ESEA Invite S16 Finals preview
We take a look at the eight teams competing for $47,500 at the upcoming ESEA Invite Season 16 Global Finals in Dallas.
Though all four North American teams who qualified are making the trip to Dallas for the sixteenth ESEA league season's Global Finals event, for Europeans it hasn't been as simple.
Top teams such as dignitas and Titan were unable to finish the season due to roster changes after ESEA locked its rosters, LGB died after the season, and fnatic chose not to attend the finals.
NiP and Virtus.pro are the only two teams from the original top four in attendance, with Natus Vincere and OverGaming filling in as replacement teams to fill the participants list.
|Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund: "I feel we're ready"|
|Joshua "steel" Nissan: "We can make [the final]"|
|Sergey "starix" Ischuk: "No time for vacation"|
|Jonathan "MusambaN1" Torrent: "It's hard to rank [us]"|
|Filip "Neo" Kubski: "You can't win [them] all"|
|Kory "Semphis" Friesen: "We've just become lazy"|
|Andrew "Irukandji" Timmerman: "The jury is still out"|
|Richard "Lucky" Vasconcelos: "It adds to our motivation"|
Na`Vi's Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev will miss ESEA Finals altogether due to the US embassy's mistake in losing his passport. Former member Arseny "ceh9" Trynozhenko will take his place.
Still, with five of the world's top twelve or so teams present in Dallas, this event should prove to be packed with action, as it once again features a double elimination best-of-three bracket from the get go.
A total of $47,500 will be up for grabs, distributed in a very top heavy fashion, with the second place finishers receiving a mere 30% of the first place prize:
An all-star match will determine which continent has a higher seed in head-to-head matches, such as NiP versus iBUYPOWER, or OverGaming against compLexity, who finished with the same seed regionally.
For a further explanation on how map the map selection process works and what kind of advantage the higher seed will receive, head over to our previous post about it.
Will anyone surprise at this season's ESEA Finals?
NiP (f0rest, Fifflaren, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt)
The Ninjas come in having won the last two international events, Copenhagen Games and DreamHack Summer. Though they've had questionable losses online and failed to win ESPORTSM over fnatic in the wee hours prior to the final day of DreamHack's main tournament, they've been very consistent when it mattered the most. That's why they remain the best.
ESEA Finals' format, which is a full double elimination best-of-three bracket, couldn't suit NiP better. It's hard to argue they wouldn't come out on top most often if you simulated the tournament a hundred times, and the cushion of having a lower bracket definitely works well for the Swedes, who are clear favorites to win their third ESEA title.
NiP went through one of the toughest brackets in CS:GO history in Jönköping, besting Titan, HellRaisers and Natus Vincere to clinch the event title. They also did it with star player Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund visibly ill and unable to perform to his usual, very high standard, which proves the team isn't reliant on the world's best player's performance.
Another advantage NiP has is their decent record on the two custom maps ESEA has in its rotation, de_season and de_cache. Though they suffered losses on both online in the past week, I would expect it to serve as a wake-up call if anything, and if I were NiP, I wouldn't have played on them like I planned on playing at ESEA Finals anyways. Plus, NiP is good enough to play all the other five maps if they want to.
In their current form, compLexity in the first round shouldn't be much of an issue for NiP. They've taken maps off the Swedes in the past, but after admitting themselves they've become lazy, you shouldn't expect too much. Na`Vi is a whole other story, but without Sukhariev in play, NiP should get an easy ride all the way to the upper bracket final and guaranteed top three finish.
Had the US embassy not lost Sukhariev's passport, NiP would have to go through much harder competition. Now they still have to deal with Virtus.pro, and in a double elimination format the winner of the upper bracket final is still a huge favorite. I expect NiP to go through to the final from there, and the Swedes won't make the mistake of losing two series there.
friberg's NiP are heavy favorites again
iBUYPOWER (AZK, DaZeD, Skadoodle, steel, swag)
iBUYPOWER come into ESEA Finals with high hopes and plenty of pressure to perform. Their struggles in Europe are well known, but the wins over Titan at last season's ESEA Finals give the American side some hope of another stellar performance. They've constantly been better than coL since picking up Braxton "swag" Pierce too, which is a good sign, though coL has been mediocre at best.
A huge question mark remains on whether Joshua "steel" Nissan and Sam "DaZeD" Marine can co-exist on the same team, and if I had to bet on it, I would expect one of them to be gone after this event. If they do well they'll stick to the roster, but realistically, would even defeating Na`Vi for a third place finish be considered a good placing, with one of their star players missing?
