HCS Pro League 2017 DreamHack Fall Finals Predictions

After seven weeks of intense online matches, the Fall 2017 season of the HCS Pro League is wrapping up. This weekend, the Fall Finals will kick off at DreamHack Denver, with eight North American teams, four European teams and a swarm of open squads battling for glory. The competition is closer than it has ever been, so let’s take a look at one way this weekend’s top eight could shake out.

7th / 8th: Team Infused

Roster: James “Jimbo” Bradbrook, Robby “Kimbo” Faulk, Luciano “Mose” Calvanico, Brandon “Respectful” Stones

DreamHack

Jimbo, one of the EU’s best players. By James Bradbrook.

Infused has been making noise on the EU side of things. The squad earned their spot at DreamHack Denver by defeating all competition quite decisively earlier this season at HCS London. A makeup that looks very similar to the dominant FabE roster of last year could allow this group to put EU Halo back in the top eight. This squad had the firepower to raze every other EU squad that showed up to play them.

Infused, as well as a few other EU squads, showed up to Denver a little early in order to get some online practice in against the top tier North American teams. In scrims, they’ve for the most part massacred the other European rosters, only encountering difficulties when against the NA pro teams. Their only win against an NA team was an 8-5 victory over Ronin Esports. Other than that, they lost out to EG with a 5-8 score and were also beaten by NV 4-9. This squad has some promise and can definitely upset some teams if they get a hot start. That said, EU as a whole is still lagging behind NA when it comes to Halo. I can see this squad just squeezing into the top eight and even that will be a slog.

7th / 8th: Luminosity Gaming

Roster: Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tim “Rayne” Tinkler, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Bradley “APG” Laws

LG has sat firmly within the middle of the pack for the majority of their time in Halo 5 despite going through multiple rosters.

DreamHack

Saiyan, likely LG’s key player. By Tommy Wilson.

They’re not a team that can consistently challenge the top four but they’re also not a team who will ever come close to being relegated by the vast majority of amateur teams. Despite going through multiple rosters, it’s hard to picture this changing for DreamHack Denver. Saiyan is consistently putting up big numbers for the team but TriPPPeY on the other hand, has his fair share of great and terrible games. Rayne is an excellent objective player and play-maker but can’t seem to find enough room to do his thing on this team, despite having three great on-paper slayers around him. APG seems to be in a similar place to LG’s former star, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. He puts down great damage and has games where he absolutely takes over. The flip-side of this means that he usually has the most deaths in games, leading to many losses, especially in Team Slayer games.

LG ended their regular season with a 3-4 record, with all of their losses being to top four teams (OpTic, NV, Liquid, Splyce), with all of these losses being sweeps. They very narrowly beat EG and Cryptik but swept Ronin with a 3-0 victory. This team doesn’t stand much of a chance at beating the top four and EG has a reputation for showing up big at live events. They may be able to slide into that sixth spot, but there’s an open team that I think can do better.

5th / 6th: Str8 Rippin

Roster: Aaron “Ace Elam, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi, Hunter “BxbyJ” Schline, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali

DreamHack

Ace has returned to Str8 Rippin. By Halo Esports Wikis.

After being relegated last season, Ace has returned to Str8 Rippin and revamped the roster, with the only returning player being Danoxide. New to the squad are main-slayer BxbyJ and objective play-maker Commonly. Ace sits in between BxbyJ and Commonly in terms of play-style but he is very consistent. This balances out Danoxide’s monstrous-but-sometimes-inconsistent slaying power. Ace, Danoxide and Commonly will all be hungry to get back into the top eight while BxbyJ is sure to want it the most after being so close but falling short time and time again.

Despite technically not being a pro team, this squad has proven that they can compete. The HCS Open Circuit held four open cups this season, with three of them being won by Str8 Rippin and the other having them finish second. Scrims paint a similar picture for Str8. They haven’t had much progress against the top four but they have mopped up the weaker top eight teams such as Ronin. That said, they’ve also had some close scrims against Splyce, showing that Str8 does indeed have some potential. While other open teams such as Check6 and eRa have shown some potential, Str8 seems head and shoulders above them. They are playing at a pro level and despite having to play through the open bracket, they’ll get further than any other open team at DreamHack.

5th / 6th: Evil Geniuses

Roster: Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Justin “Roy” Brown, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez, Michael “Falcated” Garcia

EG, as usual has had a confusing season. They are the only team outside of the top four to not make a roster change. Lunchbox handles the objective work, Roy makes sure everyone he sees has their shields popped, Tapping Buttons and Falcated win 1v1s and clean up kills.

DreamHack

Roy, one half of the Brown Twins. By Halo Esports Wikis.

On paper, this squad works and they’ve proven it has at the Summer finals. However, things just didn’t seem to come together over the regular season. Every sort of coin toss situation seemed to go against them. Sometimes, they just made bad plays.

Scrims continue to show EG’s inconsistency. One day, they’ll lose to LG, the next, they’ll split games with Liquid. EG finished their season with a 2-5 record, with their only victories being a game 5 win over Ronin and a sweep of Cryptik. There’s no nice way around it, EG choked against LG in game 5. When they were playing well, they lost by the skin of their teeth to Liquid. The potential of this squad is nearly palpable. At their best, they can challenge the top four. At their worst, they are barely avoiding relegation. Usually, they sit somewhere in between. This, combined with the Brown Twins’ reputation for saving their best for LAN events, lands them solidly in the top six for DreamHack.

4th: Team Liquid

Roster: Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Zane “SubZero” Hearon, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Kevin “Eco” Smith

DreamHack

Will Spartan come through for Liquid? By Tyler Ganza.

Liquid has fallen back significantly from where they stood just prior to HWC 2017. While they were able to challenge OpTic and overcome NV then, they now are the weakest of the top four teams. After DreamHack Atlanta, they dropped Ace prematurely in my opinion. During the off-season, they seemingly picked up Spartan after having only one good scrim against him despite having numerous other, likely better, items on the table. This led to them having a surprisingly slow start to the Fall season, with not even being able to contest NV. All that said, they have picked things up since then and teams should bear in mind that while they are the weakest top four team, they are still top four for a reason.

Liquid ended their season with a 5-2 record, with their only losses being lopsided affairs against NV and OpTic. The biggest surprise of the season was that they were able to defeat Splyce, the Summer Champions, with a decisive 3-1 victory. This helped propel Liquid up the power rankings and also sparked their comeback over the course of the season. The key to how far this squad gets, is their start. They will play EG first in the champ bracket. Online, Liquid only beat EG because of a lucky break where Spartan stumbled upon Roy’s hiding spot. This in addition to the Brown twins truly coming alive at events means that this won’t be easy for Liquid. Dropping to the loser’s bracket could lead to an early flight home for the team. If they pull out a victory, they should be able to make top four, but getting past that will require everyone on the team to step up.

