ESL One Cologne Group C preview
Our pre-event coverage for ESL One Cologne 2015 continues with a preview of Group C, in which fnatic, Team eBettle, Titan, and Natus Vincere are competing.
ESL One Cologne will run from August 20-23 and the first day will unfold with characteristic GSL-style groups. Teams will play the two opening matches and then the winners will play an Upper Bracket match—from there the winner moves into the quarter-finals and the other three teams will be part of the remaining 12 to be reshuffled into new groups.
A full overview of the ESL One Cologne schedule can be found here. Group C will begin after the winners matches for Groups A & B have played out, approximately around 18:15.
We are now going to take a look at the teams that will be fighting on day one that are in Group C, a group which features a tournament favourite, a newcomer, a potential darkhorse, and a legitimate contender.
It's no secret that many eyes will be on this most recent of major champions, fnatic
In an article in its August 1st issue, The Economist compared the recent overtaking of the hedge funds industry by the steadier exchange-traded funds industry via a car analogy: "It is a victory for the humble—for the investment equivalent of a puttering hatchback over a gleaming Porsche," the newspaper duly noted.
Similarly, the rise of fnatic over the past two years is a humble victory for simplicity over complexity in the meta-game of CS:GO, where basic ingredients of skill and teamwork outfavour the "hedge fund complexity" of tactics-oriented teams.
The champions of ESL One Katowice 2015 have also weathered a few shocking upsets here and there this summer, much like the rise and fall of a stock market. And yet, the team's stock continues to grow, and they enter this major as the favourite in the eyes of many.
The Swedish powerhouse began the summer with a favourable victory at DreamHack Tours over frequent rivals EnVyUs. However, in that same month, a potential Achilles heel began to be indentified for the team as the Danes of TSM took out fnatic in the semi-finals of FACEIT Stage 1 and went on to win the event.
fnatic continued to win events in June and July, with some hiccups along the way
Around the beginning of June, the team dispensed with the services of Jonatan "Devilwalk" Lundberg as coach, and brought on past analyst Viktor "vuggo" Jendeby to be the new coach for the team. Around the same time, star player (and continuing candidate for best player in the world according to some) Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer was put out of commission for two weeks due to ear surgery.
Despite fnatic making the finals of fragbite Masters, the team were once again defeated—and even more conclusively so—with a score of 3-1 by TSM in the grand final. A "fnatic killer" had been found.
fnatic then went into the second stop of the DreamHack Open series, DreamHack Summer in Jönköping, Sweden, as heavy favourites, especially in their semi-final match against Swedish rivals NiP.
The team won the final over Na`Vi with a score of 2-0 and added another trophy to an aleady bulging cabinet. In an interview with HLTV.org, olofmeister meanwhile elaborated on the Swedes' need to analyse TSM in greater depth.
fnatic then took a long summer vacation, missing events such as StarSeries XIII finals, Gfinity Summer Masters I, and ESWC 2015. The team however qualified for the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 finals with flying colours (winning $18,000 as top of the European online division), and so the Swedes jetted off to Cologne in the beginning of July.
Widely seen as favourites yet again to win the $100,000 first place prize, fnatic were severely put to the test during this event. They were heavily out-stratted on de_mirage in the opening match against CLG, with the Swedes losing 12-16 to the Canadian-American underdogs.
This result put the team on a best-of-one collision course with TSM, who were narrowly edged out in a 16-14 lower bracket nailbiter by fnatic. The team trumped Keyd Stars with more ease (although one map went into overtime) and defeated erstwhile rivals Virtus.pro in the semifinals 2-1, coming from behind to do so.
The grand final against Cloud9 saw fnatic win 3-1, however three of the four maps were extremely close affairs. In an interview with HLTV.org, Jesper "JW" Wecksell and coach vuggo admitted the series could have gone the other way, an admission of Cloud9's rising clout in the scene.
