Northern Arena Montreal preview
Northern Arena Grand Final is set to begin today with eight teams battling for a share of $100,000 from November 10-13. Here's our preview of the event taking place in Montreal, Canada.
Eight teams will take part in the second edition of Northern Arena, of which three are currently in the top 10 of our Team Ranking: G2, Envy and Liquid.
Two groups of four will feature a GSL format, with best-of-one matches played in the upper part and best-of-three series in the elimination and deciders.
|Group A||Group B|
Top two sides in each group will advance to the best-of-three, single elimination playoffs, played in Montreal's Bell Centre.
Let's take a look at each group and preview all eight teams, their form, recent results, best players, maps, and biggest storylines:
|Richard "shox" Papillon||24||1.11|
|Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom||22||1.08|
|Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro||19||0.98|
|Cédric "RpK" Guipouy||27||0.96|
|Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux||27||0.87|
Group A features possibly the biggest favourites of Northern Arena, G2, who are coming to Montreal fresh off an early exit in ELEAGUE Season 2's Group B.
There, shox's team got quite unlucky with the draw, as the last two maps in the pool against Ninjas in Pyjamas were Overpass and Cobblestone and the former was chosen by the randomizer.
They didn't show up in their best form in Atlanta, only taking five rounds off the Swedes in their first attempt before meeting them again in the decider. Understandably they couldn't defeat Ninjas in Pyjamas on Nuke, but they should've at least forced Cobblestone as Train is a map Richard "Xizt" Landström's squad haven't played for quite a long time.
G2 are favoured to take their first title in over four months
Despite G2 dropping off from their summer form, the team should advance from the group in Montreal without breaking much sweat. Complexity hardly pose any threat to seasoned warriors like shox and ScreaM, and Heroic have fallen off recently.
The question lies in the Liquid match-up, which we're very likely to see in the winners' match. The last time these two met was at ESL One New York, where Liquid grabbed a very comfortable victory on Train, though it's unlikely shox and ScreaM will both disappear like that again. Liquid have since lost coach Luis "peacemaker" Tadeu and disappointed at Pro League Finals, which puts G2 in the driving seat.
|Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski||19||1.06|
|Josh "jdm64" Marzano||26||1.03|
|Jacob "Pimp" Winneche||21||1.01|
|Nick "nitr0" Cannella||21||1.00|
|Spencer "Hiko" Martin||26||0.94|
After the aforementioned disappointment at ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals, Liquid have a lot of unanswered questions surrounding them.
First and foremost, their in-game leading situation is basically a copy of what happened when Eric "adreN" Hoag was in and out of the team in the second quarter of 2016. nitr0 tried it out and then Hiko took the reins.
São Paulo showed how desperately Liquid need someone to point them in the right direction when they wander off. Luis "peacemaker" Tadeu seemed to have done the job well enough, but now they're missing the coach who helped Hiko with the load.
Liquid's form at Pro League was at rock bottom
Their former coach was the one calling timeouts at ESL One New York whenever he saw fit. In Brazil, the team didn't use nearly as many to talk things through despite facing issues early on multiple times.
With that said, Liquid are facing significantly easier competition in Montreal compared to those two events and they are definitely skilled enough to at least pull through in the group stage. Their initial battle with Heroic could get hairy, though the Danes don't seem to be on the same level they were two to three months ago and since have lost Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander, a key player.
Watch out for how Liquid adjust throughout matches and series to see whether they've been able to fix some of their issues at Pro League. If they have, expect them to be a contender in Montreal.
|Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen||18||1.11|
|Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså||21||1.11|
|Andreas "MODDII" Fridh||27||1.06|
|Michael "Friis" Jørgensen||27||0.97|
|Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer||26||0.93|
A little over two weeks ago, Heroic had to say goodbye to gla1ve, who got his chance in Astralis, while 18-year-old niko arrived into the roster to fill his shoes.
Since his addition, Heroic have already attended two offline events, ESWC and the PGL Regional Minor Championship. After a great start in Paris, Heroic's journey there came to an abrupt end as they fell short to fnatic Academy and finished in 9th-16th place.
niko's addition hasn't paid its dividents yet, but he has proven himself at ESWC and the Minor
The Danes travelled to Bucharest for the Minor only days after the French event and took Epsilon to two overtimes on Cobblestone before falling short to HellRaisers in the elimination match, though not before they took Nuke off the European mixture.
niko put up great numbers at both events and proved his worth despite the disappointing results, although Heroic have had little to no practice with him considering they're travelling almost from event to event. Something is still missing for Heroic to start delivering good results as well, and that probably won't be fixed until they get home and get a few weeks of practice. Two top-ten teams in Group A, G2 and Liquid, will most likely mean another early elimination.
|Rory "dephh" Jackson||24||1.00|
|Bradley "ANDROID" Fodor||22||0.97|
|Kia "Surreal" Man||20||0.94|
|Michael "Uber" Stapells||19||0.90|
|Cory "APE" Bate||25||0.82|
The fourth seed in Group A are Complexity, who secured a spot at Northern Arena via the online qualifier, defeating Luminosity twice in a row in the double elimination bracket.
Apart from that triumph, Complexity haven't been very successful in North America. Since their surprising 5th-8th finish at the previous Northern Arena in early September, ANDROID's team finished 11th in Pro League, barely securing their spot in the next season with a 9-17 record.
compLexity would have to go on a miracle run to advance from groups
They also attempted to qualify for ESL One New York and ELEAGUE Season 2, but crashed out in the first rounds following defeats to Immortals and OpTic, respectively.
Most recently Complexity tried to make it to the Americas Minor's closed qualifier but failed to make it past two lower-tier teams, Splyce and Muffin Lightning, in the respective open qualifiers.
It's hard to see dephh and company advancing from groups again, as they'd have to beat at least one of the top-ten teams on their way to playoffs, which would be an enormous upset.
|Kenny "kennyS" Schrub||21||1.19|
|Dan "apEX" Madesclaire||23||1.06|
|Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer||24||1.04|
|Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt||22||1.01|
|Christophe "SIXER" Xia||25||0.91|
In Group B, we have Envy surrounded by three teams competing in North America. The Frenchmen have recently returned from ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals, where they finished second in Group A, only losing to MOUZ while defeating three North American teams without breaking a sweat.
nV fell to Ninjas in Pyjamas in quarter-finals, as they dropped Nuke, similarly to their domestic rivals G2 at ELEAGUE, and Dust2 after one round of overtime.
EnVyUs should cruise through Group B without much trouble
kennyS continued to put up solid numbers in Brazil, even in the losses, while none of the remaining players stepped up when it was needed. Usually that task is up to apEX, who can be extremely impactful when he's on fire, but this time he was not.
Needless to say, Envy will be in a very different position in Canada. Montreal will see Envy facing a big underdog in CLG, which shouldn't be a problem for the Frenchmen. Their more likely opponent in the winners' match are OpTic, whom nV defeated 16-5 on Cobblestone in São Paulo. That map will probably come out again, unless OpTic want to take their chances on Mirage this time around.
I'm almost hoping Envy or G2 finish second in their group, because that would allow us to see a French semi-final. Their last encounter came down to details at StarSeries, and that was with Timothée "DEVIL" Démolon and SIXER in nV's roster.
|Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas||21||1.13|
|Keith "NAF" Markovic||18||1.04|
|William "RUSH" Wierzba||22||1.04|
|Tarik "tarik" Celik||20||1.03|
|Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz||22||1.03|
Similarly to Envy, OpTic had an easy run against their North American competitors at ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals, as they decimated Liquid 16-2 and Immortals 16-4.
However, their matches against the two favoured teams weren't nearly as successful, as they finished in third place following 10-16 on Cache against MOUZ and more importantly 5-16 on Cobblestone against Envy. The latter map came out again in the quarter-finals versus Cloud9, but OpTic got spanked on it while Dust2 was reasonably close.
OpTic have played close matches with NRG online
Cobblestone is still one of their biggest strengths however, and a potential rematch with the Frenchmen on it will be better if they have managed to find out where their gaps were.
OpTic's first opponent will be NRG, who have been a tough match-up for them online. They exchanged maps in Pro League, winning their signature Cobblestone while falling short on Cache. The same two maps emerged in the ESL One New York qualifier, where the two teams played at least 30 rounds on each map. Offline matches are often very different, but don't be too surprised if OpTic start slow and have to work their way up through the lower part of Group B.
|Peter "ptr" Gurney||26||1.15|
|Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz||21||1.07|
|Jacob "FugLy" Medina||21||0.99|
|Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić||26||0.92|
|Fatih "gob b" Dayik||29||0.93|
Another team who attended ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals were NRG, who were part of the tough Group B. Despite the competition, gob b's team did quite well in Brazil, but they showed problems with closing out games.
They had a big lead against Ninjas in Pyjamas on Cache in the second half and ended up losing 14-16, and later on they also dropped Dust2 to FaZe after overtime. In their last match of the round robin, NRG put up 10 rounds as CT on Cobblestone against SK knowing they were out of the tournament, but then they fell apart on the Terrorist side.
NRG have shown good results at Pro League Finals
Such close games are still a good sign for ptr and company, who also have a good match-up ahead of them in OpTic, as mentioned above. They'll likely have to defeat OpTic twice, or at least once and surprise Envy, a tough task, but not one that's completely out of the question.
However, the Frenchmen are great on all the maps that could come out in a best-of-one (Cobblestone, Dust2, Cache), which makes the latter scenario highly unlikely. Viewers should definitely keep an eye out for the initial round with OpTic and a very possible group decider between the two.
|Kenneth "koosta" Suen||20||0.99|
|Ethan "Ethan" Arnold||16||0.97|
|James "hazed" Cobb||27||0.93|
|Stephen "reltuC" Cutler||27||0.93|
|Yassine "Subroza" Taoufik||19||0.87|
Group B's last seed are CLG, who took part in the first Northern Arena tournament shortly after the addition of Subroza and Ethan. Since their 5th-8th finish there, CLG finished Pro League with a 10-16 record and 9th place overall.
reltuC's team's record at several qualifiers afterwards, including for ELEAGUE Season 2, ESL One New York and WESG Regional Finals, doesn't account for much, but they do have one good match-up in Group B at the second Northern Arena event.
CLG surprised NRG at the previous Northern Arena
In Toronto, CLG surprised NRG in the opening match on Mirage and defeated them once more in the group's decider, which will surely be on NRG's minds if they are to meet again. Online they split matches in Pro League with CLG proving their edge on Mirage again, so NRG will want to stay away from that map.
It's next to impossible for CLG to have a chance against Envy, while OpTic seem to have their numbers judging by online results. That puts the focus on the last match-up; we'll have to see whether CLG can have a say in NRG's fate again.
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