IEM Oakland preview
IEM Oakland is set to take place in Oakland, California this week from the 14th to the 19th of November. It will see 12 teams, 9 of them invited, and 3 through regional qualifiers, battle for a share of the $300,000 prize pool.
The format of the tournament will use the normal IEM format, with two groups of six teams using the round-robin system to determine which teams will advance to the playoffs. The team who places first in their group will advance to the semi-finals, while the second and third place teams wil play in the round of six first. The round of six and the semi-finals will be best of threes, while the grand final will be a best of five.
In this preview, CarbonDogma and Nohte will guide you through Groups A and B, respectively, and give the expectations and current state of the teams attending.
The Brazilian team will be coming into Oakland hot off of a win in St. Petersburg, Russia at EPICENTER 2017, with trial member Ricardo “boltz” Prass . There, they took down FaZe, Astralis, and Virtus.pro to take home the trophy in a big win for the team, as they had encountered a period of poorer results beginning at the previous Major, PGL Krakow 2017.
After exiting in the quarterfinals of the Major at the hands of Astralis, SK entered into one of their larger slumps, bar the one directly after they added João “felps” Vasconcellos. Dropping series to G2, Liquid twice, and eventually Heroic, meant that a roster move was sure to come in. That came in the form of the most recent addition felps stepping down from the lineup, as his play had severely suffered.
To replace him, the team looked towards the former second best team in Brazil, Immortals. boltz fills a far more passive role than that of felps, and helps to bring the squad back to its roots of very tactical play. Due to the aggression that felps brought to the team, SK adopted a much more loose, skill based style, which worked for many tournaments, giving them victories at ECS Season 3, ESL One Cologne, and more. After having a dip in individual play, this style failed them, and with boltz we’ve seen the more tactical style already yield results at EPICENTER.
This team is definitely favored to advance past the group stage, and is one of the contenders to take the whole tournament, alongside FaZe, G2, and Astralis. The main players to watch out for on this squad will be boltz and Marcelo "coldzera" David. coldzera is used to putting up big numbers, and his consistency is always something to watch out for. boltz’s integration into the team will also be something to note, as he did well in EPICENTER. Whether or not that was a fluke will be answered in California this weekend.
The Danish giants are in an awkward position right now. Their form almost mirrors the old TSM roster in that they are very consistent in making top four and making deep runs, but won’t ever win the event. After a disappointing showing in Krakow against Gambit, Astralis entered a small slump, exiting DreamHack Masters Malmö and ESL One New York to Gambit and Liquid in the quarterfinals and group stage, respectively.
They however seemed to be back at the ELEAGUE Premier, as they made the grand final, only to lose to the unbeatable FaZe. EPICENTER proved that the Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander-led squad still has a way to go before they are #1 again. Convincing defeats at the hands of SK and G2 leaves a lot to be desired, and if Astralis wants any hope of making the grand final in Oakland, they will most likely have to beat at least one of SK, FaZe, or G2.
The players to watch on the Astralis side will be Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen and Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye. The former has had a huge surge in form recently after a long period of mediocre play following his role change, and it will be interesting to see how long this form will last. The latter however has had quite poor form in the last few months relative to where he was at the beginning of 2017. Oakland will be the perfect place for both Astralis and Kjaerbye to show that they still have it.
Fresh off of a victory at regional LAN iBUYPOWER Masters, Cloud9 are looking in prime position to deliver some upsets and possibly even a deep run. In Santa Ana this weekend, we saw Cloud9 beat their North American rivals Liquid in the semi-finals in a close best of three. They also took down Renegades, who are in Group B, in the grand final of the event. This result is a continuation of the team’s underrated resume.
After a poor outing at DreamHack Masters Malmö, the American team has yet to place below top four at a LAN event. At DreamHack Montreal, ESL One New York, and ELEAGUE Premier, Cloud9 took down the likes of Natus Vincere and G2 to place top four, while at DreamHack Denver and iBUYPOWER Masters they took home the trophy. Despite this, they were unable to secure the required points in the ESL Pro League and failed to qualify for the offline finals.
IEM Oakland will be critical for Cloud9 to prove that they just don’t beat tier 2 competition, but that they can compete with the best in the world. The main player to watch will be Jake “Stewie2K” Yip, who has been having huge impact for his team, and was Cloud9’s best player this past weekend. Making it out of the group stage is paramount for this team, as if they fail to do so, they will be sure to be labeled as as only the masters of North America.
NiP’s form in the last few months has been very up and down. They won DreamHack Valencia in July and made top four at DH Masters Malmö over Na’Vi, but proceeded to flop at the ELEAGUE Premier, falling to EnVyUs in the group stage. They followed this up by continuing their tradition from the previous Major cycle and failed to qualify for the Europe Minor, losing in the final round of the Swiss group to Poland’s PRIDE.
The team has otherwise looked solid online, winning Hellcase Cup 6, and placing in the top six of EPL Season 6, qualifying them for the LAN Finals in Odense, Denmark. It is hard to predict how NiP will perform at IEM, but if the Swedes wish to regain glory for both their country and their organization, they will need a good showing. The pieces all seem to be there: a powerful AWPer in William "draken" Sundin, and an in-form Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg and Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund.
It will likely come down to whether or not Richard "Xizt" Landström will be able to activate Fredrik "REZ" Sterner’s potential on a consistent basis. This would mean the players to watch out for are the new additions of draken and REZ. In their search for consistency, this event would be prime time for them to show off their skills. NiP will likely be contending for the last playoff spot in Group A, alongside Cloud9 and EnVyUs.
The second best team from France should find itself in good spirits as they reversed their performance from the previous Major cycle and placed top two at the Europe Minor. They also come off of a top eight placing at the ELEAGUE Premier where they took down NiP, but fell to FaZe. Still, how they will perform in Oakland is very uncertain. As opposed to the previous season of ESL Pro League, the squad led by Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer couldn't make the LAN Finals in Season 6.
The main players to watch for this event should be Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom, who played extremely well at the Minor, and Cédric "RpK" Guipouy. RpK dropped off a bit from his form from a few months ago, so it will be interesting to see if he has cooled off for good, or if he can return to his star level form. Happy himself has also had a good run of performances, but in theory, he shouldn't be relied on for star firepower.
IEM will be a place to gauge EnVyUs’ true form. They have huge upset potential, and in a group with Cloud9 and NiP, there is a good chance that the French team could gather some best of one wins. Making top six at this event would be a good showing for the squad, but failing to do so puts them back at the drawing board.
This lineup is coming into the event in Oakland in quite bad form, even for their own standards. After winning the Qualifier for this tournament, they failed to win WCA Mongolia by falling to AGAiN (no, not the Polish one). They then followed this up with a last place at the Asia Minor, losing to Renegades and MVP PK. Failing even at their own regional level doesn't bode well coming into a big international event.
One of the main reasons for this is their usage of Erdenedalai “maaRaa” Bayanbat, their former coach, in the active lineup. His stats have been extremely poor, and it has put a very large burden on the two main stars Enkhtaivan “Machinegun” Lkhagv and Temuulen “Zilkenberg” Battulga.
The best hope for The MongolZ at IEM Oakland will be to gain more international experience and to possibly get a map win against one of the other teams in their group. They can't be expected to do much in this higher level of competition however. It will be important to see if their recent poor form was just a small slump or if their problems run deep. If the latter, then the Mongolian squad is in a lot of trouble.
The European squad arrive in Oakland as the favorite to make it out of Group B. Despite a 2-1 group stage exit by the hands of Virtus.pro at EPICENTER, Finn “karrigan” Anderson and co. are not to be taken lightly. This roster still boasts an incredible string of results, and have given us some of the most dominant tournament victories in recent history.
That being said, FaZe have now shown that they do have flaws, and they’re not impossible to take down — Gambit were able to eliminate the squad from DreamHack Masters Malmö shortly after Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács joined the roster, and karrigan has continued to demonstrate an inability to claim victory over the Brazilians from SK. As more and more squads begin to take maps and series from FaZe, the immortality that they first exhibited when they began claiming victories will start to fade. Teams will find ways to adapt to the squad, as many analysts predicted when FaZe picked up their first title in New York.
This particular lineup also has yet to face G2 on LAN. The last time the FaZe core met the Frenchies was at SL i-League Season 3, well over seven months ago. Oakland will be the first opportunity for viewers, fans, and analysts to witness FaZe GuardiaN take on Kenny “kennyS” Schrub. One of the most anticipated AWP battles in CS:GO will prove to be far more exciting than ever before: both AWPers have looked to be in resurgent form, showing that either of them can take full control of a match for their teams.
Astralis, North, Cloud9, and Liquid have all crumbled in FaZe Clan’s wake as they steamrolled their way towards two titles, and here they’ll look for a third to add to their belt. Sweeping Liquid 3-0 in the grand final of ESL One New York has given the Europeans all the confidence they need going into the matchups in this group, where the North Americans will be looking for revenge. Clear-cut victories at ELEAGUE Premier playoffs clinched FaZe the title over karrigan’s former teammates on Astralis, and they’ll look to repeat that result if they make the playoffs.
The Frenchmen were unable to take down a resurgent Virtus.pro in Saint Petersburg two weeks ago, but a 2-1 victory over Astralis in the third place decider match should give them a little more confidence as they head into group play in Oakland. Their showing at EPICENTER, despite the loss, was still commendable — they took down Astralis twice in series play and absolutely dismantled North (dropping only five rounds across two maps). Although it wasn’t for the title, these wins over Astralis are crucial for G2’s mentality after the roster fell 2-0 to Cloud9 in the quarter-finals of ELEAGUE Premier.
The Frenchies last took a title for themselves at DreamHack Masters Malmö, where they took down Immortals, SK, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and North to claim the crown. If they hope to muster a repeat performance in Oakland, they’ll need kennyS to turn up — and to turn up in the matches that matter. While the AWPer has shown that he can still take over matches, he’s recently gone decidedly missing from matches when they reach playoffs. He had considerably less impact when G2 took on Cloud9, and was unable to out-AWP Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski at EPICENTER (where the Pole was able to take down kennyS 10/11 times in their head to head battles).
G2 have also had difficulty managing their economy, often going for risky force buys which can result in them having no money for the better portion of a match. They did less of this at Malmö, which was a massive factor in the Frenchmen taking the title. These kind of force buys can prove fatal in Group B, where they’ll take on FaZe Clan and Liquid. The former are incredibly skilled with pistols themselves, and the latter have shown to have stellar utility usage to flush out angles. These two teams combined will pose a massive threat to G2 if they continue to demonstrate poor economy management this time around.
The CIS squad have had very little to say for themselves since triumphing over Immortals in the Grand Finals Major back in July. A narrow best-of-three win over FaZe in the Group C decider match and a 2-0 victory over Astralis in the quarter-finals of Malmö have been their only notable results since. They’ve racked up losses from the likes of mousesports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, North, and Virtus.pro since losing Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko, who returned to Natus Vincere shortly after Gambit won the PGL Major.
Gambit seem to be following the trend of many teams who lose their in-game leader — a few upset victories shortly after they change rosters, but little to show afterward. The lack of an experienced in-game leader will be crushing for Gambit as they head into Oakland, where combined calling on Liquid from Nick “nitr0” Cannella and Lucas "steel" Lopes will easily outweigh the inexperience from Mikhail “Dosia” Stolyarov, who recently took over as in-game leader for his squad.
The other teams in their group won’t be any easier to out-call — karrigan and Richard “shox” Papillon have far more experience under their belts as leaders, and Gambit’s road to the playoffs in Oakland looks to be marred by far more craters than they may be able to handle.
Liquid have a rough road ahead of them if they hope to head into the Oracle Arena. Recent victories at the Americas Minor are about all they have to show for themselves, and even that victory is marred by an upset by Misfits early in the tournament. All is not lost however — the North Americans have shown to be a resilient squad, and their losses at most premier tournaments have been in close fashion to the best teams in the world.
The North Americans will be on unstable footing as a last-minute roster change sees Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz depart the team, replaced by steel just a day prior to the start of the event.
Liquid will have to demonstrate just how deep their playbook with a new roster can go as they play a variety of maps in Oakland — their struggles on Overpass in particular could come back to haunt them. We’ve seen the likes of Cloud9 demolish them on the map at iBUYPOWER Masters this past weekend, and the teams in Group B will have no qualms vetoing down to the map if they’re given the opportunity. It’ll only get more difficult if Liquid make it to playoffs, as SK and Astralis have shown that they are two of the best teams on the map - a solid map pick of their own will be crucial if Liquid hope to take the title here.
The great Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken has been a shining beacon of light for Liquid in recent matches, and he’ll have to bring his best form here too. The 17-year-old will play Liquid’s opening match in Oakland on his birthday, choosing to celebrate early by absolutely demolishing OpTic on Mirage at iBUYPOWER Masters. Twistzz closed out the first half of that map with 173 ADR, picking up a celebratory 25 frags for himself. They were unable to continue their form, falling to Cloud9 1-2 in the semi-finals to be eliminated.
A repeat of that sort of performance is just what Liquid will need as they take on FaZe and G2 in their group, and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski will need to join him to contend with the duo of Håvard "rain" Nygaard and Nikola "NiKo" Kovač.
The Europeans have had a disappointing run at their two recent LANs — first failing to make it to the Major Main Qualifier, and just this past weekend suffering a 2-0 defeat by the hands of Renegades. A lack of cohesion has been critical in their losses as they struggle to effectively trade out players, relying more on individual plays and set tactics.
This won’t be good enough in Group B, where OpTic will face the likes of FaZe Clan, Liquid, and G2 — teams that possess some of the most skilled lineups we’ve seen from their respective regions. OpTic’s map pool will be their biggest issue as the teams they face, both in their group and in the tournament, have deeper map pools than they do. Taking on FaZe, G2, and perhaps Astralis or SK on a middle-ground map for themselves will leave them little chance to push through.
Oakland will be an incredible opportunity for this squad to develop their teamplay versus top-tier opposition, and the best-of-one round robin format still leaves them with a very narrow shot to upset and make the playoffs; however, OpTic shouldn’t take elimination here too harshly. They’re still a recently formed roster, and having the opportunity to play against the teams in Oakland can give them invaluable experience as they develop their roster further.
A last-minute addition to the tournament in place of Immortals, this Australian-North American squad have shown that they’re far more capable than what some expected from them. Defeating Virtus.pro in the grand final of the StarLadder i-League Invitational in Shanghai two weeks ago shows that they can do well against some of the best, though Virtus.pro’s general form makes it difficult to judge how well squads can perform versus other top-tier teams.
Renegades went on to prove that their victory over Virtus.pro wasn’t a one-off this past weekend, easily taking down OpTic in the semi-finals of iBUYPOWER Masters and falling only to Cloud9 2-0 in the grand final. Even the loss to Cloud9 was commendable on Renegades’ side — they were able to push the second map, Train, into overtime despite being down 10-14, with the momentum wholly in the favor of Cloud9.
Renegades have had little time to prepare for this event, so little is expected of them. A few best-of-one upset victories over teams in their group would be good for them, and the format gives them a very, very small chance of making it through the group if they can take out OpTic and Liquid.
If you are in the Oakland area, stay tuned to Dust2.us to find out how we can make your wishes of attending IEM Oakland come true!