ASUS ROG Winter 2015 preview
With ASUS ROG Winter 2015 set to begin tomorrow, we take a look at the eight teams competing for the $12,500 first place prize in Helsinki this weekend.
Though NiP has already made their 2015 debut at MLG X-Games Aspen, ASUS ROG Winter will server as the first tournament of the year for the other seven teams.
Clear favorites to reach Saturday include top four finishers from DreamHack Winter, Virtus.pro, as well as the new HellRaisers team and Titan, with Cédric "RpK" Guipouy.
Some solid challengers will also turn up, as number one German team PENTA have made it, as well as mousesports, volgare, and Aleksi "allu" Jalli's 3DMAX.
Maikelele's NiP come in as favorites
NiP (f0rest, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Maikelele, Xizt)
If it wasn't obvious before MLG finished in Aspen, now it seems clear NiP should be considered the favorites to win it all in Helsinki this weekend. They snuck by Virtus.pro in the semi-finals of DreamHack Winter and were within a round of hoisting their second major trophy, and now finished runners-up to LDLC - again - in Aspen, after a semi-final victory over fnatic.
Bad news for NiP is that they still remain a very good defensive team, while their terrorist sides are much more random, and their AWPing with Mikail "Maikelele" Bill at the helm hasn't exactly made them a top sniper team - Maikelele has done okay, but he in no way has been able to shine as some sort of a superstar, with NiP still relying heavily on their two old stars in terms of fragging.
In the first round of group B NiP will take on mousesports, who have beaten both Titan and Na`Vi online in ESEA. NiP are clear favorites and shouldn't have too many issues. Next to determine winner of group B will be either 3DMAX or Titan -- presumably the latter. Though NiP are obvious favorites in that game as well, versus Titan there will be an AWPing mismatch in Kenny "kennyS" Schrub's favor, and the Frenchmen's terrorist play could cause NiP trouble.
Smart money says NiP will go through in first place, but do not rule out a possible upset loss to Titan, if kennyS has a great match. Best-of-one games will always be slightly more random, and that's what NiP will have to watch out for to guarantee an easier semi-final match-up in Helsinki - they do not want to face Virtus.pro before the grand final, if at all possible.
Prediction: 1st in group B
Player to watch: Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund
GeT_RiGhT hasn't been a world-beating superstar consistently for a while now, but he has shown flashes of the play that earned him the number one spot in our statistics database. He can win games by himself at any point and remains NiP's most consistent player, though even he disappears these days, as seen in MLG grand final.
NiP are hoping to finish on top in Finland
Virtus.pro (byali, Neo, pasha, Snax, TaZ)
Virtus.pro come into ASUS ROG Winter with a lot to prove after missing out on MLG. They lost to dignitas in the online qualifier in December, and could not take part in the second qualifier due to being in attendance at Acer A-Split Invitational on the same weekend. As such, they were forced to miss out on the first big tournament of 2015, and will have to make a case for them being a stronger team than NiP in Helsinki.
The Poles should be a pretty good match-up for NiP due to their strong terrorist side play fitting well with NiP, and with two top-four players in the world, per our Top 20 players of 2014 ranking, they obviously pack heaps of firepower that can help them past any team at any given point. Virtus.pro match-up well against both Titan and HR as well, due to not struggling on the terrorist side as often.
The question mark for Virtus is always consistency. Though they are actually one of the most consistent teams, on an individual level it seems hard for them to get all players fired up during the same events. When that happens they can, and do, beat anyone and everyone. However, it's very rare, and especially the older gentlemen have become more inconsistent in their CS:GO years.
Opening round will pair Filip "NEO" Kubski's team up with volgare, a team who made it past unu.AiN (now Copenhagen Wolves) in the online qualifier. Group winner will then be decided in a match between the Polish side, and either PENTA or HellRaisers -- two teams Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski and company have never had issues with. Safe to say Virtus.pro are favorites to top group A.
Prediction: 1st in group A
Player to watch: Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski
pashaBiceps finished 2014 as the third best player in the world, per our Top 20 players of 2014 ranking, and is without a doubt motivated to continue showing similar performance this year. He started 2014 off really strong, but then cooled a little later on in the year. Here is the Pole's chance to have a strong year from the get go, and Virtus will need him to show up to compete with NiP.
pasha must perform for Virtus to top NiP
Titan (apEX, Ex6TenZ, kennyS, Maniac, RpK)
Aside from a loss to mousesports in ESEA Invite Season 18, Titan have looked decent since the addition of long-time VeryGames veteran RpK, who retired two years ago. The team led by Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans has defeated the likes of fnatic and Natus Vincere, but also fallen short - in a best-of-three - against dAT team, a clear underdog despite their two recent recruitments.
