StarSeries S3 Finals preview
To help guide you through the week of CS action that awaits us at the SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals, we have prepared a detailed preview that looks at the teams, their form and what we can expect from them at the event.
The SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 is an event put together in cooperation between StarLadder and Chinese tournament organiser i-League. The event will feature 16 teams and will kick off with a Swiss system group stage, followed by a single elimination best-of-three bracket.
The attending teams have been split into four seeding pools out of which the first round matchups were drawn. Below you can find the different seeding pools:
|Pool 1||Pool 2||Pool 3||Pool 4|
|SK||Ninjas in Pyjamas||Immortals|| MVP Project
To analyze the teams, we used the StarSeries pools as they do a good enough job of portraying the four tiers of teams that will be competing in Kiev.
* Ratings used are from the past three months on LAN, except where noted otherwise
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||21||1.18|
|Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye||18||1.12|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||21||1.08|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||24||1.05|
|Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander||21||0.96|
|Danny "zonic" Sørensen (coach)|
Astralis' recent achievements include getting the title at ECS Season 2, winning the ELEAGUE Atlanta Major, finishing top four at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas and lifting their third trophy with gla1ve at IEM Katowice 2017. The Danes made the most of the troubles and roster changes other elite teams went through in the period around the Major and are now the undisputed No.1 team in the world.
However, the hard part is yet to come. With device and co. winning three out of the last four big tournaments, all eyes will be on Astralis, with rival teams analyzing their demos and looking for ways to defeat the team that will most likely go far. Moreover, some of the teams that have made roster changes, such as fnatic, G2 and SK will now be better prepared than at previous events and will certainly be tougher obstacles standing in Astralis' way to the title.
Could dupreeh be the next Astralis player to win an MVP award?
Astralis still have a few things going their way; they are strong on six maps and even flirted with letting Cobblestone through versus FaZe at IEM Katowice, they should be amongst the better prepared teams considering that they have been together for quite a while now, giving them tactical variety, and are pretty scary individually, too.
Despite still not mastering the art of grand final play, device is one of the best players in the world and his consistency throughout the tournament usually ensures that the Danes will go far. Both Kjaerbye and Xyp9x have flourished individually under gla1ve, picking up MVP awards at different tournaments, with dupreeh opening up space for them by moving from an entry fragging role to a more supportive one.
With a lack of LAN events in recent weeks, it's hard to gauge how good the rest of the top teams actually are, so you must go with Astralis as the clear-cut favorite for the title in Kiev. If gla1ve and co. used the time off wisely and are still one step ahead of the competition, we just might see the Danes lift another trophy and have to admit that we are witnessing the 'Astralis era'.
|Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||23||1.19|
|Paweł "byali" Bieliński||22||1.07|
|Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||28||1.07|
|Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||30||1.05|
|Filip "NEO" Kubski||29||1.01|
|Jakub "kuben" Gurczynski (coach)|
Virtus.pro are the only team that have been able to come close to Astralis in recent months, both achievement-wise and in a head-to-head matchup. The Poles couldn't close out the third map at the Major vs gla1ve's squad, but got their revenge in the following tournament, DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, taking the title while the Danes finished 3rd-4th.
In an interview in Las Vegas, TaZ referenced "being number one", but the team couldn't back that up in the following tournament, IEM Katowice. Virtus.pro showed up in poor form and were not able to make it out of the groups, losing not only to lower ranked teams but on some of their best maps as well.
The bad performance was seemingly tied to the team's star player Snax playing below his normal level. "The Butcher" finished the tournament with what could be considered an average rating, 0.97, but the impact it had on the team was huge, showing how much Virtus.pro rely on Snax delivering great performances.
It's unlikely that Snax and VP will perform as they did in Katowice
It will be interesting to see how their performances in Poland will affect them. Will the losses on Nuke, Cobblestone and Train influence their map veto and confidence going forward or will they write-off the tournament to Snax being unrecognizably average?
