Five key storylines of StarSeries i-League Season 7

Leading up to StarSeries i-League Season 7, we analyzed the five key storylines of the $500,000 tournament, which will be held in Shanghai.

The nine-day, 16-team, $500,000 StarSeries i-League Season 7 is set to kick off, with a BO3 Swiss stage starting the action in Shanghai. The eight best teams will advance to the single-elimination bracket, which will feature a best-of-three format with the exception of the grand final, which will be BO5.

The last StarSeries event was claimed by ENCE

With the two best-ranked teams in the world, Liquid and Astralis, deciding to skip the event, ENCE and Natus Vincere are favorites to take the title, with squads such as MIBR, FaZe on the prowl as well.

These 16 teams will compete at StarSeries i-League Season 7:

For more information about the tournament, its format, and the schedule, check out our StarSeries i-League S7 viewer's guide, with the key storylines following below.

Pressure mounting on MIBR and FaZe

The two titans that combined for 12 titles in 2017, FaZe and MIBR (then SK), are mere shadows of what they used to represent going into StarSeries i-League Season 7. Both teams looked like they were on a path of recovery at the start of 2019—FaZe taking the title at the ELEAGUE Invitational and finishing top eight at the Major, and MIBR placing 3-4th in Katowice after a decent showing against Astralis—, but things haven't been that promising recently.

Following the Major, MIBR had a bootcamp in Poland that should've set them up for success at WESG. But the Brazilians went out after just three matches played: a meaningless group stage win over AGO, a trivial playoff victory over Viva Algeria, and a shocking defeat to eventual winners Windigo. Finishing 5-8th at the tournament could've been overlooked had the Brazilians not followed it with another blunder, a shocking 0-5 run on their home soil at BLAST Pro Series São Paulo.

Spending a week in China followed by a week in Brazil, where practice options aren't as good as in North America and Europe, were a detriment to MIBR as FalleN outlined in our latest interview, but even he admits that it not a good enough excuse for their poor performances. The most troubling part for MIBR at the moment is that there are no glaring issues, which means there are no easy fixes. Marcelo "coldzera" David did play his by far worst LAN ever at BLAST (0.83 rating across five maps, while his second-worst LAN rating was 0.99), but it is hard to see the currently very uninspired MIBR contest for the title in Shanghai even if coldzera goes back to his normal level.

NiKo is still spearheading FaZe

On the other hand, FaZe's issues are fairly obvious, but that doesn't mean they are any easier to fix. The void in the IGL role, as Janko "YNk" Paunović put it, is something that won't be filled any time soon, and the once superstar lineup lost much of its flair as players deteriorated individually. Nikola "NiKo" Kovač continues to deliver map in, map out, but Håvard "rain" Nygaard and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács are looking like merely above-average players (sitting on a 1.03 and 1.05 three-month LAN rating respectively), Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev hasn't impressed during his trial, and Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer's form is at the lowest it has ever been in CS:GO (as visible in the graph here).

StarSeries i-League Season 7 will be a big test for both teams, with the results here potentially having far-reaching circumstances. Another bad display for MIBR and we could start looking at their Major result as just a honeymoon phase, while a disappointing run from FaZe should prompt them to reconsider AdreN's position in the team and at least look for a short-term fix, if a long-term option isn't on the table.

Na`Vi and ENCE with favourite tags

The two highest ranked teams going into the tournament are ENCE and Natus Vincere, sitting in third and fourth place respectively, with a sizeable number of points separating them from the teams placed fifth through to eighth. As so, they are the two teams that are expected to make the deepest run in Shanghai, where there will be no Astralis or Liquid to spoil their plans.

While ENCE partially proved that their Major run wasn't a fluke at BLAST Pro Series São Paulo—where they were a round-difference-tiebreaker away from playing in the grand final—, the Finns could really establish themselves as an elite team if do well at the tournament in China. The long and grueling format—BO3 Swiss leading into BO3 playoffs and finishing with a BO5 grand final—, will really test the composure, tenacity, and map pool of Aleksi "allu" Jalli and co., with another challenge being dealing with the fact that they are no longer the underdogs, which can add pressure that can be hard to cope with, something the team's veteran AWPer touched on during our interview in Brazil.

Natus Vincere had an underwhelming finish to IEM Katowice

Natus Vincere are no strangers to being favorites and having big expectations put upon them by fans and experts, which is reasonable for a team that has Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, as well as a solid supporting cast. At the IEM Katowice Major, the Ukrainian-Russian team was looking the best they had since ESL One Cologne, as Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev and Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko stepped up to cover for Denis "electronic" Sharipov not playing up to his usual level, but their expected title-fight against Astralis was canceled after ENCE landed a surprise uppercut in the semi-finals.

