SLTV StarSeries XII preview
It is time to take an in-depth look at the six teams competing this weekend at the SLTV StarSeries XII Finals in Kiev in our official preview.
SLTV StarSeries XII represents a lot of firsts for the long-running series of CS:GO tournaments: there will be six teams present at the offline finals instead of four, the prize pot stands at $50,000 for this season—an increase of $15,000 over SLTV XI—including $12,000 in travel support, and a wide panoply of hosts, casters and analysts will be on hand for both Russian and English speaking viewers in order to provide an optimal spectating experience.
HLTV.org will also be on-site at the Kiev Cybersport Arena—our first time there since covering the IEM Global Challenge for CS 1.6— in order to cover the tournament.
HLTV.org returns to the Kiev CyberSport Arena for SLTV XII
Let us return to business however and broach the subject of this article, which is to discuss and analyse the performance of the six teams who will be competing at SLTV StarSeries XII.
Along the way, I expect to augur the fortunes of said teams and predict their placings, which is somewhat in the spirit of Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen's previews, although I cannot guarantee any measure of accuracy or success in my own whimsical guesses.
A brief note on the format of the tournament so that it will be clear: SLTV StarSeries will function along a double elimination system with all matches being played as best-of-three's. Because EnVyUs and Virtus.pro placed first in their groups during the regular season, they are given an automatic bye in the first round and await the winners of Na'Vi vs. TSM and NiP vs. Titan, respectively.
The entire bracket can be found on our event page here for reference. And now, without further ado, let us take a look at the six teams and try and imagine their performances at this weekend's event.
EnVyUs (Happy, shox, NBK-, kioShiMa, SmithZz)
In a spring season of concurrent offline finals each weekend, the "#BoysInBlue" are coming in to Kiev with the most recent gold medal hanging heavily upon their necks. Granted, they won Gfinity Spring Masters I without their arch Swedish rival fnatic at the event, and with a somewhat diminished NiP—and a totally deflated Virtus.pro to boot—whimpering out at the grand finals.
Regardless, 2015 has so far been the champagne era for nV, who have been playing an inaugural year under a new organisation that is working out the way only dreams usually do for organisations that dip their toes in CS:GO waters. After all, the seas are filled with the hulls of plenty of newly arriving orgs whose teams went under or continue to flounder.
Part of the Frenchmen's success lies in their chimerical ability to rotate their firepower to an unparalleled precedent in the CS:GO scene. In recent grand finals and semi-finals, every single player on nV can be found in the top-two slot in terms of player rating and team impact.
Even Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux, who by his own admission would be the most support-geared player on the team, can show up with the highest rating in some matches (although admittedly this example is at the expense of his team underperforming).
Although the two online games for FACEIT League 2015 this past week did not result in victories for the French squad, I'm willing to chalk that up to event exhaustion and the continued narrowing of the meta-game at the highest level of play. I simply do not see EnVyUs not making the finals at SLTV XII, barring a major upset or some team turning up to an unprecedented degree.
The players to keep an eye out for are in my mind Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer and Richard "shox" Papillon who both have within them a god-mode switch that they can flip on on certain maps. Granted, Happy's playstyle as IGL can look a little like baiting at times, but unlike the matchmaking levels where baiters and lurkers are synonymous, the Frenchman has a massive impact on executing flanks and setting up ambushes for opponents.
Any player from EnVyUs can be in dangerous form this weekend
If Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt and Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey can show up as well, then the podium is merely waiting to be stood upon by nV. However, the team's weakness does lie in individual underperfomances, as well as the possibility of going on tilt (a weakness which Nordic teams are usually less prone to) and losing their composure.
Regardless, I have high hopes for EnVyUs to win gold in Kiev; if they flame out, it would be interesting to speculate on where things are beginning to crumble for the French team.
NiP (f0rest, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt, allu)
The famous old words that "NiP will need a top AWPer" are somehow playing out in the present with a higher focus on both of the abovementioned players using the Big Green. However, in this directional switch we can also find a dint in NiP's armour in my opinion.
Since the addition of allu, the Ninjas have continued to regain their old form as a top-three team and have surely by now broken into the CS:GO Trinity due to Virtus.pro's recent slacking. Second place finishes at both ESL One Katowice 2015 and Gfinity Spring Masters I cement this impression although at the expense of marking NiP as the official "2nd placers" of CS:GO considering the high number of such finishes in 2015.