3rd: Splyce

Roster: Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro

Splyce managed to nab their first event win earlier this year at DreamHack Atlanta. They defeated OpTic twice in order to do

DreamHack

Bubu Dubu, for two? By Halo Esports Wikis.

it. Without a doubt, the squad earned that win. Fans should keep this in mind, despite Splyce’s current Pro League record. Online and event environments are completely different and it’s not especially uncommon for terrible online teams to be dominant LAN teams. A prime example being the Denial roster during HWC 2016. At the end of the day, Splyce has two dominant young players and two top tier flex players. They won’t be falling out of the top four at DreamHack if they play how they should.

Splyce ended the league with a 4-3 record, with losses to OpTic, NV and Liquid. While Liquid did manage a surprise win over Splyce, Splyce was the only team besides OpTic to come close to snapping NV’s win streak. Liquid on the other hand, was swept. These players will show up this weekend and they are a better team than Liquid, but two giants stand in the way of another win for these young guns.

2nd: Team EnVyUs

Roster: Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland

DreamHack

Can NV capture another win? By Halo Waypoint.

Despite a disappointing finish at DreamHack Atlanta, NV has shown up this season. If you picked a team to win every event on paper, the correct answer would be EnVyUs. Three of the best players and slayers in Halo history, plus Huke’s explosive power. During any other time in Halo, this would have been a championship team, even possibly a dynasty. This squad has consistently been in the top three, without ever really any risk of falling out of it. This weekend, they won’t have any excuses.

NV has blitzed the Pro League, ending the season undefeated, 7-0. Splyce and OpTic took them to full series, but every other team was defeated 3-0. In recent scrims, this roster has trounced every squad with the only exception being OpTic. This squad will only encounter difficulty with Splyce and OpTic. That said, there is a big and particularly green wall that stands between them and a victory.

1st: OpTic Gaming

Roster: Tony “LethuL” Campbell, Jr, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom

Let’s just recap. OpTic are back-to-back World Champions. They haven’t made a roster change in nearly two years.

Back to back World Champions for a reason. By Halo Waypoint.

Since then, they’ve been consistently at the top of the Halo Championship Series. Everything that happens in competitive Halo is in response to this team and their performance. That won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. This squad’s last win was HWC 2017. They lost to NV at Daytona and Splyce at Atlanta. They will be hungry to have the last say in 2017 before going into another World Championship season.

OpTic finished 6-1 in the Pro League, with their only loss being a close one to NV. When it comes to scrims, OpTic just quite simply haven’t lost. They have clashed with NV multiple times, usually closing the series 9-4 or 8-5. Based off their history and online performance recently, I see another championship coming to the #Greenwall.

Be sure to check out the HCS 2017 Fall Finals at DreamHack Denver this weekend at https://www.twitch.tv/halo. 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @DS_Frostbite!

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Header image by Halo Waypoint.

 

 

i-League, Star Ladder, Dota 2

SL i-League Invitational: The Competition

After a two month lull in competitive DotA 2, the first ranked tournament of the season is now only a week away.  While qualifier games have been plentiful lately, victories there do not translate into TI8 Qualifying Points.  The Star Ladder i-League Invitational will put the first of these points on the board for the competitive season, and set the tone moving forward.  What teams are going to be lucky enough to participate in this tournament you ask?  Well lets take a look.

Invited Teams

Team Liquid

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen

Position 2 – Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi

Position 3 – Ivan “MinD-ContRoL” Ivanov

Position 4 – Maroun “GH” Merhej

Position 5 – Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

It comes as no surprise that the previous winners of The International received a direct invite.  Even before they claimed the Aegis this year, Liquid was taking first place at tournaments like EPICENTER and DreamLeague.  Their roster has also maintained impressive stability over the last year, with GH being the latest edition in January of this year.  This stability means these players are well practiced when it comes to playing with each other.

Unfortunately, Liquid’s upcoming direct invites mean that the rest of us have not seen them play since August.  What they have been doing since then is anyone’s guess.  Hopefully they’ve been practicing, because the rest of the competition is bound to be fierce.

Newbee

Dota 2 Power rankings Newbee, i-league

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Xu “Moogy” Han

Position 2 – Song “Sccc” Chun

Position 3 – Damien “kpii” Chok

Position 4 – Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi

Position 5 – Zheng “Faith” Hongda

Newbee had a similar run to Liquid leading up to The International this year.  In the span of just a couple of weeks they took first place at ZOTAC Cup Masters and Galaxy Battles.  But there is only room for one at the top, and Liquid forced Newbee to take second place at TI7 after defeating them in a 3-0 sweep.

Since then Newbee has been just as quiet as Liquid themselves.  We’ll have to wait until the opening games to see if this storied team has stayed fresh after a competitive hiatus.

Qualified Teams

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Position 2 – Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Position 3 – Adrian “Fata” Trinks

Position 4 – Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Position 5 – Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

Team Secret is on a tear that hasn’t been seen since their glory days in 2015.  So far they have taken first place at all three qualifiers they have participated in, guaranteeing themselves a chance at each tournament’s pool of Qualifying Points.  If they can maintain this level of performance through the actual tournament brackets, the points they earn could kick start their competitive season in a big way.

It is possible the performance increase is due to recent roster changes within Secret.  After TI7, Team Secret promptly parted ways with Pyo “MP” No-a and Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann.  Replacing them were Ace and FaTa, and it seems they were the final pieces in a winning combination.

Na’Vi

Na'Vi, i-League

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek

Position 2 – Danil “Dendi” Ishutin

Position 3 – Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini

Position 4 – Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan

Position 5 – Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev

Na’Vi is in the middle of a resurgence of it’s own this season.  The past few competitive seasons for the first ever TI champions have been rough.  After being eliminated in the first round of both TI5 and TI6, Na’Vi failed to even qualify for the main event at TI7.  A string of disappointing performances and a few roster shuffles later, we have the lineup you see before you.  A lineup that has qualified not only for Star Ladder i-League, but also the PGL Open Bucharest Minor tournament as well.

The Na’Vi brand is legendary in professional DotA 2, and it’s high time their luck turned around for the better.

compLexity

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin

Position 2 – Linus “Limmp” Blomdin

Position 3 – David “Moo” Hull

Position 4 – Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman

Position 5 – Kyle “melonzz” Freedman

2017 was a turbulent year for compLexity.  Numerous roster changes plagued the organization throughout the year, including the departure of Chessie back in January.  Now, for the first time since August of 2016, the brothers Blomdin are playing together again.  The team states in an announcement on their website that these two players helped them achieve some of their best results in 2016.  However, while compLexity placed well at the Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors that year, the rest of their tournaments that season were middling at best.

