By Tomi “lurppis" Kovanen
An eight-team Counter-Strike: Global Offensive field will be competing for $100,000 in prizes at DreamHack Austin, the third DreamHack event in 2016 to feature CS:GO and the very first DreamHack on U.S. soil.
While European teams have elected to skip over the event in Texas, the competition features two Brazilian squads who live in California, North America’s top three teams, and a couple of interesting challengers. Here’s how we expect it to shake out once the event kicks off on Friday.
Luminosity (coldzera, FalleN, fer, fnx, TACO)
Luminosity are the only elite team attending the tournament in Austin, and as such they’re the clear favorites to win it all.
Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo’s team greatly underperformed at DreamHack Masters Malmo in mid-April, mere weeks after winning the most recent major in Columbus, but have otherwise been a model of consistency. Since completing this roster with the additions of Lincoln “fnx” Lau and Epitacio “TACO” Pessoa in late November, the team has – excluding the outliers in Malmo – only lost best-of-three series offline to Fnatic and Na`Vi, the world’s other top teams. But competitors are hopeful the slip-up in Sweden was not as much of a fluke as it seems to be.
Led by Marcelo “coldzera” David, the team is undefeated in ECS’s inaugural season (played online against North Americans, the teams they will face in Austin) and finished ESL Pro League’s third season with a dominant 18-4 record that featured two forfeit losses and a loss versus Winterfox due to DDoS issues. In other words, Luminosity are near-perfect against North Americans with this roster. They possess more firepower than their opponents, and in-game leader FalleN is arguably the best tactician in the game today. They also have the most consistent roster of the teams in attendance.
It is hard to see how anyone can crack the code to beating Luminosity here, and given the disappointing showing in Malmo, they should be ready to win it all in Texas.
(Photo: Gustavo Gonçalves)
Tempo Storm (boltz, felps, HEN1, lucas, SHOOWTiME)
The other Brazilian team living in California have broken through as a legitimate top ten team over the past two months.
Led by Henrique “HEN1” Teles’ sniping, the team upset Virtus.pro and EnVyUs at IEM Katowice while playing close games against Astralis and Na`Vi, the latter in a playoff series. At DreamHack Masters Malmo, they again upset EnVyUs, but suffered losses to Virtus.pro, and the Frenchmen they defeated earlier. And finally, this past weekend at CEVO Gfinity Pro Season 9 Finals, they won their first international title over SK, Dignitas and Virtus.pro.
Tempo Storm have been passed over for invitations for ECS and ELEAGUE, both multi-million dollar tournaments. To say they have a chip on their shoulder would be an understatement, and they have played accordingly. This is simply the second best team residing in North America, and should be favored to make the grand final in Austin.
But their consistency is an issue, as best-of-ones require teams to perform at all times. Tempo Storm are the most interesting team to watch out for in Austin, as seeing them will help us determine whether they have truly leveled up in the standings or if their win in London was a bit of a fluke.
Cloud9 (n0thing, shroud, Skadoodle, Slemmy, Stewie2K)
Cloud9 have been nothing but disappointing since the departure of Sean “sg@res” Gares in late summer 2015.
The team was fresh off of three grand final appearances and had won series against some of the world’s best teams. Then a slow and painful decline began, and we are now over nine months removed from the last meaningful showing from the team, who only retain three players from the roster responsible for that streak of great performances last year.
Though Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert’s attempt to steer the Cloud9 ship clearly failed, the team has now brought in Alec “Slemmy” White, who has a solid track record as the leader of some second-tier teams in North America. The skill level of Cloud9’s three best players will make Slemmy’s job easier than before, and the team should improve.
But it remains unclear by how much, and how well his leadership style will suit this team. I will give the team the benefit of the doubt — even though they have largely become a marketing ploy with little to show competitively — and expect them to make semis over Counter Logic Gaming. One of these two will leave Austin very disappointed, however.
(Photo: Team Liquid)
Team Liquid (adreN, EliGE, Hiko, koosta, nitr0)
How quickly can things go off track? Liquid placed top four at MLG Columbus, the most recent CS:GO major, and had a combined fifteen map points in their semi-final. In another universe, they could have beaten eventual champions Luminosity 2-0.