Aside from allu, another player of note recently has been Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund, as can be witnessed for example in the infographic put out by ESL after Katowice. His fragging ability has been consistent and strong recently, though not near the 2012-2013 levels of GeT_RiGhT's play yet. Another player to look out for has been Richard "Xizt" Landström, who has started to move up in player rating in a quiet and yet dedicated manner.
GeT_RiGhT was looking glum at Gfinity but performing generally well
The two "F's" of the team—Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg and Adam "friberg" Friberg—have been noticeably diminished at recent events (in playoff games especially), and the 26-year-old f0rest is particularly a notch down from his level two years ago.
Whether that decline is the effect of f0rest's increased age compared to the newer competition, a recent lack of motivation, or his changed role in the new lineup cannot possibly be objectively measured, however the star himself must still be aware of his crucial role in winning key matches.
At the same time, there is no "rating" in team as it were, and NiP still demonstrate an insane level of determination in the matches that matter, to the point of demoralising other teams. Their FACEIT matches this week resulted in wins over two long-time opponents (EnVyUs and Virtus.pro) and if the Swedish band-of-brothers can keep the momentum going, I see them making the finals despite the high level of competition present.
Virtus.pro (Snax, byali, NE0, pashaBiceps, TaZ)
The Poles are definitely the team I fear for going into this event, considering their recent track record. To be fair, a top four finish at a major and third place at Gfinity Spring Masters I are something most teams can only hope for, however we are talking of a team with top-three aspirations who continue to vacillate between being there and not being there.
Granted, Virtus.pro have reasonable excuses for the placings they achieved at the aforementioned tournaments. At ESL One Katowice 2015, they once again seemed to meld into the role of home town heroes until they ran into the Swedish steamroller named fnatic, who are currently scarily redefining the upper bounds of high level play in terms of raw skill and round "winability" potential. Luckily, the black-and-orange donning Swedes will be absent from this event.
And unfortunately for Virtus in the case of Gfinity, Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski came down with a sickness for the event, forcing the Poles to play with stand-in Michał "MICHU" Müller. Considering that the 21-year-old Snax has been functioning as a sort of hard carry for Virtus.pro in some games, it can only be understood that the team hit a wall in the semi-finals versus a resurgent NiP.
Overall, Filip "NEO" Kubski has been the most surprising player for Virtus.pro recently, and he showed up in monstrous form at ESL One Katowice 2015. On other hand, some players such as Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski and Paweł "byali" Bieliński have been worryingly absent recently, particularly the former, whose level of play is in a bit of an aerodynamic stall at the current moment.
Virtus.pro are not a team that count finishes in a quantitative sense and track progression on a graph and plan accordingly. They are a team that either wins or loses; if they lose they feel like they're the worst team in the world, if they win they celebrate like kings. This factor makes them one of the most dangerous CS:GO teams in the world, because you can never tell when they'll hop onto the server and suddenly make an absolute mockery of their opponents.
TaZ & co. only like the feeling of dominating the server
I think the conditions are perfect for a strong run for VP—they're underperforming at recent offline finals, their online results have been volatile this past week, and they've been generally quiet on the social media front—I won't say I'm sure they can make the finals, but they would be my next choice outside of NiP.
Na'Vi (GuardiaN, Edward, seized, Zeus, flamie)
Na'Vi are the kind of team which give me an analyst's hesitation and possibly even fear, as their relative lack of visibility, home crowd advantage at SLTV tournaments, and recent lineup change are the kind of factors which blow down straw homes of predictions faster than the big bad wolf.
Although expected by many, the stepping-down of longtime player Sergey "starix" Ischuk to the role of coach and replacing him with Russian talent Egor "flamie" Vasilyev post-Katowice brings a whole cache of firepower to this team.
It remains to be seen what flamie's offline impact will be
Despite their sloth-like reluctance to take part in online matches, Na'Vi recently found themselves playing in the CCS Kick-Off Season for good reason, considering the high prize pot at the end of the season.
Looking over the stats for Na'Vi, I can't see anything that stands out in player rating or performance. The "GuardiaN carry" was in effect during the match versus FlipSid3 but he went mute against both TSM and fnatic, whereas Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev put in strong work against both teams despite the eventual losses to both.
If Na'Vi want to perform at SLTV XII, they will need to utilise their Russian stand-in flamie to his maximum potential; hopefully in addition, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko is both in tip-top shape tactically and performance-wise.
I truly do not know what to expect from Na'Vi at this event; they have made the grand finals of the last four StarSeries events, an insane home country consistency (although considering the previous tournaments were all composed of only four teams, the odds for such a run are slightly more likely). This run includes a win during SLTV IX and close grand finals versus fnatic and LDLC, in SLTV X and XI respectively.
I'm going to bookmark Na'Vi at fourth place due to their quarter-finals placing at ESL One Katowice 2015 and lack of other exposure but in all honesty they can end up on top of the podium if they play to their potential.
TSM (device, dupreeh, cajunb, Xyp9x, karrigan)
There's a pretentious adjective that comes to mind when I think of TSM's (and the previous dignitas') lineup: Sisyphean. The word is of course related to the tragic figure of Sisyphus in Greek mythology; punished for his wicked ways, he was forced to roll a boulder up a hill only to watch it continually roll back down for eternity.
TeamSoloMid are not wicked, but their limbo-like curse of petering out during semi-finals (and also by extension, losing to their arch-rivals NiP, which is another constant pattern with this Danish core) seems destined to continue playing out for the near future.
Unless of course, and we should place an asterisk next to the phrase "of course," TSM can utilise the stacked amount of firepower on their team to good effect in the games that matter.
The biggest question mark in this field is of course Nicolai "device" Reedtz. It really does seem like someone is spiking the Kool-Aid at the nineteen-year-old's Danish residence, as he turned up in gargantuan form for the team's online matches this past week against fnatic and Na'Vi. As a result, the team directly qualified for the CCS offline finals and finished off by topping the Blue Group, sending favourites fnatic down to the last-chance qualifier.
It's always an immense pleasure to see device turn up, but he often belies hope
If device can get rolling, maybe TSM will be able to arrest that boulder's fall atop the hill. Additionally, both Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen and René "cajunb" Borg were in strong form during the CCS Kick-Off Season, although if we look at the team's results against NiP in their most recent face-off during ESL One Katowice 2015 it was only the latter cajunb and at times support, at times fragger Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth who performed well in the series.
The addition of in-game-leader Finn "karrigan" Andersen seems to have come to some fruition, as the Danes can no longer be counted as a CT-only team. If their offline-shy players can show up to SLTV StarSeries XII and execute some of these new terrorist set-ups, I can see TSM making the semi-finals.
The fight from there becomes much harder however, as both NiP and EnVyUs have the necessary discipline and firepower to engage a Danish meltdown. On the other hand, I think TSM are more statistically likely to end up in the bottom two spots (compared to Virtus.pro and Na'Vi) in such a stacked tournament, so from a safe gambler's perspective I'll put them in a 5th-6th finish.
Titan (kennyS, apEX, RpK, Maniac, Ex6TenZ)
You have to feel a bit for Titan when it comes to their 2015 track record. The French-Belgian-Swiss consortium's group stage sinking at ESL One Katowice 2015 was truly like watching the Titanic ramming into an iceberg with many chances of recovery beforehand.
On top of that, given a chance to prove themselves afresh, Titan were forced to withdraw from Gfinity Spring Masters I due to very tragic and understandable circumstances for one of their players.
Now, heading into Kiev and SLTV StarSeries XII, I can't help but feel apprehensive for Titan's chances at the event. They're easily the team I would place in sixth place if forced to specify my predictions down to a T.
And yet, they're not easily discounted: for one, they boast a human being whom I would consider semi-divine in CS:GO, Kenny "kennyS" Schrub. Additionally, their two FACEIT matches this past week saw a win over their stronger countrymen EnVyUs and a closely fought overtime battle against Virtus.pro.
It's good to see that Titan can still compete and function beyond the misfortunes that have befallen them recently, but they will truly need to make the miracle run to win here. On the other hand, they have a number of exploitable weaknesses that teams are sure to make use of such as shutting down the wunderkind kennyS or counter-stratting Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans's set-ups.
Titan need a little more hype for this event than a peace sign
If Titan want a medal from this event, their other players better show up ready to frag, particularly Dan "apEX" Madesclaire and longtime veteran and recent re-addition Cédric "RpK" Guipouy. But for now, the hopes are slim for the Gallic crew.
HLTV.org will be on-site from early tomorrow morning for the first match of the $50,000 twelfth season of SLTV StarSeries, providing statistics, photos, and breaking news as it happens.