Considering the longevity of both the roster and the players within it, it makes sense to expect both Snax and Virtus.pro to bounce right back, making them a contender for the SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 title.
|Marcelo "coldzera" David||22||1.30|
|Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||25||1.21|
|João "felps" Vasconcellos||20||1.13|
|Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||22||0.91|
|Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||25||0.91|
SK have had somewhat similar results to Virtus.pro, with a strong finish at the ELEAGUE Major and a good debut with felps at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas followed by a blunder at Katowice. However, the team dynamic is way different to that of the Poles, as SK are still figuring out how to utilize all of their players.
felps, the newest addition, actually isn't the problem, and their main star coldzera also seems unimpacted with the roster change, boasting an incredible 1.30 rating on LAN in the last three months. The player that has struggled the most ever since they removed Lincoln "fnx" Lau and used Ricardo "fox" Pacheco as a stand-in is the in-game leader and main AWPer, FalleN. After finishing the year as one of, if not the best sniper in the game and taking the #2 spot in HLTV.org's 2016 ranking, FalleN's level has dropped a lot as he has searched for ways to incorporate the new players in the system.
Losing the impact of FalleN's AWP has turned out to be a massive hit for SK, but it was at least partially made up by fer looking more like the aggressive 'ferGOD' we came to know and love when the Brazilians made their first strides internationally.
FalleN's individual game suffered in the last couple of months
Unlike Virtus.pro, SK have at least been good online since Katowice, but seeing the level of competition in North America at the moment, it's hard to draw any strong conclusions on the matter, leaving StarSeries Season 3 to answer a lot of our questions.
Did SK have enough time to set up an effective system and can this squad be as good as the one with fnx? Can FalleN pick up his individual game without taking away from the other players and does he even need to do it for SK to be successful?
|Natus Vincere (#6)||Age||Rating|
|Egor "flamie" Vasilyev||19||1.12|
|Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev||19||1.07|
|Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács||25||1.01|
|Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev||29||0.98|
|Denis "seized" Kostin||22||0.91|
|Andrey "Andi" Prokhorov (coach)|
With the exception of their win at ESL One New York, Natus Vincere's track record with s1mple has been pretty underwhelming. In 2017, they had flashes of brilliance in group stages, most notably going 3-0 at the Major, but it seemed that their strong performances were based mostly on shut-down CT sides, while their Terrorist game came down to picking up just the few needed rounds to close out games.
When the tournament gets to the playoff stages is where Natus Vincere have struggled immensely this year. At the three events they have played, they have only managed to win one series—against a FaZe team fielding Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad—and have won only one map in the three series they have lost, a 16-14 game against Astralis on Mirage.
Their poor results and particularly bad Terrorist sides are most likely an issue caused by the lack of true in-game leader in the team, and the matter is only worsened by fights within the team, something GuardiaN referred to in our latest interview.
Can seized figure out a system for Na`Vi with the help of Andi?
In an attempt to shake things up, the team released Sergey "starix" Ischuk and replaced him with their long-time analyst, Andriy "Andi" Prokhorov, and also changed the out-of-game captainship to GuardiaN. How this will influence the team is yet to be seen, but it's possible that the team will now adapt a more loose style of play on the Terrorist side, relying more on raw skill, which this team has an abundance of.
It must be noted that Natus Vincere's seeding pool doesn't align with what we can expect from them at the event. Considering their last three showings, they will probably make it out of the best-of-one group stage, where they can ban both Cobblestone and Cache, but we'll have to see them do something in series before we can expect a high finish from the CIS side.
|Nikola "NiKo" Kovač||20||1.24|
|Aleksi "allu" Jalli||24||1.11|
|Finn "karrigan" Andersen||26||0.98|
|Håvard "rain" Nygaard||22||0.96|
|Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey||22||0.96|
|Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström (coach)|
FaZe have been looking like a dangerous team since adding karrigan, whose leadership has brought more decisiveness to the aimstar squad, but it's the addition of NiKo that made them a scary opponent for any team in the world.
The Bosnian slotted right into the roster and FaZe quickly forgot that Philip "aizy" Aistrup ever existed, as they immediately had a final run at IEM Katowice, putting up a good fight against the world's number one—Astralis. With that result happening just a few days after NiKo started practicing with the roster, we can only expect karrigan's team to look better in Kiev.