That being said, the team looked strong in the North American qualifier.  The team looked so strong in fact they beat out teams like Evil Geniuses and OpTic Gaming.  Doing well at this i-League Invitational could give compLexity some much needed momentum this season.  On the other hand, a poor showing could very well do the opposite for the team’s morale.

SG e-sports

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile

Position 2 – Adriano “4dr” Machado

Position 3 – Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos

Position 4 – Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro

Position 5 – Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa

SG e-sports hails from Brazil in South America, which is arguably one of the most underrepresented regions in DotA 2.  Even so, this fledgling team’s recent results speak for themselves.  In the past few weeks, SG e-sports has qualified for three Minors and ESL One Hamburg, the first Dota 2 Major of the year.

One could of course argue that the players are simply big fish in their small pond of a region.  Can their apparent dominance over their fellow South American teams translate into winning tournament performances?  Right now it is difficult to say with any certainty, as this roster is barely even a month old.  Regardless, this new squad is hungry to prove themselves, and they could be the underdogs to root for at i-League.

Vici Gaming

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun

Position 2 – Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang

Position 3 – Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei

Position 4 – Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng

Position 5 – Lu “Fenrir” Chao

Vici Gaming’s roster is completely different from the team we grew accustomed to last year.  However, that doesn’t mean you haven’t seen these players before.  eLeVeN, LaNm, and Fenrir are seasoned vets that once played together on EHOME’s roster in 2016.  At the time they went from the Wild Card team to placing 5-6th at TI6.

During the Chinese Qualifier they got off to a shaky start by losing to LGD Gaming 0-2.  Despite being immediately pushed to the losers bracket, they fought on, eventually winning their runback against LGD 2-0.  The talent on this team can’t be disputed, but will it be enough to overcome the rest of the competition?

Mineski

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng

Position 2 – Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung

Position 3 – Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang

Position 4 – Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

Position 5 – Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Personally, I was excited back in March of this year when Mineski announced they would be building a brand new team with Mushi as the centerpiece.  As a player Mushi has played in five of the seven Internationals, and has placed in the top four in three of them.  Before making his move to Mineski, Mushi captained Fnatic for nearly two years, and had some success.  The announcement that iceiceice would be joining the team in the offlane was just icing on the cake.

Mineski proved that they are a force to be reckoned with by going undefeated in their qualifier for SL i-League.  We’ll see if they accidentally used up all their luck before the true battles begin.

Star Ladder i-League Invitational Season 3 will be held in Kiev, Ukraine from October 12th – October 15th.


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Initial fall season roster transfer thoughts

After two weeks of play and four matches for each team, Halo Championship Series players are going to have another chance to make a roster change. Teams will have until September 19th to finalize a roster for the remaining duration of the season. Let’s take a look at what teams should consider making changes and what their best options are.

Top Dogs

A few teams don’t need to consider making changes at all, even if their record has a few blemishes. Mainly, we’re talking about OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs and Splyce.

Roster

OpTic Halo. Image by Turtle Beach.

OpTic is OpTic, they’ve been the most dominant roster in Halo 5 and need no introduction. EnVyUs was the only team to challenge them for a good amount of time and have been able to defeat OpTic on two separate occasions. Splyce is the newcomer to this group. While they placed top 4 at Daytona, the team caught fire at DreamHack Atlanta and beat OpTic with a solid 4-2 in the Grand Finals to become Summer Season champs.

Liquid is a bit of a wildcard and could be on or off this list. After DreamHack, they dropped Aaron “Ace” Elam for a returning Tyler “Spartan” Ganza. This was a lateral team change at best, with the roster unlikely to be much better if at all than they were with Ace. The team’s only loss so far has been to EnVyUs but Liquid has shown on multiple occasions that they can practically bury nV. Since then, the team has racked up some wins, notably with a 3-1 victory over Splyce. That said, it remains to be seen if this roster can succeed.

Evil Geniuses

Roster

EG’s new star, Tapping Buttons. Image by Josbe Valadez.

Current Roster: Michael “Falcated” Garcia, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez, Justin “Roy” Brown, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown

EG is not at all a bad team. In fact, they’ve shown they can be a contender, with DreamHack Atlanta being evident of that. The team started the Pro League strong, with a 3-0 sweep over Naventic. However, the very next night they were reverse-swept by Luminosity and fell to both OpTic and Splyce convincingly this past week. While losses to Splyce and OpTic have to be expected, the loss to LG should have never happened, it should have been another 3-0.

A roster change will not help this team. Falcated and Tapping Buttons are two of the best individual players around. The Brown twins aren’t slouches either, they’ve proved they can still compete with the best. The current EG roster has run into the same issue as a couple of the previous rosters. They make bad plays at the most crucial of moments. This comes down to lack of practice. The only way to get an idea of what to do when your team is in a bad situation is to be in that bad situation previously and getting out of it through practice. If this team puts their heads down and grinds, we could see a top 4 run come DreamHack Denver.

Ronin Esports and Luminosity gaming

Current Ronin Roster: Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Sabur “Sabinater” Hakimi, Ayden “Suspector” Hill, Visal “eL ToWn

Roster

Commonly during his time on Renegades. Image by Halo Esports Wiki.

Mohanan

Current Luminosity Roster: Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Bradley “APG” Laws, Tim “Rayne” Tinkler

Both of these teams are in a similar spot. Both of their losses have been to top teams. For Ronin, eL ToWn has seriously stepped up to help a squad that no longer has main-slayer Spartan on it. As for LG, Saiyan as per usual has been leading his team. However, with the temporary departure of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, APG and Rayne need to step up. Both have had some underwhelming performances.

Newcomer Sabinater has been making some great plays for Ronin, but his slaying and play-making ability has been lacking. It would be unfair to say that he isn’t capable, especially as this is his first time on a pro team. He could grow into being one of the best players in the league. If Ronin was to make a change, the most likely player to be on the chopping block would be Str8 Sick. He didn’t have the best event at Atlanta and his Pro League stats, while not terrible, weren’t great either. A pickup like Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi could help fill in that role. If LG was to make a change, one of their best picks would be Str8 Rippin’s Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali for Rayne. Both are great objective player, but Commonly seems to have an edge over Rayne in slaying, which could be just what the team needs.

Naventic

Current Roster: Ryan “RyaNoob” Geddes, Troy “DasTroyed” Dusman, Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski and Kyle “Nemassist” Kubina

Roster

Ace during his time on OpTic. Image by Halo Esports Wiki

This team is confusing. During the summer season, they were able to contest top 4 teams while technically being an amateur team. Despite this, since the start of the Pro League, the squad hasn’t been able to win anything. The roster did play Liquid somewhat close, but it seems like something is off for this squad. Despite being a fan-favorite, the only player who has been sticking out a bit has been RyaNoob. That said, it is well known that RyaNoob doesn’t necessarily have the best shot. Instead, his value is in his ability to be an excellent in-game leader and to make objective plays. This is similar to Justin “SK” Mann back in Halo 3, who saw success with Triggers Down. Despite the bad start in Pro League, a team change could be premature for this squad. Even RyaNoob stated on the Team Beyond forums that his attitude was dragging the team down. The good part about this is that an attitude can be changed relatively quickly, meaning this team could become a contender again.

