ECS S2 Finals preview
The ECS Season 2 finals are set to kick-off at the Anaheim Convention Center & Arena, where $750,000 will be on the line. We’ll break down the groups and what to expect from each team in the following preview.
ECS will have two groups of four teams play out the stage in GSL format. Qualifying from both North America and Europe via the online season, the top 8 teams will fight for the prize in 3 days with best of one openers and winners’ matches and best of threes in the elimination and decider matches as well as in the playoffs.
Three action packed days are set to kick-off in California
Group A will have four top 10 teams in it, including the ELEAGUE Season 2 finalists, Astralis (#4), and the champions, OpTic (#6), while Group B will have two top 5 teams in it: SK (#2) and Dignitas (#5). Sadly, though, both will be showing up to Anaheim with stand-ins due to different reasons.
The groups for the tournament are:
|Group A||Group B|
*all ratings are for LAN in the past three months
Group A is the more stacked of the two, especially since the two top teams in Group B are coming in with stand-ins. What is undeniable is that the teams in the group are incredibly level per our rankings as well as by looking at recent results. The first opening match of Group A will be a best of one rematch of the ELEAGUE finals, with Astralis facing OpTic, while Cloud9 will go up against FaZe right after.
Some of the most interesting storylines could possibly come out of this group as the outcome of the ELEAGUE final rematch and the FaZe vs. Cloud9 clash could give us a derby between the two top ranked NA teams, OpTic vs. Cloud9. This would also mean Finn "karrigan" Andersen would face his ex-teammates of Astralis. If the matches go the other way, we would still end up with an interesting rematch of the ELEAGUE semifinals between OpTic and FaZe.
The meta game has reached a point in which most teams have learned how to play many maps very well and are using similar strategies and positions, and which map gets played has lost certain relevance in a group like this one—in which the different teams’ map pools match-up so well. With the game now boiling down to who gets the economic advantage first, or which team/player has a better day and hits their peak form at the right moment, expect an all-out brawl between these four teams as any of them could to end up lifting the trophy on Sunday or going home after two measly maps.
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||21||1.22|
|Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye||18||1.05|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||21||1.03|
|Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander||21||1.02|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||23||1.02|
The Danes are coming into the ECS Season 2 finals with very solid results both online and off and with the confidence and renewed energy of having signed a good asset for the team in gla1ve. Astralis are the top seeded team having placed first in ECS’s Season 2 with a ten map winning streak to close out the online portion of the tournament. Not only that, Astralis have also finished top 4 at IEM Oakland and were finalists in Atlanta last weekend at ELEAGUE.
ECS will be the last tournament of the year for the Danes, as the inclusion of gla1ve has not only given instant results, but it has also cemented Astralis’ spot at the ELEAGUE Major in January. With that in mind Astralis will be looking to close the year out with a bang, and with players like Kjaerbye and Xyp9x stepping up as of late that could be a real possibility.
The inclusion of gla1ve has benefitted Kjaerbye
Going into the opening match, Astralis aren’t necessarily favourites against OpTic anymore as was seen just last week. With the ability to ban their weaker maps in Nuke and Cobblestone—which the Danes have repeatedly tried to play to no avail—, the map pool for that match will be one that suits both teams. If Astralis can get revenge and pull off the win against OpTic, they are favoured to make it to the playoffs with the top seed.
With an enviable Train as seen in ELEAGUE where they broke SK’s 17 win streak, strong on Overpass, Dust2, and Mirage, and able to bring it on Cache—a map that could easily come out against OpTic—, Astralis will have a lot of options in the veto against the rest of the teams in the group.
|Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas||21||1.13|
|Tarik "tarik" Celik||20||1.09|
|Keith "NAF" Markovic||19||1.07|
|William "RUSH" Wierzba||22||1.03|
|Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz||22||1.02|
The American-Canadian-Spanish side are coming into the event in Anaheim as the pristine champions of ELEAGUE’s second season after taking out Astralis in three maps in the finals. OpTic will hopefully have gotten past their big win hangover and come into ECS with the same hunger and motivation they showed last week in Atlanta. Usually seen as an unimposing rag-tag bunch of players who couldn’t quite cut it, the rest of the teams in the field will surely be keeping an eye out on this outfit moving forward.
Time to see if OpTic can keep up good form
Having had mixed results before winning ELEAGUE—champions at Northern Arena – Montreal, and out in groups at DreamHack ZOWIE Open Winter—the North American side’s success arrived when all of the team’s players were able to come together and share the work load. A clear sign of that was the fact that players like RUSH (who won in the end), tarik, and mixwell were all in the running for the MVP award at ELEAGUE before the final, but it was NAF who without a doubt carried the team past the finish line against Astralis.
While OpTic is a team that plays to their strengths, avoiding Train against Astralis in the opener will be unquestionable, especially seeing as they were able to run over the Danes on the two other maps played at the ELEAGUE final. With both teams likely not wanting to play rematches on the three maps played in Atlanta, Dust2 or Cache could suit a duel-based opener.
|Timothy "autimatic" Ta||20||1.14|
|Jake "Stewie2K" Yip||18||1.05|
|Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert||26||1.03|
|Mike "shroud" Grzesiek||22||1.03|
|Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham||23||0.99|
Considered the top North American team before OpTic’s big win last week, Cloud9 have been struggling to find the form that propelled them to the top when they won the Pro League finals in October. With a 7-8th finish at IEM Oakland and a 5-6th finish at DreamHack Winter—where they beat OpTic in their group’s elimination match—, Cloud9 haven’t quite seemed themselves as of late.
The last time Cloud9 played against FaZe was in the group stages of IEM Oakland, in a Mirage match that the European combine took in overtime. Having a similar map pool as FaZe with maps like Train, Mirage, and Dust2 all at the ready, their opening match will come down to how in form Stewie2K and company are, and who can rip more heads off in any given map.
After a couple shaky tournaments and with the rest of the teams in the group all coming in hot from deep runs at ELEAGUE, Cloud9 are going to have to show their best version in the best of ones and prey the other teams have a bad day if they want to make it out of this stacked group unscathed.
|Håvard "rain" Nygaard||22||1.09|
|Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey||22||1.06|
|Aleksi "allu" Jalli||24||1.04|
|Philip "aizy" Aistrup||20||1.03|
|Finn "karrigan" Andersen||26||0.92|
The lowest ranked but by no means visibly worse team in the group is FaZe, last seen upset by OpTic in Atlanta last weekend and denied a spot in the ELEAGUE final. While that was a tough loss for FaZe, the Europeans have gone from being a team that couldn’t make it out of groups before karrigan to a team that has made semifinals at three out of the four events they have played with the Danish in-game leader, who is proving to be an invaluable asset to the team.
FaZe have gone from group exits to several semifinals
While their tactical game has improved, much of this group’s fate will come down to players’ individualities, as that will be the biggest difference maker in a group in which all four teams have similar map pools and for the most part play the more and more ubiquitous “loose” style. This, in the end, will benefit FaZe since playing the aim game has been straight up their alley for a long time.
Group B is the weaker of the two, and here we could talk about favourites to make it out if it weren’t for the fact that both of the favourites are coming into the tournament with stand-ins. SK due to Lincoln "fnx" Lau being sacked and Dignitas due to Emil "Magisk" Reif having academic priorities. Standing-in while SK find a permanent solution will be the Portuguese veteran Ricardo "fox" Pacheco, while the Danes will bring on the young but already proven Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså, who should at least be able to maintain magisk’s firepower.
The first opening match will pit the two top ranked teams, SK and Dignitas, due to the former being the top team in North America while the latter scraped through a six way tie during the online portion of the tournament. On the other side, the old glory Envy will face Immortals—a team that has been consistently winning smaller tournaments but has so far proved unable to show up at the big events.
|Marcelo "coldzera" David||22||1.15|
|Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||25||1.11|
|Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||25||1.00|
|Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||21||0.97|
|Ricardo "fox" Pacheco (stand-in)||30||1.38|
The Brazilian team have recently been marred in controversy surrounding fnx’s departure from the team, but this weekend that fades into the background as the ECS finals will be the first page turned in the team’s next chapter as they will play this event and the following Major with fox in tow. Up to now, despite having found a tournament win to be elusive since their last championship in Cologne, the Brazilian squad have collected three top 4 finishes and have made it to two finals.
fox will be back from his post-FaZe exodus in Anaheim
The team also lost the first place in the ranking due to fnx’s departure, but the four Brazilians and fox should still be a force to be reckoned with in Anaheim. Their closest rivals in the group will also playing a stand-in, so SK can still be considered favourites to take the group if all goes well.
