With Mad Catz CS:GO Invitational looming on the horizon, the time has come to preview the 10,000€ tournament where the likes of NiP, VeryGames and Na`Vi are expected to clash.
It has been over two months since the last big Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament with a majority of the top teams attending, although the likes of Anexis, ESC and VeryGames have won smaller tournaments early on in 2013.
Everyone is waiting for the time NiP finally falls to someone on LAN, and although it's too early to draw conclusions from the n!faculty loss in EMS, it's safe to assume teams are closer to them than ever before.
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Ninjas in Pyjamas||VeryGames||ESC Gaming||Lemondogs|
After the initial group stage, listed above, winner of each group advances directly to the quarter-finals, while the second and third placers go to a second group stage, where four more teams will get knocked out.
We will provide you another preview for the playoffs at the end of day one, so this preview will have a heavy focus on how each team is expected to fare in the first and second group stages of the event.
NiP (f0rest, Fifflaren, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt)
NiP are still obviously the best team in the world and while they did drop a match against n!faculty online last week, I don't think we should draw too many conclusions from that one as it likely just served as wake up call for the Swedes who could easily be getting bored at the top, where they have been ever since their first Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament roughly six months ago.
TCM-Gaming should be an easy win for NiP as the Germans aren't expected to do much in Vienna. While a full Virtus.pro lineup could potentially pose a threat for Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg & co, it's doubtful that the mixteam who probably haven't practiced a whole lot together could compete with the world's very best.
Imaginary Gaming have one ace up their sleeve, and his name is Richard "shoxie" Papillon. Unfortunately for the Frenchmen, the rest of the team has proven to be lackluster at best time and time again as they couldn't put up a fight against the likes of ESC and Virtus at SLTV even with Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom still on the team. Expect NiP to march on to the quarter-finals with a spotless 3-0 record.
VeryGames (Ex6TenZ, kennyS, NBK, ScreaM, SmithZz)
The 2013 version of VeryGames definitely possesses more firepower than before thanks to former Imaginary Gaming star Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom. It'd be hard to argue him not to be one of the top five players in the world in terms of pure skill, and the Belgian will have another chance to prove that he belongs in Vienna. More importantly, for the first time in CS:GO, he should make it to the grand final and be competing for a title.
Group B should be a walk in the park for VeryGames. Neither ALTERNATE nor logiX is on their level, although the former could potentially show up in EPS winning form and make the match competitive. Anexis is a team that could, and maybe should do well, but they likely will not. I will go more into detail on the Danes on their part.
When it's all said and done, VeryGames, much like NiP, will most likely exit the group sporting a 3-0 record to advance directly into the quarter-finals of Mad Catz CS:GO Invitational. They might get upset in the playoffs as they haven't been consistent online, but they should be golden in the group stage.
ESC Gaming (kuben, Loord, NEO, pasha, TaZ)
I just don't know what to say about ESC Gaming... So much so that I will be writing an article about them in the next week once I have a little more data, which will be their performance in Vienna this coming weekend. They have proven they have a high ceiling, but their basement also seems pretty low, even after all this time. At least online.
Led by Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas's superb fragging in the recent months, ESC has improved heaps and won their last three CS:GO events, albeit against weaker competition. Online their results have been mixed, as it always has been for the Poles, and that's why it is so tough to predict how they will do.
Although I'm not sure if I should consider n!faculty a favorite against them, until the Germans prove they can play on LAN I will give the Poles an advantage. Na`Vi defeated ESC online on de_mirage_go just last week, but once again, especially with the Ukrainians bootcamping, ESC should do better on LAN. Although I could see them placing anywhere from first through third, I expect them to win group C, and even if they don't, they should make their way into playoffs from the second group stage.
NEO from ESC Gaming
NEO's recent game vs. 3DMAX suggests he could be on his way to top form
Lemondogs (berg, cype, twist, waver, zajp)
Lemondogs are possibly the most underrated team in today's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene. They have been left out of online tournaments such as ESEA Invite and SLTV StarSeries, and not participated in EMS jus yet. They've kept a very low profile overall, yet their LAN results, 3-4th at DreamHack and 3rd at THOR Open, speak for themselves.
These Swedes are a very young team, which is both their biggest advantage and weakness. They should be a very motivated team, especially after being overlooked so many times, and getting to travel to an international event should only boost their morale and motivation.