If Naventic was set on making a change involving RyaNoob, their best option would be Ace. He is not only an IGL similar to RyaNoob, but has also shown that he knows how to handle objectives while also being one of the most individually skilled players in Halo 5.

What rosters do you think need some fresh faces? Put your opinion out on Reddit or Twitter and tag Devin to start a discussion!

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @DS_Frostbite!

Featured Image by Halo Waypoint

 

 

 

The Game Haus’ TI Regional Roulette – EU

The International 2017 Regional Roulette – Europe

Day 2 of Regional Roulette is upon us! Europe is sending four teams to Seattle for The International. Three of which are established organizations that can threaten any team. The other is a rising team that was able to make it to TI7 from the open qualifiers. Here we go:

Europe Hopes to Continue Collecting Hardware

This past year has been dominated by some of the teams below. Consistently performing at major events throughout the year. European DOTA is surging right now and showing no signs of slowing down before The International.

OG – Direct Invite

OG, dota 2 , international

(Liquipedia)

Roster

Position 1 (Carry) – N0tail

Position 2 (Mid) – ana

Position 3 (Offlane) – s4

Position 4 (Support) – Jerax 

Position 5 (Support) – Fly

Coming in as a favorite is certainly something OG is used to. By now it is no secret that this team can really play DOTA. Aside from last year’s International, OG has finished 1st in 5 of their last 6 events. With

OG, heores, dota 2, international

(Dotabuff)

their victory at the Kiev Major, OG became the first team to win four Valve sponsored events. They have yet to claim the Aegis in Seattle.

One aspect of OG’s game that really stands out is their support play. Jerax is considered one of the best supports in DOTA. At the same time, many agree that his Earth Spirit is the best there is. Thus he is commonly targeted as a first-phase ban when playing against them due to Jerax’s high impact on the mid lane.

Prioritizing ana’s lane has become a priority as of late for OG, especially since he plays such a great Invoker. The hero is very gankable in the early game. Thankfully Jerax and Fly are always roaming the map in hopes to secure his start. Meanwhile N0tail is having the time of his life in the Safe Lane on his signature Visage. OG will look to dictate the pace of their games at the International. Anything besides a deep run in the tournament will be a surprise as they have dominated the recent meta.

Team Liquid – Direct Invite

liquid, dota 2, international

(Liquipedia)

Roster

Position 1 (Carry) – MATUMBAMAN

Position 2 (Mid) – Miracle-

Position 3 (Offlane) – MinD_ContRoL

Position 4 (Support) – GH

Position 5 (Support) – KuroKy

Look for Team Liquid to continue their winning ways coming off of a reverse-sweep at DreamLeague Season 7. They dropped the first two games of the Grand Final to Planet Odd before winning the next three. Liquid has been absolutely dominant, winning their last five events. Arguably the most complete “team” coming to the International when it comes to their movements around the map.

Beginning with their captain KuroKy, he has attended every International since 2011 and this May he became the first professional DOTA 2 player to reach 900 wins. Overall Liquid’s roster is extremely talented from top to bottom. Many of their core players’ favorite heroes perform at win rates over 50%, such as Miracle-‘s Invoker, MinD_ContRoL’s Dark Seer, and MATUMBAMAN’s Lone Druid. An already potent roster before adding Gh who has been one of the year’s breakout players.

After finishing in the top-ten at last year’s International Liquid looks poised for another strong performance.

Team Secret – Qualifier Record 8-1

 

secret, dota 2, international

(Liquipedia)

Roster

 

 

Position 1 (Carry) – MP

Position 2 (Mid) – MidOne

Position 3 (Offlane) – KheZu

Position 4 (Support) – YapzOr 

Position 5 (Support) – Puppey

Secret cruised to the automatic spot during the European Qualifiers. Dropping only one map in the group stage. Many believed Team Secret had fallen off from top-tier status when they had a rough start to the beginning of this year. But with the addition of YapzOr, Team Secret was reborn.

One reason this addition invigorated them was that it allowed Puppey to diversify their drafting. Watching Secret had become pretty predictable in the heroes and strategies they picked. This all changed with access to unique YapzOr supports like Rubick and Sand King. These playmaking supports have helped Secret adjust to the quicker pace of this meta.

Other heroes like Puppey’s Crytal Maiden and Khezu’s Bristleback have also been effective. The other addition to their roster was MP from MVP Phoenix. His aggressive playstyle on Troll Warlord and Weaver are great at split pushing the map and punishing the other team’s movements.

All of these changes make Team Secret a more diverse team. With these changes they are setting themselves up to be extremely competitive at The International.

Hellraisers (Formerly “Planet Dog”) – Qualifier Record 6-3

 

 Roster

Position 1 (Carry) – N0tail

Position 2 (Mid) – ana

Position 3 (Offlane) – s4

Position 4 (Support) – Jerax 

Position 5 (Support) – Fly

(Liquipedia)

 

Our final European team comes all the way from Open Qualifiers. Hell Raisers has a roster made up of some extremely talented players. Clearly exhibited throughout qualifiers with their dynamic teamwork in

(Dotabuff)

teamfights. Their captain, j4, is very fond of big ultimates. Seen while they were Planet Dog as one of only a few teams to run a viable Tidehunter. It’s just one of 33’s dynamic teamfighters. He also plays a strong Dark Seer and Batrider.

Another hero has become a problem for the opposition in the MiLAN Nightstalker. j4 has picked this hero for his fellow support 14 times. Winning 11 of those 14 games.

HellRaisers only earnings are from a minor tournament for $500. This was after TI7 qualifiers. Getting to the International is why this team was created. HellRaisers have already put themselves on the map by qualifying for this TI. They have nothing left to prove to the DOTA community and a team with nothing to lose can be a very dangerous opponent.

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What Mickey’s acquisition means to Team Liquid

Team Liquid made a huge announcement this week with the acquisition of former ROX tiger mid laner, Sun “Mickey” Yong-min. It’s no secret that Team Liquid has failed to meet expectations this whole year. They thought they could turn things around after acquiring star jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin in the off season. That hasn’t been the case as the team has sat near the bottom of the standings for most of the year, barely avoiding relegation in Spring.

This off the back of an impressive 2-0 week where Team Liquid looked to be finally coming together. Team owner, Steve Arhancet, seems to be highly dissatisfied with the team’s results this year. With franchising coming to LCS soon he wants to start building for the future now. This move infers a lot of things with the team moving forwards.

