ELEAGUE playoffs preview
The quarter-finals of ELEAGUE begin tomorrow with dignitas kicking off the $1.1 million playoffs against SK. In the following preview, we break down each quarter-final match-up, their storylines, form, best players, and maps.
In our preview of the ELEAGUE quarter-finals, we go through each match-up to highlight the best players, to see who's in shape, which teams have the upper hand in the map veto and more:
* Statistics used in this article are from the last three months on LAN
|November 30th, 20:00|
|Dignitas (#4)||SK (#1)|
|Emil "Magisk" Reif||1.23||Marcelo "coldzera" David||1.16|
|Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke||1.15||Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||1.10|
|René "cajunb" Borg||1.08||vs.||Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||1.00|
|Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel||0.98||Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||0.98|
|Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen||0.87||Lincoln "fnx" Lau||0.98|
Dignitas' streak of solid results after Magisk entered the roster culminated at EPICENTER, where they took it to the next level and brought home their first big title. Since then, they've never shown the same form, as they exited in groups at two events in a row: ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals and, alarmingly, DreamHack ZOWIE Open Winter, where they finished last with losses to Kinguin and FlipSid3.
With that in mind, they have a lot to prove and need a confidence boost for their long journey towards the end of the year, as they'll stay in the US for two more weeks, for ECS Season 2 Finals and the Major's Main Qualifier. Meanwhile, SK are in a pretty good spot, having finished 3rd-4th at EPICENTER, and second at Pro League Finals and IEM Oakland.
The two teams have only encountered once before, in São Paulo's group stage, which saw the Brazilians winning Cobblestone 16-7. That will have consequences on the veto process, which still looks very good if you're Dignitas.
dignitas will get a good veto, but their neverending journey puts them at a disadvantage
The Danes have the upper hand thanks to the fact that they always veto Train first, and they share their second worst map, Cache, with SK. During IEM Oakland, SK found out they couldn't play Nuke against teams that are experienced on it and started vetoing that instead of Cache from the semi-finals on. It's highly likely they will continue with that mindset, especially against Dignitas who are amazing on Nuke and won't be confident enough to pick Cache.
That means we won't see any of the aforementioned three maps in the best-of-three and it will come down to three of the remaining four. It's almost a given Dignitas will pick Mirage, which SK have been shoddy on lately, while the Brazilians have a solid choice between Cobblestone (on which they beat MSL's team less than a month ago) and Dust2. As FalleN and company can't afford to float Cache, we should be in for a fantastic finish to the series on Overpass.
Players to watch in this series are the usual suspects: Magisk and k0nfig, coldzera and FalleN. But due to those players' consistency, we should also keep our eyes on RUBINO and fer, both of whom have what it takes to take over matches but haven't shown it as much lately.
|November 30th, ~22:30|
|Astralis (#8)||Ninjas in Pyjamas (#2)|
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||1.21||Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||1.07|
|Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander||1.09||Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||1.06|
|Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye||1.03||vs.||Adam "friberg" Friberg||0.98|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||1.01||Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi||0.98|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||1.00||Richard "Xizt" Landström||0.95|
Both teams are coming into ELEAGUE playoffs on the back of a strong result at IEM Oakland. For Astralis, it was their first full event with gla1ve, after the group stage of ELEAGUE where they took down ALTERNATE aTTaX and SK in best-of-one's.
The Danes showed up on great form in Oakland, winning four out of five matches in groups before falling short to SK in the semi-finals, when device disappeared after great performances in groups. Since then, they've looked amazing online, winning all 10 remaining maps (including two against Ninjas in Pyjamas) in ECS to qualify for the finals from first place.
pyth had come back from his three-month break, but that didn't stop Ninjas in Pyjamas from grabbing their second title since September. After a third place in their group, the Swedes took revenge on FaZe and SK in the playoffs, with both teams taking them to close series.
Can gla1ve's new system break NiP's streak against Astralis?
The head-to-head is clearly in Ninjas in Pyjamas's favor. Four players of Astralis have been unable to defeat GeT_RiGhT's team for an entire year, with their last triumph being at ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational (September 2015). Since then the Danes have lost four series at various stages of tournaments, which begs the question - can gla1ve's new system break the streak? He has changed roles on both sides and comes with a new mindset, which could catch Ninjas in Pyjamas off-guard as they've played a lot against the previous version of Astralis in the past two years.
gla1ve said the team started practicing Cobblestone, but it's still hard to see Astralis letting that through instead of Nuke, which has been a solid map for them online. Ninjas in Pyjamas should stick to their usual Mirage ban and pick Nuke, allowing Astralis to pick Train, which the Swedes started playing again this month but are yet to find consistency on. The Danish side rarely plays Cache, so it will come down to Ninjas in Pyjamas choosing between Overpass and Dust2, good maps for each team.
This should be a mouth-watering series, especially due to both teams' form. Ninjas in Pyjamas have just won a big event, while Astralis are on the rise, hungry to finally get a win over Ninjas in Pyjamas on the back of new leadership.
|December 1st, 20:00|
|MOUZ (#14)||OpTic (#13)|
|Chris "chrisJ" de Jong||1.11||Tarik "tarik" Celik||1.10|
|Nikola "NiKo" Kovač||1.05||Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas||1.07|
|Christian "loWel" Garcia Antoran||1.02||vs.||William "RUSH" Wierzba||1.01|
|Timo "Spiidi" Richter||0.91||Keith "NAF" Markovic||0.97|
|Denis "denis" Howell||0.85||Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz||0.97|
NiKo's squad finished first in their group of ELEAGUE with wins over Immortals and Cloud9, and then reached semi-finals at Pro League Finals, losing to both aforementioned teams in the process. Their IEM Oakland journey came to an abrupt end once they lost all of their group stage matches, in none of which they had a real shot at winning.
In the meantime, OpTic picked up a respectable quarter-final finish at Pro League and a title at Northern Arena Montreal, where they won against G2 in the grand final. They also defeated the other Frenchmen, Envy, on their way to second place in Group D of ELEAGUE, as well as a Dennis "dennis" Edman-less fnatic. Their recent history ends with a last place at DreamHack ZOWIE Open Winter, where they fell to champions Gambit and their North American nemesis Cloud9.
NiKo needs to step his game up after Oakland
As such, it's probably the closest quarter-final of the four on paper, also because it's a very rare match-up since the two teams hardly ever attend the same events. Their only encounter happened in Pro League Finals groups, where MOUZ took Cache 16-10.
That result will probably cause mouz to pick Cache again due to OpTic vetoing Mirage first. The North American team have a choice between two of their favorite maps, Cobble and Train. As MOUZ aren't very comfortable on either, they'll likely ban the other, while OpTic should be happy with letting Dust2 through for the decider after their solid results on it against the two French teams.
OpTic's players to focus on are their two stars, tarik and mixwell, who were both great in the group stage of ELEAGUE and Northern Arena's grand final. chrisJ has come into the forefront for MOUZ, while NiKo and loWel were struggling to make their mark in Oakland.
|December 1st, ~22:30|
|Virtus.pro (#3)||FaZe (#9)|
|Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||1.10||Håvard "rain" Nygaard||1.12|
|Paweł "byali" Bieliński||1.10||Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey||1.10|
|Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||1.05||vs.||Aleksi "allu" Jalli||1.07|
|Filip "NEO" Kubski||1.00||Philip "aizy" Aistrup||1.05|
|Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||0.94||Finn "karrigan" Andersen||0.94|
A key thing to take away from Virtus.pro's recent history is the break they've taken after a fairly long streak of events without extended timeouts in late September and October, which saw them placing first at DreamHack ZOWIE Open Bucharest, second at ESL One New York, third at WESG Regional Finals, and second again at EPICENTER: Moscow.
They've only attended ELEAGUE's group stage at the beginning of November and skipped IEM Oakland to avoid staying in America for an extended period of time or travelling back and forth. They've had more than three weeks off LAN events since, much more than any other team in the ELEAGUE playoffs.
FaZe, on the other hand, have just returned from America only to go back again, as they spent almost two weeks there right after bringing kioShiMa back and picked up two 3rd-4th finishes, at iBUYPOWER Masters and the subsequent IEM Oakland. The European mixture looked great at the main event, where they got five out of five wins in groups and then took Ninjas in Pyjamas to a close semi-final.
Virtus.pro have had more time to prepare than any other team
In fact, FaZe's current lineup holds a 10-4 record on LAN with all four losses being 13-16 or closer. karrigan brought out the best in FaZe, their individual players who all played well in Oakland, and the Danish in-game leader did too.
Their core's one and only meeting on LAN with Virtus.pro is over seven months old (DreamHack Master Malmö), and as such doesn't say anything about what's to come in the last quarter-final, only that it's yet another match-up we rarely get to see.
Cobble and Dust2 will be removed off the bat. FaZe could then take their chances on Cache - which Virtus.pro doesn't play much -, but due to their poor record on it, Train is a much more likely pick. The Polish side will happily take Nuke, their best map by far, and veto Cache, leaving FaZe with a choice between Overpass and Mirage. karrigan's team have had some success on both, but Mirage seems to be one of their favorite maps on LAN and should come last.
You can follow HLTV.org's Milan "Striker" Švejda on Twitter