Lemondogs actually lost an EMS A-Series game against Serbian BGDonLINE, who fared worse than e-Sports.rs at the last weekend's local LAN event. Obviously you can't draw too many conclusions there, but it shows that match is not to be overlooked. I doubt LDLC.com can challenge the Swedes, while 3DMAX will probably put up a fight depending on the map. Lemondogs are still favorites to win group D, though.
n!faculty (asmo, disruptor, Kirby, qk-Mantis, smn)
n!faculty is an odd team. After being specificed as de_inferno_se specialists early on as they sneaked into a final four placing at ESWC 2012 with wins only on said map, they haven't made much noise in the recent months, even falling to ALTERNATE at the German EPS finals.
Recently they've picked up on their game though, scoring upset wins over both VeryGames and Ninjas in Pyjamas on the internet. I'm not sure how relevant that is to their LAN play, especially with the VG win coming on de_inferno_se, but at least it shows some promise.
Luckily for n!faculty, despite having both Na`Vi and ESC in their group, they also have TeamCRG, who are essentially just cannonfodder for the three. I don't see n!faculty beating both ESC and Na`Vi, although it's certainly possible, but they will most likely make it through the second group stage and into the quarter-finals.
Kirby of n!faculty
Can Kirby's n!faculty continue their strong play on LAN?
3DMAX (GuardiaN, kap1, oskar, .PhP, sneix)
3DMAX had high hopes going into the Your Road to Katowice tournament at IEM Poland, but a tough loss versus ESC Gaming must have settled their hopes. Although they had even defeated VeryGames in Prague back in December, they still decided to kick Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný out of the team for playing too much DotA 2.
Of course now we know he has been brought back, only 3DMAX haven't exactly impressed online recently. They were embarrassed by ESC in a 1-16 loss and have close wins over LowLandLions and dotpiXels under their belts, so for now it's hard to say what kind of form 3DMAX will show up in.
Given the easiest group in the tournament, they will most likely advance as second seed behind Lemondogs, although if the young Swedes choke, they could even get an upset win on the right map. 3DMAX are a lock for second group stage, and if their draw there is favorable, could make the final eight in Vienna.
oskar returned to 3DMAX in time for Vienna
Anexis (gla1ve, MSL, Nico, Nille, Pimp)
Six months ago I could have said Anexis is a challenger to VeryGames and felt confident in it, but ever since the Danes's little self confidence was shattered over a number of international events where they didn't manage to perform up to their expectations and they decided to make roster changes, I'm not so sure.
The Danes have been consistently disappointing for months. They show signs of brilliance here and there, just enough to keep you thinking eventually they will get it, and then bomb the very next match and go home empty handed. Nothing they have done since then suggests it has changed.
VeryGames is probably out of reach for Anexis now, and unfortunately for them, they actually face two somewhat competitive German teams. Being top four in Germany doesn't necessarily mean much, but on a bad day Anexis could lose to logiX and see an early exit. They are favored to make it to the second group stage, but I could see one or two teams from the featherweights knocking them out of playoffs.
Imaginary (MAJ3R, mshz, Ozstrik3r, shoxie, Uzzzii)
The Frenchmen of Imaginary Gaming have already heard their share of criticism from me but as they seem dead set to continue with this lineup, now downgraded with Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom having departed for the greener pastures of VeryGames, it won't change anytime soon. Not unless they come to their senses and remove their in-game leader, that is.
Imaginary have shown exactly what their cap in performance is, and that is their two best players' individual play. Unfortuantely we've also seen how far that cap can go, and that is not into the top four, and not necessarily even into the top eight, depending on the second group stage.
I could see ALTERNATE, Natus Vincere or Nostalgia knocking Steeve "Ozstrik3r" Flavigni's team out in the second group stage, and their advancement will come down to pure luck in the group draw as well as both Richard "shoxie" Papillon's and Engin "MAJ3R" Kupeli's performances. However, I don't think they can make up for their in-game leader, and that will cost them a top eight placing.
LDLC.com (apEX, atLaNtis, Happy, Maniac, MaT)
LDLC.com haven't exactly shown promise in the recent weeks. They've gotten demolished by a fairly measly LowLandLions squad by a 1-16 score, and losing to Imaginary Gaming shows they aren't even a top two team in France.
With a former VeryGames member from the earlier Counter-Strike: Source days, LDLC.com has some promise if their Counter-Strike 1.6 veterans continue playing and stay motivated, but that won't be enough here.
