Anticipation is brewing for DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018, so we decided to look at the most important stories to watch out for at the $250,000 Swedish event.
Wednesday marks the end of more than a month without a top-tier CS event, and, if anything, DreamHack Masters Stockholm looks to be quite the blast off, with eight of the current top 10 teams in the world present in the Swedish capital.
For practical information about the event, be sure to check out our viewer's guide, which tells you everything you need to know about format, schedule, talent list, and more.
Below is a full overview of how the 16 participating teams have been split up:
The No.1-ranked Danes will probably have to win the FACEIT Major to well and truly make claim to 2018 as their 'era'. But their dominating performance throughout the year, with wins in such prestigious tournaments as DreamHack Masters Marseille, ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals, ECS Season 5 Finals and the ELEAGUE Premier, has certainly laid the foundation for a glorious Danish dynasty.
For an in-depth analysis of Astralis' run this year,
HLTV.org Senior Writer Milan "Striker" Švejda has taken a look at their performance from last year's IEM Katowice up until the recent player break. In Stockholm, the Danes will have one final test of their strength before the ultimate prize that they have undoubtedly set their eyes on: the Major.
Getting out of the groups should be an easy task for Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander's men, as neither the fellow Danes in North nor TYLOO or Grayhound should prove difficult for them to beat. In the playoffs, though, the only teams to beat Astralis in deciding games at big events this year (apart from Cloud9 at the ELEAGUE Major) will most likely be waiting for them. The Danes have lost to FaZe twice, at IEM Katowice and in the grand final of IEM Sydney, and to Natus Vincere in the ESL One Cologne semi-finals.
Against the European superstars of FaZe, Astralis have a slight edge in terms of maps won with a 6-5 score throughout 2018. Against Natus Vincere, they are tied at 4-4 with the same parameters (though Na`Vi are 2-1 in series), so things are sure to heat up if the Danes meet their two big rivals in Stockholm.
Talking about FaZe, Finn "karrigan" Andersen and co. will be coming into DreamHack Masters Stockholm with an extra reason to give it their all. The event is part of the Intel Grand Slam, where $1,000,000 is on the line for the first team to win four IEM events out of ten, and the European superstars only have Stockholm left to edge it out, as their win at ESL One New York 2017 is about to expire.
After a turbulent season, in which the team was without their Swedish superstar Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer for over three months due to personal issues, FaZe are looking to hit the ground running after the summer break. The team gathered for a week-long bootcamp in Copenhagen, the big question of course being whether they can muster the same level of play that won them ESL One Belo Horizonte in July, keeping in mind that neither Astralis or Natus Vincere were present in Brazil.
Getting out of Group C should be a manageable task for FaZe, though. They will face the highest ranked Swedish team, fnatic, as well as two Danish squads in OpTic and Heroic. But only the Swedes should be a problem for karrigan's men, as the last match they played was at the ELEAGUE Premier, where they lost 0-2 to fnatic and were sent packing before the group stage ended. OpTic and Heroic, on the other hand, shouldn't be threats, both don't seem to be stable enough to challenge a team like FaZe
Reaching the playoffs, and subsequently frying bigger fish such as Astralis, Natus Vincere, MIBR and mousesports will be contingent on olofmeister playing like he did in Atlanta, where he managed a 1.16 rating in spite of the team's disappointing result, while Håvard "rain" Nygaard, and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács will all have to step up after taking time off to recuperate during the player break.
Before ELEAGUE Premier in July, the last tournament before the break, Natus Vincere had won three consecutive events, including the prestigious ESL One Cologne . Despite being one of the favorites to win the title in Atlanta, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko's men bowed out 0-2 to eventual grand finalists Liquid in the semi-finals. In an interview with HLTV.org, Liquid superstar Keith "NAF" Markovic commented that they had the Ukranian team figured out:
"I feel like there is something about playing against Na`Vi, we know how to play against them. To me, I don't see s1mple as the star-studded player. He was just in the middle of the pack, not making any insane plays in this best-of-three [...] - NAF at the ELEAGUE Premier 2018
The comment sparked a fire in Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, who promised in a vk.com post post that he would "...train as hard as I can to solo destroy this team." While Liquid are not present at DreamHack Masters Stockholm, it's a safe bet that Natus Vincere still feel like they have something to prove before going into the Major in September after their ELEAGUE Premier exit.