Piglet’s Inevitable retirement

Mickey

Photo via Riot Esports

Star ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin was brought onto the team two years ago to turn TL into Worlds contenders. That hasn’t come to fruition as the team has struggled mightily for most of his time on the roster. This may be a sign that both sides are ready to move on.

Piglet has put up decent stats throughout his NA LCS career, but the team has never been able to fully use that to their advantage. During his early stages, he would often get caught out farming a side wave and failing to group with his team. His communication and chemistry issues showed in game, and the results mirrored that.

Meanwhile Team Liquid has done everything in their power to make things better for Piglet. Last summer when the Dardoch drama was going on, he requested to play on Team Liquid Academy. Even after that, he’s shown in Breaking Point wanting to quit again. Team Liquid has constantly tried to build a team around him, despite it showing that it hasn’t worked for four splits now.

The signing of Mickey brings Team Liquid to the two import limit. This means either Reignover or Piglet can’t play with Mickey in the lineup. For now it seems that they’ll try to make things work with Inori at jungle. Looking forward, they may try to find a North American talent to replace Piglet. In interviews at the start of the split Piglet states that he’s leaning towards retirement if TL doesn’t win NA LCS.

Goldenglue’s Failed Return

Many were surprised when TL announced they’d be bringing back the exact same roster from last split that was nearly relegated before Doublelift came in. Most notably, the return of mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer to the starting lineup. Goldenglue spent some time bootcamping in Korea by himself while the team finished out the Spring Split without him. TL hoped that the Korean bootcamp had helped him improve enough to warrant the starting position. That wasn’t the case as the team as a whole seemed to struggle.

Goldenglue specifically hasn’t put up great stats this split. He is currently near the bottom for KDA and CS diff@10 among mids. He had some great performances last week during their 2-0 where he showed flashes of brilliance. But just like that, Mickey is being brought in to challenge him for his spot.

This all but spells his likely end with Team Liquid. It may also mean the end of his pro career as he’s more of a challenger series level mid laner at most. He’s great at helping qualify teams for LCS, but just hasn’t performed well enough on stage. It’ll be interesting to see what he does moving forward. He has definitely put in a lot of work trying to consistently stay in LCS these last few years.

Reignover a bust?

Mickey

Photo via Riot Games

One of the biggest questions coming into the split was how jungler Reignover would do without his long time duo Huni in the top lane. While Huni went onto do great things on SKT, Reignover has been a shadow of his former self. He has not been the MVP performer we were used to seeing last year.

The jungle talent does seem to have been elevated this split. With big name rookies all coming into the split and others getting better, Reignover hasn’t looked the same. Even in this meta where tanks are king, he doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

With Mickey coming onto the team, TL has reacquired Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett as the starter with Reignover waiting in the wings. Many will remember Dardoch as one of the most talented yet toxic members during his time on TL. Another high risk/high reward move that could work well or blow up the team to oblivion. This time around they don’t have the clash of Dardoch and Locodoco so maybe this move can work out. Dardoch seems to have a history of toxicity at this point on every team he’s been on. Even a winning CLG team.

Only time will tell if these moves can actually move TL into Worlds contention in the future.

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Cover photo by The Score Esports

DreamLeague Provides an Interesting Stage Pre-TI7

Eli Sherman

 

DOTA 2 fans everywhere have been caught up in the TI buzz that comes after qualifiers. The usual ritual looks something like this: pouring money into your compendium, praying to GabeN for a rare-drop, ogling over the now record prize pool, pub, and repeat! Qualifiers really delivered this year in both excitement and quality. TI7 looks to be another slugfest of DOTA 2. Complimented with a meta that feels extremely even. There is one more LAN before it: DreamLeague Season 7.

 

“There’s No Good DOTA 2 Before TI”

This is a complaint from fans during this perceived “lull” in the competitive action before Seattle. Luckily this statement is no longer true thanks to this weekend’s DreamLeague! Season 7 is no joke either with its 150,000 USD prize pool, including a grand prize of 80,000 USD. We should be seeing some really good DOTA 2 as well as a peek into the competitive meta on the edge of TI7. On the other hand, some would say the quality of games in this DreamLeague final weekend are meaningless and thus will not be taken seriously from teams with The International to worry about. But of the four teams taking place in the double elimination culmination of Season 7 only two are actually going to TI7 (Team Secret and Team Liquid).

Miracle- zoned in during Liquid’s DreamLeague championship run last year (CyBet.com)

Liquid was a direct invite while Secret won the EU Qualifier. We haven’t really seen much from Secret (qualifiers aside) since The Summit 7 a month ago. The same could be said of Team Liquid who last took home the hardware from Epicenter. Both teams looked quite strong in their respective LANs. Again, Secret dominated the EU qualifiers; while Liquid looked elite against a strong EG team at Epicenter. Now we will get to see how they have grown since then, right before the beginning of TI7.

Can Team Liquid Stay Dominant?

Team Liquid has stuck to their guns and continued to run heroes like Lasse “MATUMBAN” Urpalainen’s Lone Druid and Bristleback; Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov’s Dark Seer; and obviously Amer “Miracle-“ Al-Barkawi’s impeccable Invoker. They beat Evil Geniuses in four games in the Grand Final as well as Virtus.pro and LGD.FY leading up. Liquid looked in control during these series defeating teams that are all considered contenders for TI7 this year making a strong case for a Team Liquid run at the Aegis. In their match for DreamLeague Season 7 they’ll face off against Vega Squadron who would love nothing more than to take down a TI bound opponent while making some serious money to end their season. So they will definitely be bringing their A-game. With players like Bragen “G” Sergey and Shishkin “Afterlife” Visilii, Vega should not be taken lightly.

Is it Finally Team Secret’s Year?

After some impressive work in the EU Qualifiers a lot of people are also excited for Team Secret’s prospects later this August. Secret only lost one map during the qualifiers and seemed very upset they did not

Team Secret’s Support, YapzOr, doing 18k damage in a match during the TI Qualifiers (Dotabuff)

receive a direct invite. They proved to be very versatile in the current meta flashing their new Support player Yazied “YapzOr” Zaradat who plays some unique heroes like the Bounty Hunter and Zeus. His presence can really be felt in the results Team Secret has had since the addition of YapzOr and Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann in the offlane. During the qualifiers Clement “Puppey” Ivanov was picking all sorts of heroes and strategies. With even an Pyo “MP” No-a Huskar making an appearance. This extremely strong showing from them at this stage in the year is a great sign moving into TI7.

They have shown the ability to play multiple strategies, as well as drafting in a way that allows them to role-swap heroes within the draft to confuse their opponents even more. For some reason Team Secret always finds a way to be relevant in the competitive teams this time of the year. Their opponent from DreamLeague is another team looking to make a statement.

Planet Odd is a team that has surprised many this year. After last year, this very similar roster finished second at TI6. The players then left their former organization who still remains invited to TI this year. Odd had a really strong run at the Galaxy LAN and beat TNC in a very impressive three game series. Though they did fall in the NA Qualifiers much earlier than they had hoped. They will also look to play spoiler at DreamLeague to round out their impressive season.

Overall, DreamLeague Season 7 should provide some top-notch competition. Hopefully we will get a glimpse at some of the favorites for TI7. Who knows what strategies teams might test out before the big tournament.

 

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Frostbite’s DreamHack Atlanta HCS Finals predictions

After seven weeks of competition and one full month of time to prepare for this moment, DreamHack Atlanta is here. Over the course of the next three days, we’ll see the best teams from North America and Europe go at it for their share of $200,000. Let’s take a look at some predictions for the top eight!

7th/8th: Ronin Esports

Roster: Visal “eL ToWn” Mohanan, Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Ayden “Suspector” Hill

Ronin, since the start of the season, has been constantly struggling. Their only win throughout this season was their first match against Str8 Rippin. Halfway through the season, Ronin looked to improve by swapping out Carlos “Cratos” Ayala for eL ToWn. This swap proved unfruitful, as Ronin didn’t win another match for the rest of the Pro League and ended their season by getting reverse-swept by EG.

Ronin’s scrim scores also don’t show a lot of promise due to their inconsistency. They have managed to defeat EG and Splyce, but the next week they were 13-0’d by both Splyce and OpTic Gaming. This will be a tough fight for them, but with their firepower, they should be able to survive relegation.

7th/8th: Luminosity Gaming

Roster: Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Bradley “APG” Laws

Luminosity, while not having to fight through relegations like Ronin, does not seem to be playing their best Halo leading up to DreamHack. They ended their season 3-4, tied with EG, but due to having a low map win percentage, they only made 6th place. During the roster swap period, LG acquired APG from Str8 in order to bolster their slaying power. DreamHack will decide if this was a good decision or not.

In scrims, LG has at least been performing slightly better than Ronin. However, they have the same issue: inconsistency. Either way, against top four teams, LG hasn’t even had any particularly close scrims. They can snag top six however, assuming EG and OS are not in top shape.

5th/6th: Evil Geniuses

Roster: Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Justin “Roy” Brown, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez, Michael “Falcated” Garcia

DreamHack

The key to EG’s success. Image by Josbe Valadez.

Tapping Buttons seems to be just what this squad needed. EG has been struggling since the start of 2016 and this is the best form we’ve seen the squad since since X-Games 2016. They started the Pro League with Brett “Naded” Leonard, but after Daytona, Naded departed and left EG scrambling. With the help of the greatest of all time, Tom “OGRE2” Ryan, the squad got Tapping Buttons. Since then, EG’s season has gone surprisingly well, despite having a 3-4 record. With the exception of getting swept by OpTic, EG’s other losses to Team EnVyUs, Team Liquid and Splyce were all in close five game series.

Scrims, as usual with EG, paint a different picture. This roster has always struggled online, but close games to amateur teams as well as a narrow loss to Str8 Rippin can leave even the most stalwart of fans worried. However, the Brown Twins have a reputation for being LAN gods for a reason and many expect them to remind competitive Halo fans why that is this weekend at DreamHack.

 

4th: Team Liquid

Roster: Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Zane “SubZero” Hearon, Aaron “Ace Elam, Kevin “Eco” Smith

DreamHack

Image by Halo Esports Wiki

Liquid had a surprisingly slow start to their Summer Season. They suffered losses to both Luminosity and Splyce, neither of which were close matches. During the mid-season roster transfer period, they surprised the community again by dropping Timothy “Rayne” Tinkler for Str8 Rippin’s Ace. Many questioned the decision, as SubZero had stated previously that he planned to always remain a duo with Rayne, and that this change could imbalance the team’s chemistry. In fact, it had the opposite effect. Liquid returned in the 3rd week to defeat Team EnVyUs 3-1 and were the only team to defeat OpTic all season. They ended their season with a 5-2 record.

Recent scrims show that Liquid’s only losses so far have been to Splyce and OpTic Gaming.

3rd: Splyce

Roster: Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro

If you told someone to put together a squad based solely on slaying ability that wasn’t nV, this is the squad you’d probably get. Even bubu dubu, the most objective-oriented player on this roster, has shown that he has talent in slaying. This squad took most teams by storm during the season and ended 6-1 with their only loss being to OpTic. This squad only narrowly lost to Liquid at Daytona and they’ve only gotten better since then.

Scrims look good for Splyce, with dominating wins over not only Ronin and Luminosity, but also nV. If Splyce and nV meet in the bracket, it could be a toss up, but nV’s experience as a team could be what propels them over Splyce.

2nd: Team EnVyUs

Roster: Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland

The HCS Daytona champions ended their season a bit shy of where they probably would have liked to have been. Their season ended 4-3, with losses to Liquid, Splyce and a reverse-sweep at the hands of a vengeful OpTic Gaming. However, this squad has remained consistent and it takes more than online victories to prove that Splyce or Liquid can take down nV. DreamHack will decide if this team is still OpTic’s biggest contender, or if they’ve fallen by the wayside.

Scrims for nV look relatively normal. Close losses to OpTic, one loss and victory over Splyce and dominant performances over most other teams. However, Snip3down has been having some hand issues, so if he hasn’t properly healed, it could affect the squad’s performance.

1st: OpTic Gaming

Roster: Tony “LethuL” Campbell, Jr, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom

DreamHack

Image by Turtle Beach.

Is anyone really surprised that OpTic Gaming are the favorites to win? Since forming, they’ve only lost three events, all of which were in long, close series. Liquid may have beaten them online, but have only come remotely close to defeating these juggernauts once. EnVyUs has defeated them on LAN, but they have been inconsistent with their performances against OpTic and have also been blown out of the water several times by this squad.

Scrims are like usual for OpTic. Clean victories nearly across the board, with only a couple close defeats here and there. Make no mistake, OpTic are coming to win DreamHack and add to their already long list of victorious events, and they’re looking to be in perfect shape to do it.

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Header image by Halo Waypoint

 

ESL One Cologne: The tournament for the Americas

ESL One Cologne throughout the years has seen a couple different American teams playing on the stages. Whether it be the stage at Gamescon in 2014 or the stage in the LANXESS Arena. Not only that, but the last two years have only seen American teams in the Grand Finals. An interesting statistic to say the least. Here, we’ll go through the teams who played on the main stages of Cologne. Explaining how they got there, and how far they went.

SK Gaming/Luminosity

2015 was the first year the Brazilian scene met the main stage of ESL One Cologne. Barely making the playoffs over FlipSid3 in 2015, Marcelo “coldzera” David found himself in his first international tournament. And oh boy, did he surprise everyone with how skilled he was.

