Six key storylines of DreamHack Masters Dallas
With the first DreamHack Masters event of 2019 dawning on the scene, we present six of the most exciting storylines going into the $250,000 event.
Dallas, Texas welcomes competitive Counter-Strike into its abode with the imminent DreamHack Masters event, kicking off later this Tuesday. Sixteen contestants from across the globe will take part in the event, standing not only to secure the better part of $250,000 prize pool, but also a point towards the Intel Grand Slam Season 2, currently contested by Astralis and Liquid with a single point each.
Below are the sixteen sides that will be present in Dallas:
Contrary to previous DreamHack Masters events that featured four equal groups, Dallas will feature two groups of eight teams. The format will remain the same, in that teams will traverse a double-elimination bracket with best-of-one initial matches, followed by best-of-three series. The top six teams will advance to the single-elimination, best-of-three bracket
Many of the participants stand to prove themselves over the coming week, but six storylines bear a gravitas worth exploring deeper. Read on below to explore these stories and the teams they involve:
Vitality aim to build on Summit success
Vitality would have already been a serious dark horse of the Dallas tournament without cs_summit 4 having taken place last weekend, but after the Los Angeles event saw the French side lift the trohpy after going 3-2 versus ENCE and 4-0 against Liquid overall, Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt's men look to spoil the party of the two main names once more.
They might get that chance very early on, as Vitality are on collision course with the North American side, with both teams being on the same side of the Group A bracket and set to play favorable matchups. North, in the Frenchmen's case, are reasonably dangerous, however, especially in a best-of-one setting that now plays into the hands of the newer team rather than those of Vitality, who showed a surprising depth to their map pool at the Summit.
As long as Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut & co. win their opening match, they could quickly snag a spot in the playoffs if they repeat their victory over Liquid, but now the win conditions change. With how much experience the North American side has playing against Alex "ALEX" McMeekin's team and more time to review what happened previously, Vitality will not be able to surprise them as easily, and the same goes for many other matchups.
All eyes are now on Vitality after their win in LA, which puts them in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable position, especially as the non-existent break between the two tournaments gives them no time to update their playbook. On the flipside, the confidence boost stemming from the triumph is a dangerous prospect to the competition in Dallas.
Liquid, ENCE set eyes on the prize
The world’s current numbers two and three will also be seen contending for the lion’s share of $250,000 in Texas, both looking to add another trophy to their cabinets. The aqueous quintet are coming into Dallas with a bitter aftertaste from cs_summit 4, where the team was bested by NBK-’s Vitality in the tournament grand final, stunned by a 2-0 series score.
Effectively one of two meaningful occurrences will take place come showtime for Liquid in Dallas - either the squad will revert to their former tendency of filling the runner-up slot of events, or they will live up to their proposed candidacy for the #1 rank through a tournament victory, reminiscent of their grandiose showing at IEM Sydney. Given the North American team are indeed able to go on a deep run in Dallas, they stand to dethrone the reigning kings of CS:GO, Astralis as the world’s #1. Liquid should, at the very least, have a comfortable opening to the event, facing heavy underdogs Lucid Dream in their Group A opening match.
As for ENCE, the squad also sustained a loss to the subsequent trophy hoisters of cs_summit 4 at an earlier stage of the tournament. In the context of Dallas, ENCE will be looking to demonstrate consistency, in line with their thus-far spectacular year, eyes set on no less than a playoff run in Dallas. Their opening match versus Argentina’s Isurus should make for a confident pass, but potential future group stage opponents include the likes of fnatic, Renegades and NRG, who will stand as no pushovers, definitely testing the Finnish resolve.
FaZe in action with a new face
FaZe enter Dallas with a brand new face on the roster in legendary Polish Counter-Strike veteran Filip "NEO" Kubski. The 31-year-old joined the international mix squad in the capacity of an in-game leader, looking to give the star-studded roster the direction it has lacked since the departure of Finn "karrigan" Andersen. Thus far the team has experienced apparent growing pains, as the quintet failed to qualify for the ECS Season 7 finals, falling short in the final two weeks of the online league, conceding opening and semi-final series to Virtus.pro and OpTic in weeks four and five, respectively.
While online performances have no doubt been underwhelming, the roster has yet to make its LAN debut. Sporting seasoned individuals across the board, the offline experience is where FaZe will truly look to show their feathers.
