Predictions for first round of SI 2021 playoffs

The playoffs start on May 19.

Screengrab via Ubisoft

After a thrilling best-of-one, round-robin format during the group stage of the Rainbow Six Siege Six Invitational, it’s time to knuckle down and head to the meat of the competition: the playoff stage. The SI 2021 playoffs begin at 4am CT on May 19.

Only a pair of teams were eliminated during the group stage: CAG and Giants Gaming. The remaining 16 teams will square off in a seeded double-elimination upper bracket and a single-elimination lower bracket. Teams were required to finish in the top four of their group to make the upper bracket.

Performance in the group stage won’t necessarily transfer over to the playoffs due to the abrupt change of format and higher stakes, but there are still some indications of which teams are better prepared for deep runs. Here are our predictions for the initial matches in the SI 2021 playoffs.

Upper bracket

Team Empire vs. Oxygen Esports

Team Empire are the surprise team of SI thus far. They’ve been performing far above their regional league performance and it seems to be due to a year of playing on 60 to 90 ping. They topped Group A, which featured title favorites Team Liquid and BDS.

Oxygen struggled on their first day of the group stage but fought their way out of a massive dilemma with a 3-0 finish. Their performance on the final day of the group stage catapulted them into the upper bracket. Oxygen could make a deep run in the playoffs, but they’ll likely start that run in the lower bracket. Empire are simply playing too well right now to pick against.

Pick: Team Empire 2-1

Team Liquid vs. MIBR

Liquid’s strength is in their teamwork. They’ve been together as a whole roster since 2019. They had several hiccups during the group stage, but their deep map pool should put them at an advantage in best-of-three series.

MIBR will be a good litmus test for Liquid because MIBR are in solid form. The victor of this match will likely shoulder the hopes and dreams of a Brazilian champion. MIBR are solid, but Liquid are looking better than they have in quite some time.

Pick: Team Liquid 2-1

BDS vs. Ninjas in Pyjamas

While the same could be said of their eventual run to the SI 2020 finals, NiP simply don’t seem to be their normal form when the group stage as a whole is taken into account. BDS are in form, and while there are map pool questions, they’re the overall favorites for a reason. BDS should win this one. It won’t be easy per se, but they should win it comfortably.

Pick: BDS 2-0

FaZe Clan vs. TSM

FaZe had high hopes coming into SI but struggled during the group stage. TSM had some hiccups during the group stage as well but ultimately finished at the top of their group. TSM are arguably the most talented team in North America at this point. They boast a wealth of experience and a deep map pool. To boot, TSM coach Owen “Pojoman” Mitura thinks TSM are in a better spot now than in February, when they were considered SI favorites. FaZe are a good team, but this one should be TSM’s to lose.

Pick: TSM 2-1

Lower bracket

Team oNe vs. Spacestation

The Team oNe vs. Spacestation match will feature the two most-discussed players in the tournament thus far. Team oNe’s Karl “Alem4o” Zarth became an overnight international sensation thanks to his stellar group stage play and massive smile. Alem4o and Team oNe will face off against Troy “Canadian” Jaroslawski, the once-retired IGL who was forced back into service due to Spacestation’s inability to secure stand-in Luke Slota a passport.

Spacestation have looked downright awful at points during the group stage and it’s hard to see them fixing their glaring issues in three short days. But Spacestation are a proven team on the international stage with a devastating set of fraggers as well. Team oNe are not. I can’t see Spacestation repeating as champions, but they won’t get first rounded.

Pick: Spacestation 2-1

G2 Esports vs. Parabellum

Mere days ago, predicting that Parabellum would fight their way out of the group stage would evoke laughter from most Rainbow Six fans and analysts. Similarly, predicting that G2 would be a hair’s breadth from being eliminated in the group stage would’ve caused some chuckles. But the games aren’t played on paper and both Parabellum and G2 subverted expectations in opposite fashions.

This matchup is interesting. If G2 can get out of their own heads, they should prevail. Parabellum can’t be counted out and they’ve come further than every single R6 fan outside of their own expected them to, but I think their Cinderella run ends here in a nail-biter.

Pick: G2 2-1

DarkZero Esports vs. FURIA

We’ve already seen this match play out in a best-of-one. DarkZero won 7-3, but it was FURIA’s third match in a row and DarkZero’s first. DarkZero are one of the most tactically deep teams in this tournament, and despite disappointing during the group stage, they should beat a team of FURIA’s caliber over the course of a best-of-three.

DarkZero win this one and it might not be close. But there’s a chance that if FURIA start extremely fast, they could steal maps. Altogether, though, this is a DarkZero team with deeper strategical expertise, gun skill on-par with FURIA, and tons of experience.

Pick: DarkZero 2-0

Cloud9 vs. MKERS

C9 are a solid team but are struggling against some of the best Rainbow Six teams in the world. MKERS had a great group stage considering they’ve only truly played SI-caliber teams in their qualifying tournament. MKERS have looked shaky at times, but the young all-Italian team shows a lot of promise with their aggressive playstyle.

A matchup with C9, who are the weakest remaining team in the field, is a match made in heaven for them. C9 are the final APAC team left in the field and bring as aggressive a playstyle as any in their region. MKERS are likely to win in what should be the sloppiest match of the lower bracket. Expect some head-scratching moments and for MKERS to eliminate APAC from SI.

Pick: MKERS 2-1