EPICENTER playoffs preview
EPICENTER continues on Saturday with the semi-finals, with SK and Astralis facing off before Virtus.pro attempt to upset G2. In our playoffs preview, we take a look at each team's run to the playoffs, the match-ups, and the best players.
SK, who switched João "felps" Vasconcellos with Ricardo "boltz" Prass at the last minute, clinched first place in Group A to set up a match against Group B's second-placed team, Astralis, in the first semi-final tomorrow.
G2, who have looked like an unstoppable beast, will then try to fend off the threat of the Poles, who are looking to get back on the horse after undoubtedly the worst period of their careers.
|Ratings used are from the group stage of EPICENTER|
|SK (EGB.com Rate: 7.576)
||Astralis (EGB.com Rate: 4.839)|
|Marcelo "coldzera" David||1.42||Nicolai "device" Reedtz||1.21|
|Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||1.40||Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||1.16|
|Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||1.35||vs.||Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||1.06|
|Ricardo "boltz" Prass||1.13||Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye||0.94|
|Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||0.98||Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander||0.87|
|Danny "zonic" Sørensen|
Yet to sweat
Despite next to no practice with boltz and changing positions on some maps, SK had an unexpectedly comfortable journey to playoffs. The one-sided Virtus.pro series wasn't much of a surprise, but even FaZe failed to make the Brazilians sweat, as FalleN & co. flew past Finn "karrigan" Andersen's squad on two of the three maps.
Limiting SK's aggression - a key to winning the series?
Given SK's uncontested run to the playoffs, it's not surprising to see the trio of coldzera, FalleN, and fer among the five best-rated players of the group stage. They were allowed to do anything they wanted, especially fer, who couldn't be prevented from venturing into the opponents' zone every chance he got.
That aggression will become much harder against Astralis, who have had in device and Xyp9x their main difference makers and stable contributors. Their map control phase is thorough enough to limit fer as well as FalleN, who will have to tread carefully when going into duels with device.
Overpass - the deciding factor
Barring any curveballs from either team in the veto, we're bound to get three maps SK and Astralis are comfortable on. Nuke and Cobblestone are off limits, while Inferno and Cache aren't either team's strong suit at the moment.
That leaves us with Train - a likely pick for Astralis -, Mirage and Overpass. SK could choose to go either way, but having Overpass as a decider would be a fantastic prospect, because that's where the two go 50-50. The Brazilians are currently on a six-map winning streak on it (since their loss to the Danes at the PGL Major) and it has been Astralis' most successful map this year.
|G2 (EGB.com Rate: 11.208)||Virtus.pro (EGB.com Rate: 25.788)|
|Kenny "kennyS" Schrub||1.52||Filip "NEO" Kubski||1.05|
|Dan "apEX" Madesclaire||1.38||Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||1.00|
|Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro||1.33||vs.||Paweł "byali" Bieliński||0.96|
|Richard "shox" Papillon||1.28||Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||0.92|
|Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt||1.21||Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||0.81|
|Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux||Jakub "kuben" Gurczynski|
The uncontested vs. the inconsistent
On the other side, Virtus.pro stumbled numerous times on the way to playoffs, as the Poles failed to show up against SK and survived a tough marathon in the elimination match with Gambit. Despite a 2-16 loss on Mirage to FaZe, VP then bested the No.1 team on Cobblestone and on a tough Inferno, which was decided by a series of unlikely scenarios in the last round.
shox's squad turned up with all they've got in the group stage. All five of their players ended up in the top-ten best-rated players, with kennyS at the summit, boasting an other-worldly 1.52 rating going into the playoffs.
Virtus.pro's side of things was also very much a team effort overall, with NEO standing out in the Gambit series especially. Snax, on the other hand, has a lot of room for improvement as the worst-rated player of the groups.
A clash of explosive styles
Many were hoping for a clash of FaZe and G2 at this tournament, but the possibility of the Virtus.plow making an appearance again in what will be the premiere between the two lineups creates an exciting aura surrounding the second semi-final. There are similarities to be drawn in the two components, which are bound to explode when mixed. As long as Virtus.pro turn up, we can expect an action-packed, reactive series.
The maps could go many ways, although we can count on Train and Overpass being left out. G2's most likely pick is Cache, while Virtus.pro could be aiming for Nuke as they usually do whenever it's left in the pool. Inferno then seems like a possible decider as G2's most played map lately due to Virtus.pro's successes on the newest map in this tournament.