Despite close series, fnatic cashed in this summer in terms of prize money
This American clout came out in full force at the FACEIT Stage 2 finals at DreamHack Valencia the next weekend. Much like the Pro League finals, fnatic had to climb to the semifinals from a back foot after losing the best-of-one opener to rivals TSM. The Swedes had to settle with a semifinals finish as the aforementioned Cloud9 team defeated them 2-0 in a tense series (de_train in particular was an overtime extravaganza).
The team skipped attending the CEVO-P Season 7 finals and took August off to prepare for the Cologne major.
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||22||5||40||1.21||Winner (2x)|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||23||5||38||1.15||Winner (Katowice 2015)|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||20||5||40||1.11||Winner (2x)|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||21||5||38||1.05||Winner (Katowice 2015)|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||24||5||40||0.87||Winner (2x)|
fnatic leverage an insane level of experience when it comes to majors. The team features the only three players to have so far won two majors, although later additions KRIMZ and olofmeister were instrumental to the Katowice 2015 victory, when it could be argued that the skill ceiling was higher among all the teams.
All five players have also made the playoffs of every single major they've attended, with KRIMZ and olofmeister doing so in LGB at both DreamHack Winter 2013 and EMS One Katowice 2014. In fact, the latter two players played a huge role in LGB's shock defeat of fnatic in the quarter-finals of Katowice 2014, a result which propelled LGB to the semifinals and likely facilitated the later transfer of players.
flusha has the best major rating among fnatic's players
DreamHack Winter 2014 is a bit of a Bermuda triangle for the team, where a quarter-finals comeback victory over LDLC using a bit of map trickery and boosting on de_overpass led to community uproar and an eventual forfeit. The team have likely never lived that moment down, mostly because many favoured fnatic to win that major as well.
22-year-old flusha, much maligned and equally impactful in games, stands with the highest major rating among his teammates, even surpassing the flexible fragging of olofmeister. With upset losses featuring prominently this summer, flusha will be just as needed in the skill department as the team's two former LGB hitmen.
Team eBettle is easily the most unexpected of all the teams present to be attending Cologne as well as one of the largest underdogs at the event (alongside Immunity and FlipSid3 Tactics in this author's opinion). However, this team packs a lot of Polish punch on its lineup and should certainly not be underestimated.
Team eBettle gained a sponsorship from the eBettle organisation, a Cyprus-based betting company, after they secured a spot at the European offline qualifier for ESL One Cologne as INSHOCK.
Tracking this team's core as INSHOCK proves as little difficult, as the Polish scene below Virtus.pro has been on a continual crash course throughout 2015, with roster changes falling quick and fast.
However, an INSHOCK team with two of the current eBettle players, Damian "Furlan" Kislowski and Bartosz "Hyper" Wolny, attended the ESL One Katowice 2015 Main Qualifier, where the Poles lost 11-16 to Keyd Stars and 2-16 to Cloud9.
The team next attended Copenhagen Games 2015, where they passed through three successive group stages and made the playoff bracket, ultimately losing to the Norwegian LGB lineup in the round-of-16 (thus going out in 13-16th place).
Following this disappointing run, the team began to restructure internally, firstly replacing Paweł "RED" Szymański and moving him to a manger position and bringing in talent Dominik "GruBy" Swiderski, who had once played for ESC Gaming.
rallen's revenge over his ex-Gamers2 comrades is complete
The team then unexpectedly (and ironically, considering the way things have turned out) lost star player Michał "MICHU" Müller, who went on to Gamers2 to try and fulfill his ambitions. This loss allowed INSCHOCK to bring in the seasoned Polish player Piotr "peet" Ćwikliński to fill the team's ranks.
The final stage of restructuring took place when Golden Five veteran Mariusz "Loord" Cybulski decided to retire (note: also a little ironic in light of recent events) and Karol "rallen" Rodowicz, the downtrodden former player of Gamers2, was called up to take his place.
The team immediately delivered results by qualifying in the online pre-qualifier #1 for the offline European qualifier to Cologne.
The eBettle sponsorship followed and the Poles did one better by qualifying for the major in a Cinderella-esque run at the offline qualifier: beating Finnish Epiphany 22-19 in the Group B quarter-finals, then HellRaisers 16-14 in the semifinals, and finally beating Titan 25-23 to qualify.
