Despite their loss to M5 in the third place decider at IEM VI Kiev and the uncertainty surrounding how the team have integrated MODDII into their lineup I feel like fnatic are the favourite to take the top spot in Group B, albeit by a sliver over M5. The problems with the previous fnatic still remain but having the extra firepower of MODDII can give them an edge in close games against the best teams in this group.
Despite their complaints about Bo1 group stages I feel like they are the most stable team in this group, and the only one which can be relied upon to definitely get out of the group. I am most interested to see how the addition of MODDII will alter their strength on specific maps but unless things go drastically I see now reason why this team shouldn't beat everyone but Moscow Five in this group stage. I think they are probably even money with M5 overall and in a Bo1, with the maps likely to be drawn, I think they will have a slight edge on the Russians.
The new fnatic is not in the same category of elite teams with Na`Vi, SK and ESC for me but they are still the best team in Group B and maybe the fourth best team in the world.
When a team has up-and-down results like Moscow Five it's easy for people to call them mercurial or suggest they are an enigma who is impossible to predict. I think that's actually a misinterpretation of their form and results. Take a look at their style of play and it remains incredibly consistent in terms of how they work together, the way in which they attack and the way they manage their economy.
Go and look at their big wins and they come when their best players are on fire individually and their rhythym amongst the team unit is flowing. Look at their losses to the top teams and you'll see a side which has repeatedly failed to close out tight games and is seemingly incapable of adapting their tactics to win on any of their less effective maps. Moscow Five are exactly what they think they are and whether they win or lose comes, much moreso than any other team in CS, down to their individual performances and aim on the day.
With all of that said this is a great group draw for M5 and I think they are a solid lock for top three in the group, though their inconsistency means I can't be certain they will place top two or win the group outright. Everyone except fnatic and Lions should be guaranteed wins for the Russians in my eyes, and against Lions I would still place them as favourites.
My main concerns for M5 are the decisions they made in terms of map choices at IEM VI Kiev. Deciding to play train and not practice inferno was a mistake in my opinion. This a team which can be very dangerous on inferno vs. this kind of field, while on train all of the Nordic teams will be licking their lips and mentally thanking their lucky stars. I think M5 has too much firepower for WinFakt, eSahara and semXorah. Three wins should be a certainty, whether they can push that to four or five is another matter altogether though.
Lions blazing hot playoff run from Dreamhack Winter is likely still on most people's minds but that's actually not much of a concern for me. Lions have been so incapable of cracking the late stages of the big tournaments throughout their time with this lineup that I consider that Dreamhack run the exception which proves the rule that Lions aren't a legitimate top 4 team in the world. Sure they can upset one big team, but, much like a better version of Anexis, they can't then be relied upon to close out teams closer to their own skill level and capitalise on that.
From my perspective they basically gifted fnatic that Dreamhack title by catching fire to beat two of the best teams in the world and then flaming out vs. their fellow Swedes. Considering that was by far their best ever tournament run, and it took every single player playing above and beyond their normal level, it really doesn't bode well for their long-term potential. Even if FYRR73 has his second impressive tournament in the last couple of years, which is a big enough if as it is, it's highly unlikely it will come at the same time as kHRYSTAL going nuts, niko locking down spots with the AWP and THREAT playing big individually.
Lions can be a good team, and I feel like they can take wins off fnatic and Moscow Five under the right circumstances, their problem is that they can also lose to WinFakt here, and possibly even semXorah on the right map. I would imagien they'll beat everyone but fnatic and M5, going through in third, but then they will be facing an elite team in the playoffs and that will be it for THREAT's men.
WinFakt managed to change while staying the same at IEM VI Kiev. Mirroring their e-Stars and ESWC past they complained about losing from a lead but since they've done that so many times it has become the standard for them in big games. The difference was that usually WinFakt played up to the level of the opponents below the top three and was capable of vying for a win with any of them. In Kiev they had moments where their new players looked completely gunshy and out-of-sorts.
