ELEAGUE Group B preview
The second week of ELEAGUE Season 1 will pit NiP, OpTic, G2, and Selfless against one another in the $1.4 million tournament. This is our official preview for Group B.
Following a North American Group A brawl during the first week of ELEAGUE, Group B of the $1.4 million event will see two top ten teams fly over from Europe to play against two North American contenders.
These four teams, namely NiP, G2, OpTic, and Selfless, will play best-of-one seeding games on Tuesday and Wednesday in a round-robin fashion in order to determine whom they face in the playoffs. Teams then advance to single elimination, best-of-three semifinals to determine who qualifies for the week 9-10 playoffs and who qualifies for the Last Chance Qualifier.
The grand final of the group will of course be broadcast on TBS, an American television station, as well as with an Observer Feed present on Twitch.
Like Luminosity in Group A, NiP are widely assumed to be the conquerors of Group B
The second week of ELEAGUE has this as its main storyline: two European teams who have had a recent surge in their fortunes (one is elite level at #4 in the world and the other just outside of the elite at #7) will compete alongside two scrappy North American teams, with one slightly better than the other.
Although we can potentially guess at the ultimate outcome of this group more readily than for some of the other groups, there is plenty of opportunity for unlikely outcomes and there is even a hint of an ancient rivalry with some changed components (NiP versus VG) present.
With signs of it beginning at MLG Columbus, and then a fullblown flowering occurring at DreamHack Masters Malmö and at the ESL Pro League Season 3 finals, NiP's resurgence has been a profound phenomenon to experience after nearly four years of watching CS:GO matches.
Their recent offline finishes are definitely part of the return to the top five in the world status which the Ninjas have recently enjoyed, although Xizt and his men have also undoubtedly profited from the falls of both Virtus.pro and Envy in the recent months.
f0rest, the undisputed White Walker-viking hybrid of CS:GO, and GeT_RiGhT, the undisputed Swedish Urkel, have led the team as always, as they both boast above 1.0 ratings on LAN in the past three months. Xizt and friberg, the other half of the remaining legendary four, have generally held form as well.
"I got broads in banana"
Much credit then has to also be given to team coach Björn "THREAT" Pers, who has seemingly managed to undo months of resting on laurels and bad habits that late 2014 and early 2015 instigated in the team, and he has brought in a proper regimen and fashioned a team who trade effectively and execute in a timely manner.
Additionally, the pyth addition may not have brought the superstar player into the team that young fans living in an era of stats-padding and KD worship may have expected, but it is clear for now at least that pyth is fulfilling his role in the team and keeping pace with the rest as they pursue success.
Should things get dicey this summer in terms of results though, eyes will surely swivel to pyth again and start scrutinising.
All things considered, the Swedes remain the heavy favourites to win their group and they should easily dispense with both OpTic and Selfless in the seeding portion. There is one problem however, for an equally storied French-Belgian team who have often caused problems for NiP in the past may stand in the way in the group grand final.
That team is G2 esports. And they just so happen to be on fire right now.
Currently ranked seventh in the world in our rankings, there are many aspects of G2's recent rise that parallel that of NiP. Like the Swedish team, they beat out plenty of other elite and tier one European contenders to qualify for two $250,000+ offline finals recently (ESL Pro League Season 3 finals and ECS Season 1 finals).
Like NiP, G2 are reaping the benefice of two of their players, both extremely seasoned talent with histories dating to the early days of CS:GO, performing like machines of Counter-Strike in recent months, namely shox and ScreaM (the only two players to hold above a 1.0 rating on LAN in the past three months on their team, which is another parallel).
In this sense, G2 have adapted as a team to the current state of CS:GO with a top-heavy approach, allowing frag-centric players to take the positions and the playstyles with which they feel comfortable and the rest of the team then enfolds around them and provides the necessary utility, trading, and reads to win games.
G2 lately proving that hitting the gym does indeed equate to better CS
The addition of bodyy at first seemed like another case of "LDLC White poaching gone bad" as G2 floundered at DreamHack Masters Malmö and finished in 13-16th place.
However, much of that was later written off as growing pains as G2 made a triumphant march through the ESL Pro League Season 3 finals, taking down Luminosity and OpTic in the group stage, and then upsetting fnatic in the semifinals and taking Luminosity to a five map thriller in the grand final to finish second.
Although bodyy still seems like he needs to find his element in the team as a player, we can safely say that RpK has developed into a solid role player for the team and is no longer "relearning the game after his hiatus" and the 26-year-old is thus covering a lot of lost ground for his teammates.
G2 will make knife's work of Selfless and have had experience in the past brushing past OpTic, so the real test in both the seeding matches and in the playoff bracket will be against NiP.
As history has shown, players with experience on VeryGames (three-fifths of this current roster) were pioneers in the "choking style" of CS:GO when playing the Swedes. Hopefully they will have taken note of history and not built a Maginot line in the server.
North America's dankest team (purely because of the organisation's inescapable attachment to cheesy snacks and carbonated soft drinks) are currently ranked #15 in the world, which would mark them as the region's second best team (although we haven't updated our rankings since Cloud9's superb run in Group A of ELEAGUE) if we don't include the two Brazilian heavy hitters.
A large part of their recent success, which started with middling 5-6th place finishes at CEVO Gfinity Season 9 finals and ESL Pro League Season 3 finals and culminated in a first place victory at the MLG Americas Minor, has clearly been Spaniard mixwell as the 20-year-old simply tops all statistical categories as far as rating is concerned.
With a fearless European hotshot unaccustomed to the North American ways of excessive self-awareness and mental compensation powering the OpTic engine, the rest of the team have in turn been freed up to do damage again at offline events (in contrast to the beginning of the year when the OpTic core were humiliated with a 3-4th place finish at the first Americas Minor).
Óscar 'Curry' Cañellas wants to bring his team to a golden state
RUSH functions as something of a Klay Thompson to mixwell's Curry-esque drive, and NAF and stanislaw are both extremely strong players in their own right and can have games where they themselves look like the stars of the team.
daps is traditionally the leader of the team and is certainly behind his teammates when it comes to the damage-dealing and frag-securing department, but with four players already seemingly able to demolish opponents on their own, perhaps one more pugstar-style player might have tipped this team overboard.
In any case, demolishing opponents at the Americas Minor is one thing (although it did include defeating #10 ranked Tempo Storm twice in best-of-threes), but taking on top flight European outfits is another.
And while OpTic's surprise win over Astralis at the ESL Pro League Season 3 finals may give us a small case for expecting them to perform well at ELEAGUE, both NiP and G2 are traditionally strong at obliterating undisciplined, skill-heavy North American teams. OpTic have their work cut out for them in this group.
Selfless' offline form in the recent months is not particularly impressive: 7-8th place at CEVO Gfinity Season 9 finals, 5-6th at DreamHack Austin, and fourth at the MLG Americas Minor.
However, with politics doing as they usually do and getting in the way of some teams entering into the illustrious league, ELEAGUE had to choose the next best team on short notice (read: in North America) and thus Selfless were found as TYLOO's replacement for Group B.
Selfless, who are currently 32nd in our ranking and who once breached the top twenty, are in some sense a good team. They finished 13-9 in the North American division of the ESL Pro League Season 3 and just fell short of attending the $512,000 marquee event.
Hotdog water man attempts to instruct local team
In another sense however, the team are wildly inexperienced and prone to offline meltdowns, with the CEVO Gfinity Season 9 finals being the best example. The earlier additions of 2016, mitch and Nifty, seem to be the primary culprits here as they have literally been wrenched up from the little leagues of American CS:GO and must now play with the big dogs, something which takes time to adjust to.
The addition of Canadian player CONNOR93 (who changes in-game names faster than a skin gambling site changes brand names) as the team's short-term fifth for ELEAGUE in lieu of Michael "Uber" Stapells stepping down will not help the team's cause as the player is about as known as the Tajikistani scene in a global sense.
Sometimes however, mysterious men with strange appellations have been known to go hard in online games, and CONNOR93 may be fighting on a personal level to bring such talents to a much bigger stage. In any case, Selfless will literally be fighting valiantly to not get 0-6'ed in the seeding stage, which some have lately taken to calling "getting Liquid'ed."
stich writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter