The first of the two league finals is fast approaching, and it’s exciting. Although Liquid and Na’Vi both missed out on the ECS Finals, the field is still pretty exciting. Several of the teams in attendance are on the rise, and it should make for fierce competition, in the group stage at least. Get ready to place your esports bet. Odds are from Betway as of 5/29/19.
The ECS Finals will be Astralis’ first big LAN since the Major. They’ve appeared at three BLAST Pro series events since Katowice, as well as the EPL event. They bottomed out in Miami and took second place in Madrid, losing their Nuke streak in the process.
Because of their minimal amount of games played, as well as their losses at the events the did attend, a hot topic in the CS community for the past month or so has been Astralis’ place in the world ranking. Popular opinion is that Astralis no longer hold the number one spot, and that Liquid or Na’Vi have overtake them. Personally, I think the Danes are still deserving of the top spot, but it’s certainly more up for debate than it was three months ago.
This tournament is Astralis’ opportunity to silence the doubters with a dominant finish here. They’re the prohibitive favorites, as the rest of the top five is absent, depending on how you fell about where Vitality lands in the ranking. A strong showing here would re-cement their place at the head of the table, and put the pressure on Liquid and Na’Vi to come and take the crown.
Astralis are likely to be in good form. They’re in the easier of the two groups, they’re fired up after their loss to ENCE, and they are the best team in attendance by a pretty wide margin. I’d be surprised if they didn’t win this event, especially considering the amount of prep time they’ve had.
I’m starting to feel hopeful about North, which, historically, is a terrible move. Valde seems to really be making a difference in this roster, which is what they’ve been missing ever since kicking MSL. Valde has managed to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of player like aizy and kjaerbye so far, which is very impressive considering their play in the last year.
I think North has the best chance of making playoffs alongside Vitality, which would likely mean beating MIBR in a best of three. If North can do that, they’ll likely be considered a real threat, at least to teams in the bottom end of the top ten.
Vitality are such an interesting team. They are one of the most potent competitors in CS right now because of ZywOo, but they consistently fall victim to the shortcomings of his supporting cast. Their games are almost always decided by whether or not apex and NBK show up.
This makes them quite fun to watch, but not much fun to bet on. They’re one of the most finicky teams in the game, which makes them both a dangerous overdog, and a dangerous underdog. Once this team starts getting productive performances from ALEX or RpK consistently they’ll start to look exponentially more dangerous.
For right now though, I like them to make it through to playoffs. They have to beat out two of North, MIBR, and Complexity, which should be possible even with lackluster performances from the non-ZywOo members of the team.
The Swedes keep on trucking, through it all. This tournament should be a good test for them, to see where they stack up against NRG and Furia. If NiP wants to be a top five team, which is what their pedigree would suggest, they need to be able to best both of those teams and secure their spot in the playoffs with relative ease.
I’ll be most interested in how Dennis performs, as always. I’m utterly fascinated by his play on this team, as I think he’s the difference between NiP being fringe top ten and a real championship contender.
Also, as much as it hurts to consider, NiP may have to move off of GeT_RiGhT sometime soon. He hasn’t been playing anywhere close to well over the past couple months. Hopefully it’s just a slump, and he can play through it, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
I had a lot of hope for this team six months ago. I thought they were making interesting moves, ShahZam and Stanislaw made for an interesting core, they seemed like they were just a handful of moves away from being a real competitor. Instead, they’re treading water with a group of uninteresting players. I’d love to see this team take some big swings and go after younger, higher upside guys to pair with a guy who was a top six IGL in the world at points in the last couple years.
NRG suffer from reverse Vitality syndrome. Ethan and Brehze show up regularly, and they’re the types of players that you can build a team around. Unfortunately, CeRq continues to put up mediocre performances. This core is still one of the most exciting younger teams in the game. I’d put them right up there with Mousesports, at least in theory. Their potential is only matched by their capacity for disappointing me, time and time again.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a roster swap before the Major if NRG continues to fall short. Poaching Stanislaw from Complexity is an interesting idea, and probably their most realistic way forward. They need an IGL that can unlock CeRq, unless they want to move on from the young Bulgarian prodigy.
NRG are probably the favorite to make it out of their group, besides Astralis obviously. That said, I don’t feel great about it. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see NiP or Furia snag their spot in the playoffs.
Here’s a hot take for you. Furia might be the best Brazilian team here. They’ve been wracking up serious wins like nobody’s business, and kscerato is having his moment as one of the new up and comers in the scene. Don’t let his excellence distract you from the rest of his team though, as Furia excel as a unit, with all of their players sharing the load pretty efficiently.
Do I really think Furia is better than MIBR? No, not really. But I do like Furia as a sneaky playoff candidate, and I could see them taking maps off of Astralis if everything breaks right.
MIBR at +550 is silly. I don’t know if I’d even consider them the favorite in their group. Obviously, being a FalleN fan boy, I’d love to be wrong here, but MIBR haven’t shown anything close to championship level play with this iteration of their roster. I’d like to believe they can put it together, but I can’t in good conscience but much faith in their play.
Overall I think Astralis is going to take this. There’s no way they can’t if they want to hold onto their number one spot, and I think they’ll come into this tournament spitting flames. As for everyone else, keep an eye on Furia and North as upset candidates, and consider Vitality for a longshot to take it all, if you’re feeling frisky.