What we learned from IEM Katowice
With IEM Katowice done and dusted, we take a look back to summarize the event and see what we've learned over the course of the five-day, $250,000 tournament.
IEM Katowice followed the same format ESL have been using for the Intel Extreme Masters series for the past year - six-team groups played in a round-robin, from which the first team advances directly to playoffs while second and third-placed teams play the quarter-finals.
Due to all three advancing teams finishing the group at 4-1 (with a 1-1 head-to-head record among them), ESL's unusual tiebreaking system took place for the very first time since it's been put in place at last year's IEM Katowice. That was played in mr3, $10,000 settings between all three teams on the same map, Train. FaZe came out of the three-way tie with two wins and clinched the semi-finals spot, while Astralis defeated Immortals for second place in the group.
In Group B, all six teams picked up two or three wins, which speaks to how close it was in the end. Virtus.pro and SK, who were widely expected to advance, missed out on the playoffs due to a number of upsets. Heroic were the big surprise of that group, grabbing wins against North, Natus Vincere, and Virtus.pro, earning a semi-finals spot due to a 2-0 record in the three-way tie.
For the second time this year after the ELEAGUE Major, Astralis and Natus Vincere met in quarter-finals, as the Danes picked up another victory over Sergey "starix" Ischuk's squad. On the other side, Immortals continued to surprise in their debut with Lincoln "fnx" Lau, beating North 2-1 following two narrow maps and a confident finish on Cobblestone.
The semi-finals saw the favorites prevail - Astralis bested Heroic while FaZe passed Immortals before the two victors met in the best-of-five grand final. Winning Cache, FaZe's chances were looking good in their debut with Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, but it was the stable lineup of Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander and company that went ahead to sweep the European mixture with three narrow victories on Overpass, Nuke, and Inferno for their second title in 2017.
|Group stage||Map (VOD)||Stage|
|fnatic||16 - 14||NiP||Cache||Group A|
|Natus Vincere||16 - 12||SK||Overpass||Group B|
|Virtus.pro||16 - 14||SK||Inferno||Group B|
|Heroic||16 - 14||Virtus.pro||Nuke||Group B|
|North||19 - 15||Immortals||Overpass||Quarter-finals (Map 2)|
|Astralis||16 - 12||FaZe||Nuke||Grand final (Map 2)|
|Astralis||16 - 13||FaZe||Inferno||Grand final (Map 3)|
Astralis solidify themselves as number one
With SK and Virtus.pro exiting in groups and Astralis clinching yet another title — their third with this lineup —, the Danes solidified their place at the top and distanced themselves from the two teams below them.
Astralis are looking great for more trophies in the first half of 2017
There is no denying anymore that this is Astralis' era. Since they added gla1ve, the Danish powerhouse finished at least top four at all six events they attended, including three titles, a second place, and two semi-final exits.
As Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth pointed out in our interview at IEM Katowice, the fact that many teams have changed lineups plays to Astralis' advantage, and it'll likely take a few more months before those teams reach a stable level. Before that happens, Astralis are looking very good to keep their place as the number one team in the world.
NiKo is the difference-maker FaZe needed
The Bosnian lived up to his name at IEM Katowice and pushed FaZe's ceiling by another notch with great performances, as the European mixture reached their first grand final at a big event.
NiKo pushed FaZe's ceiling to another level after less than a week of practice
Aleksi "allu" Jalli also played one of his best tournaments under the FaZe banner, as he was often up there with NiKo. Whether it was due to the new addition is arguable, but something definitely clicked for the Finnish sniper in Poland.
Let's keep in mind that the new FaZe only had about four days worth of practice and they already looked fantastic - we don't know where their limit is yet, but so far there's no reason to believe this was it.
Immortals show promise
fnx's Immortals don't seem to be affected much by the loss of felps
Placed in Group A, Henrique "HEN1" Teles and company beat all three underperformers, fnatic, NiP, and OpTic, and added an extra win no-one expected - against Astralis. To top it off, Immortals won a series against one of the top-ten teams, North, and picked up a semi-final finish after a loss to FaZe.
There's a lot to be hopeful about when it comes to Immortals, who pulled through the tournament without two of their usual difference-makers, HEN1 and Ricardo "boltz" Prass, combining with huge performances.
Denmark got another team in the top-ten, Heroic
Heroic did the impossible in Katowice
When upsets like that happen, usually it is due to some of the players overperforming, but none of Heroic's players excelled at any point during the tournament, as it rather was a team performance that got them the wins in the group. That is, for a such a young team with limited experience, let alone practice, nearly unprecedented.
With their top-four finish at IEM, Heroic gave Denmark their third team in the top-ten, at least for the time being. Whether they'll be able to stay there is, first and foremost, up to their ability to attend events.
SK need FalleN back
Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's drop-off didn't seem to be an issue at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, where SK showed that their new system with Fernando "fer" Alvarenga and felps being the aggressors worked well.
However, his form continued to drop further during IEM Katowice, where he only had one good match but otherwise was mostly a non-factor, resulting in their first group stage exit since DreamHack Masters Malmö in April 2016.
FalleN's SK are looking to go back to what worked
It seems FalleN acknowledges that there's a problem judging by an interview he did at IEM, in which he hinted at the possibility that the changes they made for felps were part of the reason why his impact decreased.
In that same interview, he also said SK were going to try to go back to how they used to play and find another way for felps to fit in. In any case, the Brazilians are back to the drawing board, so we'll have to wait for what they come up with before the next event, SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals.
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