Gfinity 3 group A preview
Here is the first part of our Gfinity 3 group stage preview, featuring the six teams of group A competing for four spots in the playoffs.
Gfinity 3 uses a round robin group stage system with two groups consisting of six teams each, housing all twelve participants at the $45,000 tournament at the Olympic Park.
Top four finishers in each group will advance to the playoffs, where a standard single elimination best-of-three bracket will determine the winners of $20,000 and an ESWC spot.
We're going to release our viewer's guide for the event tomorrow, so you'll have an idea of when each of these teams will play. However, the entire group stage is scheduled for Saturday.
It's been nearly eight years since a top level event took place in London
NiP (f0rest, Fifflaren, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt)
The world's number one team naturally go into G3 as favorites, though since they're fresh off a vacation following their trip to the US it's unclear whether they've had sufficient time to get back in tip top shape before jetting off to London. Last night NiP lost an odd match against Titan as they were up 13-6 with a chance to break the French-Belgian team's money, and wound up losing 14-16. The Swedes' record is good when coming to tournaments after disappointing online results, but two days isn't a lot of time to get where they need to be.
Prior to that NiP haven't played an official match since IronGaming ended in early July, so it's obvious we don't actually know how good the Ninjas are right now. If anything, I think Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund's weak performance is alarming, as the squad usually needs him to play at a top level to win events. Knowing GeT_RiGhT, he was motivated to do well after a lengthy break from competition, so it's hard to see it being a case of him not caring about the match because it was played online. I still think NiP are more motivated for G3 than we think, simply because they haven't forgotten about their measly performance in Dallas -- and they certainly don't want two bad finishes in a row right before Cologne.
I've been told NiP are one of the teams actually preparing for de_cobblestone and de_overpass, which might hurt them in the short term at G3, where neither map is played. It's a standard case of priorities, and it makes perfect sense. Both GeT_RiGhT and Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg must be in form for the Ninjas to get out of this group in first place, as G3's group format actually has them paired up with at least three teams who can realistically beat them in a best-of-one.
|Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||24||1.32|
|Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||26||1.26|
|Richard "Xizt" Landström||23||1.14|
|Adam "friberg" Friberg||22||1.11|
|Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson||26||0.98|
G3's format is generally bad for NiP. Even going 4-1 in group A may not result in a first place finish for Xizt's squad, as round difference could push them down a spot. I expect NiP to get out of this group in first place because they are the best, and most consistent, team out of these six, but I also think they will drop one match -- it's too much to expect perfect play from a possibly still slightly rusty team for five games in one day.
NiP will first play Epsilon in the opening round, and that is going to be the most important game for them. Infused in round two will serve as warmup, and they should be ready for fnatic in round three. iBUYPOWER, arguably the group's most exciting team, drew the short stick together with London Conspiracy by getting to play the group's top dogs last. NiP should be in great shape by then, though if they are 4-0 going into the match against the Norwegians, they could be unfocused enough for an upset loss.
Good news for the Ninjas is that in a best-of-three setting - despite their failure at ESEA Finals - they are unmatched overall in the game. Once in the playoffs the odds will further shift to NiP's favor, and getting to play five games on Saturday will also serve as good warmup and extra preparation time for NiP. In general G3's format is great for all these teams going into ESL One -- they're given extra games against their opposition, and whether they'll admit it or not, there's no way they'd prefer standard four team groups.
Prediction: 1st in group A
NiP remain number one going into G3
iBUYPOWER (AZK, DaZeD, Skadoodle, steel, swag)
Number seven in our recent world ranking, iBUYPOWER come into G3 as favorites to make the playoffs from a stacked group A. Admittedly it doesn't say a whole lot, as four of six teams advance, and Infused are hardly up for competing with the rest of the teams in this group. Still, for a core of players that has never made the playoffs together at a tournament in Europe, it's time to take some baby steps before hopefully a deep playoff run in Cologne next month.
Since their triumph at ESEA Invite Season 16 Global Finals, iBUYPOWER have remained dominant online, though they've faced little opposition. Rivals compLexity didn't attend ESWC North America in Montreal, and they didn't need to take part in the online ESL One qualifier due to having qualified in Katowice. Sam "DaZeD" Marine's team also came out on top in FACEIT North America, which their domestic rival chose to skip, as well.
iBUYPOWER are starting their nearly three weeks long trip in Europe with G3, followed by a two week bootcamp in London before ESL One in Cologne. While G3 is obviously just the first, and less important, part of the trip, it's going to be important for iBP to set a strong precedent in a European tournament with the lineup featuring Braxton "swag" Pierce and Joshua "steel" Nissan. Neither was part of iBP's failure in Katowice, and the former has plenty of good results under the coL banner.
|Braxton "swag" Pierce||17||1.15|
|Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham||21||1.14|
|Joshua "steel" Nissan||24||1.12|
|Sam "DaZeD" Marine||24||1.10|
|Keven "AZK" Lariviere||23||1.06|
Getting to play four strong teams already in the group stage is about the best thing that could have happened to iBUYPOWER. Even if they drop their opener against fnatic, they get two weaker opponents next in London Conspiracy and Infused - both of whom they're favorites against - and then with some extra confidence on their side, they will take on NiP and Epsilon in the final two rounds of play in group A. It's a pretty good setup for the North Americans.