The CIS superteam can definitely contest for the top spot in Stockholm, provided that s1mple himself will show some of the insane level of play that we've come to expect from the 20-year old, who as of now holds the HLTV.org and betway MVP medal lead with five awards this year. Also integral to a winning run at DreamHack Masters will be Denis "electronic" Sharipov, as the 19-year old talent has had a monster year, averaging a 1.22 rating up until the player break. To show how important the young Russian is to Natus Vincere, HLTV.org moviemaker Filip "filq" Szatkowski put together a compilation of his best plays this year:
electronic has been integral to Natus Vincere's success.
It's worth mentioning, though, that not all seems to be well in the Natus Vincere camp going into Stockholm. Last week, speculations arose that the team's rifler Egor "flamie" Vasilyev would not attend the event and that the squad had been practicing with potential replacements for the 21-year-old. On Monday, team manager Yevgeniy "ugin" Yerofeyev confirmed to HLTV.org that there had indeed been problems with flamie's attendance, but that he would ultimately travel with the rest of the team to Sweden.
Another reason Natus Vincere might have trouble going the distance at the event is their recent struggles on Dust2, as they are currently on a 6 map losing streak on it, most recently admitting defeat on the map in the aforementioned ELEAGUE Premier semi-final loss to Liquid. With most other top teams being able to play Dust2, Natus Vincere will have had to solve their problems on the map during the player break if they are to eliminate that potential factor for failure in Stockholm.
One of the biggest surprises this year came in early August, as Serbian player-turned-observer-turned-analyst Janko "YNk" Paunović made yet another career move to become head coach of MIBR. The 26-year-old commented that he thought Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and co. had "lost some of its hard-working culture that got them to the top in 2016", and set out to start out strong at the ZOTAC Cup Masters 2018, which took place in Hong Kong last weekend.
And start out strong they did, as the Brazilian/American squad swept away most opposition in the, albeit, smaller event with teams such as Flash, MVP PK and Kinguin being their victims. Their captain, FalleN, picked up the MVP award at the event, while star players such as Jake "Stewie2K" Yip and Marcelo "coldzera" David managed rating as high as 1.46 and 1.44, respectively.
While MIBR were certainly the clear favorites to win in Hong Kong, the victory is an important part of their climb back to greatness after finding themselves in a slump for the majority of the year. It was clear, though, that they played with a certain swagger at ZOTAC, so perhaps the addition of YNk as orchestrator in combination with FalleN retaking all in-game leading duties can be what is needed for MIBR to go up against the greats in Stockholm.
fnatic were looking strong in the spring, as they won two back-to-back +$500,000 events at IEM Katowice and the WESG World Finals in China, as well as a respectable 3rd place spot at DreamHack Masters Marseille. After going out in the quarter-finals of IEM Sydney, the team initiated a big Swedish shuffle by signing Richard "Xizt" Landström who had been standing in for FaZe.
fnatic then signed the AWPer William "draken" Sundin from NiP, who in turn ended up brining on Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson, who had been benched in fnatic. Following the shuffle, which prompted Xizt to exclaim at the ECS Season 5 Finals that the Swedish scene was "a bit weird right now", fnatic went out in groups in both that same London event as well as at the ELEAGUE Premier before the break. Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson and co. will look to rectify those results and prove that they are past the uneasiness of the Swedish shuffle by going far on home soil in Stockholm.
The same obviously applies to the other Swedish roster at DreamHack Masters, NiP. Also marred by the switching around in their scene, and before that a string of disappointing results both in late 2017 and this year, the Swedes were pushed out of the Top 10 in June.
Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and his troops managed something of a relieving comeback at the European Minor, qualifying for the FACEIT Major with a 1st place finish. Now they will have to prove that they can continue that trend at a big event in their home country.
Also qualifying for the Major at the EU Minor was OpTic, who are still in the early stages of their new, entirely Danish roster with Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer at the helm. On paper, the team has plenty of firepower in their young stars Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and Jakob "JUGi" Hansen, but have yet to convincingly show that they can utilise it properly. k0nfig especially is something of a hit-and-miss player, who can be a force to be reckoned with but who also has some very low lows.
One of those lows came at OpTic's most recent showing at ZOTAC Cup Masters this weekend, where the Danes shockingly lost to the underdogs in Ghost. The 21-year old rifler played his worst map ever on LAN in Hong Kong, only managing a 0.30 rating in the Inferno decider against the North Americans. A single loss to a lesser team is of course not necessarily showing of a lineup' absolute strength, but coming right after the break, OpTic's result at ZOTAC should be a wake up call for the Danes.