ESEA Premier S21 EU Finals preview
ESEA Premier Season 21 Europe Finals, whose winner will get a spot in ESL Pro League Season 4 and runner-up will go home with a place in the relegation match versus Virtus.pro, is set to be played out tomorrow, on May 7th. Here is HLTV.org's preview for the four-team, $20,000 tournament.
The stakes at the upcoming ESEA Premier Season 21 Europe Finals will be high, as the winner will go home knowing they have earned a spot in the ESL Pro League Season 4, while the runner-up will have to fight their way through Virtus.pro for another.
Virtus.pro are eagerly awaiting the Premier runner-ups in the relegation match
However, Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný's squad will have to attend with Richard "queztone" Strnátko instead of their latest addition Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk, as roster rules don't allow HellRaisers to change the lineup anymore.
Let's take a look at the four attending teams one by one and see what their recent history looks like, what their chances are at the event and how they fare against each other:
|Kamen "bubble" Kostadinov||24||1.14|
|Simeon "dream3r" Ganev||19||1.10|
|Viktor "v1c7oR" Dyankov||21||1.03|
|Emiliyan "spyleadeR" Dimitrov||26||1.03|
|Nikolay "nkl" Krastev||22||0.85|
For how much we've been used to seeing E-frag.net (now MK) at LAN events in previous years—almost not at all—, the Bulgarian squad have attended quite a few offline tournaments in 2016, practically one every month.
Most of the tournaments they've played this year was with Nikolay "pNshr" Paunin, but this time they will be able to field their starting roster in Leicester, and that is a silver lining in what's about to come.
They can't be happy about meeting HellRaisers in the semi-finals, seeing as their record versus the European mixture is poor at best. MK lost two grand finals to HellRaisers on LAN this year, once at the PGL Minor (1-2) and once quite recently at Copenhagen Games (0-2).
bubble has been MK's best player for some time now
MK were also never able to come out with a win online, where they have the same history as on LAN (1-4 over two series). That's two wins out of ten maps over the course of over four months.
If they do manage to tackle HellRaisers successfully, they're looking at a possible ENCE match-up in the grand final. While that duel looks much better history-wise, it's still not great as they split two series online, both matches were very close and very recent.
As for PENTA, the second possible grand final match-up with MK in it, the two teams played a couple of times as well in the exact same lineups, albeit online. They split maps in one best-of-two, while the Bulgarians won a best-of-three series in a somewhat narrow fashion.
It's very unlikely we will see MK getting past their nemesis which they were unlucky enough to get right off the bat, but if they do, the job will get easier no matter who wins the second semi-final.
|Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný||24||1.22|
|Martin "STYKO" Styk||20||1.03|
|Richard "queztone" Strnátko||20||1.03|
|Patrik "Zero" Žúdel||17||1.01|
|Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow||26||0.99|
A first glance at the table above already tells a big part of the picture, and that's the huge disparity (around a 0.2 Rating difference) between oskar and the remainder of the team in 2016.
While everyone else on HellRaisers matches the Czech's speed at times, their overall performance isn't anywhere near as consistent as their AWPer's, who has been the star of the team from the get-go.
We were able to witness the same trend at CEVO Gfinity Professional Season 9 Finals, where the difference was even more ridiculous and all the more impressive considering oskar had the most opening kills per round (0.16) and the highest success in opening duels (62.7%) at the event.
oskar needs a bit more consistency from his teammates
According to oskar's post on Facebook, HellRaisers underestimated SK in the semi-finals in London, and they should be able to learn from that mistake and avoid making it now against quite clearly inferior competition.
Their first opponent at the Leicester event will be MK, who have only won two maps in four best-of-three's against the core of this HR lineup since the start of 2016. Since then HR have only gotten better and steadily climbed the HLTV.org Team Ranking (currently sitting at #14), while MK haven't shown signs of significant improvement for a while now and fell out of the top 20 last month.
The Slovakian-Czech-Ukrainian team have never played ENCE before, which is the most likely grand final match-up. They only have one best-of-three encounter with PENTA in their record, which was in the PGL European Minor semi-finals and it was a close match, but again, HellRaisers are a better team now.
Even with queztone—who should be accustomed to the team from standing in for them for over a month—in the lineup, HellRaisers are quite clear favourites of the tournament, which can become a double-edged sword.
|Aleksi "allu" Jalli||23||1.10|
|Tom "stonde" Glad||22||1.03|
|Miikka "suNny" Kemppi||21||1.00|
|Juho "juho" Lampinen||20||0.98|
|Mikko "xartE" Välimaa||24||0.92|
ENCE are heading into ESEA Premier Finals having a reputation to fix after their atrocious display at Copenhagen Games, where they finished dead last, and two narrow losses to Preparation and GODSENT (then Ancient) at Pantamera Challenge.
Online the Finns have looked much better shortly after Copenhagen, they won 13 out of 15 encounters since the beginning of April. That included winning Operation Kinguin: 2 over teams such as SK, as well as qualifying for DreamHack's EU Minor over AGG.
ez4ence? Not by a long shot.
Looking at their previous results with teams who will be present in Leicester: Their first opponents PENTA have played the Finns once before with Christian "loWel" Garcia Antoran in the lineup, and lost two double-digit map in CEVO Gfinity Season 9.
Unless the former NiP player suddenly goes absolutely crazy, ENCE have a tough road ahead, as both PENTA and MK are at more or less their level, while HellRaisers are at least a step ahead. If I were to put my money on them, I'd say they'll win versus PENTA and fall to HellRaisers in the grand final.
|Christian "loWel" Garcia Antoran||19||1.14|
|Mike "mikeS" Tuns||23||1.00|
|Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz||21||1.00|
|Tahsin "tahsiN" Broschk||25||0.96|
|Kevin "kRYSTAL" Amend||22||0.90|
It's now been over two months since loWel was added to PENTA's roster and it paid dividents. Maybe not achievements-wise, but in terms of individual performance the difference between him and the rest of the players is close to the one of oskar in HellRaisers, obviously against worse competition and only online.
Their online results are all over the place, and that's why they lack significant achievements. They have a win over FlipSid3 and HellRaisers and two close series with Gambit in their record, but also losses to Escape and Epsilon.
loWel has proven to be a great pickup for PENTA so far
It's hard to say what to make of the results as online competition is largely different to LAN, but it's clear the only consistently good player on the team has been the newest addition. For the team to be able to at least go to the grand final, they need more than that.
Previously mikeS was able to put the team on his back at the PGL European Minor, the team's last and only LAN appearance in 2016, which featured a similar level of competition.
If he manages to go back to the same level in Leicester, PENTA should be able to at least be competitive in their semi-final versus ENCE, whose form seems to be on the rise. However, due to their questionable form I see them as the worst team out of the four.
You can follow HLTV.org's Milan "Striker" Švejda on Twitter