What we learned from IEM Oakland
Dust has settled at IEM Oakland with NiP clinching the trophy and $128,000 in prizemoney after defeating SK in the grand final. Here's what we learned from the event which took place in Northern California from November 16-20.
Immortals also managed a surprising run, defeating everyone in Group A apart from Astralis after numerous close matches, and G2 placed third. In Group B, Heroic took maps off mousesports and SK and had a solid chance to advance, but a loss Cloud9 at the end sent them below the top three.
NiP are so far the only team to have won two big events since the off-season
On the other side, NiP passed FaZe in overtime on Nuke before Train went the other way in commanding fashion. The decider was Overpass, which Finn "karrigan" Andersen and company had previously won against the Swedes in groups, though this time it was NiP who took the victory in another close encounter.
The grand final saw SK taking Train with ease, while NiP won Cache after the Brazilians made a valiant effort on the map they stopped playing in April. On Cobblestone, NiP came back from a 14-12 deficit to clinch their second trophy in three months, with Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg adding another MVP award to his resumé.
|Round-robin group stage|
|SK||16-14||Astralis||Train||Semi-finals (Map 1)|
|NiP||19-15||FaZe||Nuke||Semi-finals (Map 1)|
|NiP||16-14||SK||Cache||Grand final (Map 2)|
|NiP||16-14||SK||Cobblestone||Grand final (Map 3)|
What have we learned from IEM Oakland?
The $300,000 event brought us some new storylines and lessons as to where the teams stand and how some of the new lineups progressed. Here are the main takeaways:
NiP are back in full force
After Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi went inactive for four months, NiP overcame their slump with Mikail "Maikelele" Bill, winning StarSeries Season 2, placing 3rd-4th at Pro League, and reaching playoffs at ELEAGUE.
That must have been a bittersweet period for the 23-year-old, who could only watch as his team improved on their results from early summer. It also put a lot of pressure on him at his first event back, especially due to many calling for Maikelele to stay with NiP.
However, after a so-so showing in groups, pyth held his own as he made a big impact in the playoffs, especially during the close maps against FaZe and SK, helping NiP get their first title with him since DreamHack Masters Malmö.
In their map wins, the Swedes rarely had someone slacking in the fragging department, which goes on to show how important it is nowadays for everyone to pull their own weight. Even when one of the players did have an off map, he made up for it within the series, as was the case with Adam "friberg" Friberg in the grand final for example.
|NiP||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|Patrik 'f0rest' Lindbergf0rest||203 - 153||+50||84.6||1.26|
|Adam 'friberg' Fribergfriberg||199 - 156||+43||87.6||1.25|
|Jacob 'pyth' Mourujärvipyth||179 - 154||+25||76.8||1.19|
|Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT' AlesundGeT_RiGhT||176 - 150||+26||75.9||1.14|
|Richard 'Xizt' LandströmXizt||174 - 152||+22||78.5||1.11|
NiP's statistics in map wins at IEM Oakland
The karrigan switch benefited both Astralis and FaZe
They immediately improved on their results despite next to no practice, placing second in their group at ELEAGUE. Pro League Finals, which took place the following weekend, saw them exiting a tough group in 4th place with losses to NiP, SK and Cloud9.
Oakland had a very similar group, but the time FaZe had to finally get some practice in, about three weeks of it, made a world of difference. On top of that, everyone was playing very well in groups, including karrigan who was also one of the best players of the NiP semi-final. In fact, his 1.14 rating at the event was his best in over a year.
karrigan helped another team get over the hump
Astralis also got their chance to show what the change brought to the team. Similarly to FaZe, the Danes played great in groups to finish first with four wins and one loss and showed up to play in the semi-finals as well.
Despite Nicolai "device" Reedtz's poor performance in the semis, Astralis were the closest anyone has got to taking Train off SK on LAN in six months and took Mirage to double digits as well. Who knows what could have happened if he carried at least some of his amazing form from groups over to playoffs.
Both teams showed they can play with the best teams in the world. If they keep improving, we could see some titles going their way very soon.
Na`Vi's problems continue
Since Natus Vincere's triumph at ESL One New York and a solid 3rd-4th at EPICENTER: Moscow, Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács's squad has been but a shadow of themselves, exiting ELEAGUE and now IEM Oakland in the group stage.
In Atlanta, Na`Vi had to play SK twice and ended up on Train both times. That is a tall order for any team right now, so the disappointing result there was understandable, especially due to the veto format in best-of-one's (Na`Vi only got two vetoes in the opener, while SK had three) and the teams sharing their instant ban in Cache.
Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's team has mostly been criticized for their poor map pool lately, as both Cache and Cobblestone are out of the question now and Dust2 isn't very good for them either, but at IEM Oakland they played poorly on all of the other four maps as well.
It's impossible to tame s1mple, Na`Vi should give in to his playstyle
In the opener, they lost Nuke badly to Liquid after a very poor CT side. TYLOO then took them to 30 rounds on Overpass, Na`Vi's best map by far, Astralis put up 12 rounds on the T side of Train against them, and Immortals won Mirage in overtime. The issue isn't just the map pool, there's something else wrong with the Ukraine-based squad.
The first thing to point at is the leadership, which was transferred to Denis "seized" Kostin due to coaching limitations. While their playstyle isn't as hardcore as it used to be, they still keep their slow approach, which isn't easy to do for an inexperienced in-game leader. It might be time for Na`Vi to free it up and let the players off their chains a little more. They've done that with s1mple, probably because he's too hard to tame and thrives in that system, but he often causes Natus Vincere to lose important rounds. It's impossible to create a playstyle that is not around an impulsive player like s1mple, so it could be good if some of the others joined him to help in his crazy endeavors.
Such a playstyle is impossible to control fully by definition, but it should work better than letting only s1mple do as he likes while the others keep the former system. Over time, they'll learn how to compliment each other better and become more stable.
Playing two matches at a time allows for better scheduling
Due to the format and a limited amount of time, two matches at a time were played in the group stage of IEM Oakland. While some may argue against it due to missing some of the matches, it's much more likely that an interesting match is being played when you do tune in.
This setup allows for the entire group to be played in one day, which is great for viewers. It's much easier to keep track of the results and the storylines when the group doesn't span across multiple days (as it usually does nowadays), especially in the round-robin format.
For the teams, it's somewhat of a double-edged blade. They don't have as much time to prepare for the upcoming matches, but in the end, everyone has the same conditions as long as some of them don't have to play all of their matches in a row. On the other hand, playing all matches in one day significantly cuts down the time needed to set up and helps with the warmup.
In this case, all teams had a day off thanks to the schedule. They could spend it practicing in the backstage area and watching the other group play out, which can also be very helpful during tournaments.
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