Thorin's Dreamhack Austin Preview - American Showdown
Dreamhack Open Austin begins on Friday and sees a field entirely composed of teams from the Americas, with two Brazilian teams mixed in with six from North America. Three of the eight teams in attendance are ranked in my most recent Top 10 CS:GO World Rankings, with one of them the reigning champions of the last major.
In this preview I look at all eight of the teams competing and their chances of winning, progressing through the bracket stage and making it out of the group stage. I have divided the eight teams into five different categories, based on their chances in the tournament.
Counter Logic Gaming
These are the teams who are very likely going to be playing in the final on Sunday and have the best chance of winning the tournament. There is always uncertainty about who will win a specific tournament, but collectively there is an overwhelming chance the victor is one of these teams.
Luminosity (coldzera, FalleN, fer, fnx and TACO) [Thorin World Ranking - #2]
It speaks to the degree of separation Luminosity have created between themselves and the other teams from the Americas that Luminosity stand as the lone favourite for this event. It is not exaggeration to suggest they must prevail in Austin and that this is very much their tournament to lose. Champions of the last major, they are the only team from outside of Europe to ever make the final of a major, much less win one, and that was only just over a month ago.
Luminosity are one of the world's elite teams, a favourite for every tournament they enter, no matter the other teams in attendance. With Na`Vi's consistent inability to take down titles, especially with GuardiaN still not back in god-mode, many would cite Luminosity as the favourite for any European event as well as the one in Austin. The problem is that anything but victory in Texas starts to scrape away at their incredible run of success. The Brazilians already were shockingly dropped in Sweden by TyLoo at Dreamhack Malmo.
Sure, we can attribute a degree of an unknown quantity to TyLoo, who were playing their first big Western tournament and have a style which looks to require some playing time to adapt to for the Europeans, but the format of that match - a full Best-of-three series without a randomiser for the third map - meant Luminosity were still overwhelming favourites.
Prior to that, Luminosity had only lost Bo3 series to two teams offline: FNATIC and Na`Vi, the clear-cut top two teams in the world. That a number of those series had been very close on key maps shows the degree of consistency and excellence Luminosity had displayed prior to the TyLoo series. Going out of the group stage in Malmo was also the first time in 2016 that FalleN's men had failed to reach at least the semi-finals of a tournament.
In online form, coldzera and company have been dominant in North America, going 18:4 in Bo1s in the ESL ProLeague S3 and 9:0 in Bo3s won in the ECS S1. None of the teams at this tournament harbour the kind of surprise potential that TyLoo did and the next best competition - the fellow Brazilians of Tempo Storm - are intimately known to Luminsoity, who have played with some of them before, practically trained them to their recent form and understand their playing style inside out.
Luminosity will win this tournament, else there will be hell to pay.
This category contains the teams who are a lock to make the top four and, in peak form, have also shown they could also win the title.
Tempo Storm (boltz, felps, HEN1, SHOOWTiME and Lucas1) [Thorin World Ranking - #7]
Tempo Storm had already impressed against online competition earlier in the year, qualifying for two of the biggest events of the first half of the calender year. Their failure at the major qualifier was a blip, their first event with that line-up and with their losses coming to European sides anyway.
Despite failing to make it out of the group stage in Malmo, thanks to an inspired run from EnVyUs, the runs which stick most in one's mind are the near-semi-finals campaign in Katowice, where they were ever so close to taking down Na`Vi in a three map Bo3 series, and their win at Gfinity CEVO-P S9 last week, downing Virtus.pro in a five map Bo5 along the way.
Tempo Storm come into this event looking better than ever, particularly in terms of individual performances. The dynamic of the team seems to have settled with boltz, the new in-game leader, becoming a consistent performer from match-to-match; felps developing into the next Brazilian star player; and HEN1 playing the role of the streaky but explosive impact AWPer. That Tempo Storm is one which should torture every North American team in the field.
The real area of weakness for Tempo Storm is their map pool, but it seems almost unfair to cite that against them in this preview since they are going against North Americans, who themselves lack particularly strong home maps and depth of map pool. Tempo Storm could be upset by individual performances from Team Liquid in the group stage, but otherwise are a lock for the play-offs and should reach the final, assuming they don't have to play Luminosity until then.
If they were to play CLG in the semi-final, that would be an interesting match-up, especially to test their cbblestone, but Tempo Storm look set to show that two Brazilian teams are better than all of the North American sides.
These are the teams who won't win the event, but have an outside chance of surprising and making a deep run, perhaps reaching the semi-final and upsetting better teams in the right match-up.
Counter Logic Gaming (JDM, Tarik, Cutler, hazed and fugly) [Thorin World Ranking - #9]
With their disasterous 5:17 run in the ESL ProLeague, CLG have looked very much like the North American Virtus.pro in 2016: poor online, but a consistent performer offline. CLG have managed to get some wins over lesser European teams and consistently shown themselves to be one of the best North American teams in offline play. The big problem for the team remains the same as ever: having plateaued and seemingly being unable to break that barrier.
What that means for this tournament is that it's hard to imagine CLG being able to take down the likes of Luminosity in the bracket stage and win the event. With that said, they are very capable of making it to at least the semi-finals here and should be exiting the group stage in second place. The firepower of C9 is not even the same threat it once was, with CLG now getting more impact on LAN from Tarik. Added to JDM's AWPing and Cutler's consistency, CLG boast the best offline core in NA right now, with TL still a mess waiting to settle into a recognisable form.
