DH Masters Las Vegas preview
DreamHack Masters Las Vegas starts on Wednesday, February 15, with 16 teams kicking the event off with the GSL group stage. We've prepared a preview in which we take a look at the teams and some of the biggest storylines.
Sixteen teams will come together in Las Vegas from February 15-19, including 11 highest-ranked teams in the world according to our current Team Ranking.
The stacked $450,000 event will feature a GSL group stage, played mostly in best-of-one matches barring the best-of-three decider matches, with the top two teams from each group advancing to a single-elimination bracket.
These are the groups:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|North||fnatic||Ninjas in Pyjamas||FaZe|
An important thing to keep in mind is that the new Inferno will be played on LAN for the first time since Valve announced it was replacing Dust2 in the Active Duty map pool, and DreamHack decided to make the switch with just two weeks between the update and the event.
In our preview of DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, we've divided the 16 teams into four categories: Favourites, Mid-tier teams, Underdogs, and Debutants, which features teams who were tough to place in any of the other categories due to their roster changes.
* Ratings used are from the past three months on LAN
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||21||1.24|
|Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye||18||1.13|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||23||1.05|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||21||1.05|
|Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander||21||1.01|
|Danny "zonic" Sørensen (coach)|
Before the end of 2016, the Danish powerhouse picked-up a semi-final finish at IEM Oakland, made it one step further at ELEAGUE Season 2, and clinched their first title in over a year at ECS Season 2 Finals.
Despite those results, several experts picked Natus Vincere to defeat Astralis in quarter-finals at the ELAEGUE Major and to win the whole thing. However, device and company prevailed in the end and went on to grab their first Major title in fantastic fashion, edging past Virtus.pro in a tight grand final.
Kjaerbye is enjoying gla1ve's system
Being the last Major winners and seeing as the remainder of the top-ten is unstable due to roster changes or mixed results, Astralis are the team to beat at the moment.
It'll be hard for anyone to do that, as the number one team has a lot of depth all-around. Their wide map pool allows them to match up well against anyone and all of their players are in good form, especially Kjaerbye who powered Astralis through playoffs at the Major.
With Inferno coming into the mix, Astralis lost one of their better maps, Dust2, and in series' it could force them to play Cobblestone, assuming they haven't put enough time in Inferno to be confident on it. It's unlikely any of the other teams will be prepared to pick it, though, so it's possible that the Danes will keep banning Cobblestone when facing certain opponents.
|Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||23||1.20|
|Paweł "byali" Bieliński||22||1.09|
|Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||30||1.09|
|Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||28||1.07|
|Filip "NEO" Kubski||29||0.99|
|Jakub "kuben" Gurczynski (coach)|
Virtus.pro have proven time and time again that despite their overall instability, the Poles nearly always show up at the biggest events, of which DreamHack Masters Las Vegas is one.
Only last month did TaZ and company finish in third place at WESG—where they were largely expected to win—only to come back at the Major and be rounds away from winning it.
Virtus.pro will have many hard match-ups in Vegas
In Atlanta, Snax was clearly the team's driving force, but we've come to expect that from the team's superstar and the fifth-best player of 2016. Not so much from pashaBiceps, however, who also stood behind a large portion of Virtus.pro's success at the Major with a few big clutches and a stable performance overall.
The Poles should come out ahead in their group, which is reasonably dangerous with the new-old fnatic as well as a rising Gambit. VP are good enough to take on any team in playoffs, but there are several who can beat them, including the other two favorites and three of the debutants, SK, North, and FaZe.
|Natus Vincere (#4)||Age||Rating|
|Egor "flamie" Vasilyev||19||1.13|
|Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev||19||1.12|
|Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács||25||0.97|
|Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev||29||0.96|
|Denis "seized" Kostin||22||0.87|
|Sergey "starix" Ischuk (coach)|
The new Na`Vi, which features s1mple since August last year, has so far disappointed to live up to their potential, dealing with identity issues as they figure out whether to utilize a tactical or a simplistic approach.
After finishing the year with two measly group stage exits at ELEAGUE Season 2 and IEM Oakland, Natus Vincere's heavy preparations prior to the ELEAGUE Major sparked hopes for a new future.
Unluckily, Na`Vi met Astralis in quarter-finals, as GuardiaN and company finished 3-0 while the Danes made it out of the groups in the last round, and we didn't get to see enough to objectively judge their new level.
DreamHack Masters will give us a clearer picture of where Na`Vi stand
We saw a total of six maps from Natus Vincere at the Major, of which three were against the best team in the world and the remainder were CT-side landslides in the group.
DreamHack Masters Las Vegas should give us more answers as to where they stand among the top teams. Judging by the little we saw at the Major, they have a fair shot at a semi-final finish or more, depending on whether they'll be able to deal with the loss of Dust2, which they looked good on at the Major.
|Ninjas in Pyjamas (#6)||Age||Rating|
|Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||28||1.06|
|Adam "friberg" Friberg||25||0.96|
|Richard "Xizt" Landström||25||0.93|
|Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi||23||0.91|
|Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||26||0.86|
|Björn "THREAT" Pers (coach)|
Ninjas in Pyjamas are one of the few teams who have yet to show themselves this year, having failed to qualify for the Major due to a crushing loss to Vega Squadron at the ELEAGUE Major Main Qualifier.
That finish to 2016 was especially shocking due to the Swedes consistently making playoffs at their previous three events with a title at IEM Oakland, a semi-final finish at ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals, and a quarter-finals exit at ELEAGUE Season 2.
At the qualifier, Ninjas in Pyjamas were most notably criticized for their lack of timeout usage and inability to adapt, which should be fixed with THREAT coming back into the mix, as he is finally traveling with the team again.
