StarSeries i-League S4 quarter-finals preview
The stage is set for the playoffs of StarSeries i-League Season 4, so we analyzed the four quarter-finals matchup to see what we can expect to see tomorrow.
After 79 maps were played in the Kiev Cybersport Arena, the eight playoff teams were found and the bracket was decided. The luck of the draw paired SK and Liquid, who recently met at cs_summit, FaZe and Renegades, where the latter are massive underdogs, G2 and MOUZ, who already played in the group stage, and finally Astralis and Natus Vincere, both teams looking for a deep run and hoping to climb the rankings.
|Ratings used are from the StarSeries i-League S4 group stage|
|dead (coach)||zews (coach)|
SK and Liquid kick off the day at the Cybersport Arena in Kiev, playing out a rematch of the cs_summit 2 consolidation final. There, Liquid was victorious, inspired by their new signing NAF, and went on to win the whole tournament in the end.
At this event, SK is looking much better than in California, though, beating MVP PK, Cloud9 and Natus Vincere. Their weakness, a shaky Inferno, was exploited by MOUZ who defeated them in a tightly-contested three map series, but the Brazilians have been looking better on that map as the tournament moved on.
Liquid took down somewhat easier opposition than SK to get to the quarter-finals, beating Virtus.pro, Renegades and MOUZ for a place in the playoffs. The North Americans didn't look that convincing, as all of their series went to three maps, but a positive has been the continuation of NAF's great form. The Canadian is shaping up to be the main star of this team, but it seems to be coming at Twistzz's expense, as the youngster hasn't been putting up big numbers at this event.
It will be interesting to see how the teams will match up considering the different approaches to the AWP role - FalleN has been playing great with the "Big Green" so far, while Liquid has decided to focus on a five-rifle setup, only having the AWP when needed. That is also reflected in the stats, as nitr0's 0.20 AWP KPR is the lowest out of all "main AWPers" that made the playoffs in Kiev.
The map pool for this series surely won't feature Nuke, as both teams don't play it, but because of that it won't be priority ban in the first rotation, allowing both teams to remove their second weakest map in this matchup. In this case, Liquid will almost certainly ban Cache which has been their second ban throughout the tournament, while SK's ban isn't that clear, it could be Inferno or even Train, which they have been avoiding in recent times, and Liquid look comfortable on.
It's likely that we will see a Cobblestone and Mirage in the mix, maps both teams are strong on, which should result in a back-and-forth match. However, SK has been looking more impressive than Liquid at this tournament so far, which should be reflected in the final outcome as well.
|RobbaN (coach)|| kassad (coach)
The second match of the day will see the lowest ranked team still in competition, Renegades, take on the highest ranked one, FaZe. It's impossible to not see this game as a massive uphill battle for the Australians, who have already exceeded expectations by making the playoffs shortly after adding jkaem to the squad.
Renegades started off their run with a tough loss to G2, who ran over them on Cobblestone and Mirage, and went 0-2 by losing to Liquid in three maps. Being 0-11 on Mirage in the elimination game against fnatic, it seemed all hopes were lost for AZR and co. However, with an inspired jkaem, Renegades managed to pull back on the first map and win the series 2-0. After eliminating the Swedes, Renegades beat TYLOO, who they know pretty well from Asia Minors, and HellRaisers, to make the playoff.
Even though jkaem shined bright in the fnatic game, the two best players of the squad over the five series have been jks and USTILO, who have stepped up to fill the fragging void left by NAF's departure to Liquid.
On the other side, FaZe have been very strong so far, no signs of rust have been visible after a short break they took following the Major. They secured a dominant win over TYLOO to start it off, didn't look any less convincing against Cloud9, and made playoffs by taking down Natus Vincere — who were the only team to take a map off of them.
That Inferno against Natus Vincere was a map on which GuardiaN went completely missing, which led to his rating being the lowest of the whole team, but very high nonetheless - 1.15. What makes FaZe even scarier is that their in-game leader karrigan has been fragging quite well, recording his best map since joining the team. As things stand, Renegades look like they need a miracle to get the win tomorrow.
Even if jkaem puts on a show against his former team and Nifty starts having better performances than he did so far, the Australians will still struggle to take down the European mixture as the map pools really don't work in their favor.
