ESL One Cologne playoffs preview
As eight teams remain in competition for the ESL One Cologne title and $100,000, we take a look at the quarter-finals taking place tomorrow.
Opening day saw Wolf, London Conspiracy, dAT and Vox Eminor sent packing in 13-16th place. Today HellRaisers, Copenhagen Wolves, iBUYPOWER and Titan were eliminated in 9-12th.
Only eight teams remain competing for the title, and the bracket has been drawn, which means there are only so many ways this tournament can play out from this point on.
|fnatic||vs. Natus Vincere|
Above you can see the full playoff bracket, which we've also added on our event page. Matches are not played in the order they're listed on the site, so semi-finals will differ.
Due to there being only twelve hours to go until the first quarter-final goes live, this preview will be kept somewhat short so we can get it out early enough for you to read.
Only four teams will remain here after tomorrow
09:00 fnatic vs. Natus Vincere
fnatic have looked impressive so far at ESL One Cologne, following a stellar debut at G3 earlier this month, with wins over iBUYPOWER on de_cobblestone and Virtus.pro on de_overpass. They had a neat comeback against the Poles while never truly being challenged by the North Americans, though so far they've only played the new added maps, so it's hard to say how they will fare if they get forced on other maps in the playoffs.
One criticism I had for fnatic at G3 was that Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer wasn't performing to his standard in the team, but it's clear that wasn't due to roles, as he continues playing as he did in London, only five times better. So far he's been the star in the black and orange jerseys, racking up a K-D difference of +24 and a 1.50 rating in the group stage's two matches.
Both Jesper "JW" Wecksell and Robin "flusha" Rönnquist - the team's other two stars - have also had strong events so far. Markus "pronax" Wallsten has been playing slightly better than normal, while Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson has had a rough event so far statistically. These things will even out once they play more games, and especailly more maps -- it's likely some players have gotten better on the new maps than others.
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||22||+24||1.50|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||19||+4||1.14|
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||21||+10||1.13|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||23||+2||1.03|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||20||-2||0.92|
On the other hand, Na`Vi have been far more inconsistent. Only Lars "guardiaN" Wickler, Sergey "starix" Ischuk and Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev have showed up ready to play, and even the team's star AWPer was very inconsistent with his weapon of choice in the first two games, likely playing a big part in Na`Vi getting knocked down to the elimination game by LDLC.
For a team who decided to skip G3, you would have expected to see a stronger Na`Vi here, but they've always been a team who struggled in groups, and improved as the tournament went on. See DreamHack Summer's Flipsid3 loss, followed by wins over Virtus.pro and Epsilon for a second place, for example. A key for Na`Vi to make a deep playoff run will be the play of Denis "seized" Kostin.
After breaking out as a star in 2014, seized has pulled a lot of weight in Na`Vi's wins, but so far been mostly invisible in Cologne. The team's in-game leader Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko also hasn't been himself, and it's possible his performance has been affected for good at this tournament by his mouse breaking. Either way, Na`Vi playing like they did today will not beat fnatic tomorrow.
|Lars "guardiaN" Wickler||23||+19||1.17|
|Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev||26||+11||1.12|
|Sergey "starix" Ischuk||26||+8||1.06|
|Denis "seized" Kostin||19||-5||0.86|
|Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko||26||-8||0.85|
These two teams have only met once before since fnatic added olofmeister and KRIMZ, online for SLTV StarSeries X, where Na`Vi managed a 16-14 win on de_mirage. What makes this series interesting, is that neither team plays de_nuke, which means fnatic has a large advantage as the higher seed. The higher seed chooses who eliminates a map first, so by removing a map they wish not to play, they can force Na`Vi to remove de_nuke.
Earlier today on the ESL TV stream guardiaN admitted to not having practiced one of the new maps, while fnatic has played both, so if they're aware which one that is, fnatic could get an almost guaranteed 1-0 lead in the series. That is enough to swing a series their way, when otherwise it likely would've been fairly close with both teams definitely capable of beating each other.
