With so many tier two/three teams on show, there's no clear favourite. So we've picked out three teams for you to keep your eye on!
A competent level of Counter-Strike is almost back upon us, as DreamHack Leipzig starts this Friday. With eight teams, all of which have a lot to prove and many with new line-ups ready to go, the first decent sized tournament of 2020 could be an under-the-radar banger.
BIG, Cloud9, Renegades and Virtus.pro make up Group A, and Group B consists of North, MAD Lions, Heroic and Sprout. With so many ‘tier two’ (or three, depending on how you define them) teams vying it out, there’s no clear favourite. VP would likely be the obvious favourite, but the core of that line-up has traditionally been disappointing outside of the Major circuit - or at least inconsistent.
We’ve decided to pick out three teams who are worth keeping an eye out for at DH Leipzig.
The ATK boys started life on Cloud9 with aplomb, blowing MiBR, Complexity, eUnited and INTZ out of the water on the path to qualifying for both DH Leipzig, and IEM Katowice. Expectations for this roster weren’t insanely high at first, given the reasonably low reputation ATK had, but now those expectations are through the roof with some of the less ‘grounded’ C9 fans. And when you’re on cloud nine, why would you ever be grounded?
Winning four maps out of five against the juggernauts of Dallas is enough to bring the hype back to the downtrodden Cloud9 fans who have sat through some pretty nothing-y, pointless rosters. But forget C9 fanboys - C9 have now given SPUNJ ‘ONE reason RIGHT NOW as to why we should not be sleeping on Cloud9.’ Yes, it’s only NA qualifiers, but many expected Complexity and to a lesser extent MiBR to be decent teams, and seeing them get wiped out by C9 has brought a little bit of the hype back.
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In a group with BIG, Renegades and Virtus.pro, there’s no reason the new hope can’t make a run into the playoffs of DreamHack Leipzig. In fact, if they look as good against the real Danes as they did against the pseudo-Danish line-up of Complexity, they’ll probably end up winning the whole thing - 38% of the teams in Leipzig are Danish, after all.
The versatility of the carries is part of what makes the new C9 so dangerous, and similar to the Major winning line-up. In the first best of three against coL, it was floppy who went supernova and Sonic struggling, but the roles were reversed in the second best of three, as AWPer Sonic turned supersonic.
The re-acquisition of in-game leader MSL has revitalised an otherwise unexciting North team and Leipzig will be the first time we see the ‘new’ North. While the old boy turned new kid on the block won’t have a huge amount of time to implement some wholesale changes to the style of play, his presence and mid-round calls should give a previously rudderless North a second wind.
While JUGi hadn’t quite put in the performances North expected of him, replacing him with MSL on the AWP is a potential risk; but likely one that if it was a downgrade, would be offset by the improval of players around him. It should be remembered that part of the reason Kjaerbye even joined North was MSL, as some of his best form was under him, and aizy rose to prominence mainly playing under the enigmatic leader.
North won’t instantly turn into a tactical behemoth, but MSL should make them a bit more interesting to watch immediately, and with two potential Danish derbies on the horizon, they really are a team to watch going into DH Leipzig.
Sprout recently had two of their better players poached by their BIG brothers in the German scene, but their first game without them was against said siblings where they ended up taking the victory. Whilst they lost two quality players, the replacements - in Oskar and Dycha - bring with them a bigger pedigree and are arguably, even better players.
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It was actually old-school German players Spiidi and denis who carried Sprout through in the all-German clash, and if they can keep up any kind of form, they give a lovely baseline for the new stars to work off. Communication, however, might be tough, as most of the players have spoken German the entire time, and nobody is quite sure how good Oskar and Dycha will be able to fit in in that regard, or if the Germans will be speaking English.
While we haven’t seen much from the new look line-up, that only makes them all the more interesting. We haven’t seen Oskar at many events recently, and it will be interesting to see what level he’s at and whether or not he can be a star for a tier two line-up still. Sprout have some great potential to spoil some parties in Leipzig, as they’re the sole non-Danish team in group B, and with an opening game against MSL’s North, they have a good chance to show off their own new boys.
I don’t necessarily think Sprout will go onto win the tournament, or even make semis, but in their home country, they’re a team worth keeping at least one eye on, as Oskar has shown he does have the ability to drag teams through to places they don’t belong.
Dreamhack Leipzig begins on the 24th January @ 11am CEST here.
Images via Dreamhack.