Five key storylines of EPICENTER 2019

The last Big Event of the year approaches as EPICENTER kicks off on Tuesday, so we have chosen the five biggest storylines going into the Russian tournament.

Although for a lot of teams the 2019 calendar is over, some of the world's best will still be at EPICENTER in Moscow including top-five representatives Evil Geniuses and mousesports, two more from the top-ten in Vitality and Natus Vincere, as well as some challengers in Virtus.pro, forZe, Heroic, and EHOME.

EPICENTER will close out the year for many

The $500,000 tournament will begin with a rather unusual GSL group stage as only the bottom sides will be sent packing. The group winners will go directly to the semi-finals, while the runners-up and the third-placed teams will be placed in the quarter-finals. The group distribution looks as follows:

Can mousesports beat the jet lag?

Although mousesports have been riding high for the last month, they will go up against additional challenges this time, as they have had to travel directly from the west coast of America because of cs_summit 5 to Russia with very little time to rest in between the tournaments. And, to make things even more difficult, Finn "karrigan" Andersen had to make a stop in Kiev to sort out his visa, prolonging his trip even further.

Having endured a busy month already, the relentless traveling and the hectic schedule are certain to take their toll on the players as mousesports are set to attend their fourth tournament in as many weeks in Moscow. As the only player who got some rest in this last week and didn't travel to the far edge of USA and back on account of visa issues, Özgür "woxic" Eker will have additional pressure on his shoulders to pick up the baton and attempt to balance the scales.

Pressure is on woxic to perform at his best as the only player to get some rest

Having brought home three consecutive titles from the CS:GO Asia Championships, the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals, and cs_summit 5, karrigan's squad are surely in consideration for their fourth trophy as the highest-ranked team of the competition. They have overcome big challenges so far, coming back from the brink of elimination against TYLOO in Shanghai and from a grim-looking decider against Astralis in Odense, as well as winning Summit without their biggest star and, at the very end, without the in-game leader as well. Can they do so again?

Vitality's best chance to win

Even though eyes will be on Evil Geniuses and mousesports as the biggest contenders for the title, or perhaps on Na`Vi as a team who has just come off a promising campaign at ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals, there is a fourth name who should be on that list despite a rather uninspiring track record as of late — Vitality.

It's fair to doubt the Frenchmen's ability to compete for titles with this lineup when they've only looked close to tournament-winning form once so far with Richard "shox" Papillon in a total of five trips. That was during their debut at DreamHack Masters Malmö, where they conceded a close grand final to fnatic. After that, they went out in 7th-8th place at StarSeries, in the semi-finals at IEM Beijing, and failed two winnable groups during ESL Pro League Europe.

It's Vitality's opportunity to end their dry spell

But unlike the other big names present in Moscow, Vitality have had a month to themselves since their latest outing in the second stage of ESL Pro League, giving them the opportunity to iron out the kinks in their gameplay and prepare properly for EPICENTER, making this a much more important tournament for them than for the likes of mousesports and Evil Geniuses.

With big rivals skipping the event, EG slowing down as the year is coming to a close and mousesports being in a tough position due to all the traveling, the Russian tournament is by far the best chance Vitality have had to go really far and win since making changes back in September. With the Frenchmen boasting a promising track record against some of their main competition on top of that — albeit from months ago in the case of Na`Vi and mouz — EPICENTER is a great opportunity for Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut's side to get back to winning ways.

Virtus.pro and forZe battle for No.2 in the CIS

A competition within a competition will take place at EPICENTER, as the No.2 spot in the CIS region is up for grabs again as Virtus.pro have been on a steady decline since the run that saw them finish second at the StarLadder Major and win BLAST Pro Series Moscow, dropping to 15th in the rankings. They are now sitting on exactly the same number of points as forZe (138), who have been on a bit of a hot streak over the course of the last couple of weeks.

