IEM Oakland has moved from the studios in Burbank to Oakland's Oracle Arena for the semi-finals, set to begin later today with NiP versus SK, followed by FaZe and Cloud9. Here is our in-depth preview of today's two match-ups.
|Ratings used are from IEM Oakland|
|SK (EGB.com Rate: 4.308)
||NiP (EGB.com Rate: 10.664)|
|Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||1.31||Fredrik "REZ" Sterner||1.46|
|Marcelo "coldzera" David||1.20||Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||1.38|
|Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||1.12||vs.||William "draken" Sundin||1.18|
|Ricardo "boltz" Prass||1.01||Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||1.15|
|Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||0.90||Richard "Xizt" Landström||0.91|
|Björn "THREAT" Pers (coach)|
SK's journey to playoffs was surprisingly quite bumpy, considering how strong they had looked early at EPICENTER, three weeks ago. At IEM, the Brazilian squad saw their winning streak on Overpass come to an end against Astralis — the only team who seem to be able to contest FalleN's roster on that map —, just barely survived Cobblestone against EnVyUs, with their other Cobble match getting scarily close as well (16-13 vs. NiP), and lost to Cloud9 on Train.
Meanwhile, NiP's path looked much more comfortable. There's an asterisk next to the Swedes' 4-1 record in the groups due to Astralis missing Nicolai "device" Reedtz in their opening match, but their loss to SK aside, they were always in control of their matches.
REZ has never looked better in NiP, which may be a sign of a brighter future for the Swedish squad, who were hoping to reinvigorate the team with his addition earlier this year. The 19-year-old has played a huge part in NiP's run as the highest-rated player of IEM Oakland so far, with f0rest hot on his heels as the second-highest, and GeT_RiGhT and draken also playing consistently well throughout the group stage.
On the other side, it is no surprise to see fer, coldzera, and FalleN as SK's top three performers — that's how it's almost always been —, as well as boltz with a steady contribution, his slow start in the EnVyUs opener aside.
SK's shaky showing thus far gives NiP the best chance this lineup has ever had of making the final at a big event like IEM. Their map pool is looking quite good against the Brazilians for several reasons, first of all due to one of NiP's worst maps, Inferno, being a pain in SK's side as well. Thanks to that, the Swedish side can get away with banning Mirage without getting punished.
SK will almost undoubtedly find themselves forced to play Cache for only the second time since the last Major. FalleN's squad will either pick Overpass, a map they feel most comfortable on and one NiP likes very much as well, or one of Cobblestone and Train. Whichever map gets picked, SK remain the favourites simply because they are the better team on paper, but the Swedes will fancy their chances very much.
|FaZe (EGB.com Rate: 4.562)||Cloud9 (EGB.com Rate: 13.997)|
|Nikola "NiKo" Kovač||1.18||Tarik "tarik" Celik||1.15|
|Håvard "rain" Nygaard||1.16||Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham||1.15|
|Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács||1.12||vs.||Jake "Stewie2K" Yip||1.03|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||1.11||Timothy "autimatic" Ta||1.02|
|Finn "karrigan" Andersen||1.00||Will "RUSH" Wierzba||0.97|
|Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström (coach)|| Soham "valens" Chowdhury (coach)
A good chunk of FaZe's matches at IEM Oakland so far were quite challenging for the European superteam. A close match with G2 in the opener was to be expected, but Renegades almost pulling off a comeback from a massive deficit on Train and Gambit crushing karrigan & co. on Mirage — less so. Nonetheless, FaZe clinched first place in the chaotic round robin and earned a direct ticket to the semis.
Meanwhile, Cloud9 were part of Group A and managed to grab uncontested wins over two of the group's favorites, SK and Astralis, but fell in similar fashion to NiP on Overpass and EnVyUs on Cobblestone. Placing second after all, the Americans faced Gambit in the quarter-finals and ran away with a tight win, conceding Overpass in overtime before grabbing Cobblestone and Mirage.
FaZe's group stage run was very much a team effort, with rain and olofmeister more or less back to normal after a rough showing at EPICENTER — a good sign going forward. On Cloud9's side, the top performers were not the usual suspects, Stewie2K and autimatic, but instead tarik and Skadoodle, who led the way in their team's important wins.
We're on course to see Train as Cloud9's best map (where they currently hold a 7-0 winning streak on LAN), while FaZe's most likely pick is Overpass, being a team that likes to alter vetoes based on their opponents' weaknesses. Mirage would be a fantastic decider as it's a strong map for both teams, but karrigan could instead steer the veto towards Inferno, which would be bad news for Cloud9. The series seems destined to go to three maps should Cloud9's streak on Train survive, but ultimately FaZe are the favorites here.