Northern Arena Group A & B preview *
We've prepared a preview for groups A and B of Northern Arena, taking place from September 1-4, which delves deep into the teams' recent history, head-to-head results, their chances and most notable players.
Northern Arena, featuring some of the biggest teams from North America as well as Denmark's Heroic and Rogue, is set to take place in Toronto, Canada from September 1-4.
A total of $100,000 will be on offer at the 16-team event, with the champion entitled to half of the prizepool.
Relyks will play his LAN debut under TSM mere days after his addition
The group stage will be played in a GSL format, with initial and winners' matches featuring best-of-one's while elimination and decider matches will be played in best-of-three's. Top two teams will advance to the best-of-three, single-elimination playoffs.
Let us delve into the preview where we're going over all teams drawn into groups A and B, their recent history, head-to-head results and best performers:
|João "felps" Vasconcellos||19||1.16|
|Ricardo "boltz" Prass||19||1.10|
|Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles||21||1.08|
|Henrique "HEN1" Teles||21||1.07|
|Wilton "zews" Prado||28||0.97|
|Rafael "zakk" Fernandes (coach)|
* Ratings used in this article are from the past three months
We'll start the Brazilians' journey towards the change and this event at the ESL One Cologne Main Qualifier, their first appearance under the Immortals banner. Despite being favored to make it through, HEN1's squad dropped three out of four match-ups, to Envy, TYLOO and FlipSid3, only winning versus last-placed Empire.
With only a week in between the events, they travelled to Jönköping for DreamHack Summer, a $100,000 event which also featured Astralis and NiP. Immortals made it through groups only losing to the former and bested GODSENT in a narrow semi-finals.
Immortals' addition of zews has been paying off online
After the off-season ESL Pro League Season 4 started, with zews already in the roster, and Immortals worked their way up to second place thus far with an 8-4 win-loss score, losing to first-placed Cloud9 (who have been looking amazing online) and tying Complexity and eUnited.
For me Immortals are quite clear favourites of Group A. Their latest change seems to be paying off and they're in a group with an unknown side Synthetik, the new CLG — who are still adjusting to recently added players — and NRG whose core the Brazilians beat in all four encounters in the last few months.
|Ethan "Ethan" Arnold||16||0.96|
|Yassine "Subroza" Taoufik||19||0.90|
|Kenneth "koosta" Suen||20||0.89|
|Stephen "reltuC" Cutler||27||0.89|
|James "hazed" Cobb||27||0.88|
|Garett "Grt" Bambrough (coach)|
CLG are one of the teams who used the off-season to vet numerous available North American players to fill up the vacancies in the roster caused by a few rocky months, which ended with a 11th-14th finish at ELEAGUE.
Following the departure of Tarik "tarik" Celik and coach Faruk "pita" Pita, who stood in for the team since Jacob "FugLy" Medina's release, CLG decided to bring in fresh blood in the form of 16-year-old Ethan and 19-year-old Subroza.
Since then the new squad attempted to qualify for StarSeries but were quickly eliminated by OpTic on two maps. They've only played one match in ESL Pro League Season 4 so far and got to double digits versus Cloud9, who went on to win four more best-of-two's afterwards.
We haven't seen enough of the new CLG to judge them objectively, but if I had to bet, I'd say they need at least a few more weeks to show whether the change will come to any fruition. Immortals is currently miles away in practically every aspect, while NRG is a much more established roster.
|Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz||21||1.05|
|Jacob "FugLy" Medina||21||1.00|
|Peter "ptr" Gurney||26||0.99|
|Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić||25||0.88|
|Fatih "gob b" Dayik||29||0.69|
Despite that, we haven't seen too much improvement from the team who slowly but surely transformed their North American lineup to a mostly European one. They did show some promise at ELEAGUE in July, when they took Astralis to four very close maps, two of which Danny "zonic" Sørensen played instead of Finn "karrigan" Andersen, but after the off-season none of it showed online.
The German-American-Serbian mixture will have to fight hard for their place in playoffs
As mentioned above, NRG have more going for them than CLG do and it's very likely the second spot in Group A will be decided between the two. tabseN continues to be one of their better players, but even he didn't show enough to convince me they have the CLG match-up in the bag.
|Mathieu "TaM" Landry||28||-|
|Kevin "wAKKa" Cataphard||28||-|
|Patrick "theguy" Dupont||30||-|
|Jérôme "jayy" Tessier||20||-|
|Abdo "c4Lypso" Agha||21||-|
Some of the players have appeared in various higher-tier North American online tournaments and leagues from time to time, such as CEVO Professional, although none of them ever made it far.
I'd consider it a huge surprise if Synthetik were able to take a map off anyone in the group, let alone a series in the lower part. They're simply one of the teams who are looking to gain some experience and exposure at their first significant offline event.
|Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken||16||1.16|
|Skyler "Relyks" Weaver||21||1.16|
|Hunter "SicK" Mims||17||1.06|
|Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen||27||0.93|
|Pujan "FNS" Mehta||24||0.87|
|Soham "valens" Chowdhury (coach)|
First in Group B we have TSM, who were also part of the off-season roster changes, perhaps forcibly. Cloud9 stole away one of their founding members, Timothy "autimatic" Ta, and SEMPHIS and company filled the gap with Selfless' best player Relyks merely two days ago.
