ELEAGUE S2 Group C preview
With the third group at ELEAGUE set to start we bring you a preview of the action that will take place this weekend in Atlanta - where SK Gaming, Natus Vincere, Astralis and ALTERNATE aTTaX will be looking for a place in the playoffs.
Each group features four teams that will compete in a GSL format, with BO1 matches for the winner side of the bracket and BO3's for the elimination and decider matches.
|Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev||19||1.15|
|Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács||25||1.03|
|Egor "flamie" Vasilyev||19||0.97|
|Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev||28||0.92|
|Denis "seized" Kostin||22||0.85|
* Ratings are from the past three months
s1mple’s journey with the CIS powerhouse started at SL i-League StarSeries Season 2 where Natus Vincere was eliminated in last place—losing to TYLOO and Astralis in the group stage. After a rocky start, the CIS team went on to take the title at the next event they attended—ESL One New York.
The success came after a month of practice and s1mple taking over the secondary AWP role from seized. The team looked much better in New York than in it did Kiev and then followed it up with another good showing at EPICENTER: Moscow where they finished 3-4th.
However, the team doesn’t look as well rounded and stable as it did in the Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko era earlier this year.
There are a couple of key differences in today’s Natus Vincere: flamie and GuardiaN are no longer the consistent duo that performs each game, but instead go big from time to time to complement the main star of the team - s1mple.
Natus Vincere build their game around s1mple
Out of the two more supportive players, Edward’s contribution didn’t change that much, but seized’ rating has dropped from a strong 1.08 in early September to now an all-time low of 0.84—showing the Russian’s struggles in adapting to the IGL role.
Natus Vincere seem to be one of the teams that was hit the hardest with the Valve coaching rule change: flamie’s drop in consistency is probably connected to Sergey "starix" Ischuk not being able to give him input mid-round—which was rumored to be a big part of the youngster’s rise to stardom this year—and seized dropped individually in an attempt to take over calling from their experienced coach.
However, Natus Vincere’s biggest problem at the moment is actually their very weak map pool: they don’t play Cache, have an extremely bad Cobblestone and have just started to play Nuke—but are still not considered a strong team on the map.
Their "Get Out of Jail Free card" is that the group stage of ELEAGUE features BO1’s in the winner’s side of the bracket, potentially allowing the CIS side to go through to the playoffs without having to play some of their weaker maps.
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||21||1.13|
|Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye||18||1.10|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||23||1.07|
|Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander||21||0.98|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||21||0.98|
A couple of months of abysmal results are behind Astralis, as the once elite team finished 3-4th at Power LAN, 5-8th at SL i-League Season 2, 7th at ESL One New York and 9-12th at WESG EU&CIS finals.
With results like that, a change had to come—we saw the departure of Finn "karrigan" Andersen and the acquisition of gla1ve—who will take over the IGL role after playing under Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer in Heroic for quite some time now.
Astralis will have their first offline experience with gla1ve at ELEAGUE, and with only a few online games played since the pickup, little is known about how Astralis plays or what we can expect from them. From what little we have seen, gla1ve didn’t bring an instantaneous boost to Astralis’ performance, and it’s hard to see them hitting a much higher form here.
The Danes open up the group with a BO1 against ALTERNATE aTTaX—a must-win match—and then have two top5 teams to face off against to make it to the playoffs.
Has gla1ve had enough time with Astralis to prepare his team for ELEAGUE?
In the end, Astralis have little to lose in Atlanta, but their matches at ELEAGUE could give us a good indication on how the team is progressing under new leadership.
|Kevin "keev" Bartholomäus||24||1.19|
|Christian "crisby" Schmitt||24||1.00|
|Oliver "kzy" Heck||26||0.99|
|Florian "syrsoN" Rische||20||0.98|
|Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch||20||0.98|
Even though the losses weren’t as one sided as the ones at WESG EU&CIS, it does show that their ESWC title was more down to a fortunate bracket draw and upsets all over the tournament than brilliant play from the Germans.
ALTERNATE aTTaX’s main problem still remains the lack of firepower—except their AWPer keev, there is no-one who can consistently put up numbers and hold his own against teams from the top 15 of the world rankings. That makes ALTERNATE aTTaX a team that lives and dies on keev’s performances and good momentum—if they don’t get the economy rolling it’s hard for them to save money and come back into matches.
Can crisby be the one to step up and help aTTaX get a win at ELEAGUE?
Their biggest positive may be that they have been together long enough to have a lot of stuff prepared coming into the group stage of ELEAGUE, so expect some interesting boosts and off-meta setups—something that has defined ALTERNATE aTTaX in the past.
Even with tricks like that up their sleeve, it's hard to see the Germans achieving anything more than maybe a BO1 upset over Astralis in the opening match.
|Marcelo "coldzera" David||22||1.24|
|Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||25||1.13|
|Lincoln "fnx" Lau||26||1.05|
|Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||25||1.04|
|Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||21||1.01
The Brazilians are in a weird spot at the moment as their brilliant run in the first half of 2016 has been followed by three tournaments in which they couldn’t pick up the title, but finished with respectable placings.
Their first LAN after the summer break was ESL One New York, where they ended up 3-4th. After that, SK flew to Moscow for EPICENTER, where they once again ended 3-4th—losing to Virtus.pro 2-1, just as in New York.
In their most recent tournament, FalleN and co. had the opportunity to lift a trophy on home soil, but after beating NiP in the semi-finals of ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals SK wasn’t able to defeat Cloud9—who were powered by an in-form Timothy "autimatic" Ta.
In the grand final match, SK made an impressive comeback on the first map, Overpass, but looked out of sync and not on-par with the individual skill of the North Americans on the following two.
That, combined with the uncharacteristic lack of composure in closing out rounds where they have advantages seem to be the cause of SK’s problems at the moment.
SK haven't won a title since their summer break
SK's map pool is similar to that of Natus Vincere in that they don’t play Cache and have yet to impress on Nuke. However, SK can play Cobblestone and are probably the best team in the world on Train—so even though the CIS side might be more dangerous at the moment, SK could easily end up in an advantageous situation if they do the veto right.
SK are no longer the dominant team that regularly wins titles, but they are still a pretty scary squad that is looking good to make it out of the groups in Atlanta.
Professeur writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter.