WESG EU & CIS Finals preview
The WESG Europe and CIS Regional LAN Finals kick off in a few hours and our official preview will help fill you in on the teams attending the $75,000 event.
After a tortuous national-cum-regional qualification process, twenty single-nation teams from across Europe and the CIS region are descending on Kiev, Ukraine to play the $75,000 Regional Finals of WESG (which will also reward eight spots to the Alibaba-sponsored $1.5 Million Global Finals in China sometime later this year).
While the single nationality rules for competing teams could at best be described as limiting and at worst as maddeningly asinine, we will get the chance to watch a wide variety of Europe's best and also most random Counter-Strike teams, with plenty of interesting gathers thrown into the mix.
Despite the jet lag and fatigue, Virtus.pro are favourites in Kiev
Twenty teams in a tournament means slightly different rules than the usual "multiple of four" teams format, and thus the WESG Europe and CIS Regional Finals will deliver a round robin best-of-one group stage with the group's best team proceeding directly to the quarter-finals. Second and third best teams in the group will then have to play an additional match in the round-of-twelve.
You may have a tendency to brush this event off due to the $75,000 prize pool and the strange amalgamation of teams attending, but let us not forget that this event is the sole road for European teams to qualify for the $1.5 WESG Million Global Finals and is thus nearly on par with a Major qualifier (barring the many elements of prestige and optimal teams).
Given the dwindling hours before the event kicks off, our preview will go through all twenty groups beginning from Group A, albeit with a more cursory glance into the lineups so that you can get an accurate read on all of the attending squads.
The highest ranked and highest profile team in group A are the Swedes of GODSENT, who currently sit at #11 in our ranking and also comprise three-fifths of the legendary fnatic lineup who won two Majors in 2015 and also dominated many other events up until the team's dissolution in August.
GODSENT plowed through the Sweden qualifier, defeating Iwku to make it to Kiev and also brushing aside Epsilon in the seeding match, but their story outside of the Scandinavian country has been one of disappointment and failed expectations.
GODSENT will find it hard to be sent home early in Group A
Many thought the combination of some of fnatic's most explosive players such as JW and flusha with the brains of pronax might allow this lineup to keep their place in the elite tier, but GODSENT have struggled mightily lately, falling in 9-12th place at the SL i-League StarSeries Season 2 Finals, 3-4th place in the four team Gfinity Invitational, and failing to qualify for EPICENTER and ELEAGUE Season 2.
But when all things are considered: even GODSENT's worst possible day could not prevent them from qualifying for the Global Finals here and they will likely top their group, though they could be in store for an upset loss to Kinguin.
Kinguin is the outcome of consolidation below the floorboards of Virtus.pro on the Polish scene, as the former Lounge Gaming core brought in AGG's rallen and Furlan in late August. Although all of these players have at times sat in our Top Twenty ranking, their recent inactivity has seen them sink out of sight.
Kinguin narrowly edged out PRIDE in the WESG Poland qualifier and then fell to titans Virtus.pro in the seeding match-up; they also recently won the offline ESL Polish Championship and the online Kinguin for Charity with PayPal cup.
Despite a recent failure to qualify for Season 2 of ELEAGUE (losing to G2 in an extraordinarily close series that saw overtime on both maps), Kinguin remain a strong team on paper and theoretically have a chance to upset and top this group due to an ailing GODSENT and weak competition otherwise.
The second place finishers in the France & Monaco qualifier were a team known as MAXISAUCISSE (which, aside from the reference to a sausage, feels like it contains a phallic allusion) who scraped through dizLown in the semifinal and were crushed by EnVyUs in the seeding match.
LDLC quickly picked up this team full of youngsters (the oldest players are 22 years old) and now yet again fields two lineups as an organisation; however, aside from matHEND, who previously played for LDLC and other teams, and AlluM3tt3, who played for WeGotGame, this is a very unproven lineup and one that will struggle to make it out of this group.
The team most likely to be making it out of Group A in the third place spot is this Ukrainian mix of seasoned veterans and young up-and-comers.
Combining ANGE1 and bondik of HellRaisers, arch of Preparation, and the teamless smike and Zeus (the latter of course of Na`Vi fame), this is the most promising team in the group outside of the two big name-brand GODSENT and Kinguin lineups.
Unlike the writer of this preview, Zeus has another chance to be known not only for his memes
"Ukraine" had no problem winning the Ukraine qualifier, taking down Oleksandr "Shara" Hordieyev's spray'n'pray in the grand final, and I can see them easily dispatching LDLC Espoir and Pixel to at least secure the third place spot in the group.
However, judging by the instability that a pairing of two stubborn old heads in Zeus and ANGE1 might bring, combined with the younger players being rather streaky, it will be a challenge for Ukraine to do damage in the playoffs.
While not as exciting as the new Google phone, the Hungarian Pixel lineup won the WESG Central Europe qualifier over the Slovak eSuba squad, and also comprise a mix of old and new talent.
Although the Hungarian scene has lately been mired in scandals and hackusations (which did not escape László "mat1" Zilay who qualified with the team but who has been replaced by flash at the offline finals), I don't expect this team to have a chance of surviving Group A.
One of the "best kept secrets" in CS:GO finally went public as this preview was being written, i.e. the signing of SIXER to the Envy team in lieu of Timothée "DEVIL" Démolon. The team had already shown promising results with the 25-year-old since their inner roster turmoils got underway as the Frenchmen won the Gfinity CS:GO Invitational while using SIXER not too long ago.
Before they started trying out their newest player, the Boys in Blue also recently finished 3-4th place at DreamHack Bucharest, 5-8th place at the StarSeries Season 2 Finals, and they currently hold a 12-8 record in the ESL Pro League. As mentioned in the LDLC Espoir section, they also breezed through the WESG France & Monaco qualifier.
The roster move gives the nV team a hand in staying together
Despite their newfound strength, EnVyUs find themselves in a group that is tougher than it appears on paper. Astralis are of the same caliber (both teams are rank #9 and #10) whereas ALTERNATE aTTaX have already shown they can do damage against Top Ten teams.
Astralis came back to the offline circuit at ESL One New York after a sub-par 5-8th place finish at SL i-League StarSeries Season 2 Finals and, despite coach Danny "zonic" Sørensen telling me that their goal was a semifinals run, the team finished in 7th place following a couple games which they failed to close out.
In the WESG Denmark qualifier, Astralis had an easy path to qualifying via the semifinal but then, in typical recent fashion of the team when facing domestic opposition, they fell to dignitas in the seeding final.
Times continue to look bleak for the Danes (who are currently ranked tenth in the world), but WESG could be the chance needed to bolster morale and return to a proper footing. If they appear in the server hitting their shots, they could very well top this group.
Currently ranked 28th in the world, this German sleeper team go into Kiev as a highly underrated squad that could upset EnVyUs and/or Astralis; yet at the same time, going off of their as-of-now mostly online achievements in 2016, they could just as well flounder mightily.
ALTERNATE's biggest achievement in recent memory is of course their successful qualification campaign for ELEAGUE Season 2, which saw the German team upset GODSENT in a decider match and gain entry to the prestigious $1.4 million league. They also topped the WESG Germany qualifier despite a strong challenge from EURONICS in the final and came in 3-4th place at the ESEA Season 22 Global Challenge (the latter being an offline breakthrough of sorts).
keev has been a staple player for aTTaX; some say it's the NiKo haircut
ALTERNATE aTTaX are the wildcard of the group, poised somewhere between upsetting their superiors and possibly crumbling to their inferiors. We will soon find out.
Ex6TenZ has toiled in the shadows since departing the G2 lineup, with his LDLC team seeing mixed results; on the side however, the man can lead a mean Belgian team and has done so before with the national lineup for TWC events to some moderate degree of success.
dd won the WESG Benelux qualifier with ease to make it to Kiev. This Belgian team also boasts Ex6TenZ's teammate to1nou (who has at times been viewed as a European prospect), Davidp, who used to play for PENTA before he began playing on a team with YOUYOU (of LDLC Blue fame), and the lesser known Roombang.