For CLG, this event is about either having a hot run to allow them to reach the final or at least holding home court and showing they are better than the other North American teams. Losses to any NA side except TL would be a disappointment for Pita's boys.
Team Liquid (Hiko, EliGE, nitr0, koosta and adreN)
With the fiery force of s1mple at their core, Team Liquid almost reached the final of the major, but his departure seems to set TL back to a similar position as late last year: potentially the strongest NA team, but still far from winning big Bo3 series over the elite teams. It helps that TL have seemingly always played close matches against Luminosity, so a series between the two, perhaps in the semi-final, would be worthy of interest. With CLG stuck without much improvement, TL can establish themselves as the best North American team, but it will require figuring out koosta's role in the line-up.
The former NME star was the hottest rising star in NA earlier in the year, but now has to fill the enormous shoes of s1mple and his impact offline play. The impetus is not entirely on koosta to have to carry as s1mple did at the major, but it's likely fans will judge him in that respect. More important to TL's chances for the final is that nitr0 re-emerges as one of the best players in this team. He had a strong showing against TyLoo at Dreamhack, but it has been too long since he was the primary star of this team and the monster entry fragger who many admired late last year.
Team Liquid have too much talent to not be playing in the semi-final of this tournament, but who they play will entirely determine whether they can reach that final or not. A match against CLG is their best chance of contending for the title. That will certainly be a curious one, though, as s1mple was the defining factor the last time the two battled.
Single map upset potential
As the name suggests, these teams have the potential to cause a single map upset against some of the better teams.
NRG (ptr, Just9n, LEGIJA, gob b and SileNt3M)
NRG's Bo3 series victory over EnVyUs, then the reigning major champions, back at CounterPit Season 2 Finals certainly got the attention of the CS:GO world, but it is highly problematic to consider that a measure of this team. Firstly, the two maps they won were in very close fashion and the first (dust2) saw their stand-in (tabseN) going off for around 30 kills. tabseN was only playing due to ptr's injury and will have no impact upon this tournament. ptr is certainly one of the team's best player, but it has been some time since we've seen a performance comparable to the aforementioned tabseN one from the ex-CLG man.
Just9n was the revelation of CounterPit and his emergence must continue here for NRG to have the firepower to exit the group stage. gob b is a mastermind and has repeatedly shown himself capable of reading the game well, but he requires the tools to be able to execute the plans from that brain, which is where NRG have still yet to show they can be consistently dangerous. A still settling TL may need to be concerned by NRG, but Tempo should be too much for them.
Selfless (MAiNLiNE, Uber, Nifty, mitch and Relyks)
This team was supposed to be dead and buried when koosta signed his contract with Team Liquid. Seeing their star player and offline hard carry go out of the door meant many were set to forget all about the team which became Selfless, but their online play has ensured that has not been the case. Prior to the final games of play, Selfless surprisingly looked set to qualify for the offline finals of the ESL ProLeague S3.
Sadly, the team's performance at last week's Gfinity makes it hard to believe they will live up to their online form. Thrashed soundy by both dignitas and SK Gaming, they managed a total of 15 rounds over four maps of play. Worst of all, they saw very little contribution in terms of raw fragging from the players who had done damage online. Nifty and mitch have been surprisingly effective online but didn't show up in London. In the end, only MAiNLiNE seemed to be the same player as online, reminding one of the similar scenario at the major qualifier.
Selfless run the risk of being known as the biggest onliners in the North American scene if they can't put up a good performance in Austin. I expect them to go out of the group stage, though their work ethic and planning at least gives them a chance in the Bo1 against TL. That Bo3 decider makes it quite unlikely we'll see them in the top four, though.
Cloud9 (Shroud, Skadoodle, Stewie2k, n0thing and Slemmy)
I know very little about Slemmy and I need to see a lot from C9 before I'll be convinced they are legitimately a top North American team any more or capable of reaching the semi-finals of this tournament. With that said, any team with Shroud and Skadoodle in the line-up has a chance at getting out of the group stage of a largely North American tournament. Problem there being that Skadoodle has not looked like the Skadoodle of old in recent tournaments, though online play has returned somewhat. Shroud has been the hard carry of this team and should be capable of being one of the best players in the group, but will that be enough?
Many have hyped Slemmy on the basis of him being an in-game leader, something C9 has seemingly not had since sgares's departure and has sorely needed, but offline play against good teams is where a leader makes his name. Beating CLG in a Bo1 is possible, thanks to Shroud and Skadoodle, but winning a potential Bo3 against them seems unreasonable.
These teams will definitely be going out in the group stage.
Splyce (arya, DAVEY, jasonR, fREAKAZOiD and summit1g)
Beyond the miracle of qualifying for the major, where they were unceremoniously destroyed, Splyce haven't done much of note. In online play they have struggled and at Gfinity they went out of the tournament in last place. A win on cbblestone against VP and a close loss on mirage looked promising, but VP showed their own flaws at Gfinity and still prevailed in the series and reached top four in the tournament.
Splyce is barely recognisable from that team, anyway. The team comes in with fREAKAZOiD and summit1g standing in for them. Considering Professor_chaos seemed like a liability, it is not an issue to lose him, but fREAKAZOiD has had his own problems with performance in 2016 and summit is not even a professional player. Splyce has no expectations upon them, due to the stand-ins, and thus should not even win a game here.
Photo credits: Dreamhack, Gfinity and rebrn