We haven't seen Natus Vincere in action since, which means that fatigue won't be an issue, but a lack of official game time will probably see them, once again, have a slow start to the tournament. However, with the very forgiving BO3 Swiss group stage, there should be no world in which they don't make it to the playoffs and do some serious damage in China. But will it be a 5-8th finish or another title for s1mple and co.? It all hinges on the continuation of solid form by Edward and Zeus, or electronic hitting peak form once again after becoming a father.

BIG, fnatic, NRG eager to recover after a false start

The German, Swedish, and North American teams all messed up at the start of 2019 and will have a shot at redemption in China. The biggest letdown is certainly fnatic, who finished 2018 on an upswing, only to crash out of the IEM Katowice Major in the New Challengers stage and finish merely fourth at WESG—following losses to AGO and G2. The two main stars, Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson and Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin, have been showing up, but the supportive trio around them has seemingly lost its footing since the turn of the year, causing them to drop from #5 to #15 in the rankings in a bit under two months.

While the expectations for BIG were lower going into the Major as they had just shuffled their roster and changed up roles, finishing without a win in the New Legends Stage, which means they will have to go through the Minors if they want to reach the upcoming StarLadder Berlin Major, is still a massive blunder. With a good amount of practice under their belt and a few official matches, this event will show us if Fatih "gob b" Dayik has figured out how to utilize his newest star player, Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş, who has been blowing hot and cold so far.

tarik will have his NRG LAN debut in Shanghai

Damian "daps" Steele's troops were expected to at least make the playoffs at the IEM Katowice Major, having gone into the event ranked fifth in the world, but, just like BIG, they finished the New Legends Stage without a single victory, falling closely to NiP, AVANGAR, and, ultimately, Complexity. To strengthen their cause, NRG brought in Tarik "tarik" Celik shortly after the event, and played 11 official maps online, qualifying for the ECS Season 7 Finals. Despite it not being a walk in the park as it was expected, the online experience will surely have helped the squad to fit in tarik, a very different player from Jacob "FugLy" Medina.

All three teams have a lot to prove at StarSeries i-League Season 7. While the bar is set at different heights for each one of them, they are all hoping to rebound in Shanghai and start ticking upwards as the busy tournament season kicks off.

Was North's London success a fluke?

North have been chronically underperforming since their inception, if it is to be understood they are a squad created to be a contender at Big Events. With the exception of DreamHack Masters Stockholm, where they lifted the trophy over their countrymen of Astralis, North have performed like a team who can only win when they are the largest fish in the pond. That changed at the GG.BET ICE Challenge in London before the Major.

At their first event of the year, where North were the second favorite team, they were able to take the trophy after a 2-0 victory over Natus Vincere in the final. The victory came with a caveat, however, as North weren’t going to attend the Major that was coming up right after due to a painful loss against ViCi in the last-chance Minor Play-In, while two of the other teams present were, which is something that could have played to the Danes’ advantage.

Will valde have the backup needed to push North far?

After that, North managed to qualify for the ECS Season 7 Finals on their second attempt after losing to AVANGAR in the first week of play. The Danes went on to beat the Kazakhstani side the following week before taking a 2-1 victory against Vitality in the grand final to secure a spot at the LAN event in London.

With Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså consistently showing world-class talent, it will be necessary for the other two big names on the team—Philip "aizy" Aistrup and Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye—to show up if the team wants to try and keep the good performances going. A lot will also ride on Casper "cadiaN" Møller, who will have to perform with the AWP and make an impact on matches if they want to be able to go head-to-head with some of the top teams in the world in contention in Shanghai.

Renegades look to build on Major success

Renegades have taken 2019 by storm with an impressive run at the Major, where they managed to become Legends, propelling them to their best-ever placement in the ranking at No.7. To get to Katowice, the Australian side won the Asia Minor with four victories and only two maps dropped. Following that, Renegades did the unexpected, starting by winning three matches in a row, two best-of-ones against AVANGAR and NiP and a best-of-three against ENCE, to cleanly make it to the New Legends Stage.

The latest Renegades lineup exceeded expectations significantly

During the second portion of the Major, Renegades kept showing they weren’t a team to be taken lightly, beating ENCE again and FaZe before losing their a match against none other than the world’s best team, Astralis. The Boys then beat Vitality and made it to the New Champions Stage with a 6-1 record, finally bowing out to a solid MIBR in the playoffs, but they had already surpassed everyone’s expectations by that point.

