Five key storylines of IEM Katowice

IEM Katowice begins tomorrow with the group stage, as 16 teams are getting ready to start the battle for $500,000. Here are our five biggest storylines going into the Polish event.

ESL's first big event of the year, IEM Katowice, will field 16 teams for the first time, with 12 of them coming to Poland directly from StarSeries, joined by NiP and North — who declined invitations for the Kiev tournament —, ORDER, and AVANGAR.

The $500,000 tournament will begin with a new format in the group stage, a GSL system adjusted for eight teams per group instead of four, with the teams placing first earning a direct ticket to the semi-finals, while second and third-placed teams will advance to quarter-finals.

Group A Group B
Brazil SK Europe FaZe
United States Cloud9  France G2
Denmark Astralis Sweden fnatic
North America Liquid Sweden NiP
Kazakhstan Gambit Denmark North
Australia Renegades  Denmark Heroic
China TYLOO Poland Virtus.pro
Kazakhstan AVANGAR Australia ORDER

Without further ado, here are our five key storylines going into IEM Katowice, taking place from February 27-March 4:

Can SK recover?

SK have been struggling for titles ever since their triumph at ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals; since then they missed ECS Season 4 Finals, had to play with João "felps" Vasconcellos at the Major, and finished only third at cs_summit, losing to both Liquid and Cloud9 there in relatively one-sided matches.

Now they find themselves going into IEM Katowice on the back of another disappointing run, a 5th-8th placing at StarSeries, where the Brazilians were once again bested by Liquid, albeit narrowly.

SK had little time between StarSeries and Katowice to adjust

Given the lack of time between the Kiev tournament and IEM, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo will have hardly been able to make big changes to SK's play, but those three days could be enough to make slight adjustments necessary on the maps they struggle with. Inferno has been a clear weakness for Marcelo "coldzera" David & co. for a while now, although they grabbed a couple of big wins on it in Kiev, against Cloud9 and more importantly Natus Vincere, so it might only be a question of stability.

Train is more of a question mark; SK never played it during StarSeries, partially because they preferred Inferno and partially due to Train being the decider in their 2-0 series against Cloud9 and Natus Vincere. Even more intriguing is that the Brazilian squad actively avoided Overpass, historically one of their best maps, versus the two aforementioned opponents, which could be a sign of a loss of confidence on that particular map.

Astralis, North & Virtus.pro are set to try again

Three new teams are ready to face their second test, as Astralis, North, and Virtus.pro have already made their debut this month with their new players. Although North were the only ones to change more than one player, their chances of improving upon their previous mistakes might be the best of the three, as they have had over two weeks to reflect on their short journey at cs_summit 2.

Astralis and Virtus.pro debuted at StarSeries and thus have had much less time than Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen's team to find the gaps and fix them. Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander's side fared well given the situation, having changed Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye for Emil "Magisk" Reif less than two weeks before the tournament. With a quarter-finals finish and a tight loss to a strong Na`Vi team powered by Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, the Danes should be relatively happy with their first showing alongside Magisk.

Astralis are the most promising out of the trio so far

The outlook is very different for the Poles, who decided to switch Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas for Michał "MICHU" Müller in early February to no avail thus far. In Kiev, Virtus.pro looked as disjointed and off their game as they had in recent times, with their new addition starting off well before dropping to below-average numbers as the tournament progressed, while Filip "NEO" Kubski and Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski disappeared completely. The shocking part about VP's poor run was that they nearly lost to by far the biggest underdog at the tournament, MVP PK, which would have been their biggest low to date.

Given the three teams' first results, it would seem Astralis have the edge right now and could very well keep it, especially with Nicolai "device" Reedtz looking much better than he had at the Major. North and Virtus.pro have yet to prove that the changes paid off — or that they at least weren't for the worse.

How will dennis change NiP?

Despite winning a title at IEM Oakland towards the end of 2017, NiP finished the year with a couple of group stage exits at BLAST Pro Series and ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals. That suggests that the two lineup adjustments they made throughout the year didn't change much; the Swedes were able to win titles every now and again, but not with the consistency necessary to become a top-five team.

Perhaps that is what led NiP to disrupt the three-man core that had stood since their creation back in 2012, removing Richard "Xizt" Landström to make room for an exciting addition in Dennis "dennis" Edman, who had been sitting on GODSENT's bench since November.

dennis could make a big difference in NiP

It is a no-brainer in terms of firepower, but the question is how their playstyle will change now that they've also replaced Björn "THREAT" Pers with Faruk "pita" Pita and dennis took over leadership, having had a few experiences from past teams such as fnatic. When their former coach entered the fray, he was able to reinvent the team with more structured play, but now they seem to be coming back to their roots; a more free-flowing, loose style.

IEM Katowice will certainly give us a few hints as to whether that is a good idea. As long as Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund performs, there should now be no weak links in the Swedish side, and that is already a good sign.

Cloud9 need a deep finish

By winning the Major, beating FaZe, SK (with felps), and G2, the American squad instantly became a huge contender. However, their results since have shown that their campaign in Boston may have been a one-off, especially as all five players were in fantastic shape, which is something you can't expect to happen often.

Cloud9 went on to lose the cs_summit 2 final to the debuting Liquid, although they added another win over SK (that time their full lineup) en route to the grand final. The big blow came at StarSeries last week, when Tarik "tarik" Celik's squad only beat Heroic and Virtus.pro to finish just outside of the playoffs.

Cloud9 struggled for form at StarSeries

It must be noted that they met three great teams on the way, FaZe, SK, and the eventual champions mousesports, but the issue is that the series against the first two mentioned were very one-sided and Cloud9 weren't able to close out Train versus mousesports. Only Timothy "autimatic" Ta truly showed up in Kiev, trying his best to keep his team alive in some of the losses, especially against Chris "chrisJ" de Jong & co., which is a stark contrast to the Major where everyone pulled their own weight.

Cloud9 need a good result in Poland to prove that StarSeries was only a stumble along the way, otherwise they could lose the confidence that stems from the Major triumph. Only three teams from their group will advance to playoffs, so making it there is no easy task, especially as Group A features the likes of SK, Liquid, and Astralis.

The eight-team GSL format will be in play for the first time

ESL came up with an adjustment to the GSL system and bring a new format into the discussion to combat the Swiss — which they also used first —, shortly after best-of-threes made their premier in the format frequently used in chess.

Their double-elimination format, which will also mostly feature best-of-threes (aside from the first round), pitted eight teams into each group with only three making it through to playoffs; the first-placed to semi-finals, and the second and third to quarter-finals.

Due to the criticism towards the Swiss, which has famously featured no seeding after the first round thus far and that often led to imperfect matchups later in the tournament, we may be looking at a format that will be used by other organizers in the future.

Brazil Marcelo 'coldzera' David
Marcelo 'coldzera' David
Age:
24
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.20
Maps played:
1039
KPR:
0.80
DPR:
0.61
APR:
0.12
Brazil João 'felps' Vasconcellos
João 'felps' Vasconcellos
Age:
22
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
729
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.71
APR:
0.16
Denmark Emil 'Magisk' Reif
Emil 'Magisk' Reif
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.11
Maps played:
934
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.63
APR:
0.15
Denmark Markus 'Kjaerbye' Kjærbye
Markus 'Kjaerbye' Kjærbye
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1290
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.15
United States Tarik 'tarik' Celik
Tarik 'tarik' Celik
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1135
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.15
United States Timothy 'autimatic' Ta
Timothy 'autimatic' Ta
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.08
Maps played:
956
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
Poland Wiktor 'TaZ' Wojtas
Wiktor 'TaZ' Wojtas
Age:
33
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.98
Maps played:
1729
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
Sweden Björn 'THREAT' Pers
Björn 'THREAT' Pers
Age:
31
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.80
Maps played:
50
KPR:
0.53
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.14
Poland Filip 'NEO' Kubski
Filip 'NEO' Kubski
Age:
32
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.97
Maps played:
1681
KPR:
0.66
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.17
Sweden Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT' Alesund
Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT' Alesund
Age:
29
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.11
Maps played:
1603
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.15
Brazil Gabriel 'FalleN' Toledo
Gabriel 'FalleN' Toledo
Age:
28
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
1112
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.60
APR:
0.11
Denmark Nicolai 'device' Reedtz
Nicolai 'device' Reedtz
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
1356
KPR:
0.78
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.13
Netherlands Chris 'chrisJ' de Jong
Chris 'chrisJ' de Jong
Age:
29
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.04
Maps played:
1419
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.11
Bosnia and Herzegovina Faruk 'pita' Pita
Faruk 'pita' Pita
Age:
28
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.90
Maps played:
173
KPR:
0.63
DPR:
0.73
APR:
0.15
Sweden Richard 'Xizt' Landström
Richard 'Xizt' Landström
Age:
28
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.00
Maps played:
1549
KPR:
0.68
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.17
Denmark Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander
Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.01
Maps played:
1199
KPR:
0.68
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.17
Denmark Mathias 'MSL' Lauridsen
Mathias 'MSL' Lauridsen
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.92
Maps played:
1504
KPR:
0.64
DPR:
0.72
APR:
0.15
Sweden Dennis 'dennis' Edman
Dennis 'dennis' Edman
Age:
28
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.03
Maps played:
1009
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.13
Poland Michał 'MICHU' Müller
Michał 'MICHU' Müller
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.08
Maps played:
1385
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.14
Poland Jarosław 'pashaBiceps' Jarząbkowski
Jarosław 'pashaBiceps' Jarząbkowski
Age:
31
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.02
Maps played:
1592
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.13
Ukraine Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev
Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev
Age:
21
Rating 1.0:
1.23
Maps played:
1035
KPR:
0.85
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.11
gl NiP and VP
2018-02-26 20:06
yes
2018-02-27 10:59
#4
 | 
Romania VeryGipsyGuy 
first
2018-02-26 20:07
#23
PokeMon | 
United States Acetk 
Nt
2018-02-26 20:18
2
2018-02-26 20:08
#8
chrisJ | 
France Escher 
6.Can NaVi and mouz continue their good performance? Ho wait :(
2018-02-26 20:08
#27
 | 
Germany grabke 
+1 yes lol IEM should have invited at least Mouz instead of NIP maybe even NAVI.
2018-02-26 20:23
when the invites were being handed out navi were complete garbage but mouz deserve an invite
2018-02-26 20:39
#55
 | 
United States Prji 
Mouz lost to AVENGAR in the qualifier after all the invite slots were full
2018-02-26 23:53
Instead of NiP Rofl
2018-02-27 09:22
#54
Respect | 
Other Bra71I 
:( actual content
2018-02-26 23:20
#9
 | 
Russia quick_ly 
ez for avangar \
2018-02-26 20:08
#48
 | 
United States NightStar 
+1 xd
2018-02-26 21:41
Hell yeah if they don't make it to semis at least then it's a rigged tournament
2018-02-27 00:32
Nice
2018-02-26 20:08
GOOD GAMES I WILL WATCH ;D
2018-02-26 20:08
#12
 | 
Kazakhstan Ahamkara_NH 
Ez for Gambit and Avangar. Alga KZ !!
2018-02-26 20:08
Gl to both teams
2018-02-26 21:07
#14
 | 
United States DANIELION 
Cloud9 making deep run- hahahahaha
2018-02-26 20:09
#15
 | 
Russia Nikosimus 
Imo the biggest storyline is the Grand Slam win SK can get 3 and then it's almost over OR NiP/FaZe/G2 can get 2 and challenge SK Or someone else can get the first one which is unlikely, only Astralis and C9 can get there
2018-02-26 20:10
liquid top 2 finish
2018-02-26 20:11
#17
 | 
Estonia VeTox 
Vp lmao
2018-02-26 20:11
#18
 | 
Moldova OptimusBlyad 
FInally a good one format
2018-02-26 20:12
+1 but still 2 game in 1 time
2018-02-27 00:30
SK OMEGALUL
2018-02-26 20:13
#20
 | 
Europe trey_ 
sk lul vp lul L U L
2018-02-26 20:15
#26
 | 
Brazil MIBR_Top_One 
FaZe lul G2 lul C9 lul
2018-02-26 20:20
#40
Zero | 
Slovakia t4gg3d 
name checks out
2018-02-26 21:10
#49
 | 
Europe trey_ 
die
2018-02-26 21:48
#21
 | 
Finland Smoonah 
hope NIP actually win a map with Dennis.
2018-02-26 20:15
#30
 | 
Europe lalt 
forest on honeymoon, no worries. He will carry them to 2nd place like always. device senior
2018-02-26 20:31
#22
 | 
Sweden Rexz 
ez NiP ez dennisBEAST
2018-02-26 20:17
SK LUL FAZE LUL C9 LUL ASTRALIS LUL VP OMEGALUL
2018-02-26 20:20
#41
Zero | 
Slovakia t4gg3d 
+1 ikr, why didn’t they mention avangar? They are the biggest candidates on winning IEM
2018-02-26 21:11
first
2018-02-26 20:29
#29
method | 
United States f0xes` 
Too bad Na'Vi and mouz aren't at this event.
2018-02-26 20:30
#35
 | 
India swast1k36 
Inviting VP and Nip over mouz and NA'VI. - 500IQ
2018-02-26 20:50
+profit -enjoyment
2018-02-26 22:47
#63
 | 
Malaysia byaIi 
+1 but still nip and vp roster change so little more interesting
2018-02-27 09:25
five key storylines: same as two days ago OMEGALUL
2018-02-26 20:33
Can sk recover? Well faze is playing so well after choking in the major finals and losing to navi so...hltv get ur shit toghether
2018-02-26 20:34
cloud9 is like money At begiin of the month u have every thing at the end u have nothing..
2018-02-26 20:50
#37
method | 
United States f0xes` 
Lol +1
2018-02-26 21:03
#47
 | 
Slovakia kubb1 
Its like gambit... luck was on their side
2018-02-26 21:36
No it wasnt they beat every top team in Europe, Gambot beat some tier 2/3 teams to win. You don't get lucky beating the top 4 teams in 4 bo3s
2018-02-26 23:11
#38
 | 
Italy Er1cz 
Go NiP
2018-02-26 21:05
#42
 | 
Malta matizenek333 
IEM easy win for renegades or fnatic
2018-02-26 21:13
Tru
2018-03-06 06:24
VP can no longer do anything, so stop pretending they're still relevant
2018-02-26 21:15
Can't wait to see how Order does, even if they get thrashed every time.
2018-02-26 21:18
#45
 | 
Sweden Trkmag 
Tough draw for NiP
2018-02-26 21:33
#46
f0rest | 
Serbia dankooo 
ez for vp
2018-02-26 21:36
#51
 | 
United Kingdom Fizzhaz 
noice format
2018-02-26 22:31
For the last time no one gives a fuck about SK
2018-02-27 00:04
#60
 | 
Poland Hell2k 
NiP can win but i think SK will win or Astralis
2018-02-27 00:49
run sk
2018-02-27 07:58
double elimination is my favourite system - really good to watch in DOTA tournaments
2018-02-27 09:35
#66
 | 
Belarus nopez 
PLS NIP
2018-02-27 13:10
GL C9
2018-03-01 04:59
CAN SK RECOVER LMAOOOOO WHAT A STORYLINE
2018-03-02 15:28
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