DH Open Austin preview
Starting Friday and running until Sunday the city of Austin, Texas will play host to the second DreamHack Open event of the circuit—the first one ever on North American soil—which has become an American affair featuring eight teams with almost all of the players hailing from the New World.
The DreamHack ZOWIE Open in Austin will kick-off a busy month in Counter Strike as the Regional Minor in Asia will be playing out at the same time as the event in Austin, and will be followed by ESL's Pro League Season 3 finals, ESEA's Premier Finals in North America and Europe, the European Minor at DreamHack Tours, the SL i-League Invitational in Kiev, the North American Minor, and perhaps the most expected event of the season: ELEAGUE Season 1.
s1mple's exit could offer Liquid needed stability
The silence before the storm hasn't necessarily been a time of radio silence however, as the idle rumble of the Counter Strike machine has brought us Alec "Slemmy" White to Cloud9, Ryan "freakazoid" Abadir and Jaryd "summit" Lazar to stand-in for Splyce, and Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev back to Ukraine but without a home.
With $100,000 on the line, of which the champion will take half, the tournament in Austin has ended up as a premier invitational tournament for North American teams. Two groups of four teams have been drafted and will play best-of-ones in their opening matches and the winners' matches. The elimination and decider matches, which are to be played on the second day, will already be best-of-threes, as will the semifinals and final on Sunday.
After a post-Columbus hangover induced collapse at Malmö, where the Major champions had a golden ticket to the number one spot in many a CS world ranking, the Brazilian side will have a chance to set the record straight against a field of very manageable teams after some wound-licking time in California. With Natus Vincere currently topping our charts, Luminosity surely still have a thorn in their side which they can start to pull out by building up their points against the lesser opposition which will be in contention in Austin.
It was perhaps a dash of champions' arrogance that got Luminosity booted out of the Masters in Malmö, as the Major title-holders allowed MOUZ to play Cache thinking if things went awry, as they did, TYLOO would be an easy team to bounce back against. The beasts from the East—named after the mythical hybrid creature that wards off evil and ushers in wealth—had other plans, however, and a 2-1 victory by the Chinese formation sent the Brazilians packing.
The first DreamHack Open of the season, in the German city of Leipzig, was a catalyst for Luminosity; a tournament in which the team was able to make it to the finals for the first time this year (excluding MAX5) after falling in the semifinals at the SL i-League in Minsk. The DreamHack Open circuit could prove to be a talisman for Luminosity were they to keep racking up points at these events, something particularly attainable in Austin which will be absent of their usual nemeses.
Luminosity have to go back to basics
The opening match against Splyce shouldn't be much of a contest, with Luminosity being highly favorited to move out of groups after only two matches. The second match against either CLG or the renovated Cloud9 could prove to be more of a challenge, but with FalleN surely keeping his boys in line after Malmö the Brazilian side should arrive in Austin focused and ready to play.
It will have to be by using the same humble approach that got Luminosity to the top that the Brazilians will get themselves back on their feet, as greater giants have fallen by resting on their laurels and taking their position at the top for granted. While not the most important tournament in the near future a win here is not only necessary but crucial for the team's psyche ahead of ESL's Pro League finals and the impending start of ELEAGUE.
If CLG's goal is to become the best by being the most stable, they might be on to something. Since jdm64's return in June of last year the team has only seen the change of FugLy for Pujan "FNS" Mehta while the same core of players have been together one way or another for years.
This shows in the team's ability to play solid CS, particularly on LAN, but also in its inability to come up with new ideas that will raise their game to the next level, as many lineups have been reaching peak performances in the first few months of existence. Others, however, have shown that there is something to reap from consistency, even if faced with a lot of adversity for a sustained period, as NIP have been showing as of late.
CLG had a great run at the MLG Columbus Major, becoming a Legends team for the first time by making it to the quarterfinals where they eventually lost to local rivals Liquid. CLG were then unable to keep a successful run by falling short at DreamHack Masters in Malmö, despite taking Na`Vi to overtime and taking a particularly inspired GODSENT to overtime in one of the two maps played.
In February, CLG stated they wanted to become the best team in North America this year. A feat, if we don't include the Brazilian teams, that currently seems less and less possible as regional rivals Cloud9 and Liquid will have a chance at proving their worth at the Pro League finals later on in the month. This means CLG will have to unleash their best version in Austin if they want to stay neck-and-neck with their North American rivals, and will have to pay more attention to online play in the future.
CLG to solidify themselves as a top NA side
Their first match will be against Cloud9, a team that has had to dig deep into the bowels of North American CS to try and find some leadership in the form of Slemmy. CLG seem to be in better shape offline as of late, with a 4th place finish at GEC and a quarterfinal run at MLG Columbus, despite an early exit in Malmö. If CLG can impose their will over C9 and close out matches, they should be able to make the playoffs without much trouble.
Cloud9 is coming into DreamHack Austin as somewhat of a question mark. The acquisition of Slemmy came as a surprise since it is uncommon for an organization vying to be North America's best side to take on an inexperienced ESEA Premier player as the team's leader, but desperate times call for desperate measures and C9 needed a shakeup.
Cloud9's move also shows how thirsty for guidance the region is, as in-game leaders are uncommon and perhaps not regarded as highly as they should be. It does feel like a more level headed approach than the signing of yet another pug star could prove fruitful if the team gels correctly.
With Andrew "Irukandji" Timmerman having had more time with the team and Slemmy helping implement a new regimen, anything can happen. The tournament in Austin will be a good way for Cloud9 to try and ease their way back into performing competitively on LAN with a new roster after bombing out of MLG Columbus and GEC earlier this year. Their first match against CLG could set the pace for the team's tournament as they will have to fight tooth and nail to make it through the first two days.
