Following three earlier parts in this series, we have finally gotten to the four best teams in the world who are most likely going to be competing for the title of world champions at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, which had its first group matches today (here's the schedule (opens in new tab)). Three of these teams are old champions—though EnVyUs’s win featured two different players—while TSM are still hoping to score their first elusive major championship. Let’s take a look at the four biggest favorites, in no particular order.
Sweden — flusha, JW, KRiMZ, olofm, pronax
fnatic are the defending champions, having won the last two majors at ESL One Cologne and ESL One Katowice. However, in the past couple of months their level of play has seemingly decreased, with losses piling up against all of the teams they will be competing with for the title. The competition is only going to get tougher, and sometimes what you need to get a boost of motivation is to lose a couple of times, in order to want to put in work again. It is surprisingly easy to get complacent when you are at the top, and if fnatic end up winning their third straight major title, they will be the first ones to tell you it was key to lose some tournaments leading up to it.
In Cologne, fnatic was the clear favorite going in. This time it should be a much closer affair. Any of the three other teams here—TSM, Virtus.pro, or EnVyUs—could realistically take down pronax’s squad in a best-of-three series. In a vacuum I would still pick fnatic as the likeliest champions, but the world is not a vacuum—and things like motivation matter. I do not think fnatic will lose to Virtus.pro or EnVyUs, but if they face TSM earlier than the grand final, it is possible that the Black and Orange may miss on a three-peat. On the other hand, if they get to grand final and someone else has already knocked TSM out, they could complete a three-peat, which no one will, most likely, ever repeat in CS:GO. Talk about a legendary team.
Denmark — cajunb, device, dupreeh, karrigan, Xyp9x)
TSM is obviously going to be competing for the title at Cluj-Napoca. The team has an incredible record in Romania—not that it really matters—and has been trending up in recent months. They still seem to have fnatic in their back pocket, but their kryptonite is EnVyUs, and their record versus Virtus.pro is not much better either. As a result, device’s and Team SoloMid’s final placing at the next major, if they do not significantly improve on their game, will likely depend heavily on the bracket draw.
In simplest terms, you would pick TSM as a slight favorite versus fnatic, an underdog versus EnVyUs, and a 50-50 shot against Virtus.pro. That is a great situation to be in, considering those are your main competition for the title, but at the same time it still shows how much this major’s title is up for grabs. If the trio of device, dupreeh and cajunb play like stars, karrigan has the occasional impact round he’s had recently and calls well, and Xyp9x continues clutching big rounds, I could easily see this being TSM’s event. And when you think about what each team has going for them motivation-wise, I think that only makes sense. My money is on TSM at this coming major.
France — apEX, Happy, kennyS, kioShiMa, NBK
EnVyUs won their first tournament with the new roster—IEM Gamescom—with four map wins over TSM. They placed second, only to fnatic, at ESL One Cologne, and aside from the sloppy play at ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational, have mostly looked like the kind of team who might make another grand final run at Cluj-Napoca. I still believe this may be the most skilled roster ever assembled, and while Happy’s playing style comes under scrutiny at times, there’s no denying his system works, and that he is the most skilled in-game leader in the game. The ceiling of EnVyUs, when firing on all cylinders, is incredibly high. That is the number one thing they have going for them with the amount of skill this roster packs.
On the other hand, kennyS has not been the force we became used to since the AWP update, apEX remains very up and down, and while both kioShiMa and NBK are star lever players at times, both also have the occasional bad series. This team’s problem is that they do not have a single go-to guy who is able to win them terrorist rounds when needed—which has a lot to do with the fact their lurker is their in-game leader. It has not been much of a problem in the past, but I would bet that a team doing their homework would have it the easiest versus EnVyUs out of these four teams. If they are on fire, they can win it all, and the trio of Happy, kioShiMa, and NBK can secure their second major, a year removed from the first one. But if multiple players have a bad series at the wrong time, these guys could exit in the semis, or even in the quarter-finals.
Poland — byali, NEO, pasha, Snax, TaZ
Virtus.pro is the ultimate underdog team. Their form comes and goes, and while Snax is the team’s best player over the long haul, any one of their five players is capable of being the best player in any series. Out of these four squads, it’s possible that Virtus.pro match-up the best against the others overall. After the win over fnatic at the PGL Season 1 Finals they overcame the mental block of dropping the ESL One Cologne semi-final, and should feel very confident going into this event. It is a cliché at this point to say the Poles play better at the majors, but it still holds true—and there is little reason to expect that to change.
If pasha is able to step up his game and become the kind of force he was in early 2014—when he was briefly considered a top five player in the world—this team could become world number one. Without him putting up huge numbers, there is not enough consistent firepower. TaZ and NEO still come and go, though the latter has improved a ton in recent months, and byali’s ups and downs are legendary at this point. Snax contributes constantly, but one player is not enough to overcome the likes of fnatic, TSM, or EnVyUs. I expect Virtus.pro to make the semi-finals, and it would not be at all surprising to see them in the grand final. But that will depend on what kind of performance kuben is able to draw from his players over a five day period.
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