Despite being the second highest ranked team in the world out of this group, it's not going to be easy for Derrick "impulsivE" Truong's team to finish second in it. Both fnatic and Epsilon made changes that seemingly improved their rosters, and London Conspiracy adding Counter-Strike veteran Preben "prb" Gammelsæter clearly boosted their team's level, as they were able to upset Na`Vi in the ESL One qualifier.
With that being said, iBUYPOWER should make the playoffs at G3. Even losing to London Conspiracy wouldn't be catastrophic if they beat one of the other top teams, and iBP actually, oddly enough, have the second longest standing roster in this group. All three of their challengers have made recent changes, and there's something to be said for consistency. iBP looked good in Dallas, and their play in group A will show whether that's something they can carry over to Europe without a bootcamp.
Prediction: 3rd in group A
DaZeD will hope to challenge NiP with iBP
Epsilon (fxy0, GMX, kioShiMa, Sf, shox)
Up until a week ago this team lived and died with its star player Richard "shox" Papillon, who simply didn't have a lot of help in the fragging department. Since then they've let go of Valentin "mistou" Balbastro and added sniper Joey "fxy0" Schlosser, who has not only filled a clear gap the team had in-game, but proven to be a very capable fragger so far in the team's online matches. shox can beat teams by himself, but he won't do it every day -- which is why it was so important for Epsilon to get more firepower on the roster.
Not many expected Epsilon to defeat HellRaisers in a best-of-three series at DreamHack Valencia, and now with two top finishes under their belt they look to secure a higher placing in the next edition of our world ranking, with two even bigger events looming in the horizon. Though a weak performance would be semi-understandable as there's a lot more competition at G3, and fxy0 is still new to the team, they must at least make the playoffs.
Online Epsilon haven't been a wrecking crew - they've had losses against fnatic, HellRaisers, Natus Vincere, ESG and Titan in SLTV StarSeries X already - they've also been able to beat Copenhagen Wolves and Virtus.pro, and some of those losses were with the old roster. The team led by Robin "GMX" Stahmer likely won't truly be ready for G3, having recruited fxy0 so recently, but it will be a pretty good indicator of what kind of team we're likely going to see at ESL One in two weeks.
|Richard "shox" Papillon||22||1.21|
|Joey "fxy0" Schlosser||21||1.18|
|Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey||20||1.07|
|Gordon "Sf" Giry||22||0.99|
|Robin "GMX" Stahmer||21||0.93|
For teams who were tough to rank in our July world ranking - such as Epsilon - this massive group really is going to be extra interesting to find out what kind of form they are in right now. Previously dubbed Shoxilon, Epsilon will have a rough start at G3 as they face NiP and fnatic in the opening rounds. Infused in round three should be a piece of cake, and three matches in the Frenchmen should be ready to tackle London Conspiracy, and take their best shot at iBUYPOWER.
I expect Epsilon to get out of group A, but their placing is as much in the air as anyone else's. In terms of final placings this group could really turn on its head and we could easily see everyone, aside from Infused, finish at almost any placing in the group. It's that hard to know what will happen with the small sample sizes we have of all these teams who have recently made changes, and who are fresh off a vacation.
Expect Epsilon to fall short to NiP and fnatic, have a tough match with iBUYPOWER - though DaZeD clearly knows how to play the French - and overcome both Infused and London Conspiracy to make the playoffs. They probably won't make the semi-finals against the tough crowd of G3, but anything is possible if they're better prepared than we know of, shox plays like in Valencia, and fxy0 is ready to show up on LAN.
Prediction: 4th in group A
Can shox carry Epsilon to wins once again?
fnatic (flusha, jw, KRiMZ, olofm, pronax)
fnatic changed two players after a disastrous showing at DreamHack Summer in mid-June. Since then they have not attended any LAN tournaments, and have only played one Caseking of the Hill tournament - where they lost against LDLC - and ten matches in the current season of SLTV StarSeries X. For the most part their results have been positive, and slightly better than those of the previous roster, but I'm still not sold on them.
Though they've had respectable wins over the likes of Epsilon, mousesports, Titan and LDLC, and ties versus very good teams like HellRaisers and Virtus.pro, their most recent matches aren't up to par. A loss against Natus Vincere is by no means alarming, but dropping a map against an odd mixteam of sorts in Nostalgie - and coming from a 10-5 lead at half time - is not what we'd expect from one of the supposedly world's best teams.
It remains unclear whether fnatic have slayed their demons yet. They're a notoriously bad team in close matches, and though the early signs online have been promising for the most part, it's impossible to know whether Markus "pronax" Wallsten's decision making has improved enough that we can expect the team coached by ex-role player Jonatan "Devilwalk" Lundberg to be a contender at G3, or ESL One later on in August.
