The Road To Rio: Teams to Watch
The Road to Rio kicks off tomorrow in Europe and North America, with the CIS version starting next week. With mountains of games to watch in the next few weeks, we thought it was important to pick out the most interesting teams to watch - especially if you’re bored of Liquid and Astralis.
Complexity remain as one of the most interesting teams in the region. With their mix of Danish firepower and American flavour, the so-called juggernaut is more of a sleeping giant due to their early inconsistencies. Many of these inconsistencies are amplified online - the few LAN games we saw of coL before the lockdown were extremely impressive. In order to get through to playoffs, you have to finish top four in an eight-team group, and Complexity have a good chance to make a run. Astralis and fnatic are pretty much certain to finish in the top half, but NiP and Vitality are not necessarily scary to a team with BlameF and k0nfig. It’s time for the juggernaut to take over and show they were worth the cash.
Speaking of Vitality, their recent failures have made them more interesting. The ZywOo trying to drag his team over the line skit was getting a little boring, and so when ALEX decided to leave, the replacement of another wunderkind raised a few eyebrows. apEX took over the reins as the leader, and so far, has shown little of the leading from the front that the Brit did. ZywOo doesn’t look quite as 1v9 as he used to, and misutaaa - the new kid - has looked raw. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not all rookies come in as world-class players. Vitality have a great chance to get back on track and with a good performance should glide through their group, but if they slip up there’s a lot of teams who would love to embarrass them, like Heretics.
One of the teams who aren’t necessarily a top team, but are ready to pounce, are GODSENT. Mix teams are no longer a novel thing in CS:GO, but this one has had some extremely impressive results, most notably knocking OG out of the Minor - which now, doesn’t really matter, of course. On paper, the roster doesn’t have much firepower, but Montenegrin Maden has been a revelation as a star, and STYKO has been reborn as a genuine fragger and not a role player. The team has been going from strength to strength, and a top 4 finish here would cement them as more than a banana skin that might trip up the top teams.
7-8th place at FLASHPOINT isn’t a ground-breaking result, but for Bad News Bears who came in with little time to reflect and practice, it put them on the map. Under the name FunPlus Phoenix wins against c0ntact and Chaos in best-of-threes helped BNB put a flag down and gives them somewhere to go from there. Back into a purely national tournament, they have a chance to use what they learnt. Even under the name BNB, they’ve won four of their last five series’, only losing to Cloud9; their online form is scary. ptr is a player who has been around for ages, and his reputation as an onliner is unlikely to change if he plays well here, but it might get BNB to Rio.
Orgless showed up and impressed at FLASHPOINT, qualifying from the Open Qualifiers and beating Dignitas in a best-of-three, and will also need to come back to NA and do the same to the American teams. FNS, WARDELL and Subroza are more household names than the players on BNB, and as such it’s easier to justify them qualifying to Rio. WARDELL is a genuinely talented player who many thought would be on a bigger team by now, and Subroza spent some time on Cloud9 - much like FNS, who was controversially signed and cut just a month and a half later. BNB have a much simpler group, while Orgless have to finish above two of C9, EG, 100T and Gen.G, but Gen.G and C9 have not been massively impressive, and Subroza and FNS will definitely have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to C9.
MIBR are a consistent inconsistency. The team that was once the undisputed best in the world are now losing 12-3 leads to rookie teams in finals of FLASHPOINT, and it’s hard to claim they’re even top 10, maybe even top 20 any more. The loss was so embarrassing for the whole of Brazil, and though fer and FalleN looked back to somewhere near their best, it’s not enough. With Envy, Yeah, and BNB in their group, they absolutely have to finish top three, or something has to change.
Zeus started his own little project while he was playing, and that project is PRO100. The team have been up and down, and the original roster doesn’t really exist any more, but old-school names like WorldEdit and wayLander complement the up and coming talent. One player we’re excited about is YEKINDAR, a mercurial but intensely skilled player who will need to show up and flex on bigger names than he - as NaVi and Virtus.pro are in their group. Third place will likely go to either PRO100 or Hard Legion - assuming that VP or god forbid Na'Vi don’t completely screw it up.
Hard Legion used to be called DreamEaters; you might remember their insane Major run last year. Repeating that is no mean feat, but Vega Squadron and Flipsid3 started the trend of CIS teams somehow falling into a Major cycle and coming out smelling of roses. They’ve been able to beat counterparts Espada and Nemiga who are in the tournament with them recently, and Krad and Forester still look like quality players.
The final team is Gambit Youngsters. If you haven’t seen Ax1le or even more so sh1ro yet, strap in and watch them play. sh1ro is an uber-talented youngster who has obliterated good players over and over again in the tier two or three scene. The team itself isn’t amazing, and with forZe and Spirit in their group finishing top two is a stretch, but the two young talents might be enough to drag them into third. Watch them not expecting to see top-level play, but top-level players instead.
Images via ESL & BLAST