In the third part of our DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca preview series (here are parts one and two), we finally take a look at teams who are expected to still be competing in the $250,000 tournament when it reaches the playoff stage. These four teams are, by odds, expected to go out in the quarter-finals—or, in other words, there are four teams at the event who are expected to do even better. We'll go over them tomorrow, but from here on out, anyone could win if things break out right.
Europe – dennis, fox, jkaem, Maikelele, rain
Much like for NiP, for Gamers2, at least in its current formation, this major will effectively be its last hurrah. We do not know how these two rosters will look in January, but it is a given at this point that some of those rumors will come true. Kinguin defeated Cloud9 after a Tec-9 round win at 13-14 at ESL One Cologne, giving them a spot here. They added jkaem—who impressed at the DH Cluj-Napoca qualifier—to replace ScreaM, who was reportedly bought out for 150,000€ to join Titan during the period in-between the majors. This team has a lot of skill, but that will only get you so far.
With four players speaking Swedish to some degree, fox is obviously the odd man out. In fact, getting your average, pretty good Swedish player likely would improve this team. However, since the team’s days are numbered to begin with, there is probably no point in making changes anymore. I think the skill of this team will get them through the lower tier teams, but at the same time it would not be at all surprising if a team like Cloud9 or Titan knocked them out. They simply have the higher seed to guard them from having a tough group. I’m willing to side with G2 and assume they have what it takes to make the playoffs, but there is no faith in them making the semi-finals.
Sweden — allu, f0rest, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt
The NiP farewell tour has been mostly a success—their run at ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational was their best result in who knows how long, and they have had some decent results online as well. This team will not yield this roster come January 1, but we still have some two months left where the legendary NiP core will, together with allu, try to add an international title to their resume. And, interestingly enough, in my opinion this team is now more dangerous than it has ever been, save for the first two months or so after allu joined the team in late February.
Everyone on this team is now, to some degree, playing for themselves. This team is not staying together, so while winning would be great, what these players care about, or should care about, is how they portray themselves going into 2016—as that will largely decide their future. GeT_RiGhT will have takers no matter what, but what are allu or friberg going to do if they have poor showings? Those players must play well in the last months they have with NiP, which is exactly why I believe this team will be dangerous. Xizt’s calling and leadership will never win them games, let alone events, but the individual skill of these five players combined? It’s possible. Expect NiP to cruise through to the playoffs, and honestly, I would not be at all surprised if they made the semis.
France – Ex6TenZ, RpK, ScreaM, SmithZz, shox
Titan are an odd bunch. The addition of ScreaM definitely added considerably skill they did not have with Maniac on the team, but at the same time they still have three players who are not ever going to blow up the bank with their individual efforts. RpK’s comeback has been disappointing, SmithZz is not a top tier player, and while Ex6TenZ does his job when it comes to leadership, he has never been much of a contributor on an individual basis. That leaves an awful lot of pressure on shox and ScreaM to bring it day in and day out, but that duo just might be able to do it.
While Ex6TenZ’s teams have not made it out of the group stage at a major in what feels like forever—nearly two years by the time this event kicks off—they are still a dangerous group to go up against simply because of the Belgian’s leadership and tactics. They often cause issues for the very top teams in the world, and the addition of ScreaM should be enough to put them over the top against lower level of competition skill-wise. I think Titan will finally get out of the groups and, if shox is as motivated as I assume him to be, could even scare a team in the quarter-finals. This team makes sense on paper, and it seems they are much more motivated than one would have assumed after the former EnVyUs duo’s ugly exit from the team that led to them joining Titan in July.
Ukraine – Edward, flamie, GuardiaN, seized, Zeus
Natus Vincere’s future largely depends on how the ex-CIS powerhouse does at Cluj-Napoca. The leaked screenshot of GuardiaN’s chat with STYKO revealed that the team was close to replacing both Edward and Zeus. That never wound up going through, and now STYKO is playing for HellRaisers as a stand-in, but that may be temporary. Rumors say Na`Vi’s future will be decided after this event, so an exit in the group stage or even where I am assuming they will go out—in the quarter-finals—will likely mean this team will not look the same in 2016.
Na`Vi have had a strong year overall, being ranked in the top two at their peak. However, they have had multiple instances where seemingly they allowed constant bickering and complaining get to them—an issue that existed in Zeus’s Na`Vi teams going as far back as at least 2011—and it seems they are not going to be able to fix those issues. Instead of Zeus leading, the task will be on their coach and former member starix, which could help alleviate some issues in-game, but the issues of whining and not playing as a team are likely too prevalent to fix. Those rumors have existed about Edward for a year, and it’s hard to see them being fixed for good. Expect Na`Vi to be good, but not great. Base case is quarter-finals exit, and if things go well, they could reach the semis.
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