The Frenchmen are lucky to have been placed in group D where they have a chance to advance to the second group stage, although a loss versus e-Sports.rs wouldn't surprise. However, they definitely will not make top eight.
MaT from emuLate.
Former WCG champion with emuLate, MaT, is now playing for LDLC
ALTERNATE (fel1x, kRYSTAL, mnL, Rak, SolEk)
ALTERNATE managed to win the previous season of EPS Germany and cement their place as the best German team for now, as the renewed mousesports roster hasn't been able to achieve anything at all since the addition of former member Finn "karrigan" Andersen.
The Germans have been put in a favorable group where they should be able to take down their countrymen logiX, previously known as gamed!de, who they defeated at the finals in December.
I doubt ALTERNATE can compete with VeryGames and even Anexis could be too good for them, but they likely will make their way into the second group stage. Unfortunately, that is also where their tournament will probably end.
Natus Vincere (ceh9, Edward, markeloff, starix, Zeus)
Na`Vi have seemingly finally started catching onto other teams as they've scored impressive wins over Imaginary Gaming and ESC Gaming, two teams who have been regarded among the better in recent Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments.
The Ukrainians have been practicing like the madmen they have proven to be in their Counter-Strike 1.6 days, bootcamping for almost two weeks at their offices in downtown Kiev. While they obviously aren't at 100% yet, I think they are in good enough shape to not only make it out of the group stages put possibly even sneak a little further.
Both n!faculty and ESC Gaming are winnable games for Na`Vi, but it's also possible they could lose both. Either way, a win over TeamCRG will guarantee them a spot in the second group stage, and they stand a good chance at making the playoffs if given a reasonable draw.
Nostalgia (ANGE1, Dosia, ED1K, hooch, OverDrive)
Although Virtus.pro decided to skip over Mad Catz CS:GO Invitational due to the Stolyarov brothers' business they had to attend to back in their hometown in Ufa, which messed with their preparation, Russian fans will still have a team of their own to root for, called Nostalgia.
The team features two Virtus.pro members, a long time top Russian Counter-Strike player Dimitri "hooch" Bogdanov, former Moscow Five player Eduard "ED1K" Ivanov, who recently joined dAT team, and Alexander "OverDrive" Birykov, who is known for putting this kind of teams together for events.
It's tough to predict how the team will fare in Vienna as they likely won't have too much preparation put in, although they supposedly have been practicing this week. CS:GO requires knowing lots of smokes and flashes and a lot of it will not only come down to their individual performances, but if anyone can lead this team. They will make it out of group A, but I doubt they can make the playoffs.
The team list for Mad Catz CS:GO Invitational is rounded up by German logiX, Serbian e-Sports.rs, British CRG Gaming and German TCM-Gaming, all of whom are expected to be little more than punching bags for the contenders listed above. However, once under the microscope, it's clear that e-Sports.rs and logiX are at least teams who could potentially beat one of the twelve listed above.
TCM-Gaming is especially interesting as their lineup features basically five players who were kicked out of various teams. Dimitrios "stavros" Smoilis played well in mouz, while the others' most notable merit must be the ridiculous excuses Andre "nooky" Utesch gave for kicking Anil "cLy" Gülec out. They are in a tough group though, and would have to beat Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov's mixteam to advance.
logiX haven't been very active ever since promising results in the German ESWC qualifier in late 2012 and placing fourth in the inaugural EPS Germany CS:GO season, where they fell short against mousesports in the third place decider. The team lost their EPS spot when they changed organizations, and their luck doesn't seem to be turning as they are paired with ALTERNATE, who beat them in EPS, as well as VG and Anexis. They could upset ALTERNATE, and/or Anexis, but I doubt it.
Serbs e-Sports.rs managed to win KGB CM Storm 2013 on the weekend without dropping double digit rounds against domestic competition. TeamCRG attended EPIC TEN, where they placed third after losses against Infused and a mixteam featuring some of UK's better players. Nevertheless, neither is expected to make waves in Vienna, although the Serbs do have a chance to advance from their group, unlike TeamCRG.
We will release our viewer's guide tomorrow so everyone can find out when their favorite teams play and plan their schedules accordingly. Remember to also sign up for our Dreamteam game.
HLTV.org will be on-site in Vienna, Austria to provide you with full coverage of Mad Catz CS:GO Invitational, taking place at Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel on February 23-24.