Extra motivated on the back of wins at DreamHack Open Winter, the MDL Europe Finals, and the ESEA Global Challenge, Andrey "Jerry" Mekhryakov's team will be looking to take Dzhami "Jame" Ali & co. down a peg on home soil as the two teams have been placed in the same group at EPICENTER, one that also features the two red-hot favourites for the title, Evil Geniuses and mousesports, which gives us a very real possibility of an extra-spicy elimination match between the rivals, who last met in the final of BLAST Pro Series Moscow, with the Kazakhstani side coming out on top.

Will forZe seize the chance to take down Virtus.pro the second time around?

Virtus.pro are heading into the last event of the year with some additional incentive to do well on their debut representing the brand and their massive CIS following, who will be certain to turn up in the Crocus Expo Hall to support the home organization should the white bears make it to the playoffs, upping the stakes for the potential CIS derby.

GuardiaN walking on thin ice

Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács heads into his final event of the year under a dark cloud after what has so far been a disappointing return to Natus Vincere. The Slovakian AWPer had already struggled for form during his last months in FaZe, and he has not been able to rediscover himself in the CIS team, leaving many to wonder if this is it for the 28-year-old — the only player to have featured in every top 20 of the year list in CS:GO.

Since joining Na`Vi, GuardiaN has averaged a team-low 0.98 rating and just 0.29 AWP frags per round. And it’s not because he is dying a lot; in fact, he has the second-lowest deaths per round ratio on the team in the last three months. He just isn’t finding kills or opening spaces on the maps, which is reflected in his Impact (0.84) and ADR (62.4), both of which are the lowest on the team, as well as in his opening kills per round ratio (0.09), which is only better than Egor "flamie" Vasilyev’s.

Can GuardiaN prove his critics wrong in Moscow?

All this leaves GuardiaN in a very fragile position before EPICENTER, a tournament where, under normal circumstances, Natus Vincere would be one of the favourites for the title. But it has now been eight months since Na`Vi last reached a final or won a trophy, with the recent last-place finish at StarSeries i-League Season 8 also raising the spectre of another dreaded early elimination, this time on home soil.

We are now three months into GuardiaN’s second tenure with the squad and past the point where communication should still be an issue. EPICENTER will be the definitive test for GuardiaN, and another failure will likely see fans join renowned analyst Thoorin in asking for the Slovakian’s head.

EG's last chance to end the year on a high note

There have been quite a few bumps in the road for Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz’s side since the honeymoon period following the transition to Evil Geniuses came to an end. After the victories in New York and Belek - which still came either side of an early exit in Malmö - came a tough reality check as the team failed to impress in their Chinese outings and crashed out in the first round of the playoffs at both the ECS Season 8 Finals and the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals.

EG dropped down to fifth in the rankings before EPICENTER

The results in Arlington were encouraging, but the same cannot be said of what happened in Odense, the wounds from the 0-16 loss to mousesports on the decider map probably still stinging. However, when you factor in that Evil Geniuses have been one of the busiest teams on the circuit in recent months and that star player Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte's form has been erratic since Belek, it is not all that surprising that the North Americans had a hard time keeping their top-three status and moved down to fifth in the rankings before EPICENTER — their lowest placing in over three months.

With several big-name teams missing in Moscow, this is the perfect opportunity for Evil Geniuses to set the record straight and pick up some ranking points before their New York victory stops being considered as a recent achievement. Otherwise, they risk slipping even further once 2020 begins.