Belgian teams have been known to upset and deliver in TWC matches, but without the region's superstar Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom present, I don't expect much from this dd team.
As good of a meme in Counter-Strike as it is a region, the United Kingdom prevailed over their Icelandic rivals in the UK, Ireland & Iceland qualifier with a team that is yet another mix: fish123.
We unfortunately will not see the legendary return of Sam "RattlesnK" Gawn due to the player having work commitments, but this remains a familiar lineup with many of these players' pedigrees stretching into 2012 and beyond.
While the adamant perseverance of an old guard such as this is a topic in and of itself, these WESG finals mark the UK's first notable offline attendance in some time. However, British fans will need to keep a stiff upper lip if they have high expectations for fish123 in a group as competitive as this one.
Virtus.pro finished second this past weekend at ESL One New York and the elite Polish team, currently ranked second in the world and within grasping distance of the number one spot, are currently running a marathon endurance test as they flew home, played two EPL matches, and now are in Kiev for their WESG matches all within the span of 48 hours.
While there is something to be said for the effects that sleeplessness and travel play on the human mind, I still expect the Poles to survive this group, although there is certainly room for an upset loss to either of the talent packed lineups in the forms of .Norway or .Russia.
VP's elders show no signs of slowing down
Reunited with their coach Jakub "kuben" Gurczynski, who could not attend ESL One New York due to the birth of his daughter, the Poles are likely to continue showcasing the high level of offline play that they have since they won ELEAGUE Season 1 and they are highly favourited to top this group. The plow goes onwards.
This Russian mix of some of the region's premier talent took first place in the Russia qualifier over EYESports, but will go without some of its key members such as Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov, who has to miss the event due to family commitments (and hopefully not to appear as a ringer in disguise for one of the lesser known teams).
Regardless, talent such as WorldEdit and electronic (both of FlipSid3 fame) plus the addition of two players from the Preparation team makes this an incredibly compact lineup, and all of it led by veteran and uncle of the Russian scene hooch.
Much like .Norway, I expect this .Russia team to come out of the woodwork with some punch and at the very least it will be a fun experiment in imagining what a roster such as this could do on the actual competitive circuit. I certainly believe they will clear the group stage.
A lineup composed of some of Norway's best crop is another amusing daydream in the world of CS:GO and this .Norway lineup in action at the WESG Europe & CIS Finals comes close (although there are some missing names such as Kristoffer "Mystic" Michelsen that come to mind) to that ideal.
Expect rain to fuel Norwegian efforts
Interestingly, these five don't seem to be much of a Mirage team as they struggled against Epiphany Bolt in the WESG Norway Finals on that map but then proceeded to quickly sweep through the next two maps.
This .Norway lineup could go far and will no doubt exit groups and possibly even secure a slot to the Global Finals. It combines two of FaZe's raw talents with dignitas' RUBINO and the stability of Skurk and Polly, both of whom have been toiling for a long time in the Norwegian scene.
Whatever happens to this interesting Bulgarian outfit, spyleadeR will probably be at least glad to know that it's not just because he is from Bulgaria. With none of his former MK teammates in sight (including the bête noire of Simeon "dream3r" Ganev and his VAC situation), the 26-year-old has a brand new slate with which to attempt to make a statement for the Bulgarian scene.
spyleadeR joined the roster shortly after Bpro were among the first to qualify for WESG Europe. Since then we haven't seen this team play, although the former Bpro were already rising up in the Balkan ranks, such as winning the Balkan Championship Season 3 back in June. Despite their potential, I don't expect them to survive a stacked Group C.
Guerilla Method are possibly the most obscure of the lineups attending WESG Europe & CIS, although k1Ng0r has been on our stats radar since Mad Catz Vienna in 2013 (which he played alongside Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and Janko "YNk" Paunović) and he has also had a stint playing in the Spanish scene on x6tence.
The remaining four come from a disparate mixture and three of them are twenty years of age or under, which means that they will be looking to prove themselves in Kiev. Certainly, their upset victory over iNation in the Adriatica qualifier was proof enough that this team can do damage but don't bet high on Guerilla Method exiting groups at this event.
dignitas, or rather dignitas with the addition of FaZe's aizy, won the WESG Denmark qualifier over Astralis and their reward is being seeded into a group which on paper seems weaker than Astralis' Group B. With the exception of Epsilon, this Danish team can waltz over the rest of the competition and rest assured of a spot in the playoffs.
