There’s been a seemingly endless flow of Counter-Strike action in the last month; from the headlining London Major to an ESL One New York event jam-packed with a number of high profile upsets – don’t turn your head now because there’s plenty more to come.
While the five-week ECS Season 6 campaign kicked off on Wednesday and has seemed to occupy most of the game’s greatest, there’s a large tournament right around the corner in Kiev, Ukraine – StarSeries & i-League Season 6. Among the commotion, there’s been a number of player transfers and other details that might give you a leg up in this week’s competition – we’ve got you covered as usual in our ESI Gambling Report, Powered by Thunderpick.
Mousesports is the highest ranked team in Kiev and the overall favourites to win the event, and for good reason; any team coming off a big title finish as Mouz did at ESL New York gains a great deal of status as they enter their next event.
This is a squad that has shown traces of being a wildcard throughout the last several months, either coming out completely on-fire or dull as a rock – there doesn’t seem to be an in between for them. Based off their most recent results, Mouz seems to only be challenged by the better squads they run into; most of the time able to clinch the map, however, it’s usually quite narrow of a margin. This event is missing many of the ‘heavy-hitters’ so to speak, however, there are certainly teams here that are capable of beating them. Then again, if Chris “chrisJ” de Jon continues to do things like this throughout the tournament, they’re are a shoo-in for first.
All in all, if Mousesports can approach this event with the same level of tenacity as last week, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win.
Where do you even start with a team like North?
This is a squad that really wasn’t on anyone’s radar prior to their title finish at Dreamhack Masters Stockholm where they trounced world leaders Astralis on their conquest to the winner’s podium. However, North’s Cinderella story would be short-lived as they failed to amount to the weighty expectations put on their shoulders entering the London Major and failing to advance through the group stages. With that being said, we have an entirely new variant of the team in Kiev; one that has benched former in-game leader and primary AWPer, Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen, in place of Casper “cadiaN” Møller after confirming the signing just last week. To complement what would already seem like quite a jarring change in formation is the shuffling of Nicklas “gade” Gade back in the mix after returning from loan with OpTic Gaming. Since the recent roster movements, North has looked a bit dicey. They were able to put up good fights against BIG and HellRaisers, however, none of their results are compelling enough to lead us to believe they can take first in Kiev.
HellRaisers is somewhat of a scrappy group, one of those squads you just never know what to expect from – this also makes them one of the most exciting teams to watch.
They’ve shown they can unnerve some of the best such as Liquid, Fnatic, North and BIG (in the last few months) yet, they still always seem to fall short in tournaments. HellRaisers do have one key player in the pocket though, Özgür “woxic” Eker. The Turkish AWPer is capable of single-handedly turning an entire match around with a few flicks of the wrist; not to mention able to get the crowd on his side after furnishing some unbelievable snipes – which, we know how critical that momentum can be. Even with some god-like plays coming out of woxic here and there, a quick peek at their recent scorelines during the ESL Pro League isn’t indicative of a real championship running here.
While we’ll still maintain that HellRaisers is possibly a roster change or mentality shift away from achieving big things, we’re not expecting anything more from than in Kiev besides some flashy plays and a bit of damage output.
Taking a Gambit
This is an interesting team to fantasise winning the tournament, but is it possible? Gambit picked up a sound amount of street cred after beating favourites, Na’Vi, not once, but twice in New York last week. There’s nothing to take away from the group in this instance either – they played phenomenally and shut down s1mple and company completely.
Prior to this feat, Gambit wasn’t really in the conversation in terms of being able to trounce any of the giants. In London, the team floated amidst the mid-tier teams, often trading wins and loses freely like Pokemon cards. Although the second victory against Na’Vi certainly underlined that notion, they would ultimately get pummeled by Liquid in the following round. Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov was reported to continue his spell with Gambit for StarSeries and has worked out to be a good fit for the team and their core dynamic. In addition, Mihail “Dosia” Stolyarov has been visibly propelling this squad towards bigger and better things; whether they can go all the way at this tournament though, is certainly up for debate.
It’s quite refreshing to see Complexity on the bill in Kiev, especially after their historic run through the London Major.
In our current Astralis-ruled world, it’s a breath of fresh air to see teams come out through the pipeline and onset a wave of comebacks as they were able to do in London – vanquishing the likes of BIG, Fnatic, and G2 along the way. Since then, we’ve seen the young squad qualify for ECS Season 6 as well as square up against Renegades and a fiery NRG side; despite being able to take a map off NRG, the remainder of the results weren’t as convincing as we had quickly become accustomed to in London. With that being said, this is an online competition versus what will be a LAN event in Kiev which prompts very obvious differences. Complexity is a team that embraces the hype of being either next to their opponents or in a stadium of roaring fans – this is what we suspect will set them apart here.
There are countless photographs of Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker springing from his chair after every win that went against-the-grain. Rory “dephh” Jackson, who made history by being the first British Counter-Strike player to attend a Major playoff has proven to be an incredible stand-out player for this team. Between the two, if they can tie up the loose ends and match that same intensity we saw in London, there might be an actual shot for them to go deep in the bracket.
Although StarSeries won’t kick-off until Sunday, there’s plenty of Counter-Strike to keep even the biggest enthusiast occupied until then. Overall, this tournament has the potential to be a stirring exhibition with most of the top-tier teams absent – there’s plenty of room for upsets and unlikely victors here.
If you do plan to get in on any of the action happening in Kiev next week, Esports Insider reminds you to bet responsibly!