But since then they bombed out in groups of DreamHack Masters Malmo and lost their most skilled – and volatile – player in Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostylev, who moved back to his home country of Ukraine. Most of this team’s explosiveness is now gone, but what remains is a solid foundation of good players.
With s1mple gone, the pressure will once again fall on Spencer “Hiko” Martin’s shoulders. It remains to be seen how well Kenneth “koosta” Suen can play offline, and neither Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski nor Nick “nitr0” Cannella has become a consistent top-level performer yet. Eric “adreN” Hoag’s play peaked in Columbus, but it remains unclear whether that can continue.
Liquid are in a situation similar to Cloud9: no one knows quite what to expect from them and how high their ceiling may be. A favorable group draw made their road to the playoffs easy, but it’s about to get bumpy. The Austin grand final would be a dream come true for Liquid.
Counter Logic Gaming (FugLy, hazed, jdm64, reltuC, tarik)
Despite showing promise last year, CLG has been unable to deliver meaningful results.
They had their dream match-up in the quarterfinal of MLG Columbus when they drew another upset team in fellow Americans Liquid, but were unable to capitalize on it. In Malmo, they once again crashed out in the group stage.
The play of Josh “jdm64” Marzano has jumped, but the same cannot be said for the others. It seems Tarik “tarik” Celik has taken a step back, and Jacob “FugLy” Medina has not been the kind of impact player the team hoped for. James “hazed” Cobb is mostly invisible.
Were it not for all these mega-leagues springing up, this CLG team might have already been sold off for spare parts to Cloud9 and Liquid. Talent is spread too thin in North America, but no owner is willing to take a step back.
Still, Faruk “Pita” Pita’s coaching has been a huge positive for CLG. Second-tier events without European presence give CLG a better chance to snatch some upsets, and as such Austin will be an important opportunity for the team, which has only had one meaningful offline result so far in 2016 (and none last year). They need to take down Cloud9 and make the playoffs. The clock is ticking for this team.
Splyce (arya, DAVEY, freakazoid, jasonR, summit1g)
The Cinderella story of the MLG Columbus qualifier, Splyce have understandably been unable to replicate the brief success they enjoyed in Ohio.
They crashed out of the major itself and lost games to both Virtus.pro and OpTic at CEVO Gfinity Pro Season 9 Finals in London. Two of Splyce’s starters, Abraham “abE” Fasli and Andrew “Professor_Chaos” Heintz , will not be attending DreamHack Austin. Stepping in will be former Cloud9 player Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir, as well as known streamer Jaryd “summit1g” Lazar, costing Splyce their greatest strength: team work and chemistry. They also drew the harder group, making their odds for an upset miniscule at best.
NRG (gob b, just9n, LEGIJA, ptr, SileNt3m)
NRG has only attended one offline event in recent months, Counter Pit Season 2 Finals, and they had to play at the event in Croatia with former mousesports player Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz as a stand-in for Peter “ptr” Gurne.
They’ve had their moments. NRG took down a weak EnVyUs side in Split despite ptr’s absence due to injury. But while their online results have not been bad, in the context of this tournament, they also have not been great. The team has some potential band has shown some growth under Fatih “gob b” Dayik’s leadership, but it remains to be seen whether Austin can be anything but a learning experience.
Still, development comes in streaks, and it could start here – this team is good enough to ruin Liquid’s tournament, even though they will not be competing for the title.
Selfless (m1tch, MAiNLiNE, Nifty, Relyks, Uber)
Few thought Selfless would be able to bounce back from the departure of koosta, the team’s clear star before joining Liquid. But they have streaky enough results that, much like NRG, could ruin a more favored team’s event. They have won maps against Cloud9 and Liquid online, and true to their name, are a team without a clear star.
But their showing in London this past weekend demonstrated the weakness of their approach, as they won a combined 15 rounds across four maps against second-tier European teams. Austin will be a valuable chance for Selfless to continue climbing the ladder, but odds are strongly against them making much noise there. And if they do, it will be a huge upset.
You can reach Tomi on Twitter @lurppis_