NiKo slotted right into FaZe
Role wise, the team seems to be set and pretty balanced, as kioShiMa has taken up the less desirable roles to open up space for the team's stars NiKo, rain and allu. Out of the three, the only one that wasn't able to perform as well as you would expect in Katowice was rain. The Norwegian has had a 0.96 rating on LAN in the last three months, but plays great online, boasting 1.15 rating. Considering he has a lot of experience already, we should expect his online and offline game levelling out sooner rather than later.
Even though the competition at the event is tough, FaZe could easily make another deep run at SLi StarSeries Season 3 and influence even more teams to go down the multi-national roster route.
|Emil "Magisk" Reif||19||1.09|
|Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke||19||1.02|
|René "cajunb" Borg||27||1.01|
|Philip "aizy" Aistrup||20||0.89|
|Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen||22||0.86|
|Casper "ruggah" Due (coach)|
North are in a somewhat weird position as their last really good result was winning EPICENTER: Moscow back in October. Since then, they have not been close to winning another event, but they are consistently making the playoffs and finishing events with decent placings.
The team has most recently replaced Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel with aizy, but the young Dane hasn't been that impressive in what we've seen from him. MSL claims that he is happy with aizy's play so far, but the real question is how happy aizy is with RUBINO's support role on the Terrorist side.
When you add in that their map pool is looking a bit shaky thanks to their home map, Cobblestone, not being as strong since RUBINO departed, North are not looking that great coming into Kiev, which will be stacked with teams that are on the upward trend. They have two things going their way however: Magisk is as strong as ever and their online play—except the loss to fnatic in ECS S3 promotion—has been very good, which should at least boost their confidence following some average LANs.
|Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev||27||1.25|
|Abay "HObbit" Khassenov||22||1.00|
|Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko||29||0.99|
|Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov||28||0.93|
|Rustem "mou" Telepov||25||0.93|
|Mikhaylo "Kane" Blagin (coach)|
Gambit have slowly but surely earned their spot in the top 10 by consistently getting out of groups and into the playoffs. However, their wins have mostly come on Cobblestone and Overpass, two maps Gambit have developed a speciality for and can seemingly defeat any team on.
The CIS team gets into trouble when advancing to the playoffs, where their shallow map pool gets exposed. One of their tickets out of the situation could be solidifying Inferno, a map most of the teams have shown an affinity towards and could often come into play as the decider in best-of-three series.
AdreN has been playing great, but the team lacks a second star
Personnel wise, Gambit still heavily rely on AdreN who has had what could be the biggest renaissance we've ever seen from a CS player of his age. The Kazakh has been performing on a consistently high level for a long time, even before Zeus joined the team, but he desperately needs a second star if Gambit want to continue to climb the ladder. HObbit has shown flashes of brilliance and mou has been a serviceable AWPer, but it will be down to one of the two to elevate their game or a roster change to find additional firepower might come into play.
It will be interesting to see how Gambit will fare in the group stage of the tournament. Considering their proficiency for Cobblestone and Overpass is now surely figured out, teams will probably ban the two maps and force them to go somewhere they are less comfortable. In a way, the StarSeries Season 3 group stage will be a stress test for Gambit's map pool—making it past the Swiss system should signal that they have what it takes to get wins in the playoffs as well.
|Ninjas in Pyjamas (#12)||Age||Rating|
|William "draken" Sundin||21||1.07|
|Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||28||0.95|
|Richard "Xizt" Landström||26||0.93|
|Adam "friberg" Friberg||25||0.86|
|Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||26||0.85|
|Björn "THREAT" Pers (coach)|
A quick glance at the LAN ratings of the Ninjas in Pyjamas players in the last three months is enough to see that the Swedes are in big trouble. The only above average rated player is draken—whose LAN appearances weren't in a Ninjas in Pyjamas jersey but in that of Epsilon—and the once best CS:GO player GeT_RiGhT sits at the bottom of the table with 0.85.
