ESWC 2013 group stage preview
Here is our official preview for the group stage of ESWC 2013, which will be played out during the next two days before the event shifts to playoffs.
This year's ESWC will feature a $25,000 prize purse with half of it going to the champions, but with the recent results between NiP, VeryGames and Astana Dragons, there's a lot more on the line.
DreamHack Winter's $250,000 tournament, a clear goal for every top team this fall, is less than a month away and that means every result from now on can make a big difference in teams' confidence levels.
Unlike most recent events, ESWC will use a traditional group stage format, where each team will play one another once and the top two from each group will advance to the playoffs.
You can find out the exact match schedule in our viewer's guide. First round matchups in the playoffs will be drawn randomly, with first place finishers playing second place finishers.
ESWC kicks off tomorrow
Group A ( NiP, fm.TOXiC, AGENT.no, ENCE)
Despite their recent struggles against VeryGames and Astana Dragons at SLTV StarSeries VII Finals and last week's RaidCall EMS One Fall 2013 Finals, NiP are still clearly the second best team in the world, and as of right now it's really hard to imagine them dipping below the top three. It's not impossible for them to place outside of the podium because the random draw could pair them up with one of the two teams who beat them recently, but short of those two it's hard seeing them getting upset in a series. That being said, they could get upset in a best-of-one, but I very highly doubt it will happen here in group A.
ENCE seem more promising on paper than they are in their current form, because when thinking about the squad you keep thinking back to last year's THOR Open, where they took NiP to their limits with three of the same players. They haven't had time to gel as a team yet and they clearly aren't well prepared for ESWC as they were only contacted yesterday about attending the event. I think they are favorites on LAN to take down both fm.TOXiC and AGENT.no and advance to the playoffs, but it also wouldn't be ground breaking to see them drop a map to fm.TOXiC, which would be catastrophic in the regular group format.
There isn't a whole lot to say about fm.TOXiC and AGENT.no. The latter have taken part in all four of this season's RC EMS One Cups, and have four first round exits to show for it. fm.TOXiC are potentially a solid team, as they have had good enough results in the past to suggest they could take down ENCE, but without having seen them play anything in a while it's hard to predict how they will do, and that's why I'd rather go with the more experienced Finns.
Prediction: 1. NiP, 2. ENCE
These guys need a win in Paris
Group B ( VeryGames, Cph Wolves, k1ck, C3 Gaming)
Had we not witnessed the match between VeryGames and Copenhagen Wolves in Cologne last weekend this group wouldn't seem so straightforwarded. I actually think k1ck can mount a real challenge to either team in a best-of-one format, as the duo of Xavi "Aguila" Casals Sabi and Ricardo "fox" Pacheco have proven online that they can take down some of the world's finest squads on a good day, so what it will all come down to is how tomorrow feels for the duo. Regardless of it, I think VeryGames is untouchable, especially on homesoil, and I can't imagine anyone, even Copenhagen Wolves, being able to take them down here.
Copenhagen Wolves on the other hand are a team that if I were them, I'd be a little scared of k1ck. However, the Danes have proven they can hang with the best as showcased by their 1-13 comeback win against NiP on the first map of their semi-finals, so they are still clear favorites to make the playoffs. If Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen can continue playing as he's been for the last few months and Jacob "Pimp" Winneche can put up frags for the team they can pose a real threat to making the final four, but for now obviously their only goal should be to get into the quarter-finals.
k1ck is the most intriguing team of the trio as they could theoretically mess things up really badly in a three-way tie here, but unfortunately they face a group draw where the two higher seeded teams are very solid strategically and play in a smart cohesive way. I hope for C3 Gaming's sake they like Paris a lot more than I do, because their tournament will be over in about three hours and they will have a lot of time to spend roaming around the streets of Paris.
Prediction: 1.VeryGames, 2. Copenhagen Wolves
Will they do it again?
Group C ( Astana Dragons, fnatic, ALTERNATE, ATE)
Astana Dragons are arguably the world's third best team, but they face a squad in fnatic who seemingly can get under their skin and pose real issues for them, as we saw in the opening round of SLTV StarSeries VII Finals. The Ukrainians are still big favorites in this group, and assuming even two of their three very skilled fraggers show up, and the more than capable duo of Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow and Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev don't disappear, we will see them take down fnatic, whose only glimpse of hope from recent months is that one almost-robbed-from-them overtime win against NiP at DreamHack Bucharest on de_train_se.
fnatic are somewhat of a question mark and with the way they've been playing even getting upset by ALTERNATE really wouldn't be that big of a surprise. The fact they are very inconsistent is the worst quality you can have in the group stage, especially when it's played using a standard round robin format instead of the newer and arguably much better GSL style format, which eliminates the possibility of three-way ties. Regardless, you shouldn't go against one of the nine best teams in the world, even if ALTERNATE boast a few players who have upset better teams in the past.
Once again, as was the case with group B, ATE don't have much of a chance of doing anything in group C as the three European sides are simply far superior. ALTERNATE is definitely the most interesting team in this group because it's so hard to tell how good they are. They defeated the new mousesports team in ESWC Germany, and despite being an unproven team, could potentially mess things up. Don't count on it, though.
Prediction:1. Astana Dragons, 2. fnatic
Can markeloff win another ESWC, this time in CS:GO?
Group D ( compLexity, Clan-Mystik, LGB eSports, ETERNiTY)
Group D is by far the most interesting group at ESWC 2013. First of all we have the sole North American team in compLexity, a team who took a map from NiP at ESEA Invite Season 14 finals, but whom we haven't seen playing anywhere in a long time. ESWC will be a good warmup for them and a chance for others to gauge their level, but they also have MSI Beat it! and DreamHack Winter coming up within the next month. The squad of Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert could be headed for a podium finish, but without a bootcamp in Europe and months having passed since playing against Europeans, it's hard to predict how good they will be.
Clan-Mystik surprised many, yours truly included, by their performance at DreamHack Valencia three months ago. Since then we haven't seen too much of the Frenchmen, and even then their results weren't exactly against top level competition, but they are definitely a team who can do damage, especially in France. Unfortunately for them, the Swedes of LGB eSports have proven to be a very solid team, possibly good enough to even take down coL for the first seed; it wouldn't be much of a surprise to me as of right now.
ETERNiTY are the outmatched team of group D, and likely won't do much that matters in Paris. However, this group still has enough fire in it that it won't matter at all. Realistically even compLexity could go out in the group stage if they have two rough starts and don't show up in top form. Regardless of all of that, I still have faith in coL to finish first, and I think LGB eSports are a better team than Clan-Mystik, although their upside on their home soil could make a difference, especially if they play any stage matches.
Prediction: 1. compLexity, 2. LGB eSports
n0thing & co have a tough task ahead of them
ESWC 2013 will kick off on Thursday morning and you can find our full viewer's guide for the event here. HLTV.org ison-site at Paris Games Week to provide you full coverage of the event.