TBD (BYOC qualifier)
The favourites (fnatic and SK)
This fnatic lineup is a long way from being cemented in my mind as a credible elite side. On paper the names are solid and there's the requisite amount of skill there but I still don't know how this mix will mesh when it comes to games against top teams. If we consider the history of the good fnatic teams we see that the old system in the team was to get players who were all compatible on a social level and use that as a basis upon which to build really good teamplay. Where that cost fnatic over the first few years (2006-2008) in terms of raw skill it helped them become the best team at various points in time by virtue of being the most consistent.
Then came the magical 2009 where, following their downturn in trophies in 2008, they took a big chance and mixed it up by removing their weaker players, skill-wise, in favour of explosive young talent. That lineup immediately fit in a way even fnatic couldn't have predicted and off they went on their tear through that year and amassed a whole host of titles. The problem with that lineup is that while everything worked perfectly things were great but then once problems arose nobody really knew how to fix them since they didn't really know the specifics of why it worked so well in the first place. That's where this new lineup comes into the picture.
Just as bringing back Gux in 2010 didn't elevate fnatic to another run at being the best team in the world long term, a couple of early wins aside, so one has to wonder what the actual structure of this team is in terms of their identity. This lineup looks like fnatic had to look at who was left in the Swedish scene after SK took Delpan, to add to their other All-Stars, and after pursuading Gux to rejoin decided to remove their weakest link, pita, in favour of getting more young talent, manne, and trying to hope the mix came together. Perhaps it will be I don't really like to deal with unknowns, I prefer to rely on what we've seen happen before.
Assuming nothing drastic has happened to the SK lineup with the introduction of Delpan I think fnatic is the second best lineup in Sweden now, which is the same spot they occupied previously except now I think there's no longer real competition between them and Lions for it. Does this lineup have the look of one which is going to win Dreamhack though? Seems unlikely as things stand right now. Even if they were to win this group, by beating SK, they'd very likely be facing mTw and Na`Vi in back-to-back Bo3 series and I don't see both of those two teams losing to this new look fnatic side.
Even before SK got Delpan I thought Gux was the X-factor in the Swedish scene. By choosing to leave fnatic and go to Lions he raised real doubt over who would be the 2nd best team in Sweden, which lingered even when Lions narrowly lost out on reaching that position a few times, thanks to fnatic's post-Kiev downturn. When he came back to fnatic in 2010 it became apparent that their trinity of stars (Gux-GeT_RiGhT-f0rest) no longer worked as well due to their roles having changed and their talents being shifted in different directions.
In SK Gux had been given a chance to flourish individually and test his absolute limits, as SK knew they had a good thing and based their game around him. With Gux gone GeT_RiGhT had become the best player in fnatic due to f0rest being in poor form, relative to his own abilities, for the first part of that year. Despite f0rest's form improving once Gux returned the delicate mix of the three stars was no longer as effective and fnatic struggled to find the solution.
I think fnatic's best chance for success is to make Gux the focal point of their team and give him free reign to play to his strengths. Beyond that they need to encourage Xizt and manne to take up the challenge of being the best players they can be. dsn and cArn can them play a similar role to the one they had in 2009 and steer the ship, chipping in with veteran plays when needed. If that balanace is off at all and the less experienced players aren't in their most comfortable position then I forsee problems with consistency for this fnatic lineup. A good game by a Gux or an Xizt isn't going to carry them to a title, they need to solidify their style and soon.
manne is as yet entirely unproven at the very highest international level. It's one thing to play in big tournaments as a good player on a bad or middling team, the pressure is lot less to perform as you can have a good individual game even if you team is losing. When you move up to the big leagues you better bring your A game or people will be on after every big loss. How manne will fit in this lineup and take that pressure has yet to be seen and that's the main area I'll be watching during this tournament as I think it's the key to what kind of potential this fnatic lineup has.
It looks as though SK is firmly committed to going down the Real Madrid path as they've added yet another All-Star calibre player to the lineup in the hopes of reaching that next level. What's curious is that this SK team had actually settled into a groove over the last two tournaments and looked to be solidly within the 3rd-4th best team in the world realm, ahead of the likes of ESC and fnatic but behind Na`Vi, FX and mTw.