If Na`Vi get to the third map, all bets are off. ESL will draw the third map at random from the remaining three maps after a ban, ban, pick, pick process, which means a lot of random things can happen to determine the winner. fnatic go into this match as favorites, looking at their recent form, and the ability to potentially get a 1-0 map lead solely based on being able to force an unpracticed map on Na`Vi.
Prediction: fnatic 2-0 Natus Vincere
olofm has been fnatic's best player so far
11:50 Epsilon vs. dignitas
To say Richard "shox" Papillon's Epsilon have been impressive thus far at ESL One Cologne would be an understatement. They absolutely crushed HellRaisers in their opener with a 16-1 score on de_inferno, and followed it up with a dominant 16-6 victory over NiP on de_cobblestone. What separates this Epsilon team from the one from DreamHack Valencia and G3 is not only Joey "fxy0" Schlosser being better integrated, but leadership.
In our interview, shox admitted to having become the full-time in-game leader of Epsilon. They've completely changed their style to a more skill-heavy approach, and with their players on fire like they've been so far against to very skilled teams, it's been a recipe for success. Both HR and NiP were heavily out-aimed in their matches, but tomorrow the Frenchmen face a whole another animal in dignitas.
So far Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey has been out of this world good, and it's likely he'll slightly regress tomorrow. shox could pick up some of that slack, and frankly, everyone's been playing so well that it's fine if all of them regress to an extent -- these statistics aren't sustainable in the long run. Epsilon have been on a roll for two days, let's see if it can continue on Saturday.
|Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey||20||+30||1.84|
|Richard "shox" Papillon||22||+20||1.49|
|Gordon "Sf" Giry||22||+13||1.48|
|Joey "fxy0" Schlosser||21||+12||1.28|
|Robin "GMX" Stahmer||21||+5||1.13|
dignitas looked incredibly hot at G3, and they have looked strong at ESL One as well. They beat Vox Eminor yesterday, were upset by Cloud9 in a game that saw them start each half down 1-5 and lose multiple favorable clutch situations at the end, and then absolutely devoured Titan 16-1 on de_nuke to advance to the playoffs. Sample sizes are small, but this team is here to play -- as always.
So far the team's newest member Philip "aizy" Aistrup has been the most impressive, though the two usual stars Nicolai "device" Reedtz and Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen aren't far removed from his 1.38 rating. Though Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth has underperformed significantly so far, his performance drop has been offset by Henrik "FeTiSh" Christensen, who so far is having a great tournament while leading the team in-game.
dignitas have always been a team who relies on their strong defensive halves, which rely on their skill and teamwork. Terrorist sides could cause issues, as could AWPing if fxy0 is hitting his shots -- then again, FeTiSh managed just fine against Kenny "kennyS" Schrub in their last group stage match. Still, terrorist sides remain the Danes' biggest weakness.
|Philip "aizy" Aistrup||18||+23||1.38|
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||18||+15||1.23|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||21||+11||1.16|
|Henrik "FeTiSh" Christensen||27||+14||1.11|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||18||+-0||0.96|
Epsilon will likely get rid of de_nuke against dignitas - a map they hardly ever play, and the Danes are incredibly strong on - while their opponents will most likely get rid of one of the new maps, whichever they feel less confident on. If they've practiced both, smart money says they remove de_cobblestone, which Epsilon beat NiP on, and roll the dice on de_overpass - assuming Epsilon have played it at all, and can leave it in over de_nuke - since the French removed it versus HellRaisers, and possibly NiP.
If de_nuke is played that's a huge advantage for dignitas, who seem like next to a lock to get a win on that map. The best map in this series will be de_inferno, which both teams are great on. Other good maps would be de_dust2 and de_mirage, while the Danes would be big favorites to win de_cache - a likely choice for them if Epsilon removes de_nuke - while the Frenchmen don't enjoy playing the map, or haven't historically, anyway.