Since this iteration of the team was brought together late last year, they have come a long way in showing that they are a force to be reckoned with. Nothing has been seen from them since their run at the Major, so StarSeries —with its $500,000 prize pool—will be a great opportunity for them to make a stand and prove that they deserve to hang out with the best and can make deep runs on a consistent basis.

Brazil Marcelo 'coldzera' David
Marcelo 'coldzera' David
Age:
24
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.20
Maps played:
1038
KPR:
0.80
DPR:
0.61
APR:
0.12
Turkey Ismailcan 'XANTARES' Dörtkardeş
Ismailcan 'XANTARES' Dörtkardeş
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.21
Maps played:
972
KPR:
0.86
DPR:
0.70
APR:
0.17
Slovakia Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Age:
28
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.13
Maps played:
1419
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.11
Denmark Valdemar 'valde' Bjørn Vangså
Valdemar 'valde' Bjørn Vangså
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.10
Maps played:
817
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.14
Germany Fatih 'gob b' Dayik
Fatih 'gob b' Dayik
Age:
32
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.85
Maps played:
975
KPR:
0.56
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
Canada Damian 'daps' Steele
Damian 'daps' Steele
Age:
26
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.87
Maps played:
870
KPR:
0.58
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.15
Denmark Markus 'Kjaerbye' Kjærbye
Markus 'Kjaerbye' Kjærbye
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1279
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.15
United States Jacob 'FugLy' Medina
Jacob 'FugLy' Medina
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.01
Maps played:
1014
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.13
United States Tarik 'tarik' Celik
Tarik 'tarik' Celik
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1119
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.15
Kazakhstan Dauren 'AdreN' Kystaubayev
Dauren 'AdreN' Kystaubayev
Age:
29
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.02
Maps played:
1351
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.16
Russia Denis 'electronic' Sharipov
Denis 'electronic' Sharipov
Age:
20
Rating 1.0:
1.12
Maps played:
767
KPR:
0.77
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.14
Denmark Casper 'cadiaN' Møller
Casper 'cadiaN' Møller
Age:
24
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.04
Maps played:
901
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.11
Bosnia and Herzegovina Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač
Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
1087
KPR:
0.81
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
Denmark Philip 'aizy' Aistrup
Philip 'aizy' Aistrup
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.03
Maps played:
1262
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.14
Sweden Ludvig 'Brollan' Brolin
Ludvig 'Brollan' Brolin
Age:
17
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.07
Maps played:
515
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
Ukraine Ioann 'Edward' Sukhariev
Ioann 'Edward' Sukhariev
Age:
31
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.00
Maps played:
1414
KPR:
0.69
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
Ukraine Danylo 'Zeus' Teslenko
Danylo 'Zeus' Teslenko
Age:
31
Rating 1.0:
0.92
Maps played:
1385
KPR:
0.63
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.17
Sweden Freddy 'KRIMZ' Johansson
Freddy 'KRIMZ' Johansson
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1322
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.15
Serbia Janko 'YNk' Paunović
Janko 'YNk' Paunović
Age:
27
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.97
Maps played:
116
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.70
APR:
0.13
Sweden Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
1283
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.13
Finland Aleksi 'allu' Jalli
Aleksi 'allu' Jalli
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.10
Maps played:
1360
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.11
Norway Håvard 'rain' Nygaard
Håvard 'rain' Nygaard
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
1119
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.15
Ukraine Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev
Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev
Age:
21
Rating 1.0:
1.23
Maps played:
1020
KPR:
0.85
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.11
#1
 | 
United States YankeeM 
Nice. Pretty cool. Valiance going to win tomorrow against Uruguay.
2019-03-29 21:56
#3
 | 
Sweden Unluko 
Nice news!
2019-03-29 21:55
#31
 | 
United States @FyreCS 
Sprout will win it all though LUL
2019-03-29 22:29
almost FIRST!!!!!!!!! Go, North, dont be handicapped again :)
2019-03-29 21:57
Nt
2019-03-29 21:56
#4
 | 
Finland NoPointsgg 
ez4ence
2019-03-29 21:55
#5
TaZ | 
Poland trollorowy 
ok
2019-03-29 21:56
Very interesting reply! Thank you!
2019-03-29 22:37
#7
 | 
United States StraWz 
For the Boys!
2019-03-29 21:56
#8
Jame | 
Russia dimazavr1k 
Nice news!
2019-03-29 21:56
#9
kennyS | 
Romania RBK_GOD 
Nice
2019-03-29 21:56
EZ4ENCE
2019-03-29 21:56
+1
2019-03-29 22:29
Nick checks out
2019-03-29 22:38
#11
 | 
Finland CucumberFIN 
ence free 250k
2019-03-29 21:56
#12
cR4zY | 
Myanmar xdcc 
6th: Rogue got kicked LOL
2019-03-29 21:57
hahahahhahahahahhahaa
2019-03-29 22:11
EZ4ENCE
2019-03-29 21:59
Please mibr win this. I cant take this sadness anymore
2019-03-29 22:00
Sorry to say man but I think at best they will finish top 4
2019-03-29 22:07
>MIBR >Playoffs Pick one
2019-03-29 22:12
>true
2019-03-30 01:57
#41
 | 
Brazil yalamix 
name checks out i feel you bro
2019-03-29 22:49
#15
 | 
Ukraine Astralis_31_1 
vici , CHINESE BOIS
2019-03-29 22:00
NiP will place top 4, losing to NaVi
2019-03-29 22:07
#64
qikert | 
Russia zbogus 
as usual, nip always do well until they play a good team
2019-03-30 03:22
They are good but inconsistent, prolly will be better if they kicked Lekr0 and dennis for flusha and draken
2019-03-30 04:06
#21
 | 
United States gtmaniacmda 
you wrote ‘minor pain-in’ instead of ‘minor play-in’
2019-03-29 22:10
LUL
2019-03-29 22:12
#27
 | 
New Zealand CZR^ 
Go the boys
2019-03-29 22:25
#28
 | 
France Axsii 
We all know that Vitality will be the winner, boring event... If Astralis was here at least :/
2019-03-29 22:27
#57
 | 
Australia CuppaJoe 
Lul, you think Vitality will win, after losing to the Renegades at Katowice?
2019-03-30 01:35
#69
 | 
France Axsii 
Lmao that was a joke! No way vitality will win this haha, maybe if zywoo enter in beast mode
2019-03-30 08:32
ez4theboys
2019-03-29 22:28
What does putted upperbelt mean anyways
2019-03-29 22:32
#33
 | 
Russia amc20 
??? Where
2019-03-29 22:34
its a meme word for upper lip :D
2019-03-29 22:47
EZ4ENCE
2019-03-29 22:36
btw im not finnish saatana
2019-03-29 22:36
LMAO ENCE OVERRATED AF
2019-03-29 23:08
0/8 "NIKO TOP1"
2019-03-30 00:03
It will happen after faze era, which should start after Starseries
2019-03-30 06:59
#39
 | 
Germany Axel_Voss 
nice
2019-03-29 22:49
ez for faze
2019-03-29 22:49
+1
2019-03-29 23:13
#42
 | 
Brazil millerjmatos 
nice
2019-03-29 22:50
yes
2019-03-29 22:58
I think North, NRG, Renegades going to make a good run here. BIG might surprise also. Of course not counting out navi/ence
2019-03-29 23:02
And faze will win
2019-03-29 23:13
#74
keev | 
Germany _PH1L 
Nt Afganistan Faze is as likely gonna win as Afghanistan being a "stable home country" (~direct translation)
2019-03-30 22:11
Nice! btw ence never beat renegades 😎)))
2019-03-29 23:36
#52
ton | 
Brazil FavelaJz 
No Astralis sad =(
2019-03-30 00:26
#55
EliGE | 
United States oddinary 
SO hype, EZ4ENCE
2019-03-30 00:50
The long and grueling format—BO3 Swiss leading into BO3 playoffs and finishing with a BO5 grand final—, will really test the composure, tenacity, and map pool of Aleksi "allu" Jalli and co., with another challenge being dealing with the fact that they are no longer the underdogs, which can add pressure that can be hard to cope with, something the team's veteran AWPer touched on during our interview in Brazil. Please, cut some of these centences shorter
2019-03-30 01:26
ez4ence ? :D
2019-03-30 02:16
ENCE might actually win this shit, let's fucking go!
2019-03-30 02:40
#61
 | 
Australia t0rrent 
Uhhhh the real question that needs answering is cache or vertigo?
2019-03-30 02:51
#65
 | 
Australia TeBo 
cache
2019-03-30 03:30
#62
 | 
Argentina macrigato 
ez for the half argentinian player Damian "daps" Steele
2019-03-30 03:12
I think Renegades should be in the "title winning 3" group right now. They are a really potential grand final team if they play at their peak lvl. As a ENCE fan, im more scared about them than teams like Mibr or Faze... Otherwise its going to be ENCE-NaVi marathon final -> ENCE wins in the fifth or fourth map regarding their map-pool
2019-03-30 10:47
No Astralis, NO PARTY!!!
2019-03-30 20:19
#73
keev | 
Germany _PH1L 
"Was North's London success a fluke?" Let me answer that: Y E S !
2019-03-30 22:09
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