Fans go on and on about their win at last ESEA Finals, but that was five months ago with a roster that was 40% different from this. They also placed dead last at EMS One Katowice since then, but who cares, right? It wasn't the same roster, was it? Funny how that works. I'm not buying any iBUYPOWER stock until I see them score wins in Europe, even if this event is in Dallas.
By the virtue of the bracket they're most like going to get a top four finish, because they are favorites against both OverGaming and compLexity. A loss against either would guarantee roster changes, whereas a win is what is expected of them. If iBP show up in good form they can also take down Na`Vi without Sukhariev, but there is no way they would have done the same against their real roster. I still expect them to falter, and finish fourth.
Many have unrealistic expectations for swag's iBP
Virtus.pro (byali, Neo, pasha, Snax, TaZ)
Virtus.pro were one of the three top teams going into this event, and with Sukhariev now missing from Natus Vincere's roster, they are clear favorites to at least make the grand final. Though their performance has been lacking at their most recent events, SLTV StarSeries IX Finals and DreamHack Summer, there's no reason to question their ability of putting out clearly inferior North American sides or a Na`Vi squad without one of its best fraggers.
Once again a key factor for Virtus' success against NiP will be what kind of shape Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski and Paweł "byali" Bieliński show up in. If the two are in form, and Jarosław "pasha" Jarząbkowski doesn't no-show like he did in Jönköping, count on Virtus to give NiP a serious run for their money. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if they wound up winning ESEA Finals.
Filip "Neo" Kubski's statement about not being able to win them all in our interview can be interpreted two ways. Either as a realistic acknowledgement of the reality that runs such as NiP's unprecedented 87-0 win streak don't really happen, or as a sign of weakness. I'd take it as the former, and as such it should only show that Virtus.pro understand there are no real issues in the team despite a quarter-final exit at DreamHack.
Kubski also went on to state that Jarząbkowski is extra motivated for ESEA, which is a good sign for the Poles whose best player Jarząbkowski has been for 2014 so far. I seriously doubt anyone but NiP can compete with a Virtus.pro squad playing at a level similar to the one they showcased at DreamHack, and there is no reason not to expect them to show up in similar form.
If Virtus can avoid some of the mistakes they made two weeks ago they have a realistic shot at the title. If not, they should still be able to get through iBUYPOWER, and potentially compLexity or a Sukhariev-less Na`Vi in the lower bracket to clinch a second place finish. They are one of the world's best teams, still, and that should be enough to a top two finish in Dallas.
byali's Virtus hope to bounce back in Dallas
OpenEqualFree (dboorN, desi, Irukandji, minikerr, shroud)
The team led by Andrew "Irukandji" Timmerman come in with very strong online results, both in ESEA Invite and in their practice, with many fellow North Americans questioning their abilities on LAN environment. Timmerman quickly played their expectations down in our interview, and he did it for a good reason considering their bracket draw.
They're going to play against Na`Vi in the opening round, and although the DreamHack runner-ups will not have Sukhariev playing, they shouldn't have too many issues disposing of the Americans. The problem for OEF is that losing against Na`Vi without their fifth will only make them look worse - whereas losing versus the real Na`Vi would have been expected - and they're going to face compLexity in the lower bracket.
Though they've beaten coL a number of times online in recent history, and an upset certainly isn't completely impossible, you should not hold your breath. OEF feature three unproven players, and the history of such players in North America doesn't promise good things. They'd need strong performances from the trio, with Derek "dboorN" Boorn and Timmerman providing less fragging these days.
For OEF to make it out of last place they'd need production across the board, and for compLexity to not elevate their level of play how they usually do for LANs. I don't think anything better than this is reasonable to expect of OEF, though they could win a map or two before crashing out. Watch out for Michael "shroud" Grzesiek though, as he may wind up in another team for the next season.
dboorN's OEF are headed for trouble
Natus Vincere (ceh9, GuardiaN, seized, starix, Zeus)
Na`Vi will have to play the entire ESEA Invite Season 16 Global Finals with former long-time member Arseny "ceh9" Trynozhenko stepping out of retirement due to the US embassy losing Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev's passport. Sukhariev missing will be a huge problem for this team, basically the equivalent of NiP replacing Adam "friberg" Friberg with another Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson in terms of fragging ability.
They shouldn't struggle against OEF even with Trynozhenko playing, but from there on out it gets a lot tougher. Assuming they can't pull off the miracle of beating NiP with a stand-in who has less pure fragging ability than Sukhariev and zero practice going into this tournament, they will go through NCG or OverGaming in the lower bracket to get into the top four.