2016 saw the Brazilians dominate under the the Luminosity banner, before moving over to SK for ESL One Cologne. Finding themselves in the group of death, SK scored wins over G2 and FaZe, moving to the quarters against FlipSid3. For a second year in a row, SK beat FlipSid3 in Cologne. Making their way to the Semis against Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming found themselves struggling to close the match, but ultimately doing so in one of the best matches of Major history. Meeting Liquid in the final, it wasn’t too surprising to see SK dominate the North American side and take their second major title.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

So far in 2017, we’ve seen SK at their worst and at their best, and we’re only seven months in. Coming into Cologne, SK had won two tournaments beforehand. They were by far the favourites for the event. Struggling slightly in the swiss stage, SK made it out 3-2 and met OpTic in the quarters. On paper, a one sided match up but OpTic showed themselves to be strong and took Mirage, but ultimately lost the series. SK moved on to beat FaZe, arguably their rival, and dominated the European team. Going into the grand finals, it may have been a surprise to find Cloud9 there. SK didn’t let the surprise get to them though. SK controlled the entire match and took the match 3-0 and won Cologne for a second year in a row.

Cloud9

Cloud9’s first experience with Cologne was 2014, where they played their first tournament with Mike “shroud” Grzesiek. A situation very similar to Luminosity’s first tournament with coldzera at Cologne. In the group stage, Cloud9 won against Titan, and had their famous comeback against Dignitas on Mirage. Making the quarterfinals, Cloud9 met Ninjas in Pyjamas, a fan favourite. Though, Cloud9 were favoured in the match, they ended up losing due to a very important kill by Adam “friberg” Friberg. Without this one kill, Cloud9 could have definitely made the finals of ESL One Cologne 2014, but talking about what if’s is a bad thing.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

Leading up to Cologne 2015, Cloud9 looked like a Top 4 team, favoured to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Cloud9 left the tournament in the group stage due to yet another clutch play at 13-13 in a round Cloud9 should have won.

Unfortunately, Cloud9 for the first time were unable to qualify for a major, being ESL One Cologne 2016. In 2017 though, Cloud9 were directly invited as PGL took reigns for the second major of 2017 over ESL. Here, we saw Cloud9 struggle at the beginning but claw their way back to make the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs Cloud9 met NiP, a rematch of 2014. But, this time Cloud9 took the win and advanced to face Na’Vi in the semifinals. Na’Vi, on arguably their two best maps, lost 2-0 to Cloud9 who went on to play the grand finals against SK Gaming. Unfortunately for Cloud9, SK Gaming were looking for revenge for EPL Season 4, and SK won Cologne over Cloud9.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid first met ESL One Cologne in 2016 as they were directly invited by making the playoffs of MLG Columbus. Using Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev as a stand-in for the event, it wasn’t far fetched to say that Liquid would make the playoffs. They did just that by beating mousesports 2-1 to advance to the playoffs to face Na’Vi in the quarters. After beating Na’Vi, Team Liquid made it to the semifinals to face one of the favourites for the tournament. Liquid decided they didn’t like that title for fnatic, so they took the series 2-0. This put them as the first North American team in the finals of a major. Unfortunately for them, they met SK Gaming and lost 2-0 convincingly against the Brazilians.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 saw Liquid qualifying for the tournament online. Watching the swiss stage of the tournament though, you would have thought they were invited. Going 3-0 in the group stage facing Na’Vi, Immortals and OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid showed the world that the major qualifier was not who they truly were and made their way to the LANXESS Arena. Sadly, Liquid met FaZe in the quarters and were dismantled easily by the European team.

OpTic Gaming

ESL One Cologne 2016 was the first time any player on OpTic made a major. With their inexperience on the major level, OpTic lost to both NiP and FlipSid3 in the group stage, going 0-2 and dropping out of the tournament.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 was a different story for OpTic, who showed up to Cologne with zero eyes on them, and as little pressure as possible. At this point, every player on OpTic has played at the top level. Even though they went 0-3 at the major qualifier just a week before, OpTic showed up to Cologne on fire, taking down North, Space Soldiers and most notably FaZe. Only losing to Liquid in the swiss stage. Going into the playoffs they were matched against SK Gaming. Being the most one sided matches of the playoffs on paper, OpTic showed up with a little bit of fight in them. OpTic took the first map in the series off of SK pretty convincingly. But alas, SK Gaming are far more experienced in these situations and left OpTic in the dust in the next two maps.

ESL One Cologne 2017

 

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: Helena K @ ESL Gaming

 

This year, Cologne showed that the Americas, not just South America, has a place on the big stage. Admittedly, Astralis weren’t present at the tournament, but it isn’t too far fetched to say that they could have taken a playoff spot over Na’Vi or NiP rather than the North American teams.

Throughout the years though, Cologne has shown to be a nice tournament for the Americas, having an American team on stage every year. Not only just one, but half the spots were taken by the Americans this year. That shows some heavy improvement from the region, and maybe some extra confidence in the city of Cologne.

Featured image via ESL Gaming

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ESL One Cologne 2017 predictions

One of the biggest upcoming tournaments other than the PGL major is ESL One Cologne 2017. While it is sad that Cologne is not a major this year, as it holds legendary status within Global Offensive, that doesn’t mean this tournament won’t be incredible. Astralis have chosen to opt out of Cologne, leaving the pool of teams slightly weakened; however, this tournament will decide a lot in terms of world rankings still. Today I’ll be giving some predictions as to roughly how the tournament will play out. To keep from getting too deep and convoluted, I’ll keep it simple by just giving predictions for Round 1 of the group stage, who I think will make the playoffs and who I think will win the tournament.

Mousesports vs Fnatic

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

This is an interesting matchup, one that I think will produce a great game. In terms of what map we’ll most likely see, it’s a bit unclear, as both teams make some odd choices in terms of pick/ban. Mouz will permaban Overpass, as they always do. Fnatic will probably remove Cobble, as they have taken to banning it a lot recently. Mousesports will then remove Mirage, as they aren’t huge fans of it and Fnatic are great on the map. Fnatic will rebuttal with a Cache ban; although there is a scenario in which Fnatic let Cache through and ban Nuke instead. If Fnatic does end up banning Cache, Mousesports will most likely ban Nuke themselves. For the final ban, whether it be Cache or Train leftover with Inferno, I predict Fnatic will let Inferno through. This matchup will likely be close, barring any throwback performance from Fnatic where they just stomp Mouz. Mousesports 13-16 Fnatic.