In all likelihood Titan won't be ready to perform at what will become their top level in a month or two - RpK simply hasn't been back long enough, and though they've stayed in the gaming house up until now, one month isn't enough for a strategic style like the one Ex6TenZ uses. In addition, Titan is one of the rare top team which does not pack enough firepower to simply outgun their opponents at the top level. This team needs Dan "apEX" Madesclaire to step up to compete for titles.
Obviously kennyS, by many accounts currently the world's best player individually, is the exception to that. He can more than match anyone on any other team in the world, and the best part is that he is an AWPer, and can create plenty of mismatches for Titan. This works out great against the field at ASUS ROG, where no other top tier AWPers will be dueling him for frags.
In Helsinki Titan will face Finnish 3DMAX first. Though allu could cause Titan some issues - and has in the past - the Frenchmen should be able to get past the Finns fairly easily. NiP is a whole another story, and Titan are not favored in the match-up. A bad game against mousesports - potentially - could be dangerous, but Titan are very likely to book a playoff spot nonetheless.
Prediction: 2nd in group B
Player to watch: Kenny "kennyS" Schrub
You really cannot praise kennyS enough. This guy is easily a top three impact player in the world, and unlike most top players, can actually - and does - win games seemingly by himself. Titan is built around him, finally, and it shows. Expect kennyS to continue his strong performances - and ASUS ROG could actually mark the event that he slides past Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg for number two in our statistical database.
kennyS is arguably now the world's most skilled player
HellRaisers (AdreN, ANGE1, Dosia, flamie, kucher)
HellRaisers shocked everyone by replacing Yegor "markeloff" Markelov and the ESL banned Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev earlier this month. In their place they recruited back their old member Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev, as well as upcoming Russian talent Egor "flamie" Vasilyev, who impressed many with his stellar individual play at ESL One Cologne, despite his team falling short in both of their two matches.
So far the new roster's results have been mixed. They've beaten both PENTA - their first round ASUS ROG opponent - and Virtus.pro in best-of-three series in SLTV StarSeries XII, but also lost against Danish Deponeret, who a few days ago officially joined dignitas. Add in the fact HR have always been one of the most inconsistent teams around, especially against seemingly weaker teams, and it's hard to know what to expect.
Strategies - or lack of them - have been HR's achilles heel for a long time, but it's also the reason they could actually do well in Helsinki. When they win it's due to superior individual play and some smart mid-round calls by Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow. That is doable even with the amount of practice they've gotten in, and I can promise you this isn't a team any of the three above them will take lightly in Helsinki.
First round match against PENTA will be a big test for HR, and I don't expect it to be easy by any means. Realistically it could go either way, but you probably have to favor the more experienced team at this point. If they face volgare they should win withut issues, and Virtus.pro match will be another toss-up. They could top the group and make the grand final, or crash out tomorrow.
Prediction: 2nd in group A
Player to watch: Egor "flamie" Vasilyev
With Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov seemingly fallen off the track of being one of the world's best, a lot of weight is suddenly on flamie's shoulders to perform. He is likely going to be the top fragger of HellRaisers, a legitimate top ten team. It's a lot of pressure, but he has put up numbers before, and will have to again, if HR wish to be in the tournament on Saturday.
HR will need flamie to rack up kills
PENTA (denis, kRYSTAL, nex, Spiidi, strux1)
Personally I am most looking forward to seeing PENTA play this weekend. They played fairly well at DreamHack Winter, where they made the quarter-finals, and then showcased solid Counter-Strike at Acer A-Split Invitational in December, beating mousesports a couple of times.
They've made two roster changes since DreamHack, but seemingly both for the better. They added - "nex" and Hendrik "strux1" Goetzendorff from Planetkey Dynamics, and especially the former has looked really strong, and even like a potential break through player in 2015.
PENTA has a tough group, but it's very much possible for them to get out of it. They came within a few rounds of beating HellRaisers in SLTV StarSeries XII, and all they need is a few rounds to go the other way to come out on top. They likely won't top Virtus.pro, but simply making the playoffs would be a good stepping stone for the Germans.