Experience is not gifted in top tier CS, it's earned by taking your lumps and improving as a result of those shortcomings. I have no reason right now to assume WinFakt has made that leap up yet, though I would imagine nerves will not be as big a factor this time around. I see WinFakt beating eSahara and likely semXorah but I would expect losses vs. fnatic, M5 and Lions.
fnatic and M5 I think are very likely to beat them, though the right map vs. M5 could make it a closer affair, but Lions are beatable for the Finns. Their problem is that Lions probably still outgun them, and so the Swedish team can win in more ways than WinFakt can. WinFakt are battling solely for the third spot in this group I feel, and it's not entirely out of their grasp. Their biggest problems are getting wins off Lions and semXorah. Even if they do that though they'll look like a fillet stake the Na`Vi team waiting for them in the playoffs.
Take another look at the category I've placed this team under and you should be aware that I'm taking a pretty big risk by assessing the Brazilians as being in contention for a playoff spot. On paper they should be the team with the least going for them outside of eSahara, who had two players drop out days before the event. The Brazilians didn't even have four of the players who will be attending this event on their roster until they secured the spot. Then four of the ex-FireGamers/coL.br/Mandic names we all know from Brazilian CS came in to give the lineup a shot at winning some games in Hannover.
Questions over whether a team should be allowed to change four players for a tournament which requires qualification aside I think my reasoning for taking a gamble on FalleN and company are reasonable enough once laid out in full. First of all that name I just mentioned, FalleN, is reason enough to give them a small chance at an upset win. Just like Savage for TyLoo FalleN is one of those rare individual players outside of Europe who really can win a map by himself, and rarely disappoints with his overall level of play.
Throw around him three of his long-time team-mates and the core is there for this team to be a threat to Lions, WinFakt and eSahara. I think fnatic will be too polished to lose to the Brazilians, unless they for some reason decide to play dust2 or nuke, and Moscow Five will simply outgun the men from South America and outclass them skillwise. Lions are an outside chance at a win for FalleN and company but I think it's doable, assuming they know the maps to drop vs. the Swedes. WinFakt I would put semXorah as a 40:60 underdog vs., and I think they are like 60:40 to beat eSahara. If they can beat those three latter teams then a playoff spot will likely be theirs, amazingly enough.
I expect nothing from the one player who remains in the lineup from the original semXorah team, felippe, but the other four are good enough to make games competitive vs. WinFakt and eSahara without a doubt. My one concern is that bruno is not in the lineup. While many don't seem to think much of him I've noticed that he is a big part of what made those FireGamers/coL.br teams good on nuke, T side on that map was where he shined as a player. The hut and upper area just seemed to be filled with perfect mid-range AK opportunities for him to feast on. FalleN and fnx are the best players in this team but bruno was a solid middle-man.
I've been so underwhelmed by all of the eSahara lineups I've seen for the last year and a half that I don't expect much even from their star-studded group. Take out their two best players, mSx and SIXER, and I think even semXorah are in a good spot to beat them. Sure they could still somehow pull out one map win, French teams always seem to manage to surprise in group stages, but I won't rely on it or worry about it, those are surprises precisely because one can't expect them.
Conclusions and summary
I think fnatic and Moscow Five are the locks to reach the playoffs. Lions lead the pack of teams chasing the remaining spot but I think WinFakt aren't a world away from them, the Finns just face a tough task of finding the needed wins even if they get past Lions. semXorah are my surprise pick to have an outside shot at the playoffs, though simply settling for an upset win or two would be enough. eSahara I think will definitely not get out of this group.
(Photographs courtesy of fragbite and their respective owners)
@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)
2012-2013 Team Acer (Editor-in-Chief)
2013-2014 OnGamers (Senior eSports Content Creator)
Pro bono publico:
2001-2002 XSReality (Site administrator)
2003-2004 Team3D (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
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)
Pro bono publico:
2010 ESWC (lvl^)
2010 Arbalet Cup Dallas (lvl^)
2010 GameGune (lvl^)
2010 fnatic PLAY (lvl^)
2010 WCG Nordic (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Winter BEAT IT (whisenhunt)
2011 EPS Winter (whisenhunt/ESL-TV)
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.
IEM 6 WC: ocelote wrapup interview
Top Champion Picks/Bans At IEM Hannover
IEM 6 WC: RotterdaM wrapup interview
IEM 6 WC: MC snatches the title from PuMa 3:2
MC: "cup was just standing there so I grabbed it"
THE NEW JERSEY