The ELEAGUE Major may be done and dusted, but CS:GO esports certainly aren’t. Dreamhack Masters is coming to Las Vegas only a few weeks after the major. With 16 teams and a $450,000 prize pool, Dreamhack Masters is nothing to sneer at. Don’t expect it to be the same old, same old, either. The legendary Fnatic lineup that won 7 straight events a year ago is back in action, and they’ve already had some good results online. SK, OpTic, and North have also made roster changes. The results of ELEAGUE have transformed the CS:GO scene, and Las Vegas will give us our first taste of its new look.
Group A: Astralis, North, OpTic Gaming, compLexity Gaming
Astralis should dominate their way to an easy first place in this group. Since adding Gla1ve to their starting lineup, they have been the most consistently strong team in Counter-Strike. For the rest of the group, big question marks linger.
North still haven’t had any good results since EPICENTER, leaving big questions for the team. Despite hopeful prophecies from fans, K0nfig has remained inconsistent and unreliable. To fix their problems, North have brought in Aizy as a replacement for RUBINO, but it’s hard to pin this down as a good move. RUBINO wasn’t the flashiest fragger on North, but he was a solid role player. What may be perceived as a clear upgrade could turn out to be just another not-so-shiny star awkwardly fit into the mess.
OpTic are an unknown as well. In-game leader Stanislaw was a key member of the lineup and a big part of OpTic’s success. Stan was one of the most promising leaders in America, and transformed OpTic from an decent NA team to an international contender. Unfortunately, Stanislaw joined Liquid after the major in a swap with Hiko. While Hiko is a skilled player, he hasn’t been able to IGL effectively during his time with Liquid, and is going through a bit of a slump right now. The change in leadership will take awhile to get used to, and it’s unlikely that OpTic will succeed right out of the gate.
The bottom feeders of group A are compLexity. coL has achieved virtually no success since dropping what is now Cloud9, and their qualification for Dreamhack does little to change that. CoL really only qualified by taking advantage of the fact that Immortals was playing with a stand-in and Liquid was playing from Europe. Their qualification here doesn’t change the fact that they’re a low tier team in North America, much less on an international stage. Swapping out APE in favor of desi might give them a little more firepower, but not enough to win 16 rounds in an international tournament.
Astralis, Denmark (dev1ce, dupreeh, Xyp9x, gla1ve, Kjaerbye, zonic)
North, Denmark (Aizy, K0nfig, Magisk, MSL, cajunb, ruggah)
OpTic Gaming, USA (Hiko, RUSH, NAF-FLY, M1xwell, tarik, peacemaker)
compLexity Gaming, North America (Surreal, dephh, desi, Android, Uber, warden)
Group B: Virtus.Pro, Fnatic, Gambit Esports, Misfits
If there’s one team that everyone will have their eyes on this event, it’s Fnatic. After months of disappointing results, the old Fnatic roster has returned. Even in their first match together in months, the Swedish superteam looked coordinated and strong. Most noticeably, JW has returned to his vintage, flashy style that was so dominant in 2015. That being said, getting out of groups won’t be easy.
At the top of their group stands a Polish powerhouse: Virtus.Pro. VP managed to finish 2nd at the ELEAGUE Major, and came just a few rounds short of winning it all. Here at Las Vegas, they’ll have an even bigger edge. The recent active duty changes that replaced Dust_2 with Inferno could give VP the best map pool in the world. With their only permaban now taken out of the rotation, the Polish squadron will be given incredible flexibility to play around their opponent’s map pools.
Virtus.Pro won’t be the only threat either. While Gambit were defeated by Fnatic at the major, they are not to be underestimated. Even after going out in the semifinals, Kazakh rifler AdreN put up one of the best performances in the whole event. It’s also important to take into consideration external factors for Gambit’s loss. HObbit, normally one of the best on the team, was underwhelming at ELEAGUE, possibly due to the nerves of playing at his 2nd ever event. If Zeus and kane can work out this issue, Gambit will be tough to beat. Still, given their victory at the major and the immediate cohesion of the “new” lineup, Fnatic look poised to squeak out of groups.
The strength of their groupmates puts Misfits on the outside looking in. Misfits should be able to compete in North America, but against the best in the world, they’re a little bit outmatched. Seang@ares’s leadership should be able to get them some rounds on the board, but especially in a group as strong as B, they simply don’t have the skill to compete. Barring an incredible upset, it’s likely we won’t see them on-stage.
Virtus.Pro, Poland (TaZ, NEO, pashabiceps, byali, Snax, kuben)
Fnatic, Sweden (flusha, JW, KRiMZ, olofmeister, dennis, Jumpy)
Gambit Esports, Kazakhstan (HObbit, AdreN, Zeus, mou, Dosia, kane)
Misfits, USA (SicK, twistzz, Seang@ares, ShahZam, Relyks, No Coach)
Group C: SK Gaming, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Cloud9, TyLoo
Group C is full of disappointments. C9 and NiP have been notoriously inconsistent for the past year. Any hope for a late-2016 upswing was shattered with their failure to qualify for the major. Both teams look outmatched compared to the superior competition of the scene today.