This series will come down to the aim duels. dignitas are more polished as a team, and more consistent, but when shox is on, he's probably the world's best player. If Epsilon bring the firepower like on days one and two, the Frenchmen can make the final four. Otherwise, and especially with the Danes favored on at least de_cache and de_nuke, dignitas will probably clinch their fourth top four finish of 2014.
Prediction: dignitas 2-1 Epsilon
Can shox upset the favorites one more time?
17:30 Cloud9 vs. NiP
Cloud9 were a massive questionmark coming into ESL One, probably the largest of them all, having scored big wins at ESEA Finals in June, but changed a player since then. They were forced to miss ESWC North America and G3 due to contract issues, but have now solidified their roster with Mike "shroud" Grzesiek and gotten backing from a strong organization in Cloud9.
Oddly enough, so far in Cologne their best fragger has been former in-game leader and sniper seemingly turned rifler Sean "seang@res" Gares, who has averaged 0.80 kills per round, much higher than his career average of 0.66. Star player Spencer "Hiko" Martin has showed up in usual top form and won them a ton of important clutch rounds - including the two rounds that helped them beat dignitas, and two key rounds to get to overtime against Titan - while in-game leader Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen has impressed.
So far neither Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert or shroud has exceled, which both leaves room for improvement, assuming the others stay at this level, and raises some worry, as the rest are playing better than usual so far. Things will average out tomorrow, but average won't beat NiP -- they must get better production from their two youngest players on Saturday.
|Spencer "Hiko" Martin||24||+18||1.25|
|Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen||25||+11||1.15|
|Sean "seang@res" Gares||26||+7||1.09|
|Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert||23||-11||0.83|
|Mike "shroud" Grzesiek||20||-13||0.80|
NiP have yet to impress in Cologne. Adam "friberg" Friberg has kept them alive in the tournament so far with a huge performance in the de_overpass win against HellRaisers, while in-game leader Richard "Xizt" Landström - who may get some real help from their new coach Faruk "pita" Pita tomorrow - has also played great. Unfortunately, that's where the good news end for Ninjas in Pyjamas fans.
Not only has Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg played far below is usual level, the at least previously world's best player Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund has continued the slump he's seemingly been in since their vacation ended in late July. So far he's at a 0.74 rating for Cologne, and while he's obviously happy to sacrifice individual glory for team wins, I don't see how this team can continue winning without their number one star playing at least close to his usual level.
Tomorrow is a new day, and GeT_RiGhT usually shines in playoffs. Same goes for f0rest. NiP will be better tomorrow, and after being rightfully annoyed by getting beat by compLexity's random playing style in Dallas, they will be better prepared for Cloud9 tomorrow. NiP are a lock to play better in playoffs, but as we saw at G3, they're no longer a lock to always make a deep run there.
|Adam "friberg" Friberg||22||+22||1.45|
|Richard "Xizt" Landström||23||+20||1.30|
|Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||26||+1||0.99|
|Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson||26||-8||0.80|
|Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||24||-12||0.74
Maps will play a huge part in this series' outcome as well. Cloud9 will have to remove de_overpass - a map NiP looked almost godlike on before losing some late rounds to HellRaisers - which leaves de_nuke, the Swedes' best map, in the pool. The Ninjas will undoubtedly pick that as their choice, and though the C9 core has defeated NiP before on it - in August 2013 at ESEA Finals - NiP are huge favorites on the map.
Cloud9 likely aren't well prepared on the custom maps due to having such a short bootcamp in Europe, which makes the third map - randomly drawn by Valve's system - highly important. It's fair to predict Cloud9 will win their map of choice in this series, simply because of how well they've been playing, but even that isn't nearly as certain as the Ninjas win on de_nuke.
If the third map winds up being de_cobblestone, regardless of NiP getting demolished on it by Epsilon, C9 are in trouble. If they get to play two standard maps, it's possible Cloud9 can make the final four - and truly cement their status as contenders - but even that's a tall order. Smart money says NiP will improve enough to get out of this series alive, but that means their players must improve. Tomorrow will be tough, and if C9 wins de_nuke, the North Americans will win.