Perhaps, this miracle qualifier run will be solace enough for the Polish team, and allow them to ride out a high of good feelings for the rest of 2015 no matter how they perform at Cologne. And yet, the team have proven to be hungry for greater things, as the recent grand final win at Assembly Summer 2015 over ROCCAT showed.
|Karol "rallen" Rodowicz||21||1||3||1.04||Group stage (DH Winter 2014)|
|Dominik "GruBy" Swiderski||20||-||-||-||-|
|Damian "Furlan" Kislowski||20||-||-||-||-|
|Bartosz "Hyper" Wolny||25||-||-||-||-|
|Piotr "peet" Ćwikliński||24||-||-||-||-|
eBettle do not have much major experience to go around, with ESL One Cologne 2015 being the first major for the organisation as well as for four of the rookie players.
Only rallen was present at a major before, DreamHack Winter 2014, where his ESC team (who went on to become Gamers2) survived its elimination match against Planetkey and became memorable for taking NiP to a very close Group C decider game on de_cache (a game where rallen had the highest rating on his team).
eBettle's GruBy also has the distinction of being the youngest rookie at the event, at 20 years and 293 days of age.
18:15 fnatic vs. Team eBettle
Unless eBettle have a training regimen that would make Rocky faint or access to the world's largest supply of unadulterated Adderall, they will lose this game.
The "little brother" of the French scene, as well as the team that objectively benefited less from this summer's French shuffle, Titan head into Group C with a formidable task ahead of them.
There is a quality of tragedy to Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans' teams. The CSS VeryGames mastermind, who also saw a high share of success in late 2013 in CS:GO, has seen his various VeryGames and Titan lineups exit the group stage of three of the four majors he has attended to date, despite his team being assumed top-four contenders in some of these events. There are high indications that this trend will continue at ESL One Cologne 2015.
The team have actually had a fairly quiet year since they brought in Cédric "RpK" Guipouy in late 2014. Following the dismal results of ESL One Katowice 2015, where Titan lost 14-16 to EnVyUs in the opener and then 4-16 to PENTA in the losers match, the team's event attendance has been sporadic.
Titan managed to severely test fnatic in the semifinals of Gfinity Spring Masters II and also had the distinction of finishing in third place (once again losing to fnatic) at the ESEA Season 18 Global Finals as well as making the grand finals of the ESL Winter Pro League in the months prior.
The team were invited to DreamHack Open Summer where Titan survived the group stage and put Na`Vi once again to the test in the semifinal, with the Eastern European team walking away the narrow victor. The next weekend, the team lost to dignitas at Gfinity Summer Masters I and had to make do with a group stage exit from the tournament.
Expectations are low for Titan—that just might be a good thing
With occasional work commitments still an issue for some of Titan's player, the French-Belgian-Swiss team seemed at a lack of ideas on how to improve. The first step was certainly getting rid of those very same work commitments.
And then came the swap. With AWPer kennyS and entryfragger Dan "apEX" Madesclaire out of the team, EnVyUs' former players Richard "shox" Papillon and Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux were brought in to fill the void. The team showed some struggle at first at the ESL One Cologne European qualifier (especially versus groupmates eBettle) but ultimately wiped the floor with LGB to qualify for the major.
|Richard "shox" Papillon||23||5||32||1.11||Winner (DH Winter 2014)|
|Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux||26||5||31||1.00||Winner (DH Winter 2014)|
|Mathieu "Maniac" Quiquerez||25||4||20||0.97||1/2 final (Cologne 2014)|
|Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans||25||4||17||0.88||1/2 final (DH Winter 2013)|
|Cédric "RpK" Guipouy||26||1||2||0.86||Group stage (Katowice 2015)|
Latest additions shox and SmithZz were part of the LDLC lineup which won DreamHack Winter 2014 (whose remaining players are still on EnVyUs). Their reunion with Ex6TenZ will no doubt gingerly remind all involved of the shocking group stage exit at EMS One Katowice 2014, which left many of the players crying in front of their computers after the HellRaisers loss.