Prediction: 3rd in group A
Player to watch: - "nex"
Though nex played like garbage at DreamHack Winter with Planetkey Dynamics, it's hard to hold him responsible when almost the entire team played so poorly. He will have to be the star in PENTA for them to make the playoffs, and he has shown himself capable of carrying that weight.
nex has a chance to break out in 2015
mousesports (chrisJ, gob b, LEGIJA, Troubley, zonixx)
mousesports surprised most of the scene, including yours truly, by cutting allu in favor of Michele "zonixx" Köhler and Tobias "Troubley" Tabbert. The latter is a skilled player and a solid addition to mouz, but zonixx's career highlights began and ended with the IEM VI Global Challenge Guangzhou grand final against fnatic. He must be a favored teammate of Fatih "gob b" Dayik, but I'm not sure he is skilled enough for mouz to compete with the big dogs.
gob b has led the team to wins over Titan and Natus Vincere in ESEA Invite Season 18, but aside from that this team has been nothing but disappointing for around five to six months. Chris "chrisJ" de Jong is a perennial underperformer when it comes to offline tournaments, Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić has never been much of a fragger, and gob b isn't a strong player individually in CS:GO. In other words, mousesports changed skill to leadership, but now they lack the former -- badly.
In round one mouz will take on NiP in a match that is bound to end badly. The most interesting game will be against 3DMAX - if they do actually meet - and former star player allu. It's anyone's game, and would actually be one of the most interesting match-ups of ASUS ROG. Titan is beatable, but mouz are not favored.
Prediction: 3rd in group B
Player to watch: Chris "chrisJ" de Jong
Though chrisJ has - deservedly - gained fame for being much better online than offline, he has at times showcased solid play in real tournaments and if mouz are to ever get top placings, he will - too, together with Troubley - have to put up big numbers. This team lacks skill, and chrisJ is the only player who can truly make a difference against the best teams.
chrisJ must step up in offline events
3DMAX (allu, disturbed, KHRN, natu, stonde)
3DMAX are the only Finnish team in attendance at ASUS ROG, which is held at the Finnish capital. The home crowd definitely helped Joona "natu" Leppänen's team overcome Nostalgie in a three map thriller at ASUS ROG Summer, but this time the competition is so much tougher that even if they do gain an advantage from the crowd, it won't be enough to make the grand final.
With allu on the team it's always possible that 3DMAX shocks everyone by beating Titan and/or mousesports, but it's not very likely. They defeated Epsilon online last night, but other than that their results have been depressing with losses coming in against No Problem and k1ck.
This team needs strong play from their three best players allu, Jesse "KHRN" Grandell and Taneli "disturbed" Veikkola to make it through. allu's supporting cast is even weaker than in mousesports, where he struggled to make a difference. Tom "stonde" Glad has little experience but must be able to perform to not sink to ship. They aren't likely to make the playoffs, but a long shot is still in play, depending on their star.
Prediction: 4th in group B
Player to watch: Aleksi "allu" Jalli
Statistically allu became one of the world's best players last year, and his performance at Gfinity 3 - especially in the quarter-final against fnatic - was awe-inspiring. He can beat teams all by himself, and for 3DMAX to do well in Helsinki, he will have to.
allu could face his former team in Helsinki
volgare (alexrad, bodito, flash, FoDa, gabesson)
volgare snuck in ASUS ROG via the online qualifier, where they drew a favorable bracket early on and then defeated unu.AiN (now Copenhagen Wolves) for the second spot in the main tournament in Helsinki, marking the first international event with some top teams in attendance for the Hungarians.
The Hungarians are best known for constantly tinkering with their lineup, and though they had a solid showing in the online qualifier, it's hard to believe teams will make similar mistakes at ASUS ROG, for which they will be much better shape in than unu.AiN was for the qualifier a few weeks ago.
ASUS ROG should be a solid learning opportunity for volgare, but it's doubtful it can be much more than that. Stil, everyone has to start somewhere and this could be a good chance for volgare to gain some experience in international play, and with a few more events under their belts they could start competing for playoff spots.
Prediction: 4th in group A
Player to watch: Gábor "gabesson" Málovics
gabesson was volgare's best player in the deciding online qualifier match, where they took down Michael "Friis" Jørgensen's unu.AiN. Viktor "flash" Tamás Bea has a better career rating than him, but gabesson being five years older should give him an edge in an offline setting.
HLTV.org will be on-site in Helsinki to provide you with full coverage of the $25,000 CS:GO tournament of ASUS ROG Winter 2015, including video interviews, statistics, and hot matches.