Slovakia Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Age:
28
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.12
Maps played:
1469
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.11
Russia Andrey 'Jerry' Mekhryakov
Andrey 'Jerry' Mekhryakov
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.01
Maps played:
757
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.14
France Richard 'shox' Papillon
Richard 'shox' Papillon
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
1600
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.12
Russia Egor 'flamie' Vasilyev
Egor 'flamie' Vasilyev
Age:
22
Rating 1.0:
1.05
Maps played:
1284
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.14
Denmark Finn 'karrigan' Andersen
Finn 'karrigan' Andersen
Age:
29
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.93
Maps played:
1606
KPR:
0.63
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.13
United States Vincent 'Brehze' Cayonte
Vincent 'Brehze' Cayonte
Age:
21
Rating 1.0:
1.12
Maps played:
870
KPR:
0.77
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.12
Russia Dzhami 'Jame' Ali
Dzhami 'Jame' Ali
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.14
Maps played:
720
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.56
APR:
0.09
France Mathieu 'ZywOo' Herbaut
Mathieu 'ZywOo' Herbaut
Age:
19
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.30
Maps played:
568
KPR:
0.87
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.13
Canada Peter 'stanislaw' Jarguz
Peter 'stanislaw' Jarguz
Age:
25
Rating 1.0:
0.98
Maps played:
1051
KPR:
0.66
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.14
Turkey Özgür 'woxic' Eker
Özgür 'woxic' Eker
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.15
Maps played:
792
KPR:
0.76
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.11
#1
 | 
Germany Bundeskanzler 
EZ FOR MOUSE
2019-12-16 23:31
#2
 | 
Spain Granjero 
+1
2019-12-16 23:31
#9
 | 
Germany Bundeskanzler 
nt EG fan
2019-12-16 23:33
#16
 | 
Spain Granjero 
What no
2019-12-16 23:36
What yes
2019-12-17 10:48
Ez for rejin
2019-12-17 10:48
#13
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
Ez 4 ZywOo & the bees
2019-12-16 23:36
Team Zywoo aren’t good it’s only Zywoo and they are the perfect example of having one player carry them. Zywoo is a god but the team hasn’t done so well recently with Shox joining. Even though they made finals at malmö after that they have played so trash
2019-12-16 23:49
#58
chrisJ | 
Germany lucolf 
reminds me so much of old NiKosports.
2019-12-17 02:20
Except for the fact that Team Zywoo surprisingly wins stuff
2019-12-17 02:27
#64
chrisJ | 
Germany lucolf 
True.
2019-12-17 03:23
#75
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
I mean they know ZywOo is a GOAT and will be the main carry so their job is to set him in the best position for that. It's their playstyle I don't have problems with it.
2019-12-17 07:28
#90
 | 
Denmark CloudEr 
+1
2019-12-17 09:02
#3
RapeN | 
India Women 
EHOME WILL TAKE THIS!
2019-12-16 23:32
Bait
2019-12-16 23:46
#5
 | 
Sweden Trkmag 
Ez for ZywOo or s1mpletronic
2019-12-16 23:32
Ez for ReJiN_RiGhT
2019-12-17 10:49
#6
 | 
United States Frotha 
Hopefully EG group stage exit to get Tarik of the team
2019-12-16 23:32
Why should Tarik go? ( not asking because I’m a Tarik fan just asking as a question to get some info)
2019-12-16 23:46
#30
 | 
United States Frotha 
He won’t be kicked, but I want it in their mind that he or Stan are holding them back
2019-12-16 23:53
I think Tarik can Frag our or just play bad and I think that when he frags out or starts getting into the grove he can play very well as a fragger or as a support player so I think because of that he will never be kicked
2019-12-16 23:52
#77
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
Who do you want to replace Stan with it's not like there are many good NA IGLs atm.
2019-12-17 07:31
#100
 | 
Sweden Trkmag 
tariks stats has been awful for a while
2019-12-17 12:15
Yes but not really because his role right now is a support player to help brehze Ethan and cerq play well and get drags but because none of them are performing his game and stats suffer