Finally,RpK, at 26 years of age, has minimal major experience despite his years upon years of competitive experience, as the player retired before the major system was implemented in CS:GO and only resurfaced in time for ESL One Katowice 2015, where RpK's impact was minimal.
The final team of this group, Natus Vincere, are one of the fastest risers of 2015 and can be reasonably expected to make the top 4 if they are sufficiently prepared.
Since enlisting fragging talent Egor "flamie" Vasilyev in April (and in doing so, moving veteran Sergey "starix" Ischuk to a coaching role), the team have begun to steadily win events, beginning with the ESL Pro League Winter finals in April.
The fragbite Masters Season 4 finals took place at the beginning of June in Stockholm, Sweden and that's where Na`Vi flew to take on three other teams: fnatic, TSM, and HellRaisers. Despite defeating their CIS-region rivals, Na`Vi went down to competition it likely found more desirable, losing series to both fnatic and TSM.
The team stayed behind in Sweden in anticipation of DreamHack Open Summer the next weekend, where Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko and his men made a successful group stage run before losing the semifinals to fnatic. The theme of the early summer was that Na`Vi could dominate teams below the skill level of TSM and fnatic, but had yet to challenge these elite contenders successfully.
Some basic issues continue to dog Na`Vi
Na`Vi returned in late June to their home base of Kiev for the SLTV StarSeries XIII finals where, after a weak offline group performance, the team went on a strong playoff run that included blasting away red-hot FlipSid3 and then defeating EnVyUs 3-1 in a close series. The French elite team had been downed, but fnatic and TSM remained elusive.
The next tournament was ESWC 2015, which happened to feature several notable teams such as fnatic, TSM, and Virtus.pro dropping out, leading us at HLTV.org to conclude that Na`Vi were big favourites going into the event.
Painful visa issues aside, the team went undefeated in its group stage at ESWC against Titan, SK, and Luminosity. In the quarter-finals, Natus Vincere sent Renegades back down under, whereas the semifinals saw the elite Russo-Ukrainian-Slovak team once again tell FlipSid3 to keep dreaming.
In our text interview with flamie, the 18-year-old mentioned wanting to see Cloud9 in the grand final. Ask and ye shall receive, so the saying goes, and the two rising teams faced off in a grand final that saw two maps go to 30 rounds; at the end of the battle, Na`Vi emerged victorious and with their third title of 2015.
Both finalists then flew to Valencia for the FACEIT Stage 2 finals and successfully navigated groups. However, whereas Cloud9 managed to upset fnatic in their semifinal match-up, Na`Vi were once again stumped by TSM in the other semifinal, albeit with the consolation of taking a map off the eventual event winners (16-6 on de_mirage).
Na`Vi were once again favoured to win the team's final event of the summer, the CEVO-P Season 7 finals in Columbus, Ohio. However, as is often the case with a certain zany Polish lineup, Virtus.pro suddenly appeared at this tournament playing at a higher level than the team had showcased at the FACEIT Stage 2 finals.
With VP winning the group over Na`Vi 2-0, Na`Vi had to fight Tempo Storm in the decider match (a game which came a little too close for comfort); moving on into the playoffs, Na`Vi breezed past mousesports and went into a grand final where Virtus.pro stood ready and waiting.
|Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev||27||4||21||1.10||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács||24||4||21||1.08||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Denis "seized" Kostin||20||5||23||1.04||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Egor "flamie" Vasilyev||18||2||4||0.96||Group stage (2x)|
|Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko||27||5||23||0.93||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
Youngster flamie has only two group stage major attendances and an unexpectedly low rating, explained by the overall dismal performance of the teams he attended with: dAT team at ESL One Cologne 2014 and HellRaisers at ESL One Katowice 2015, with both teams going out in groups.
Before flamie's entrance to the squad, Na`Vi were actually the oldest per average team at ESL One Katowice 2015 (~25.2 years of age). That event saw the team make the quarter-finals where they lost to EnVyUs, mirroring the semifinals of DreamHack Winter 2014 where Natus Vincere lost to the same team under the LDLC name.
