory will be considered by many as a failure.

OG have the power to secure their fourth major and set themselves up for a strong 2017. Mousesports are trying to find the form of Boston. Liquid is trying not to choke. Secret are chasing the form of previous iterations, without much success, and VP are trying to not fail once more.

The title may well be held in Kiev, but it will not be easy for the Europe and CIS teams to win their home major.

Where do you think the European and CIS teams will place when it’s all said and done? Let me know in the comments below.

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FaZe Clan and Their Newest Pickup: NiKo

 

FaZe Clan at a recent tournament, Courtesy of Gamurs.com

FaZe Before NiKo

FaZe Clan is historically known as one of the oldest esports organizations out there. They were originally one of the first clans to emerge from the Call of Duty competitive scene back in 2010. FaZe Clan expanded into CS:GO when they picked up the remainder of the G2 squad back in early 2016. Ever since, FaZe have been trying to break into European competition in a meaningful way.

Most of 2016, FaZe found themselves at the mercy of teams like Virtus Pro and Astralis. The only noteworthy achievement was their 3rd-4th place finish at IEM Oakland. Even then they found themselves falling to NIP (Ninjas in Pajamas).

FaZe began looking for a change, with their hopes continually being crushed tournament after tournament with poor finishes. Last month, FaZe Clan decided to depart ways with Philip “aizy” Aistrup, and shortly after announced their pickup of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač from Mousesports. NiKo said he would be switching from Mousesports after Dreamhack Las Vegas. Sadly, NiKo’s time at Mousesports was filled with woes of bad teammates.

It was not so much that Mousesports was a bad team, but more so that NiKo had incredible ability and he was being held back by a weaker team. NiKo especially impressed during ESEA season 18, showing off his impressive skills at the young age of 17. He seemingly single-handedly carried Mousesports to a top four position.

NiKo back on Mousesports, courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

FaZe After NiKo

NiKo has been praised by many as being one of the most skilled CS players in all of Europe. The young Bosnian was named #11 on HLTV’s top CS:GO players in the world in 2016. With any luck, FaZe could successfully integrate this powerhouse into their squad and put themselves into more serious contention.

Whenever roster changes happen, it’s always interesting to see the changes in squad play. Introducing a new player into the team dynamics will always take time for teams to adjust to. NiKo is no exception. He is an incredibly strong rifler, and the players on FaZe were very aware of it after having played against him for years.

With NiKo finally on the squad, FaZe find themselves in the early stages of their transition. NiKo seems to be taking it great. His demeanor has noticeably improved, and he actually looks happy compared to when he was on Mousesports. The pressure on him before was huge, with Mousesports relying very heavily on the crucial frags Niko brought. He showed off at IEM Katowice, helping to bring FaZe to the Grand Finals in his first appearance with them. Unfortunately, they lost to Astralis 3-1 in the best of five series.

NiKo on FaZe clan at IEM katowice, courtesy of HLTV.org

NiKo’s performance was strong in the Grand Final, showing he is still capable of playing with the best. Hopefully this is a sign of the future potential FaZe have with him. They haven’t won a tournament yet, but there are still plenty of opportunities for NiKo to prove himself in this new lineup.

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Next-Best Bell-Weather: Looking Back at ESL One Cologne

The 2016 ESL One Cologne Main Qualifier was the best qualifier for a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major in history. It had the best format. It had the best competition. As a tournament, it was the best gauge of competition for tier 2 and tier 3 teams we’ve ever had.ESLOne_Cologne_Tournament_QualifierNEW

I hope all major qualifiers after this one pick up the Swiss system. It provided a variety of well-paired and interesting match-ups. And overall, this structure feel more fair than even a double-elimination bracket, since a good team can get two unlucky matchups and still qualify. Just win three out of five, and you qualify, simple as that.

The Cologne qualifier was also a testament to how much CS:GO is growing beneath the elite level. One might think CS:GO’s competition is becoming deeper, but “broader” is more a accurate word. Why? Because the number of championship-caliber teams is lower now than it was a year ago, but the number of good teams is much larger. Many a desperate squad is jockeying for a chance in the limelight, and this made quality of play at Cologne much better than previous qualifiers. It was tough to say that any roster was a shoo-in to qualify; even G2 had to sweat to reach Cologne. In the end, some promising sides like Cloud9, Immortals (ex-Tempo Storm), and TyLoo were eliminated, while others like Gambit, FaZe, and mousesports qualified with strength we didn’t expect. Most importantly, no true clunker teams qualified for the major.

Since I’m a perfectionist, and this tournament was too full of juicy plotlines, I will not refrain. I will paint my thoughts, brief but earnest, on every team in attendance, focusing your eye on the must-learns and tracing with the lightest strokes the must-remembers. 

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