SEMPHIS's squad made the biggest waves throughout June, when they played in ELEAGUE's Group D and at ECS Season 1 Finals shortly afterwards.
With Casper "cadiaN" Møller instead of Twistzz (who was too young to participate) in Atlanta, TSM never went out without putting up a fight. Apart from two maps in separate fnatic encounters, they took each of their opponents to double digits, and that includes well-established teams in Dignitas, fnatic and FaZe. In the group's semi-finals they even took Mirage off the Swedes and deserved to be taken seriously from there onwards.
Bolstering their squad with Relyks, TSM are a solid contender at Northern Arena
In London their group saw them pitted against fnatic again, as well as versus Astralis and Cloud9. Defeating the Danes and taking Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer's team to 30 rounds, the Canadian-American five advanced to semi-finals after eliminating domestic competition Cloud9 comfortably.
Even the playoffs' match-up versus world's best team Luminosity wasn't too one-sided, at least not on their signature map Cobblestone, which they took to 30 rounds yet again.
Securing second place at a local event iBUYPOWER Invitational Summer in late July, TSM went into the new season with confidence, but they lost one of their core players and had to field Justin "just9n" Ortiz while they lost to Renegades in the StarSeries Americas qualifier. Their only result with this particular lineup is a narrow loss to OpTic in the CyberPowerPC Summer Pro Series, as they're not part of ESL Pro League Season 4.
They are favored to make it out of Group B, but their place in the quarter-finals could be hard-fought one. All of their opponents are basically domestic, which is always a curve ball, but they should have the upper hand over at least Echo Fox and Luminosity.
|Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas||20||1.16|
|William "RUSH" Wierzba||22||1.00|
|Keith "NAF" Markovic||18||0.98|
|Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz||22||0.95|
|Damian "daps" Steele||23||0.87|
Much like many teams not only in North America, OpTic decided to change the roster slightly. Upon learning tarik was available, daps's squad jumped at the chance to bolster their squad with the former CLG player, leaving stanislaw behind. However, tarik won't be attending Northern Arena because of personal reasons, as stanislaw will step back into the team temporarily.
stanislaw will step back into OpTic for Northern Arena
Their Major journey was short, but getting there was a big sign of improvement going into the off-season. Shortly after it ended, OpTic qualified for StarSeries over CLG and Cloud9 and finished 3rd-4th at CyberPowerPC Summer Pro Series following a loss to Liquid.
OpTic should go through the group stage one way or another, though it's reasonably dangerous considering who their opponents are. They'll most likely fight for first place against TSM, but even if they fail to pass that test they should fancy their chances against either Echo Fox or Luminosity.
|Ronnie "ryx" Bylicki||23||1.11|
|Daniel "roca" Gustaferri||21||1.05|
|Shahzeb "ShahZaM" Khan||22||1.03|
|Ryan "freakazoid" Abadir||23||0.96|
|Sean "seang@res" Gares||28||0.95|
|Carey "frozt" Kertenian (coach)|
Echo Fox have managed to avoid the countless roster changes during the last month, which seemed to have paid off up until a few days ago.
seang@res' roster garnered a few online achievements recently, winning the ESEA Season 22 North American Premier division and the Wild Card match with Luminosity that earned them a place in ESL Pro League.
Not the easiest group for Echo Fox
The worrysome result is their semi-final finish at ESEA Season 22 Global Challenge, where they barely escaped Chiefs in the initial match and lost to ALTERNATE aTTaX on one of their better maps, Cache. To top it off, they barely contested a previously unknown side Crowns in the only series they played in Katowice, losing 5-16 and 10-16 on Mirage and Dust2, respectively.
While ryx has been their best-rated player in the last three months, he was one of the worst players in Poland alongside freakazoid, and the competition there was mostly inferior to who they'll be facing in Toronto. That's a bad sign for Echo Fox's chances at the $100,000 event — as mentioned above, this could become a hard-fought group between four domestic competitors.
|Gustavo "yel" Knittel||24||1.12|
|Lucas "DeStiNy" Bullo||19||1.02|
|Vinicios "PKL" Coelho||22||1.01|
|Renato "nak" Nakano||28||0.91|
|Bruno "bit" Lima||26||0.88|
|Alessandro "apoka" Marcucci (coach)|
Recently they fell short to Echo Fox in the Wild Card match for an ESL Pro League Season 4 spot, but took revenge on the following day during the Americas StarSeries qualifier.
Their run in said qualifier was quite dominant at the start, as they won their group over Selfless prior to the Echo Fox series, but Immortals ended the journey in quarter-finals after two convincing maps.
It's unlikely nak's side will be able to advance from groups, but they have a reasonable chance to surprise, especially in the best-of-one scenarios in the upper bracket.
Naturally we also have a preview for the other two groups coming up, written by Abir Zenith, scheduled to be released tomorrow.
You can follow HLTV.org's Milan "Striker" Švejda on Twitter