Taking on Delpan brings up a few questions:
1) Was lack of firepower the issue before?
2) Was lack of high level dedicated AWPing a key?
3) Can this team win a title without a proven strat-caller?
Addressing point 1) we can conclude that in terms of the on-paper-lineup SK had enough raw skill at their previous events, 4th at IEM V World Championship and 2nd at Xperia PLAY, but that in-game they weren't able to effectively use that firepower and also lost to better teams in the sense of more cohesive units. Adding Delpan allows them to know exactly what one member of the lineup is going to be doing at all times and base the rest of their game around that. That kind of structure is important in elite level teams in my opinion, you need to know who to give free reign to and who to have adapt to other players. Delpan is not the most consistent AWPer on the block but in games he gets hot he gives SK another weapon to win with.
That all leads nicely into 2) since it can be noted that across the board CS has moved back to an era where all the elite teams are using a dedicated AWPer who is at a high level now: mTw has trace, Na`Vi has markeloff and FX has pasha. SK had RobbaN AWPing but he has never been a dedicated AWPer in the same sense, he has always seemed more like a player who uses the AWP for specific positioning reasons or when he felt hot. It is also worth noting that having your strat caller be the main AWPer simply doesn't work. What is also important about adding Delpan is a dedicated AWPer who is capable of using the gun effectively on the T side. That opens up a lot of different options for SK in terms of getting the initial pick and also of breaking open a site when they split on one.
For point 3) this is the area which nobody can really answer right now. Na`Vi and mTw pretty much have the rest of the scene on lockdown right now in terms of having the best tactical minds so everyone else is simply clambouring for a solid system to give them a chance of winning consistently. Being as everyone claimed that the intial allen lineup of SK was an "All-Star" dreamteam type scenario one has to conclude that there were issues with how the team functioned as a unit. It's not enough to simply claim that a team stacked with that much firepower couldn't get kills. Likewise in their losses at their last two tournaments you can see that however close SK got they were lacking a little extra cohesion, composure and structure to get them over the hyump when it mattered. Now they've added another big gun failure to win tournaments is going to put more scrutiny on the non-skill-based aspects of the team.
For SK I think right now I'd simply pick them to be in the range they were for their past two tournaments, I think they're the 4th best team in the world and that it depends largely on the specific matchups they face as to how far they can go. Their 2nd at Xperia does come with the side factor that they got to play ESC/RG in their semi-final, so we can't say they've gotten past the mTw team who took the winners to the limit in the other semi-final.
On one hand I want to see this team when they are firing on all cylinders, to see how far they can push teams in that respect. On the other I think most interesting of all will be in close games against the elite teams where teamplay really comes into question and the tactician must make shrewd decisions based on knowing what his team is capable of executing in that moment.
SK should win this group, based on my assumption that overall they have the skill edge on the new fnatic lineup, but having to play fnatic on mirage does make it a little bit of a crapshoot since who can predict the outcome of that map. Still, the rest of the group should be taken care of handidly by SK.
For SK the fun is most likely to begin for spectators if they reach the semi-finals, as that is when they'll be facing the elite teams from Group A.
The dark horses (Moscow Five)
M5 seem like a team who have completely maxed out their potential and their surprise factor is long gone for the top teams so they won't take them at all lightly, or look past them. M5 are capable of upsetting both fnatic and SK but I think both teams should be wise to the Russians fairly limited playing style at this point and adapt accordingly.
On paper the Russians have plenty of talent and firepower. Their problems lies in the fact they seem to retire entirely on those qualities. This is a team which looks to be exactly the sum of its parts and no more. If Dosia and ROMJkE are on fire then of course they can hang with the top teams in a single match affair. If fox and ed1k are playing well then sure they are capable of taking rounds from top teams on a regular basis.
Thing is when it comes to having to change tempo or adapt to the opposition M5 has thusfar shown itself incapable. They play one style round in and round out and it relies very much on their individual skills. That can get you an upset win on a single map and even sometimes get you close to a Bo3 series win over a top team but it won't win you an event and it won't allow you to win those tough matches where your team is struggling individually and has to rely on something other than outshooting the opponent.
With all of that said I fully expect M5 to lock up the third playoff spot and head into the playoffs for a very tough Bo3 vs. mTw.
The rest (x6tence, PlayArt and TBD)
x6tence is a name which looks better on paper than it does in the server in my opinion. There was a time when that name meant a legitimate chance of an upset win over a better team from time to time. That time seems to have passed and musamban1 is no longer the solo star he once was. The rest of the team has never gotten past a certain level in international tournaments and there's no reason to assume they will begin now. Spanish CS has been stuck for a while and they still haven't found a solution to what ails them.
PlayArt I know nothing about and thus have no expectations for. The days when Brazil had two top teams died when cogu retired and the MiBR teams were incapable of fielding teams even in the same ballpark as the FireGamers lineups.
If the TBD in this group were to be ESC/RG then it would spice things up nicely as they'd have a solid chance at beating M5, and I think I'd put that matchup at 50-50. There's also the factor that with their time playing together RG would be in good shape to battle fnatic also, which would make the final order of the top 3 potentially surprising.
@Thooorin on twitter.
2001-2002 Pro-cybernews (Editor-in-Chief)
2002-2003 Gamers.nu (Lead Editor)
2004-2005 ESportsEA (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2006-2008 ESportsEA (Editor, Community feature host)
2008 TAO-CS volume 1 (Co-author)
2008 TAO-fRoD (Co-author)
2008-2009 WinOut.net (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2009-2012 SK Gaming (Editor-in-Chief)
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2012-2013 fragbite (Blogger)
2013-XXXX [POD]Cast (Co-host)
2005 Down with the s1ckn3ss
2009 fRoD Quick and nasty (part 1)
Events attended for coverage purposes:
2001 CPL London (Pro-cybernews)
2001 WCG Qualifier (Pro-cybernews)
2002 CPL Summer (Gamers.nu)
2002 WCG Qualifier (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Oslo (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Winter (Gamers.nu)
2003 CPL Cannes (Gamers.nu)
2003 Clikarena (Gamers.nu)
2004 CPL Winter (ESportsEA)
2009 WEM (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Best of Four (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Cup Europe (SK Gaming)
2010 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2010 WCG (SK Gaming)
2010 WEM (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V European Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Assembly Winter (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V World Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Copenhagen Games (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Summer (SK Gaming)
2011 SK vs. FX showmatch (SK Gaming)
2011 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2011 ESWC (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI Kiev (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI World Championship (SK Gaming)
2012 WCS Europe (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Open Valencia (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Winter (Team Acer)
2012 IPL5 (Team Acer)
2012 HomeStory Cup VI (Team Acer)
2013 IEM VII World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 MLG Winter Championship (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Spring Week 10 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S1 Ro16 (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Summer Week 9 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S2 final / LCS Europe Summer playoffs (Team Acer)
2013 Riot S3 World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2014 LCS Europe Spring Week 5 (OnGamers)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV Asian Finals (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM V Shanghai (ESL-TV)
2011 ESEA-invite S8 (WinOut)
2011 GameGune (WinOut)
2011 SEC (WinOut)
2013 Dreamhack SteelSeries CS:GO Championship (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Steelseries CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Summer (DH-TV)
2014 Gfinity G3
2014 Dreamhack Stockholm CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
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2010 WCG Nordic (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Winter BEAT IT (whisenhunt)
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2011 WCG (whisenhunt)
2011 IEM VI Kiev EU qualifier (SK Gaming)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup April 28th (FACEIT)
2013 Prague Challenge (District)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup September 8th (FACEIT)
2013 FACEIT Monday Cup September 9th (FACEIT)
2014 ESEA Invite S15 LAN finals (NiPTV)
* Winner of the Heaven Media 'E-sports Journalist of the year' awards for 2012 and 2013.
SK players in HLTV's top GameGune players list
delpan named MVP of DH Summer by HLTV
SteelSeries presents '2011 highlights: SK Gaming'
SK players in HLTV's top DH Summer players
cnFrag SK Gaming at DHS 2011 movie
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