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||22||1.12|
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||20||1.10|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||19||1.09|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||20||1.05|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||23||0.94|
We placed fnatic in eleventh place in our world ranking earlier this month. Considering they haven't broken the top four at an event with more than four teams, or international competition, since DreamHack Winter, and have changed two-thirds of their squad, I think it's fair. Getting to play the entire field of group A at G3 will give us a much better idea of how good this new version of fnatic is, and how well they've managed to integrate KRIMZ and olofmeister into the team early on.
fnatic are thrown straight into the deep end in London, as they take on the very hungry iBUYPOWER squad in round one, followed by the new Epsilon team in round two, and the world's number one team in the third round. If the Swedes are 1-2 after the first two rounds of play, even taking down London Conspiracy could be tough, and playing Infused on the final round will not change much - they will be blasted no matter what.
Either way, I expect fnatic to be ready for the action. They've been practicing for a while now, and they've got a good enough leader and enough individual skill to once again be a potential surprise team, à la DreamHack Winter. I doubt they can beat NiP - unless the Ninjas show up in poor form, which is unlikely - but they are favored to defeat the other teams. If they lose to iBP they likely can't finish second, but I can't imagine fnatic not proceeding to the playoffs from this group.
Prediction: 2nd in group A
pronax's fnatic are a potential dark horse at G3
London Conspiracy (Polly, prb, rain, RUBINO, Skurk)
The former H2k roster, now featuring Counter-Strike 1.6 veteran and early CS:GO player in mousesports.UK, prb, surprised everyone by defeating Natus Vincere last weekend to qualify for ESL One Cologne. Unfortunately, there is little reason to expect similar play from London Conspiracy in London, although they've now clearly proven they have potential to get it done against some of the big dogs.
Na`Vi are one of the world's best teams, and a win against them is certainly impressive. But at the same time, London Conspiracy have a weak tournament history with a 9-16th place finish at Copenhagen Games in April, a loss to what became the Lemondogs mixteam in a DreamHack Summer qualifier, and eight won rounds total at the event itself, albeit versus very good teams.
|Preben "prb" Gammelsæter||26||0.96|
|Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel||20||0.94|
|Pål "Polly" Kammen||23||0.94|
|Bjoern "Skurk" Maaren||21||0.94|
|Håvard "rain" Nygaard||19||0.76|
Understandably those results took place without prb, who has clearly made the team better -- but how much better? At G3 we will find out. Norway's hope have a nice order for their match-ups as they start from the weakest and work their way up. A win versus Infused should get them started on the right foot, but they must upset one of iBUYPOWER, fnatic and Epsilon to have a chance at advancing -- and even an upset might not be enough.
They likely can't beat NiP, and even taking down one of those teams isn't likely, unless they're a sleeping giant released by the addition of a single veteran player. That doesn't seem plausible, and it's much more likely the ESL One Cologne European Finals result was an ourlier. London Conspiracy should not make it out of group A, but they should play some close games and scare at least one of the better teams. It's a move in the right direction after their showing in Jönköping.
Prediction: 5th in group A
prb made London Conspiracy better - but how much better?
Infused (decclan, hudzG, JT, redSNK, tsack)
Infused are badly outmatched in not only this group, but this tournament as a whole. They received a direct invitation from the organizers to represent United Kingdom at the event, which is a nice sentiment. However, that alone won't be enough to get the hometeam a win -- much less the tournament win half the scene should surely expect, given the massive homesoil advantage that supposedly exists in Counter-Strike.
Recently Infused have crashed out of a DreamHack Summer pre-qualifier against Hungarian volgare, lost to 4andahalfmen in the dignitas SCAN UK Invitational, and won epic.THIRTEEN LAN in the UK. Last season of ESEA Open saw them finish 12-4 in the regular season with losses to dope and partyastronauts, and they were knocked out of the playoffs in 9-12th place -- hardly a resume of champions.
|George "hudzG" Hoskins||24||1.02|
|James "redSNK" Littlewood||25||0.86|
|Joe "JT" Talbot||21||0.78|
|Konstantinos "tsack" Theodoropoulos||20||0.76|
|Decclan "decclan" Tobin||17||0.60|
At G3 they are going to face off with five significantly stronger teams, all of whom are much more experienced than them and aside from NiP, eager to prove something. That's a deadly combination of words for an underdog, who are clearly hoping to catch one of these teams on an off day - something that traditionally could have happened in a round robin group - but that simply can't, and won't, happen in such a stacked group.
Expect Infused to finish at the bottom of group A with five losses. However, just getting to play all these top teams will be a great learning experience for the British team and they are going to be a better team for it later on, assuming they make no changes. They aren't yet ready to compete at G3, but it could be a start to something later on down the road.
Prediction: 6th in group A
Infused will hope for big things from hudzG
Gfinity 3 will kick off on Saturday morning at 10:00 with the group stage of the event. We will publish our official viewer's guide and the group B preview tomorrow.