2019-12-17 13:24
WOOOOOOOOOOO
2019-12-17 03:00
#8
 | 
Finland Smoonah 
EpicStories friend
2019-12-16 23:33
#10
 | 
United Kingdom HLTV_PATRIOT 
How does striker release this article while on HLTV confirmed 🤔
2019-12-16 23:35
Probably wrote it earlier and HLTV just needed to have the right timing to publish and edit it and add photos and stuff
2019-12-16 23:45
#25
 | 
United Kingdom HLTV_PATRIOT 
No, he have clones
2019-12-16 23:45
+1 now that you say it, it makes much more sense
2019-12-16 23:50
#35
 | 
United Kingdom HLTV_PATRIOT 
Ikr, it's nearly 2020 bro anything is possible
2019-12-16 23:54
All I want is a ZywOo vs S1mple BO3 series.
2019-12-16 23:35
'is winning Summit without their biggest star' i think ropz and w0xic are both equally important/good. Won't say w0xic is the biggest star tho.
2019-12-16 23:35
I think Ropz is the biggest star on Mouz but Woxic has the most impact in big events like at CAC he was the key role in winning and at EPL he won so many important rounds that helped them win in the end also Ropz playing like a god
2019-12-16 23:43
Ropz had more clutches than Woxic in CAC. Ropz carried mousesports to final, but Woxic carried final.
2019-12-17 07:29
Yeah it’s called teamwork but i don’t think many commenters here understand the concept.
2019-12-17 07:59
omegalul ropz 1st star in this team chrisJ 2nd ( best player in mouz, most stable player) and mr 600 sensivity only 3rd
2019-12-16 23:59
I think Woxic takes 2nd atm but overall ChrisJ 2nd. Chris is super good and consistent but Woxic is playing out of his mind and playing like a top 5 maybe even top 3 awper in the world right now
2019-12-17 00:14
#78
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
Stable in playing bad xaxaxaxa.
2019-12-17 07:33
#14
valde | 
Denmark QBE_ 
Striker writing articles while talking about the topics on HLTV confirmed damn
2019-12-16 23:36
#15
f0rest | 
China hzxhl16 
Mouse streak doesn’t stop. Gogogo
2019-12-16 23:36
Go navi
2019-12-16 23:37
Virtus.pro :(
2019-12-16 23:39
#19
JW | 
United States raymoney 
VP CIS??
2019-12-16 23:39
Signed Chokangar roster
2019-12-16 23:41
Wow must be difficult for Guardian to be on thin ice especially because of his weight and how bad he’s been playing recently
2019-12-16 23:41
Yeah lol dire situation for the fatty
2019-12-17 01:08
#66
 | 
Albania Number1awper 
+1
2019-12-17 03:55
Sounds like something a Tarik fan would say
2019-12-17 08:00
Sounds like something a ciggie smoking JKS fan would say
2019-12-17 08:22
#22
shox | 
Serbia nzzm22 
Should be easy for Vitality since they have finally got some pracc time.
2019-12-16 23:42
#28
 | 
Bulgaria cuddleslut 
So weird seeing VP with a kazakhstan flag
2019-12-16 23:47
#37
 | 
Europe NN0ITRA 
Beautfiul
2019-12-16 23:56
#57
INS | 
Australia CLEGGY 
aren't you the league player?
2019-12-17 02:08
#79
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
Dota it's Ceb
2019-12-17 07:33
#89
 | 
Belarus Brannigan 
No man, it's Ceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeb
2019-12-17 08:49
#98
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
Yeah sry man.
2019-12-17 11:42
I expected ex-VP roster to retain their tournament spot.
2019-12-16 23:51
bait?? they never qualified xD
2019-12-17 00:24
#33
tarik | 
Norway MD! 
EG not focusing on this tournament at all, mfkers on vacation, 20h past 2 weeks playing LoL I really don't understand that... enjoy losing.
2019-12-16 23:51
They make that so they have content for excuses if needed
2019-12-17 01:09
#55
tarik | 
Norway MD! 
You make excuses when you try to win but don't, now they're just straight up not trying to win at all
2019-12-17 01:39
Let their hype fade and they will see the opportunity they lost
2019-12-17 02:04
flair does not check out but nice to see a smart tarik fan)))
2019-12-17 02:53
#62
tarik | 
Norway MD! 
Brazzer people need to stop being biased sometimes. EG #1 btw
2019-12-17 02:57
#36
 | 
Europe NN0ITRA 
Let’s go EG. Makes me sad seein the nice blue jersey with iconic logo for the last time.
2019-12-16 23:55
#80