Cloud9 will need their best players, notably shroud and Skadoodle, to be in top form and hitting their shots if this new iteration of the team is to see immediate success, particularly in tight games and high pressure situations which are bound to happen when facing stiff national competition. Cloud9 are definitely not the favored team to win this group, perhaps not even to make it out, but revitalized lineups have been known to upset before.
Splyce have been the butt of many analysts' jokes lately, but the joke will be on everyone else once that sticker money is sitting in the bank. Surreal qualifications to Majors aside, Splyce came out of nowhere and took a spot at the MLG Columbus Major despite not even having qualified for the main qualifier and finally getting a spot due to TheMongolz not being able to secure visas.
After last place finishes at both MLG Columbus and the CEVO Gfinity Season 9 finals in London last week, it has become fairly obvious the team as it stands doesn't have enough firepower to compete at the highest level nationally and much less internationally. Being currently in a state of flux bringing on freakazoid for Abraham "abE" Fazli, who is on vacation, and summit for Andrew "Professor_Chaos" Heintz won't make it any easier, either.
The fact that Splyce are coming into DreamHack Austin with two stand-ins shows all is not well, and it may prove harder for the team to retain their talent than to sign a more capable squad if this instability ensues. DH Austin will be a chance at redemption after two failed tournaments, but the odds are stacked against them—especially taking into consideration the fact that one of the stand-ins is more famous as a streamer than as an active competitive player.
Tempo Storm are the feel-good team of the moment having won their first international event, CEVO Gfinity Season 9, over SK just last week. Rewind to the end of summer 2015, and this ragtag bunch were still in Brazil fighting for a way to get out. With fnx and TACO still on the team, NTC won the Golden Chance tournament put on by FalleN's Games Academy and were flown to California to compete in North America for a year—a period now obviously extended with organizational backing.
Nobody believed in them, though, until as an ESEA Main team they beat CSGL and pushed both Luminosity and Cloud9 to their absolute limits in two incredibly exciting best-of-three matches at the RGN Pro Series Championship in Santa Ana, California.
There is a high chance a Brazilian team will lift a trophy on Sunday
Despite Luminosity poaching two of the team's talents it has all been uphill since then, as the team have been able to mature into playing at international events such as IEM Katowice in Poland, DreamHack Masters in Malmö, and even winning the afformentioned CEVO.
boltz has found his place in Tempo Storm after being cut from Luminosity and the addition of felps, the team's diamond in the rough, has all but strengthened a família brasileira’s Gaulish village in Lancaster, CA.
Add the twins HEN1 and LUCAS1 to the mix, the former being the team's superstar AWPer and the latter being the low key player that (if in the same form he had in Malmö) could develop into an invaluable asset, and you have a winning combination.
No longer the perennial underdogs—rather a top 10 team according to our latest ranking update—and with Liquid rebuilding after hurricane s1mple, TS could very well run away topping Group B and setting themselves up for a deep tournament run.
Liquid are right now the best North American team sitting right outside of the top 10 and one spot behind Tempo Storm. Had the team found a stable solution a few months ago, things could have been different, but Liquid now have the chance to establish local dominance post-s1mple, and hold on to the dear memory of a semifinal run at the Major.
Before the Major it seemed adreN would be out, after the major it seemed koosta would be out, but it was finally in the wakes of a group stage exit in Malmö after a hard loss to TYLOO that s1mple ended up on a plane back to Ukraine after pulling a Balotelli—or several—during his time in Liquid.
Guess who's back, back again
After that rollercoaster ride the team still holds their core and are seemingly easing back into the groove of things and will be looking to kick-off a busy month in Austin on the right foot before flying to England for the Pro League finals and debuting in ELEAGUE.
While Tempo Storm are riding out the CEVO hype train, Liquid are still the more experienced team and punch a whole lot of firepower. Not having to deal with an unmanageable personality might actually help the team, who are still wholly capable of winning the group and reestablishing regional dominance.
Selfless have been establishing themselves as a team of youngsters fighting to become contenders at local events, but they aren't quite there yet, and aren't packing the same punch as they did before star AWPer koosta got poached by Liquid.
The squad's “team > individual” motto has gained much praise, but Liquid and Tempo Storm might be too big a prey for the Lions, who will have to pray for a chain of blunders to occur in order to get through the group stage.
Any offline event will be good experience for players who are still not ready to fall from the tree, as Selfless seem to be a lot more comfortable playing from home than on LAN. Hopefully the lack of Danish teams will allow Selfless to play their game against local rivals they are used to and thus help stave off some of the stage fright.
NRG have been fairly quiet, failing to make headlines since their inception in January except for a one-off upset victory against an Envy gone adrift at the Counter Pit League Season 2 finals in Split earlier in the year.
The American-European combine are in the third class carriage sitting between Splyce and Selfless, and will need to conjure up everything they have for a chance at upsetting two teams, or one team twice, to make it past the group stages. Players like just9n and ptr will have to go huge, and even then chances are slim.
APWer ptr is set to play his first event with NRG as he missed the CPL finals due to an injury of almost tragicomedy proportions, and will hope to show he can play the way he did in his breakout match with CLG on January of last year at MLG X Games Aspen. On the other hand another mediocre performance could leave him being the eternal promise.
NRG will try to surprise
Before the event kicks off proper, we will also publish a viewer's guide with a schedule, format, and talent list all in one place.