The 5 most anticipated matches in the SI 2021 group stage

Mark your calendars.

Screengrab via Ubisoft

If you’re a fan of Rainbow Six Siege, watching the Six Invitational is a no-brainer. But with over 80 matches in this group stage, it’ll be hard to catch every single match.

Here are our picks for the top five matches heading into the group stage, presented in no particular order, so viewers who don’t have time to watch every series can prioritize. The group stage begins on May 11 and concludes on May 16.

Due to the lack of international competitions in Rainbow Six over the past year, no matchup between two teams in the same region has been considered. The matches were chosen on criteria based on a mix of historical significance, current chances of winning SI, and pivotal turning points in the group stage for big-name teams.

TSM vs. Ninjas in Pyjamas

Screengrab via TSM

TSM and NiP have fielded world-class teams in the past and would both be considered favorites to win the title under normal circumstances. But both teams’ performances in their regional leagues have dipped recently.

NiP won the 2020 August Mini-Major for the LATAM region but haven’t had much success since. They had a lackluster by their standards fifth-place finish in the first 2021 stage of BR6 but made the semifinals of the 2021 Copa Elite Six. There are some question marks and they didn’t exactly finish in placements relative to their talent, but this is a good team.

TSM might have reason for concern as well. They won the U.S. Finals in 2020, but the 2021 NAL Stage One wasn’t great for them. Star Jason “Beaulo” Doty underperformed by his standards, as did the rest of the team, especially in an early-season loss to beastcoast. Which TSM will show up: The TSM that dropped a nuke on NA in the 2020 U.S. Finals or the somewhat struggling TSM that dropped four of their eight Stage One matchups?

Make no mistake, both TSM and NiP are excellent teams that are just a bit out of form. NiP were the runners-up at SI 2020 and TSM finished third. While they’ve underperformed recently, these two teams are still dangerous. Winning a matchup like this on one of the final days of the group stage could send one of these teams into the playoffs with some serious momentum.

BDS vs. Cloud9

Image via BDS Esport

Both BDS and Cloud9 were powers in their regions but failed to take the top spot for Stage One of the 2021 circuit. C9 lost their spot to Elevate in a 2-0 thrashing in the clash between the best respective teams in APAC North and APAC South to determine the stage champion. BDS lost to Natus Vincere in the regular season of EUL Stage One and tied them in point total, but finished second due to the tiebreaker rules.

Both of these teams are considered strong favorites heading into the tournament and C9’s performance in this matchup could be a bit predictive of the at times mercurial APAC region. Sometimes, APAC squads play spoiler to teams traditionally considered strong. Other times, they flame out in group stages. Both teams will have their sea legs under them by this point in the group stage and we’ll get a definitive look at C9 against a consistent top competitor.

Beyond that APAC strength storyline, both teams are incredibly mechanically talented. It’s not a stretch to say that this is a matchup between two top teams in terms of gun skill. It’ll be aggressive and it’ll be fun.

DarkZero vs. FaZe Clan

Screengrab via Ubisoft

SI will start with an absolute banger of a match on the first day: DarkZero vs. FaZe Clan. A massive roster move has rejuvenated the corpse of FaZe and they’re coming into SI looking strong. DarkZero had an underwhelming Stage One of the NAL, but they added star entry player Nick “njr” Rapier in the offseason and are a perennial power in NA.

These two organizations seemingly always face each other. They played notably in the Raleigh Major 2019, Pro League Season 10 Finals, and in the group stage of SI 2020. And they’re going to face each other again this year in the first game of the tournament. DarkZero have looked stronger in the past, but they’re still a team worthy of the benefit of the doubt in international competition. The same goes for FaZe. Adding the stellar former MIBR core didn’t lead to a BR6 victory or Copa Elite Six glory, but they’re still a very, very good Rainbow Six team.

If nothing else, expect this match to be close and a contrast of styles. DarkZero play creative, yet fundamental Siege and have been critiqued for being inflexible when the original plan doesn’t go well. LATAM Siege is fast and furious and FaZe are going to press at every gap.

Spacestation vs. Giants Gaming

Screengrab via Spacestation Gaming

One of these teams is a favorite that’s been through adversity in the offseason, while one’s a dark horse that perpetually deals with adversity.

For Spacestation, that might come as a shock. Most know them for lifting the SI 2020 hammer and having solid-to-excellent results in NAL 2020 since then. But following the postponement of SI 2021, IGL Troy “Canadian” Jaroslawski retired. He’s back in the lineup following the inability to get his replacement, Luke Slota, a passport for the event.

Sure, Canadian is NA’s greatest IGL. Sure, Spacestation have an absurdly talented team and play great fundamental Siege. There’s still a question of how Canadian will perform after a month and a half off, though, and how the team reacts to their structure suddenly returning. There’s a chance they could ascend to their previous heights, but there’s also a chance that motivation is lacking and they could crash.

One of their early-barometer tests will be Giants Gaming out of the APAC region, who have been dealing with adversity themselves. Jeremy “HysteRiX” Tan is in the middle of his Singaporean National Service with the Singapore police and two other members of the team aren’t full-time players. They’ve endured a season of horrible ping due to a transition from APAC North to APAC South and their regular league performance dipped. It isn’t all about the ping, but to act like it doesn’t affect the situation is to deny reality.

Giants are your feel-good story for the tournament, if you’re looking for an underdog to pull for. They’re talented, driven, and they’ll be the underdogs in most games they play. The Spacestation game will be one of their biggest tests.

This one will be a war. We’ll see the tough stuff Giants are made of and get a glimpse of how Spacestation are performing in the process.

G2 vs. CAG

Image via Ubisoft Brazil

There’s almost no one left on the G2 roster that was there during their dominant run. Only Juhani “Kantoraketti” Toivonen remains after the retirement of Niclas “Pengu” Mouritzen. Similar to Canadian, Pengu retired after SI was postponed.

The current G2 aren’t slouches, even if they aren’t what they once were. Ben “CTZN” McMillan has a Pro League title under his belt and all players except Jordan “Kayak” Morley have competed at an SI before. They’re still a very competent team. G2 will come into this matchup fresh off the heels of a showdown with EU foe BDS.

CAG will be a good matchup for them. This all-Japanese squad had a strong season in APAC North but fell to Fnatic in the APAC third-place playoffs. Typically, CAG are good but not great, but they’ll be a dangerous matchup for G2. APAC teams traditionally play spoiler in massive Rainbow Six tournaments. Can CAG continue on the legacy?

Both of these teams are upper-tier squads in their respective leagues but aren’t exactly expected to win SI. Strong runs through the group stages could change the perception of these two teams, though. They have the talent, but they don’t have the regional dominance. Two good weeks or even one good day could be the difference between lifting the hammer and going home empty-handed, however.