Renegades might go with a gamble in the veto and try to get a win on the murky waters of the new Nuke, which isn't a bad strategy for an underdog in general. However, their showing against HellRaisers wasn't that impressive, and RobbaN and karrigan will be able to watch the demo to prepare for what they do. If they go the other way and pick towards their strengths, not FaZe's weaknesses, Renegades go into pretty scary territory, as FaZe are dominant on both Mirage and Cache. Even if they drop the first map, which isn't likely, FaZe should be able to take the victory on their map pick and whatever ends up being left as the decider.
|SmithZz (coach)|| lmbt (coach)
We've come to expect a strong showing from G2 in the group stages and it was no different this time, as the Frenchmen passed the Swiss stage with a 3-0 record, although their run became increasingly difficult round to round. Their first series with Renegades went smoothly before Astralis took shox's team to three maps. That was when theirs and MOUZ' journey collided, with the European mixture in the driving seat following a 16-2 win on Mirage and a 14-8 lead on Inferno. However, G2 came back from the deficit and clinched map two in overtime before closing out the series on Cobblestone.
Having defeated Virtus.pro and more importantly — for the first time ever — SK beforehand, MOUZ's chances of making playoffs were still looking good. cs_summit 2 champions Liquid were too hard to handle for chrisJ & co., who fell just short in the three map series, but they managed to take down Cloud9 in the last round following another close encounter.
Normally, G2's clean group stage runs come from big performances from most of their players. While four of the five players hit a high peak at one point or another, it was without a doubt apEX's consistency that powered his team to the playoffs in Kiev. Across the group stage, the 25-year-old recorded the second-highest rating (1.35), fourth-most 0.84 kills per round, and the most assists per round (0.24), leading to an incredible 98.7 ADR, the highest at StarSeries by quite some margin.
In MOUZ' case it was more of a team effort. Everyone pulled their own weight most of the time, with suNny and ropz as the most consistent. All five players had their big moments and maps, such as chrisJ's amazing play during the last 10 rounds on Train against Cloud9 that carried the European squad to quarter-finals.
Their earlier series in the group stage could play a factor in the upcoming veto, but it's very likely that the three maps will simply stay the same. The first bans will not change; mouz simply don't play Cache, a good map for G2, and the same goes for Train the other way around. Not only have MOUZ already beaten the Frenchmen on Mirage 16-2, it's simply a comfortable map for them, and G2 have two choices between Inferno and Cobblestone. Regardless of which map shox's team picks, it's doubtful Overpass will be in action in this series as a map neither team particularly likes and leaving the new Nuke in would be a big risk, even if the two teams used to be two of the best teams in the world on the older version.
Whether Inferno will be left as the third map or picked by G2, that's where the series will most likely be decided again, given that MOUZ are heavily favored on Mirage while Cobblestone has always been G2's strength.
|Kane (coach)|| zonic (coach)
Astralis' route to quarter-finals in their debut showing with Magisk went more or less smoothly aside from their loss to G2 in the second round. Other than that, they picked up three relatively confident wins over Liquid, Gambit, and Heroic, only losing one map across those three series (Inferno to the Americans).
On the other hand, Natus Vincere went through all five rounds and only barely made it to playoffs, having defeated HellRaisers and Gambit at first before suffering losses to the world's two best teams, FaZe and SK. In the final round of the Swiss format, they met Heroic who gave Zeus's team a run for their money on the first two maps, before Na`Vi put their foot down on Overpass, the deciding map.
The biggest takeaway from Astralis's run so far is device's return to form, after he struggled at the Major following a lengthy break, although dupreeh outshone the superstar in almost every regard thanks to amazing consistency across the four series, particularly the two three-mappers. There is definitely room for improvement for the newcomer Magisk, however, as he was up-and-down throughout the group stage.
On Na`Vi's side it would impossible not to highlight s1mple as by far the team's best player, who put up exceptional performances across groups with particularly high peaks in some of the close wins, against Gambit on Mirage in round two and Heroic on Train in round five.
It's been nearly two years since Natus Vincere beat Astralis the last time and it hasn't even been close for over a year, with three 2-0s going the Danes' way since IEM Katowice 2017. While nearly half a year has passed since their last encounter and a lot has changed — one player on each side at the very least —, the psychological advantage will be in Astralis' hands.
On top of it, Astralis will also have a significant veto advantage thanks to their strong Nuke showing against Heroic earlier in the tournament. The first bans are certain; Na`Vi don't play Cache and Astralis always veto Cobblestone. As for the picks, Inferno would be a solid bet for Na`Vi, while Astralis will most likely place their trust in one of their favorites, Overpass.
No matter the order, Natus Vincere should remove Nuke in the second round of bans due to the reasons mentioned above, leaving Astralis with a choice between Mirage and Train. Based on the Danes' previous vetoes at StarSeries, it looks like they put more work into the latter with Magisk, although their dominant win against Liquid on Mirage and Na`Vi's poor Terrorist side against Heroic could sway Astralis in that direction.