I could point to dignitas' back-to-back semifinals runs, at SL i-League StarSeries Season 2 Finals and DreamHack Bucharest, as signs of recent strength but past achievements make little sense with aizy of FaZe filling in for the Norwegian RUBINO (who, as seen in the Group C portion, has found a superteam of his own to attend WESG).
aizy returns to dignitas for a spell
With former Astralis member cajunb having a phenomenal stats week, and with such a strong selection of riflers in k0nfig, Magisk, and aizy, team captain MSL will no doubt have a joyride in powering this dignitas lineup to a strong finish.
Epsilon have long been that Swedish team looking for a chance to make a big break, and a recent spate of finishes such as second place at ASUS ROG Summer 2016, 3-4th place at the Gfinity CS:GO Invitational, and their successful qualification for these WESG Regional Finals have brought them ever closer to the limelight.
After Jerry "xelos" Råberg officially parted ways with the team in late August, the Swedes trialled a number of players and eventually settled on BARBARR. The jury is still out on whether this is the winning combination for this talented bunch (which includes the lately heralded disco doplan) but they should have no problem squeezing their way through to the WESG EU & CIS Regional Finals playoffs due to this group.
iGame.com, previously known as LGR before they found a new home, have been plying their trade under the memey pall cast by ENCE over the Finnish Counter-Strike scene with some odd results here and there such as strong placings in online cups (1st in Game Show Spring Invitational, 2nd in the Betway Invitational, and qualifying for ESWC) and mediocre performances offline (7-8th place at ASUS ROG Summer 2016).
What I would argue is Finland's second strongest team edged out the Belarussian likes of Roman "CyberFocus" Dergach and Igor "dERZKIY" Radosavlevich of K29 to win the Northern Europe & Post CIS (a regional mouthful) qualifier and now have a chance to represent their new organisation in style in a fairly tepid group. The fight for third place could very well be a showdown between iGame.com and the old guns of k1ck oldschool.
k1ck oldschool are not as old school as one might think, as both Pizituh and Rub3nix were only introduced to Portugal's most storied organisation in mid 2015 after getting a start on AlienTech but there is no doubt that the other three players are as venerable as wine on the Iberian peninsula.
The old k1ck of yore of course began to quickly take on water once fox left for his Kinguin/G2/FaZe berth, with both rmn and MUTiRiS taking a chance on a mixed Iberian OverGaming squad that eventually turned to dust and saw the two Portuguese players return to familiar waters in late 2015.
fox wonders what came first, the glock or the drop
This team qualified for the event by defeating the Spanish k1ck team (at this point it seems there is no escaping the k1ck brand in Iberia) under the name of VatosLocos but they have since taken on the brand of k1ck oldschool and apparently represent the organisation as a second roster in Kiev.
We've seen lots of intimations of Portuguese promise over the years of CS:GO but no real breakthroughs; while I do feel that this team could be potentially dangerous to both iGame.com and Epsilon, my gut feeling says they'll narrowly fall out in groups.
An iconic name for fans of 1.6, EYESports will represent the runner-up team in the Russia qualifier. All of these guys are relatively new, as three of them only showed up in our Stats section after playing under the name of InFlames in one of the recent ELEAGUE Season 2 EU Open Qualifiers.
NickelBack has some history playing for Spirit as a stand-in, although with limited impact, and thus we are left with fenvicious, who played for Quest in the first CIS Regional Minor back in January and who was also spotted playing for Comanche lately alongside the likes of Leonid "chopper" Vishnyakov and Aleksey "1uke" Zimin.
Therefore and despite the iconic name, I believe that these WESG Regional Finals can only be a learning experience for this Russian team and a playoff spot remains a pipe dream.
The WESG Europe & CIS Regional Finals go live in a few hours time and will last until the 9th of October. You can find all additional information not covered in this preview in our viewer's guide here.
stich writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter