IEM Oakland Preview

November 14, 2017 - Esports
IEM Oakland Preview

After a small respite from the tournament circuit, some of the best Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams in the world are at it again, starting today. 12 teams are going to step onto the stage in the Burbank, CA venue but only one will win the tournament, cashing in the lion’s share of $300,000.

SK Gaming has brought in Ricardo “boltz” Prass from Immortals to replace João “felps” Vasconcellos and immediately won EPICENTER 2017, one of the biggest CS:GO tournaments of the year.

With some time to get used to playing with the loaned newcomer and to define their map pool, SK Gaming should only become stronger, which bodes well for their chances at IEM Oakland.

That doesn’t mean that it will be easy, however. This tournament features several teams that can challenge SK Gaming on an even footing, like Astralis, FaZe Clan, and G2 Esports.

Still, we are optimistic about SK’s chances in this event. boltz seems to be a good addition to the team with his more passive playstyle allowing the rest of the team to pull off some flashy moves, while still accomplishing what it’s supposed to.

With three slots in each group for teams to make it out of the Group Stage, there’s no reason why Astralis wouldn’t get there. After all, SK Gaming is the only team in the group that stands squarely above the Danish in terms of strength. 

Once in the Playoffs, however, things would become dicier for them.

They would be likely to face either FaZe Clan or G2 Esports at one point or another. With Astralis’ performance having dipped from what it used to be at the beginning of the year, we’re much less confident about their chances.

Added to that, G2 Esports and FaZe Clan have been quite good in their matches against the Danes, making Astralis’ chances grim to say the least once in the Playoffs of the tournament.

They may go to the Semifinals after winning against Team Liquid or OpTic Gaming (the two most likely 3rd seeds from Group B) in the Quarterfinals, but it will be much harder after that.

While CLoud9 has been steadily building momentum, partly due to their success at smaller tournaments like DreamHack Open Denver and iBUYPOWER Masters, it’s not likely to be enough for a better score than 3rd place in the group once the Group Stage is over.

After all, Astralis and SK Gaming are objectively better teams. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Cloud9 would be hard-pressed to get one over the two CS:GO giants. It would bode well for their chances for a deep Playoffs run if they did, however.

Finishing the Group Stage in 3rd place means facing the #2 seed from Group B, which is likely to be either FaZe Clan or G2 Esports in the Quarterfinals. While Cloud9 can win against the two European giants if the deck is stacked just right, the chances of it happening are slightly unlikely. Top 6 is probably where Cloud9 will end up in this event.

\\\\\\\\Ninjas in Pyjamas/////////

While Ninjas in Pyjamas do have a chance, it’s a slim one. While they’ve been looking much better following the roster changes which tore apart their legendary lineup, it’s not enough to get the team fighting for more than 3rd place in the group.

Even if they do pull an upset and get into the Quarterfinals, the team isn’t established enough to be favored against any other team that is likely to make it there as well, barring any shockers.

Someday, if NiP keeps improving, however, they could definitely reach higher. With that said, it’s unlikely that they will storm the Top 5 of the World’s Best CS:GO teams anytime soon.

After the third French Shuffle, Team EnVyUs never recovered, consistently playing second fiddle to the G2 Esports roster and most other teams found at IEM Oakland 2017.

With that said, they do stand a small chance to make it to the Quarterfinals, assuming they can win against NiP and Cloud9. The victory against NiP is quite possible, after all, nV did it before at the ELEAGUE Premier. Cloud9 will be a tougher cookie.

Against the favorites, SK and Astralis, Team EnVyUs is simply outclassed on every level.

The Mongolz will make it to the Playoffs of IEM Oakland when cows start talking and laying eggs. We don’t mean to be mean, TheMongolz is a great team where they come from but the rest of the Group at IEM Oakland is on a whole other level.

Of course, the competition is likely to underestimate this team as well, providing them with an opportunity to get an upset or two, as long as their best can stand up to lax play from their opponents.

At the moment, FaZe Clan is rightfully ranked #1 by HLTV. The lineup of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, Håvard “rain” Nygaard, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer, and Finn “karrigan” Andersen is probably the most talented roster ever assembled in modern Counter-Strike.

Any of the players could be the star on most teams. With that said, they aren’t invincible. As EPICENTER proved, the team can be taken down by a good enough opponent and there will be enough of those at IEM Oakland.

Nevertheless, it would be an extreme disappointment if FaZe didn’t at least make it to the Semifinals of this event, both for fans and the org. Fortunately for the FaZe fans out there, their team’s chances are looking good. As long as their team remains focused and performs at their usual level, there is no reason why they wouldn’t be able to make it out of the Group Stage.

It’s likely that they will be first in the group, though finishing in 2nd place isn’t out of the question either.

Where FaZe Clan is the favorite to go straight to the Semis, G2 is almost shoe-in for 2nd place. In their own group, G2 is likely to fall to FaZe Clan, but the matchups against Team Liquid and OpTic Gaming is favored towards the French. Gambit and Renegades, the underdogs in the group, are likely to fall to Richard “shox” Papillon and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub’s assault.

They should actually be okay with that because they have defeated Astralis twice at EPICENTER, while the Cloud9 matchup would be a bit more difficult because of the two teams’ past history.

If G2 Esports find a way to reach the Semifinals (by either winning the group or beating their Quarterfinals opponent), they are quite likely to face SK Gaming. Fortunately for the French, they seem to have a decent chance against the Brazilians.

Team Liquid seems to be in an unpredictable state at the moment. Just before the tournament, their IGL, Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz was, was replaced by Lucas “steel” Lopes.

This throws everything we think we know about Team Liquid to the curb. While it certainly looks like they may have a good chance to find their way to the Quarterfinals as the #3 seed from Group B following the five matches of Round Robin, there’s no real way to know how steel is going to integrate into the team on such short notice.

Even if the team makes it to the Playoffs, they aren’t very likely to get past the Quarterfinals at this point. After the team gets more used to playing with steel? They should be very strong, assuming the Brazilian knows enough English for it to not create problems.

Following their triumph at the Major and the departure of Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko, Gambit seemed to be doing well, at least judging from their performance at Dreamhack Masters Malmö. Unfortunately, they dipped after that.

Normally, we wouldn’t expect them to make it to the Playoffs with FaZe Clan, G2 Esports, and Team Liquid in the Group. However, with stanislaw replaced by steel, an opening appeared for the CIS team.

If the Americans are rougher around the edges than we expected, Gambit might seize the moment and make it to the Quarterfinals as the #3 seed from Group B.

At one point, OpTic Gaming had a nice roster and fought against the best in the world. That time has passed after Team Liquid acquired stanislaw. Now, OpTic Gaming has some nice players, but they are lacking in actual results.

OpTic Gaming even managed to lose to Renegades in the iBUYPOWER Masters, which shouldn’t have happened, to be honest. On paper, they are stronger than Renegades and we’re willing to give them the nod, but OpTic is honestly neck and neck with Renegades in the contest for the worst team in the group.

Even though Renegades have been having some success against lower-tier opponents than what they will find in the Group Stage of IEM Oakland. While their leader, Keith “NAF” Markovic seems to be impressive, the roster just doesn’t have what it takes to stand up to the likes of FaZe Clan and G2 Esports. Even the Team Liquid roster might prove to be too much, even though it’s going through some upheaval with the switch of in-game leaders.

In Conclusion…

The Group Stage battle will start on Nov. 14. Teams will play against all teams from their group and the top 3 will make it to the Playoffs. The #1 seed will go straight to the Semifinals, while the #2 and #3 seeds will have Quarterfinals matches to worry about.

Our picks for Group A are SK Gaming in f1st place, Astralis in 2nd, and Cloud9 in 3rd, though Ninjas in Pyjamas and possibly Team EnVyUs could contest the third seed spot as well.

In Group B, FaZe Clan is almost destined to win the Group, with G2 Esports coming in second and either Team Liquid (if steel gels with the team well) or Gambit Gaming in the third place.