Prediction: NiP 2-1 Cloud9
Cloud9 are one series win away from contender status
14:40 LDLC vs. Virtus.pro
LDLC come into this series as the group winners, having defeated London Conspiracy and Natus Vincere in group B, but still can't call themselves favorites going into the series. They've showed impressive form so far, demolishing the Norwegians 16-2 on de_nuke, and overcoming a 4-7 deficit on the defensive side of de_inferno to beat Na`Vi 16-12. So far so good.
The team's star Dan "apEX" Madesclaire has played great, and the duo of Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer and Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian aren't far behind. This team is ridiculously consistent, and that consistency is what has brought them two top eight finishes at the majors this year, a top four finish at Copenhagen Games, and a win at DreamHack Valencia. That's a solid resume, and another playoff berth in Cologne only adds to that.
Only problem LDLC faces is that their previous two defeats at big tournaments in 2014 have come at the hands of Virtus.pro, and... Virtus.pro. The Frenchmen have scored wins in this match-up online, but even there their record is negative. Something big would have to happen for LDLC to pull the big win tomorrow, and it starts with all their players firing on all cylinders from the get-go.
|Dan "apEX" Madesclaire||21||+34||1.79|
|Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer||22||+23||1.52|
|Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian||23||+18||1.32|
|Mathieu "Maniac" Quiquerez||24||+1||0.93|
|Kevin "Uzzziii" Vernel||24||-7||0.79|
Virtus.pro are the defending champions from the previous major, EMS One Katowice, and also have won the most recent big international tournament G3, which finished two weeks ago. Since then they've put in a bootcamp, prepared on the new maps, and clearly showed up in Cologne in top shape. It doesn't hurt that four of their five players are also playing above their career averages, despite a 2-1 record.
So far Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski has been the most valuable player for the Polish team, followed by Paweł "byali" Bieliński and Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski. Fresh in-game leader Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas has been solid, while Filip "NEO" Kubski hasn't really found his game yet in Cologne. Nevertheless, aside from throwing the 15-12 lead away against fnatic on de_overpass, the Poles have looked as good as ever, absolutely dominating dAT and iBUYPOWER in their wins.
Furthermore, as mentioned in the LDLC section, Virtus.pro have knocked the Frenchmen out of both EMS One Katowice and Copenhagen Games, and hold a net-positive record against them online as well. Though their in-game leaders may have varied through it all, they clearly know how to play LDLC, and hold a reasonable advantage in their head-to-head match-up.
|Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||21||+39||1.56|
|Paweł "byali" Bieliński||20||+22||1.22|
|Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||26||+13||1.17|
|Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||28||+11||1.10|
|Filip "NEO" Kubski||27||-1||0.94|
Map wise we know LDLC will remove de_cache, which they do not play -- unless they've completely altered course before this event, and opted to skip one of the new maps instead. Virtus on the other hand played all six old maps, and they play at least de_overpass as well, while having at least practiced de_cobblestone. They'll likely get rid of the latter either way, and be content playing the other five.
LDLC has beaten Virtus.pro on de_inferno the three previous times they've met, but those don't include Polish wins in Katowice or Copenhagen, or one inbetween. They've played de_mirage both times, and each time Virtus.pro has been dominant, losing only eight rounds total. On de_dust2 LDLC hold a one-to-nothing lead, while they've never played de_nuke.
As with every other series, the random draw for third map could play a huge factor. Virtus.pro should pick de_mirage and are big favorites on the map, while LDLC will probably take their chances on de_inferno, their most successful map versus Virtus as of late -- unless the Poles keep de_cobblestone in, and remove de_inferno. LDLC have a chance, but the Poles are clear favorites, in what should be the easier quarter-final to predict.
Prediction: Virtus.pro 2-0 LDLC
Snax has been Virtus' carry so far in Cologne
Notice that Cloud9 versus NiP is actually played last, despite being third on the bracket from top to bottom. Both semi-finals, and the grand final, will take place on Sunday.
You can find the schedule for Sunday, the prize distribution, as well as our coverage from Cologne from our ESL One coverage hub. We're still adding highlights from today's games.