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
0/8 it's in rework atm.
2019-12-17 07:35
#97
 | 
Europe NN0ITRA 
Seriously? Source?
2019-12-17 10:53
#99
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
EG CEO tweet with founder Alex Garfield.
2019-12-17 11:45
#102
 | 
Europe NN0ITRA 
Thankyou man
2019-12-17 12:31
I think NaVi and Vitality are biggest favors in group A and forZe and mouz biggest in group B since EG players have just smth around 30h in the past 2 weeks and forZe are rising stars with very nice form recently
2019-12-17 00:04
nice summary
2019-12-17 00:06
#41
 | 
France DesmondHume 
Go Vitality !
2019-12-17 00:14
mouz' streak will end. I'm a mouz fan but they have to be tired.. CAS > EPL > SUMMIT > EPICENTER. No rest at all, all other teams made counterstrats, it's just meant to end in Russia.
2019-12-17 00:14
#47
 | 
Poland Viefer 
+1 But if they somehow will win this - holy shieet what a story would it be
2019-12-17 00:36
#47
 | 
Poland Viefer 
+1 But if they somehow will win this - holy shieet what a story would it be
2019-12-17 00:36
#47
 | 
Poland Viefer 
+1 But if they somehow will win this - holy shieet what a story would it be
2019-12-17 00:36
Tbf summit looked like a relaxed event and there was not much pressure because of a standin. Also they prepared for moscow when they were at summit. The biggest problem might be the jetlag
2019-12-17 00:40
Yeah.. jetlag indeed.. and the travel takes it tolls at times, youre not that focussed anymore.
2019-12-17 15:29
#44
 | 
Denmark DarkDude 
Still Avangar SORRY VP will choke this team like Polish line-up
2019-12-17 00:18
EHOME 32-0 SLOWLY MVP
2019-12-17 00:26
Who made these groups.... 2 top 5 teams (lets name them 1 and 2 ranked) , lets put them together and add 2 more top 20 (5th and 6th ranked). Ohw wait we have vitality and navi aswel so lets put them together as 3rd and 4th ranked and add the other 2 with them
2019-12-17 00:38
INSANE!
2019-12-17 00:38
#60
BnTeT | 
Indonesia lukerey 
If mous/EG win this they will be #2 this year? Yes or no? I don't really know how this point system works
2019-12-17 02:50
#67
 | 
Albania Number1awper 
i think yes
2019-12-17 03:58
#70
 | 
Indonesia Journeast 
Before the last updated (Dec 16th): Astralis got 1000 points meanwhile fnatic (#2) got around 700++ After Astralis won the BlastPro: They still with 1000 points (i think that's the maximum) and fnatic reduce into 662, just 2 points above Liquid (#3).
2019-12-17 06:14
forZe is actually will fight for CIS #1 place
2019-12-17 05:43
#69
 | 
Indonesia Journeast 
ez for EG and mouz so they can takeover Liquid from TOP 3.
2019-12-17 06:05
why forze ehome? no mibr? furia?
2019-12-17 06:25
They would rather have tier 2 and tier 3 than tier 4
2019-12-17 06:29
#82
 | 
France LeDiplomate 
+1
2019-12-17 07:38
I’m not concerned about GuardiaN. A lot of it has been communication issues because he was just speaking English for 2 years and now has to switch back to Russian, or at least that’s what flamie said in an interview. He’ll never return to his best form, but he will still be very good.
2019-12-17 06:29
How does language barrier stops him from hitting easiest shots?
2019-12-17 07:37
#101
 | 
Sweden Trkmag 
I read that he changed mouse when getting into NaVi, but that he changed it back for this tournament. Maybe it makes a difference
2019-12-17 12:17
#74
 | 
Netherlands meneertjesem 
Remove eg from top 10 already Thank
2019-12-17 06:56
let's go VP ohh wait
2019-12-17 08:08
#87
 | 
Russia x_panika 
easy tourn for vitality or mouse, checkzisout
2019-12-17 08:23
EZ 4 team ZywOo team electronic not winning anything in next 2 years atleast.
2019-12-17 08:45
#91
 | 
France Uexo 
Let's finish this year in style ! #VforVictory
2019-12-17 10:11
#92
 | 
Latvia Ke]R[4u 
gropu A is a joke, cmon
2019-12-17 10:24
#93
 | 
Germany Neckarstadion 
Hopefully the last event with guardiaN on NaVi. Legend of the game no doubt, but he is holding a team back that could challenge astralis for #1 with a strong awper
2019-12-17 10:31
mouz or EG will take this I guess.
2019-12-17 12:34
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