Insight into the 6 sides going into the final gauntlet at IEM Katowice.
As we walk into the Spodek Arena for the final leg of one of the most esteemed CSGO competitions in the world, we remember all the great plays from Katowice history. From the incredible Tec-9 clutch by Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson to Jarosław “pashaBiceps” Jarząbkowski’s insane AWP plays and Andreas “Xyp9x” Højslet’s ridiculous clutches, the Hall of Heroes has seen it all, and we’re back once again to get our annual fix of Katowice Counter-Strike.
The tournament may have begun with 24 teams, but only 6 remain. These sides have battled some of the world’s toughest teams to make it to this point — including each other for some of them — and now they’ve earned the right to fight it out for one of the most prestigious trophies in all of esports. If you haven’t been following their exploits over the last couple of weeks, here’s how they stand going into the cutthroat playoffs, plus how the results might turn out according to us.
The French side may not be the most consistent, but when they get it right, they can beat the best teams out there. Vitality have been in pretty decent form as of late, passing their BLAST Premier Spring Groups test with flying colors shortly before this event. They began Katowice in the Group Stage by virtue of their ranking, and saw off Ninjas in Pyjamas with ease before winning a close series against Fnatic. However, they did get absolutely demolished by Heroic, so they’ll have to improve if they are to pose a challenge for the resurgent Danes.
As a result of their last loss, they’ll be starting the Playoffs in the Quarterfinals against Group B Lower Bracket winners Team Liquid. Liquid are a weird one to gauge with their erratic form factor, but their last win over FaZe will likely give them the confidence to take Vitality out. We’re going out on a limb to say that Vitality’s run at Katowice ends against Liquid.
As mentioned before, Team Liquid live up to its name by being dependent on a flow state to get things done. They haven’t had the best start to the year, suffering defeats to OG and BIG to be thrown into the chaotic BLAST Spring Showdown in order to have any chance of competing in the Spring Finals. However, they have redeemed themselves somewhat at IEM Katowice by beating IHC Esports, Team Spirit and FaZe Clan to secure their Playoffs slot.
Slated to face Vitality in the Quarterfinals, Liquid has our backing. They looked pretty solid in their last two matches, and while Spirit isn’t the most powerful of teams, FaZe certainly is and reverse-sweeping them in a series can never be called easy. Should they manage to go past Vitality, they will meet G2 in the Semifinals. As good as Liquid can be, G2 are playing out of this world right now, and we simply don’t see Liquid beating them — barring a major pop-off from a couple of players.
The Ukrainian powerhouse looked rock-solid in their first two Group Stage matches, all but brushing aside the likes of Cloud9 and Liquid. However, they seemed to have developed a kind of block against G2, who admittedly have been in crazy form lately. Na’ Vi have lost to the French organization 3 times in as many encounters this year, and will have to come up with something special to usurp the current number 1-ranked team from their position of power.
Na’ Vi will be up against fellow CIS squad Outsiders, who have experienced a bit of a revival since falling down into the Lower Bracket of Group B early in the Group Stage. While Outsiders are still the current Major title holders, they don’t look nearly as good as they did in Rio, and we reckon Na’ Vi should be able to get past them. They will face Heroic next, and if the Danes continue their incredible run, Na’ Vi’s attack should fall flat. We think Na’ Vi’s run will end in the Semis.
The Russian team haven’t had much luck since winning the Rio Major, crashing out of the World Final unceremoniously and not taking part in the Spring Groups due to their lack of a partnership with ESL. Coming into this tournament, they faced defeat against Fnatic early on, but proceeded to defeat the likes of NIP, OG and Complexity. While those aren’t exactly stellar teams and OG played with their coach standing in, Outsiders have their own new addition, and making it to the Playoffs was a big feat in and of itself.
Up next, Outsiders will fight Na’ Vi, and we feel as though the Ukrainians will outmuscle their regional rivals. Outsiders’ best chance is for Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev to have a really bad day at the office, but barring that, we pin them to having a 5th-6th place finish at this event.
For a team that’s on a hot streak, G2 looks strangely composed. The only player on the team who hasn’t been popping off over the course of the last two tournaments is the mind behind the machine, Nemanja “HooXi” Kovač, and the other G2 players seem perfectly fine with that. They waltzed through the Spring Groups, and proceeded to outclass both BIG and FaZe before dismantling Na’ Vi to secure their Semifinal berth.
Scheduled to meet either Vitality or Liquid in the Semi, they are well-equipped to dispose of either of those teams. Since we’re banking on Liquid to make it through, that is who will have to face the brunt of G2’s power. Afterwards, G2 will most likely be up against Heroic, and we have a gut feeling that their streak will end right there. It’s not as though Heroic players are better than G2’s on paper, but they have a better team chemistry and a brothers-in-arms attitude that’s hard to beat.
Following a relatively disappointing World Final and a poor start to their Spring Groups, Heroic bounced back strongly. The Danes showed tremendous resilience to avoid defeat despite almost all of their series going all three maps, clinching the wins in the nick of time. They began their Katowice campaign by pushing a hardened Complexity down by a narrow margin, but improved gradually with each passing map — they beat OG in two competitive games, but when they came up against Vitality, they brutalized the French side to make it to the Semis directly.
Heroic will face either Na’ Vi or Outsiders, and although their side of the gauntlet looks decidedly tougher, the recently-usurped holders of the number 1 position in the rankings will look to regain their crown by winning the event. We believe they’ll be able to do so, with literally all their players contributing equally — something few other teams have going for them at the moment.
Keep an eye on our site for recaps of the Playoffs, and make sure to read our variety of other CSGO literature.