FaZe vs Heroic

This one is much less interesting, as FaZe will likely stomp Heroic on whatever map they end up on. FaZe will remove Cobble, no questions asked. Heroic will likely remove Cache. From there FaZe ban Mirage, due to Heroic’s decent history on the map; Heroic ban Train. The final ban rotation is completely up to what FaZe want, as they could beat Heroic on Overpass, Nuke or Inferno. My best bet would be FaZe ban Nuke, as the Heroic squad has been respectable on the map in the past, and Heroic ban Overpass, as FaZe is on a tear on the map recently. Whatever map it ends up being, I’m certain FaZe will win this. FaZe 16-6 Heroic.

Immortals vs Virtus.Pro

via http://www.gosugamers.net/

I’m just going to leave this matchup as a ‘quite literally anything can happen’ kind of matchup. This matchup could bring anything to the table in terms of map pool. Immortals will certainly remove Nuke and Virtus.Pro will remove Cache. From there, anything could happen due to Virtus.Pro famously being poor in the early stages of tournaments, even those that they win. I’ll take Immortals winning this one. Immortals 16-10 Virtus.Pro

SK vs SpaceSoldiers

Similar to the FaZe vs Heroic matchup, it doesn’t matter what map this ends on, the Soldiers will find it hard to even find rounds in this matchup. The pick ban will have SK removing Nuke followed by SS banning Inferno. SK will remove Cache, as it is the Soldiers’ favorite map at the moment. SS will remove Train here most likely, followed by a removal of Overpass. Whatever SK chooses to ban before the removal of Overpass, will decide the map. I’ll predict the Brazilians remove Mirage leaving us with a matchup on Cobblestone. SK 16-3 SpaceSoldiers

NiP vs Cloud9 

via http://mashable.com

This one is almost as difficult to predict as the IMT vs VP matchup. Based on history, NiP will almost always remove Overpass and Mirage, and we know Cloud9 doesn’t play Nuke and don’t like to play Inferno if they don’t have to. Of the three maps remaining, it’s most likely we see Cobblestone, as I don’t think the Ninjas will want to play Train, and C9 have sort of driven away from Cache in the past. NiP will likely be held back by the freshness of their roster, and all the NiP magic seems to have been exhausted. NiP 7-16 Cloud9

G2 vs TyLoo

Another lopsided one, G2 will take this one every day of the week. G2 will ban Mirage, followed by Inferno. TyLoo will remove Nuke and Train. G2 from here have the pick of the litter, and the map this ends up on could really be anything. The only map that TyLoo even has an outside chance on is Cache, and even that is a huge stretch. No matter which of the three it ends up being, Cache, Cobble, or Overpass, G2 will have this one in hand. G2 16-3 TyLoo

Liquid vs Na’Vi

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

By far the best matchup of Round 1, this one could really go either way. Liquid will likely ban Overpass, followed by a signature Na’Vi ban of Cache. Na’Vi will then ban Nuke, and be forced to remove Cobble, as Liquid will remove Mirage and likely Train due to the beating Na’Vi gave them on the maps at pro league. An interesting matchup on Inferno, as neither team is very good on the map at all, but I’ll take Liquid to win this one in very narrow fashion. Liquid 19-16 Na’Vi

North vs OpTiC

I predict to see the same exact pick ban we saw at Pro League, as I don’t see why either team would change their strategy. North ban Train, Cache and Inferno; whereas, OpTiC remove Overpass, Cobble and Nuke. There is definitely a chance OpTiC ban out Mirage instead of Cobble, leaving us on Cobble or Inferno; although, this seems a bit unlikely to me. North is always super solid in group stages, so they should have this one in hand. North 16-8 OpTiC

Playoff Predictions

The eight teams that I think will get through are SK, G2, FaZe, North, Liquid, Cloud9, Immortals and Fnatic. This one is definitely not said and done though, as basically every team in this tournament besides TyLoo has a scenario where they end up making the playoffs. The winner of the tournament will likely be SK, but G2 will have their chances, and if Virtus.Plow shows up, who knows what could happen.

ESL One Cologne 2017, despite not having Astralis and not being a CS ‘Major’, should make some great Counter-Strike, and will be great fun to watch.

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Featured image via HLTV.org

Beyond the Sticks: Return of the Gauntlet

Earlier last week, Millennial Esports announced the return of a time-honored Halo tradition. Beyond the Sticks will allow Team EnVyUs and Oxygen Supremacy to have a pre-tournament boot camp, almost like in the legendary days of the LAN Network. Both teams will descend upon Las Vegas to compete in four, 13 game series to prepare for Dreamhack Atlanta. Let’s take a look at how Beyond the Sticks will play out.

Overview

Beyond the Sticks will start on July 1st with two, 13 game scrimmages. The next two matches will be on July 2nd. The full schedule can be found here. The event will be commentated by Tom “TSquared” Taylor and Ryan “Towey” Towey. With one of Halo’s most dominant players and one of it’s best coaches, these two will be able to provide valuable insight on what each of the teams is focusing on in each game. Speaking of the teams…

The Match-Up

Mikwen has easily been nV’s MVP lately, Image by Halo Esports Wikis.

Team EnVyUs is one of the most talented teams in Halo at the moment. Consisting of Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland, this squad took the title at UMG Daytona. With a mix of veterans as well as young blood, this squad has been one of the only teams that could contend with OpTic Gaming. They will absolutely be a threat going into the Summer Finals, as OpTic only narrowly defeated them when they met during the Pro League. Despite ending the league at 4-3, nV has shown that when it comes to LAN, they always show up.

Oxygen Supremacy is a team nobody saw coming. Ryan “RyaNoob” Geddes, Troy

Ryan and his legendary hair. Image by Halo Esports Wikis.

“DasTroyed” Dusman, Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski and Kyle “Nemassist” Kubina have stunned even some of the pro teams. At Daytona, this squad ended up in the top six after dominating teams like Luminosity Gaming and Str8 Rippin. They also came within one game of send EnVyUs home in the loser’s bracket finals, despite forming just before the event. Ryanoob once again has put together a squad that can contend with the “pros” and yet is not in the Pro League. OS has taken first in three out of four online qualifiers so far and it hasn’t been particularly close.

Scrims between these two teams tell a different story. The first scrim ended 5-8 in favor of nV, with 3-4 games being close toss-ups. The second scrim, however, was a blowout. Victory again went to nV, with a crushing 13-0 defeat of OS and all but one game were not even close. Events change circumstances, however. This will be a live event, so it’s reasonable to assume 343 will provide a closed server, which feels very close to LAN. In this environment, OS has shown that they’re more than capable of defeating the Daytona champs.

What’s the Big Deal?

These boot camps are pulled straight out of Halo’s history. These gauntlets allowed teams to put in the grueling hours of practice needed to perform well at events. They also allowed newer players to show their capabilities prior to events. Beyond the Sticks is hopefully the start of this kind of thing returning. It can be the start to grassroots, community-run LANs being a mainstay for competitive Halo once again.

Be sure to check out all 52 games of carnage at twitch.tv/millennialesports

 

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Header image by Millennial Esports.

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