Ninjas in Pyjamas's response to the slump was to replace Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi with the young Swedish AWPer draken. It seems that the move has managed to wake up the roster, as they at least have started to pick up better results online. Transferring that to a LAN environment is not going to be as straightforward, though, as draken is still fairly inexperienced—he has attended a lot of LANs for his age, but none of those events were as stacked as StarSeries Season 3.
So far, it seems that Ninjas in Pyjamas has managed to adapt to draken fairly well, managing their economy to ensure that he has the AWP in almost every gun round and allowing him time to find picks on the Terrorist side. Adapting to the new guy early on seems to be the motto of the Ninjas in Pyjamas squad, and it often brings good results. It took them only two events to lift a trophy with pyth, they won StarSeries Season 2 just after bringing Mikail "Maikelele" Bill in as a stand-in and were the champions at IEM Oakland 2016, the first event they played with pyth after he returned from his hand injury.
The early roster change boost and solid online results will instil some confidence in the Ninjas in Pyjamas fans, but they will still have a hard time if the whole team doesn't improve from their recent LAN showings.
|Henrique "HEN1" Teles||21||1.07|
|Lincoln "fnx" Lau||27||1.03|
|Ricardo "boltz" Prass||19||0.96|
|Lucas "steel" Lopes||23||0.91|
|Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles||21||0.91|
Immortals played only one tournament with this roster but instantly impressed, grabbing a 3rd-4th place finish at IEM Katowice. fnx seems to have a more pivotal role in this team than he had in SK, but it was HEN1's high-speed AWPing that tore teams apart at Spodek. His AWPing style is a double-edged sword though, as it is as good as it gets when it's on point, but when it's not, he struggles to find a way to contribute to the team.
Immortals live and die by hen1's AWPing
Immortals could be an even more exciting team if boltz could find a way to return to his form from the Summer-Autumn of 2016—when he and felps were both capable of strong performances—as the remaining two players are more of the supportive type.
The Brazilians have a decent map pool based around three strong maps: Cobblestone, Cache and Overpass, but the overall lack of firepower and reliance on HEN1 is going to make their task of getting to the playoffs hard, but in no way impossible.
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||22||1.05|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||25||1.02|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||22||0.94|
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||23||0.92|
|Dennis "dennis" Edman||26||0.85|
|Jimmy "Jumpy" Berndtsson (coach)|
The reforming of the fnatic roster that won six tournaments in a row in late 2015 and early 2016 was followed by a bit of hype, but the team wasn't able to live up to it at their first two offline events, IEM Katowice and DreamHack Masters Las Vegas.
The Swedes finished both tournaments with group stage exits and seemingly struggled to find a playstyle that fits them and the current meta of the game. It was dennis, who you could argue was the best player for fnatic over the majority of 2016, who suffered the most in the new-old lineup despite the IGL duties now falling on flusha's shoulders.
|Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow||27||1.02|
|Martin "STYKO" Styk||21||0.92|
|Patrik "Zero" Žúdel||18||0.84|
|Bence "DeadFox" Böröcz||22||0.73|
|Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk||23||0.72|
|Ivan "Johnta" Shevtsov (coach)|
The Eastern European mixture HellRaisers were in a rough patch after the Major as it seemed that they had reached their maximum just by qualifying for the event and that they were destined to stay on the brink of being a 'tier 1' team.
Things have picked up recently, as their form rose as a result of a team bootcamp and players such as STYKO and Zero taking time off from school to focus on CS. Breaking out of the downward spiral of bad play and lack of confidence has seen HellRaisers pick up online map wins over Natus Vincere, North, Virtus.pro, G2, fnatic and allowed them to qualify for three LANs, starting with StarSeries.
DeadFox is struggling in the current HellRaisers system
A few question marks still remain for ANGE1's crew. Firstly, they seem to lack a clear star player. Most of the players on the roster are capable of contributing at different times, but is there a player on the team whose performances can be relied upon? Secondly, can they get more out of their AWPer DeadFox? The Hungarian sniper showed some potential towards the end of 2016, but a switch to a more loose style seems to have hurt him a lot. With the team not playing around him, he is in a support-AWP role, something that we rarely—if ever—see working out in CS:GO.