Despite their Train streak being broken by Astralis, just about every sane team should ban it against them, giving the Brazilians an instant one-up in the vetoes and a lot of choices to pull out of their bag of tricks. Unless something disastrous happens, SK will have to show what they are capable of with fox when they’re paired with a Group A team on Sunday.
|Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke||19||1.16|
|René "cajunb" Borg||26||1.08|
|Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel||22||0.97|
|Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen||22||0.86|
|Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså (stand-in)||21||1.18|
Walking around the practice rooms two days before the event, Dignitas were diligently training and tuning their game for the opening matches on Friday after already bootcamping in California after ELEAGUE. Having scraped by the six way tie in the online phase, Dignitas will be looking to make the best of the opportunity at hand. A tough call must have been made by the Danes to stay in North America and bring in valde as a stand-in instead of going home when they realized Magisk wouldn’t be able to attend the event, which would have also allowed them to work on their game ahead the Major qualifier next week.
Showing a lot of determination by staying for ECS, the Danes will have a tall order ahead of them in the opener, but making it out of groups should be an obtainable feat if they can mentally reset and shake-off the recent losses at DreamHack Winter and ELEAGUE Season 2. Dignitas lost the last map of their best-of-three series against SK in Atlanta in an incredibly tight thirty rounds, and will be looking to take revenge on the Brazilians in this renewed clash.
|Henrique "HEN1" Teles||21||1.08|
|Ricardo "boltz" Prass||19||1.07|
|João "felps" Vasconcellos||19||1.00|
|Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles||21||0.95|
|Lucas "steel" Lopes||23||0.95|
The second Brazilian team have shown they’re capable of consistently winning the smaller events like the iBP Masters, Americas Minor, or Northern Arena – Toronto, and that they can take the online leagues seriously enough to qualify for the LAN finals.
When it comes down to showing up on the big stage against stiff opposition, though, Immortals have had a hard time breaking that barrier not making it through groups in the second season of ELEAGUE, bombing out of groups in home soil for the Pro League finals, and with a 5-6th finish at IEM Oakland. While the team may have had more time to include steel into the mix, the fact that SK are on the lookout for a new 5th could work to both destabilize the team or make the players in it go that much harder to prove themselves worthy candidates as many things can change in two months.
Their first match against Envy should in theory be their easiest one, so a lot is riding on a good start to the tournament. Immortals don’t quite have the pedigree as the two top teams in the group, so they’ll have to hope for the teams with stand-ins to run into trouble and sneak some upsets if they want to have a shot at the playoffs.
|Kenny "kennyS" Schrub||21||1.16|
|Dan "apEX" Madesclaire||23||1.05|
|Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer||25||0.98|
|Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt||22||0.98|
|Christophe "SIXER" Xia||25||0.90|
Compared to most of the other teams in the fray, Envy have been flying under the radar with losses to OpTic and Dignitas in their ELEAGUE group and to local rivals G2, who are also in a slump of their own, at the Northern Arena – Montreal semifinals.
After parting ways with Timothée "DEVIL" Démolon somewhat indecorously it seems SIXER hasn’t quite been able to step the team’s game up quite yet. Meanwhile, Envy’ biggest hope lies in the kennyS and apEX duo, who have been showing glimpses of their former selves and putting in strong performances. If NBK- and Happy can show up, Envy could look to upset.
kennyS and apEX could help tilt the balance for EnVyUs if in good shape
Luckily for the French team, their opening match will be against Immortals, the only other non-top 10 team in the tournament. If they can win that match and find a way to take advantage of some weaknesses in one of the teams with a stand-in, Envy could beat expectations in Anaheim. If that will actually happen, however, remains to be seen.
The action will kick-off tomorrow at the Anaheim Convention Center & Arena in Southern California as the last standalone tournament of the season gets under way with $750,000 on the line. Check the full schedule out here.