NEO and his men will kick off their run in Group A, facing a weakened Windigo side who were forced to employ ex-Space Soldiers' Buğra "Calyx" Arkın as a fifth in light of Yanko "blocker" Panov’s visa issues. This initial pairing should make for a relatively easy pass into the second round of Group A’s upper bracket for the squad, and development of early confidence will undoubtedly contribute to the team’s long-term success at the $250,000 tournament.
While the odds of the opening round are looking up for FaZe, a question lingers in regards to whether they will be able to perform against the more established sides in Texas. Will the aggregate experience of the five make for a deep run, or will the roster falter in light of early days and lack of an established direction?
Fnatic, NRG look to surge in the rankings
Listed among the expected hard hitters in Dallas are fnatic and NRG. The Richard "Xizt" Landström-led Swedish roster has shown outstanding LAN form, securing grand final runs at both tournaments in which they most recently participated, StarSeries i-League Season 7 and IEM Sydney. Furthermore, the squad was one of the eight European sides to secure participation at the ESL Pro League Season 9 finals in Montpellier, even though they had to sweat to pull through after losing to OpTic in their first match.
Dallas will stand as a great platform for fnatic to showcase their form, and potentially secure a tournament title if the stars align just right. The team currently stand at #7 in our rankings, and with an impressive run in Texas will be aspiring to once more enter a top five position, last held by the team in early February. The squad’s opening match will be against Cloud9, who have recently shown underwhelming results, suggesting a very possible upper bracket advancement for the Swedes.
NRG, in similar fashion, have shown more than promising results as of late. Semi-final runs were achieved at both of their recent-most events, and qualification for the upcoming ECS Season 7 finals was also achieved in week two of the North American league. They have shown steady growth in recent months and are rearing to assume a position where they are able to ascend to the status of a squad that can contend for tournament titles on a consistent basis.
Perhaps a home event in Dallas will prove to be the perfect opportunity for NRG to finally demonstrate the potential they knew they always had. In their opening match, the American squad will face a fierce opponent in FURIA, who have shown a lot of potential and, if disrespected, stand every chance of knocking NRG into the lower bracket of group B.
Can North disrupt the balance?
Humans have an innate fear of the unknown, and North are one of the contenders at Dallas that will instill dread in their opponents. Primed with fresh executive ideas from Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså, as well as the AWPing potential of Jakob "JUGi" Hansen, the Danish quintet will look to sweep opponents off their feet in Texas.
The team initially fell flat in the Europe closed qualifier for ESL Cologne 2019, later securing participation at the ESL Pro League Season 9 finals in Montpellier after topping a group that included Ukrainian heavyweights Natus Vincere. Dallas will be the roster's first full-fledged LAN performance, and none of the 15 other contestants will disrespect this squad, particularly taking into consideration the outstanding individual capabilities of the roster members.
Some may say it’s early days for the Danish squad, but the core players have familiarities rooted from a distant past. The synergy between the players should be on point, so the main concern is whether the team will show up when it matters most. Given that they do indeed put up a performance, North may just prove to be the undoing of even the most established rosters at the $250,000 event.
A measuring stick for FURIA
DreamHack Masters Dallas marks the start of a busy period for FURIA, who will also be in action at the ECS Season 7 Finals, next month, and at ESL One Cologne, in early July. Just as important as any of those events will be the North American closed qualifier for the Americas Minor as the Brazilians will be looking to make a repeat appearance in the first stage of a Major.
A mainstay in the top 20 in the rankings in the last two months, FURIA have only attended just one LAN event during that period, DreamHack Open Rio, where they finished runners-up to AVANGAR. Andrei "arT" Piovezan's team began the tournament on the wrong foot, with a best-of-one defeat to INTZ, but then they hit their stride, beating eUnited, INTZ and Sharks in one-sided series before the final, in which the Kazakhstani team once more proved to be the superior side after previously defeating the Brazilians at the Major.
FURIA have posted some solid online results but they are yet to prove that they can can punch above their weight. DreamHack Masters Dallas will give us a better understanding of where exactly the Brazilians stand and of what we can expect from them in the future. It will also be interesting to see how they will cope with pressure should they be sent to the lower bracket by NRG - a team they have yet to beat. Will the third time be the charm against the North Americans?