The ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals playoffs are set to begin on Friday with two quarter-finals, followed by the semi-finals and the best-of-five grand final over the weekend. Here are four of the biggest storylines going into the knockout rounds of the $750,000 tournament.
The group stage of the Danish event featured plenty of surprises. Astralis and Liquid suffered tough losses in Group A, which paved the way for the new HellRaisers and fnatic to go through, while Group B saw Misfits and OpTic succeed over North and NiP.
The scene is set for the playoffs to begin on Friday, with fnatic and OpTic squaring off in the first quarter-final, followed by Misfits versus HellRaisers, while FaZe and SK are lying in wait in the semi-finals (scheduled for Saturday).
Here are our four key storylines connected to the playoffs:
The young guns are looking to prove themselves on the big stage
HellRaisers' success in ESL Pro League groups comes as a surprise due to many factors, first and foremost because of how good the team's youngsters, Özgür "woxic" Eker and Issa "ISSAA" Murad, are playing at their first big international event.
The Turkish and the Jordanian have been doing incredibly well in Odense, boasting 1.18 and 1.17 ratings throughout the group stage, respectively. Now, they are looking to take the big stage for the first time, hoping they won't crumble under the pressure.
Under the leadership of Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow, who has also been a big factor in HellRaisers's success so far with great numbers in the opening kills and damage departments, the young guns should be fancying their chances of making the semi-finals at ESL Pro League.
fnatic translate online success
For months fnatic have been garnering online successes, mainly in the European divisions of ESL Pro League and ECS, earning first-place finishes and spots at the offline finals.
After a two-month hiatus from big LANs, they have finally translated some of those results to an offline environment, most notably defeating Astralis (albeit with a stand-in) and FaZe in the groups to clinch a quarter-final spot in Odense.
The Swedish side are set to face OpTic in the playoffs in a multi-map setting, and fnatic's map pool will undergo its first real test in a while. If they pass this test, the challenge will only get harder, with FaZe waiting in the next round.
karrigan and Magisk, the only players left to represent Denmark
Despite being considered the best Counter-Strike country at one point, Denmark has struggled to make a lasting imprint on the international scene in the new tournament season. At the Pro League Finals, Astralis and North disappointed their fans, failing to make it out of the group stage and missing out on a chance to play in front of a home crowd in the country's third-largest city.
Of the 12 players who comprised the Danish talent pool at the start of the Pro League Finals, only two remain: OpTic's Emil "Magisk" Reif and FaZe's Finn "karrigan" Andersen. We can expect the crowd to get behind the veteran in-game leader, who has been known to engage with the crowd whenever possible, and OpTic come in as a solid second choice as none of the remaining teams in contention have particularly big fanbases outside of their countries.
The scene is set for an SK-FaZe grand final
With SK and FaZe both placing first in their respective groups and making it directly to the semi-finals, in which they will face favorable match-ups, regardless of what happens in the earlier stage, the scene is set for the first grand final between the two lineups. FaZe and SK have been trading the No.1 position for weeks now; it's time to settle this, once and for all all.
The only time the two have met before in a series was in the group stage at EPICENTER. The Brazilian side grabbed the win, although it was clear that FaZe were not at their best at that point, with Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer in poor shape and Håvard "rain" Nygaard having come down with an illness.
This time, there will be no excuses. Despite hitting a few bumps in the group stage, FaZe's players are all in good form, as are SK's, who flew past their opponents in the round robin — aside from OpTic.
Given karrigan's history against Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's teams, it's hard not to consider SK the favorite, although a best-of-five scenario will make the Brazilians' clear advantage on Overpass less of a factor than if the series were a best-of-three. Both teams have gaps in their map pool; SK's Inferno and Mirage have been shaky, while FaZe especially struggle with Train. Simply put: if we do get the ideal grand final, we're in for a treat.