Edward returned to his former organisation for EMS One Katowice 2014, and the team brought in Slovakian hotshot GuardiaN, however the team had not found enough time to play cohesively and once again went out in groups.
It was only at ESL One Cologne 2014 where Na`Vi began to play at a respectable level again (to the organisation's standard) and made the quarter-finals of the major, even taking eventual finalists fnatic to a close series.
19:40 Titan vs. Natus Vincere
This Group C opener is not as one-sided as first meets the eye. In the latest offline face-off at ESWC, Natus Vincere eviscerated Titan 16-2 on de_mirage. However, we will never know how motivated at that point in time Titan could have been, or when the idea of the Titan-EnVyUs swap was first floated around the French scene.
Titan are obviously equipped to anti-strat and play well against Na`Vi. In a sampling of their most recent online matches (which can be seen in the head to head section), Titan have taken the upper edge in three out of those four online matches, with a particular affinity for de_overpass.
It is hard to draw any real conclusion considering the two new players who, as already mentioned, joined Titan from EnVyUs. But earlier offline series do show that Na`Vi have the upper hand: the DreamHack Open Summer semifinal and the ESL Pro League Winter grand final.
We would have to go back to the StarSeries XII finals to find a conclusive Titan offline victory, where a dismal performance from Na`Vi saw Titan take them out in the lower semifinal.
Na`Vi will need both Zeus and starix to keep the team on an even keel if things start to go south. flamie in particular is still prone to overheating in tough situations. However, for all intents and purposes, Natus Vincere remain slight favourites.
The formula seems to go as before: if one can break through Ex6TenZ' strategic wizardry with aim and aggression, the checkmate is only a matter of time.
21:05 Winner C1 vs. Winner C2
The most likely match of this group, fnatic vs. Natus Vincere, is one worth salivating over.
As mentioned in the Na`Vi section of this preview, fnatic have the leg up on a team that is no doubt frustrated by many encounters and many defeats at the deft hands of the Swedes. Even in terms of the simple meta-game, fnatic's coordinated two-man, three-man entry/pick style is devastatingly effective against the well-researched set pieces that Zeus likes to deploy.
Opening up the field to give players like GuardiaN and flamie more wiggle room for aggressive play has fixed some of that weakness, however, like a carefully constructed house of cards, Na`Vi can still topple if one of their site's defenses on the CT side is opened up.
A winners match showdown between these two teams is likely
This kind of factor boils down to the levelheadedness of a team, and if Na`Vi want to kick fnatic back into the day 2 group stages in this best-of-one, they better have spent some time on emotional training as well.
What happens if eBettle do the unthinkable and upset fnatic? First of all, HLTV.org's servers will set on fire.
When we come back online however, we will be looking at two possible match-ups for the Polish team, one more favourable than the other. eBettle have already shown that they can play ball with Titan, and are one of the only teams to currently have experience playing against the current lineup as it is rather than the old one.
In a worrying omen for Titan, it does appear that eBettle can out-aim Titan when it matters, led by the high-powered fragging of Hyper.
As for the equally unlikely Na`Vi versus eBettle match-up, something tells the author that the runner's high of defeating fnatic and then going up against another team that is well-oiled and has frag-heavy players will spell the end for eBettle. Chalk it up to the maxim that "lightning doesn't strike twice."
The final potential match-up is the second most likely: fnatic facing off against a resurgent Titan who manage to upset Na`Vi. Prognosis here is tricky: on one hand fnatic's loose aggressive style is similarly dangerous to Titan's set pieces; on the other hand, seasoned fnatic-battlers shox and SmithZz won't let any of fnatic's usual tricks for map control game the team.
Thus, although Na`Vi against fnatic may be the more high-level, intense match of the two possibilities fnatic faces, a possible match against Titan is likely to have more cerebral mind games if certain factors align correctly.
HLTV.org will continue to release previews for each group of ESL One Cologne 2015 with the histories, match-ups, and major stats of each team explored in depth, so make sure to stay posted to our news page for these previews as they are published.
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