Danilo "Zeus" Teslenko's squad will then go on to face either compLexity or iBUYPOWER, pending no major upsets happening by the two North Americans. That's a winnable match-up for whoever gets out of the series as the continent's best, but considering iBP's history versus Europeans, and compLexity's recent play, I would still put my money on Na`Vi this time around.
I think that's where the road ends for this Natus Vincere roster though, and it's a shame because ESEA Finals could have been such a great follow-up, had Sukhariev been able to make the trip, to the grand final versus NiP at DreamHack. For now we will have to wait a lot longer for it, probably at least until ESL One Cologne. Na`Vi, even with Trynozhenko, should be able to make top three, but this change removes the possibility of a top two placing for them, while giving North America a chance at a finish on the podium.
The US embassy messed with Na`Vi's plans
Netcode Guides (FNS, hazed, jdm64, Lucky, reltuC)
Unlike OEF, Netcode actually have a shot at making 5-6th place at the event. Though they should get demolished by Virtus.pro in the opening round, they face a much more reasonable opponent in the first round of the lower bracket in the form of Spanish OverGaming. I still think they're underdogs in the series, but at least it's within an arm's reach for them.
NCG are also a young team, though three of their players have attended previous ESEA Finals events. Against the Poles they obviously are outmatched and there's no question who is coming out on top in that series, but their ability to score upsets versus both iBUYPOWER and compLexity online at least proves they have some potential.
The problem with their wins is that the one versus iBP was on de_cache, one of the two coL wins was on de_season, and the latter have been ridiculously mediocre this entire season. compLexity were legitimately close to missing the finals altogether, so though the wins were nice for NCG, they really shouldn't hold much weight at all.
Expect NCG to put up a fight against OverGaming, who are inconsistent and without a much higher ceiling than that of NCG's. Still, the Spaniards are a lot more experienced, have scored a few wins versus legitimate top ten teams in the world, and are probably also better prepared as a team.
FNS' Netcode Guides could finish 5-6th
OverGaming (FlipiN, Kairi, loWel, meisoN, MusambaN1)
OverGaming come into ESEA Finals as heavy underdogs from Europe, having finished with a poor 5-11 that saw them score two wins on de_nuke, one of them versus Na`Vi who never plays it, one on de_season versus fnatic and one on de_inferno against Virtus.pro. Still, that's not a bad resume, given how experienced the team is, compared to some of the North American sides they're competing for the 5-8th spots.
Though a win over iBUYPOWER in the opening round would require a massive collapse from the American side, the former Wizards squad is favored against Netcode Guides in the lower bracket's first round. Most of the arguments are already written above in NCG's part, but it boils down to the Spaniards having beaten some top teams before, being more experienced, and likely better prepared.
OverGaming's chance at getting close to a potential upset in the second round are on custom maps, which they will get to play Na`Vi on. Since the Danilo "Zeus" Teslenko-led squad won't play de_nuke, Jonathan "MusambaN1" Torrent's team will get to take on them on one of the two custom maps, and their results on especially de_season are promising.
Now even without Sukhariev's presense I'd take Na`Vi in their series any day of the week, but a map win would be a solid result for the team drafted in as back-ups and who clearly are outmatched against the very best. You can't count out experienced players like Torrent, but simply by looking at their statistics, it's easy to see this team lacks any real firepower.
FlipiN is back with some old faces in OverGaming
compLexity (anger, Hiko, n0thing, Semphis, sgares)
compLexity won't get through June without roster changes. They may not be announced until July, but pending some crazy run that sees them take down at least one European team not called OverGaming, and iBUYPOWER to remain the best in North America, there is no way this team can stick together long enough to attend ESL One Cologne with this roster.
Since Braxton "swag" Pierce's departure coL hasn't been the same, losing SoCAL Revival to iBP and barely making ESEA Finals in a weak North American Invite division. Also consider Kory "Semphis" Friesen's statement about them having become lazy, and there really shouldn't be any reason to expect the former best team in North America to make the final four.
NiP will trump coL in the opening round, and though compLexity shouldn't have issues with Open Equal Free in lower bracket, they will next go head-to-head with rivals iBUYPOWER, who have had their number ever since the Pierce-Todd "anger" Williams trade. Plus, iBP also defeated compLexity at the previous ESEA Finals back in January.
Time is running out for this iteration of compLexity CS:GO, and without a very surprising top three finish in Dallas there is almost no way this team sticks together. The core of the team will surely remain competitive and we'll see them at ESL One Cologne in August, but something has to change. This team isn't even a shadow of its own self right now.
Hiko's compLexity are big underdogs in Dallas
ESEA Invite Season 16 Global Finals will take place on June 27-29 in Dallas, TX, and HLTV.org will provide coverage for the $47,500 from home with hot matches, statistics and more.