The Norse God and his NiP return two months after the Main Qualifier fiasco
While it has detrimental effects on Ninjas in Pyjamas's future at the Majors, I see their Main Qualifier showing as merely a bump on the road in terms of form; the Swedish roster should now go back to where they belong—being a contender for a top-four finish.
|Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev||27||1.13|
|Abay "HObbit" Khassenov||22||1.12|
|Rustem "mou" Telepov||25||1.11|
|Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov||28||0.96|
|Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko||29||0.92|
|Mikhaylo "Kane" Blagin (coach)|
In the span of a month, Zeus and company clinched two smaller titles, Predator Masters Season 3 and DreamHack ZOWIE Open Winter, before starting their preparations ahead of the ELEAGUE Major.
Gambit's first test will be the new-old fnatic
Being one of the hardest working teams, Gambit came prepared for the Major, where they only lost to Virtus.pro on their way to playoffs while defeating two more playoff-bound teams, North and FaZe. Their journey came to an end when they met one of the better teams out of all the possible draws, fnatic, against whom they were only able to win Overpass in a three map series.
That map now seems to be one of their best, alongside Cobblestone, although they seem to be reliant on the two as we haven't seen them play the other four too much. As for Inferno, it's possible Zeus will want to take advantage of the situation and prepare Gambit to use it as a trump card, but I wouldn't bet on anyone picking the map this close to the announcement.
|Timothy "autimatic" Ta||20||1.08|
|Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham||23||1.06|
|Jake "Stewie2K" Yip||19||1.02|
|Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert||26||0.96|
|Mike "shroud" Grzesiek||22||0.94|
From September to October, the North American squad were runners-up three times at smaller events, and more importantly grabbed 3rd-4th at StarSeries Season 2 Finals and a title at ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals.
They attended four more events before the end of the year in quick succession and failed to make it past groups each time, most notably at the Major's Main Qualifier where they suffered losses to TYLOO and HellRaisers.
Cloud9's honeymoon period is over
Whether that has to do with the fact that they barely had any time for practice between those events is up for debate, but it seems they've been figured out and as a result lost the confidence they had had during their successful run.
To add insult to injury, Cloud9 are another team for whom Dust2 leaving the map pool could be detrimental. They've always liked the map and used to be very good on it, perhaps due to its simplicity which allows their loose playstyle to shine, but now they don't have that option anymore. They'll have to start looking into either Inferno or Nuke to make up for the loss, but fortunately for them, many teams are facing the same issue as nearly everyone was able to play Dust2.
Rather than go through all teams in the debutants section individually, we will go over the group as a whole and see which teams have a better chance to succeed at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas.
fnatic made possibly the most exciting change, bringing back together the same lineup that won six titles in a row in late 2015 to early 2016 and went on to garner several more top fours before breaking up in summer.
It needs to be said that the conditions between then and now have changed drastically for such a relatively short period of time. The competition is stiffer and not all of fnatic's players are at the same level they were at a year ago, but even so, the fact that they've played together not that long ago will surely help them in the short term.
The situation in North is similar, as we already saw the same lineup with aizy once before at WESG Regional Finals, where the then-dignitas clinched first place. That experience will help aizy get accommodated in the roster and adjust much quicker than their group opponents, OpTic, who have just lost their in-game leader.
The new-old fnatic might be the most benefitted out of the debutants in the short-term
DreamHack Masters Las Vegas loses importance for FaZe and MOUZ due to the fact that both are going in with a stand-in, knowing they'll have a new lineup after the event. However, at the same time, being in that position takes pressure away. Since they're both in the same group, I'd give the edge to FaZe, who are the better team overall and won't mind the loss of Dust2 nearly as much as mouz.
That leaves us with SK, who are a bit of a question mark. felps is a very different player than Lincoln "fnx" Lau or Ricardo "fox" Pacheco, so FalleN needs to create a new system in which he can use the aggressive play-maker that is the new addition. SK already had one highly aggressive player in fer, so it'll be interesting to see how the Brazilians will be able to keep control over their play style.
SK's success will come down to whether their in-game leader was able to come up with a style that works with the new roster in the short time he had, which is not a given. I'd rather say that the Brazilian squad will be one to benefit in the long term when they've figured out how to work with felps.
|TYLOO (#25)||Renegades (#26)|
|HaoWen "somebody" Xu||1.06||Justin "jks" Savage||1.06|
|Ke "captainMo" Liu||1.02||Karlo "USTILO" Pivac||1.01|
|Hui "DD" Wu||1.01||Simon "atter" Atterstam||0.93|
|Zhen "HZ" Huang||0.96||Yaman "yam" Ergenekon||0.86|
|YuanZhang "Attacker" Sheng||0.96||Aaron "AZR" Ward||0.78|
|Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović (coach)|
|Misfits (#35)||Complexity (#42)|
|Hunter "SicK" Mims||1.15||Rory "dephh" Jackson||1.05|
|Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken||1.09||Kia "Surreal" Man||1.04|
|Skyler "Relyks" Weaver||0.92||Michael "Uber" Stapells||0.95|
|Shahzeb "ShahZaM" Khan||N/A||Bradley "ANDROID" Fodor||0.83|
|Sean "seang@res" Gares||N/A||Derek "desi" Branchen||N/A|
|Matt "Warden" Dickens (coach)|
If I had to pick one team from the Underdogs who could go on and advance from their group, it would be Renegades. The Australians will face the two teams with stand-ins in their group, FaZe and MOUZ, which makes a playoffs finish possible.
The odds still aren't good, though. Similarly to mouz, Renegades' chances suffer from the change of Active Duty maps, as they had favored Dust2 in recent months. On top of that, the inclusion of the Swede atter into the team, who will be playing in Ricardo "Rickeh" Mulholland's stead, will leave a large question mark looming over the Australian-Swedish team.
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