TyLoo has also been underwhelming. Since their underdog road to the quarterfinals in the last Dreamhack Masters tournament, TyLoo have failed to put up any international results. Here at Las Vegas, they’ll be at even more of a disadvantage. Both Fancy1 and coach Karsa have been removed from the team after breaking team guidelines. Fancy1 was arguably Tyloo’s best player and will be sorely missed. While his replacement, HZ, proved himself capable at WESG, the loss of fancy will certainly hurt the team.
If any of these teams can make a big return, it’s Cloud9. C9 have finally hired a coach, which should help them smooth out their shotcalling deficiencies. However with only a couple weeks together, it’s hard to say how much of an impact valens has made. His presence also doesn’t necessarily address the issue of Stewie2k’s mid-round calling. While Stew is a very capable fragger, it’s been difficult to focus on multiple roles. While valens can help a bit with that, the track record of star players as in-game leaders says it’s likely C9’s tactics may improve a bit, but not to a significant degree. If I was a Cloud9 fan, I would have cautious optimism.
The only team with an upward trajectory in this group is SK. Even with a stand-in, SK still managed to make the playoffs of two huge events, a tribute to the strength of the team. Now that felps has joined, SK have a world-class roster once more. Coldzera remains the best player in the world by a long-shot, and felps looks like a definite upgrade to fnx on paper. Even if NiP or Cloud9 come alive this event, it’s hard to imagine SK not getting out of their group on top.
SK Gaming, Brazil (FalleN, felps, fer, coldzera, TACO, dead)
Cloud9, USA (Skadoodle, shroud, N0thing, Stewie2k, Autimatic, Valens)
Ninjas in Pyjamas, Sweden (pyth, GeT_RiGhT, friberg, F0rest, Xizt, THREAT)
TyLoo, China (AttackeR, HZ, somebody, DD, mo, No coach)
Group D: FaZe Clan, Navi, Mousesports, Renegades
The final group at Las Vegas will be a sad one for fans of German organization Mousesports. After nearly 2 years as the face of their CS:GO lineup, star fragger NiKo has announced he is joining FaZe Clan after this tournament. Mousesports struggled to find consistency outside of NiKo, and often looked like a one man band. Mouz were already a big question mark going into this event. Oskar brings firepower to the team, but numerous reports of toxicity make it hard to predict team synergy. This will also be Spiidi’s first event as an IGL. Combine that with the questionable motivation of NiKo given that he joins another member of his group immediately after the tournament, and Las Vegas doesn’t look like Mouz’s time to shine.
The other multinational European powerhouse, FaZe are also playing with a temporary roster. Jkaem, a former member of the team, will stand-in for NiKo this tournament. With jkaem standing in, karrigan’s system will be disrupted, and they will lose the 2-pronged starpower of Aizy and rain that has kept them afloat for so long. 2 teams that could have made big statements going into Dreamhack will likely come out empty-handed.
This leaves the door wide open for the Renegades. The Renegades hadn’t made much noise apart from some regional events until recently, when they placed 2nd at Dreamhack Winter over teams like OpTic and Dignitas (now North). Since then, former Mousesports coach kassad has joined the organization. According to in-game leader yam, he’s already made a big impact in his few weeks with the team. Look for the Renegades to capitalize on the roster turmoil of its groupmates and sneak into the playoffs.
However, even an incredible performance from the Australian Renegades is unlikely to best Na’Vi. Na’Vi’s tournament life came to an abrupt end at the hands of eventual tournament winners Astralis in the quarterfinals, but Na’Vi showed a lot of promise. They dominated the swiss system, with performances from flamie and GuardiaN we haven’t seen in months. The biggest dilemma with Na’Vi, chemistry, seemed to have been resolved by the Major, and the CIS team looked like an actual team instead of a random mix of talents. Given their inconsistencies since adding S1mple, it’s hard to say for certain where they will land in Las Vegas. But one things for certain: Any team with this much firepower can’t be underestimated.
Natus Vincere, CIS (flamie, GuardiaN, S1mple, seized, Edward, starix)
Renegades, Australia (jks, USTILLO, AZR, Rickeh, yam, Kassad)
FaZe Clan, Europe (karrigan, Allu, rain, kioshiMa, jkaem, RobbaN)
Mousesports, Europe (NiKo, Spiidi, denis, oskar, loWel, lmbt)
Update: Due to internal issues, Rickeh has been removed from Renegades,
and will be replaced by temporary stand-in atter for this event.