Lastly, all of their good play has been online, with their last LAN showing being the abysmal one at the Major. Can they convert their online play to LAN?
|Kenny "kennyS" Schrub||21||1.22|
|Dan "apEX" Madesclaire||24||1.13|
|Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt||22||1.12|
|Richard "shox" Papillon||24||1.12|
|Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro||20||1.02|
|Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux (coach)|
The forming of the French super team was one of the most exciting roster shuffles in CS:GO, with the top talent in the country uniting under G2. Of course, fans and analysts might have disagreed over certain players, but all in all, this roster seemed to have all that it needed to instantly become a contender for titles.
That has not yet happened, though, as G2's lackluster online play resulted in them failing to qualify for IEM. It has now been two months since the team was formed and things have finally started to click, but it's still hard to say what NBK- and co. will do in Kiev.
The individual talent level is so high you could realistically see G2 take the title, but, at the same time, they don't have a good run of either offline or online play to back up a prediction like that. The only thing that is certain is that StarSeries Season 3 will be the first event where we will see kennyS and shox play together, and that alone is a reason to be excited about.
|Kenneth "koosta" Suen||1.24*||HaoWen "somebody" Xu||1.10|
|Stephen "reltuC" Cutler||1.08*||Hui "DD" Wu||1.05|
|Ricardo "Rickeh" Mulholland||1.07*||Ke "captainMo" Liu||1.04|
|Ethan "Ethan" Arnold||1.05*||Zhen "HZ" Huang||1.03|
|Pujan "FNS" Mehta||0.83*||WeiJie "zhokiNg" Zhong**||1.01|
|Chet "ImAPet" Singh (coach)|
|Hae-Sung "HSK" Kim||1.36*||Lei "forget" Li||1.03|
|Hyun-Pyo "XigN" Lee||1.20*||ZhiHai "QKA" Fu||1.03|
|Jung-Hyeon "rindA" Jeon||1.10*||Wei "shuadapai" Wang||1.02|
|Soo-Yong "kAyle" Jung||1.09*||ZhenDong "Not7" Mo||0.93|
|Soon-Woo "Argency" Kwon||1.09*||HongGuang "Stevie" Li||0.78|
|Ronald "Rambo" Kim (coach)|
* No LAN games played in the last three months, online rating used
CLG are set to attend their first LAN in the last three months, surprising many by earning their spot through the North American qualifier. From what we have seen online, the team rely heavily on koosta, who looks reinvigorated under the leadership of FNS, with the signing of Rickeh proving to be a good one as well. The Australian is serviceable both as a rifler and as an AWPer, giving the team some tactical variety.
CLG's biggest obstacle will probably be the stage at which they will be playing; with two young and fairly inexperienced players—koosta and Ethan—it's hard to see the CLG squad perform on the same level in which they have been playing online. However, the event may provide some crucial experience to develop the players and the team further.
Rickeh will have his LAN debut for CLG in Kiev
Gaining experience and low expectations are what the three Asian teams are mostly about as well. TYLOO recently acquired the services of the Indonesian star Hansel "BnTeT" Ferdinand and were looking like an exciting prospect for this tournament, but due to visa issues, TYLOO's star will not be able to make it to Kiev. Replacing him will be zhokiNg, a solid player, but not the same caliber as BnTeT.
MVP Project slowly worked their way up while the Chinese scene was going through massive changes, and made just a single change by adding the 16-year-old kAyle to their roster. The Koreans grabbed a spot at StarSeries Season 3 thanks to some good play, but are yet to show that they can do much against international opposition.
The last team on the list is UYA, formerly known as 5POWER. The team upset TYLOO in the online qualifier for StarSeries Season 3 and were the only team to win a map against their Chinese rivals at China Cup a few weeks ago. With an average age of 25,8, the Chinese squad is one of the older ones at the event, and it will be interesting to see if they can use that experience to their advantage in any way.
Professeur writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter.