The online ECS league has come to its conclusion, so the time is upon us for the LAN finale. Eight teams from Europe and the Americas will compete for a share of $660,000. The previous iteration of ECS was won by the triumphant Astralis in a domineering fashion over Team Liquid. The tournament will be played out between 22nd November and 25th November, with the first two days featuring a GSL group stage format. Opening matches are BO1s but all other matches will be competed over a three-map series. The playoffs, featuring the top two teams from each group, will be a single-elimination BO3 format played in Arlington, Texas. This will precede the final where the winner will take home $250,000 with the trophy.
Astralis | Xyp9x, gla1ve, Magisk, dupreeh, device
Astralis’ domination over Counter-Strike in 2018 has been spellbinding to witness. After a victory in the last iteration of ECS, they will be gunning for a further addition to their overflowing trophy cabinet. Astralis have looked slightly more vulnerable recently. The team failed to win Blast Pro Series Copenhagen, but they returned to controllingly won IEM Chicago. Thus, a top 4 finish is definite; after all, they have not finished outside of the top 4 since StarSeries i-League S4 in February.
Cloud9 | flusha, kioShiMa, Golden, RUSH, autimatic
Cloud9 have continued to progress recently, and adding the Major champion Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey will only help in that. He stood in at Blast Pro Series Copenhagen, and they beat the likes of MIBR and FaZe on their way to a 5th place finish. Cloud9 should not actually be at the LAN; they are standing in for Renegades who have visa issues and a scheduling conflict. They will not waste their chance at this LAN, becoming a dark horse to make it out of the group stage. This is due to the experience within their lineup, along with their unpredictability. They could just as easily crash out winless though, so it is difficult to know what type of Cloud9 will be in Texas.
MIBR | FalleN, fer, tarik, Stewie2K, coldzera
The legendary Luminosity and SK Gaming roster have fallen apart into disrepair. Their successors in MIBR are yet to come close to matching their legacy; recently crashing out 9-12th at IEM Chicago. In-game leader Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo has been the single redeeming factor in their recent failure, with 1.17 and 1.14 HLTV ratings in ECS and EPL online. FalleN’s good performance extended into a solid 1.05 HLTV rating at IEM Chicago 2018. Despite their lacklustre performances, I expect a serviceable showing from MIBR. Liquid bombed out of ESL One Cologne earlier this year and followed it up with a runners-up finish at ELEAGUE Premier. Great teams bounce back, and I am sure that the talented MIBR will bounce back and make it out of their group.
mousesports | oskar, chrisJ, suNny, STYKO, ropz
The European mix team have recently removed Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski after inconsistent results. This has resulted in former support player Martin “STYKO” Styk returning to mousesports. The team was missing his supportive elements during his absence, and his return will yield major improvements for the team. This edition of the mousesports has only played one LAN since reuniting, where they finished 5-6th at IEM Chicago. This was a solid placing, and they should expect to follow up on it by advancing out of the group stage but that depends on the form of MIBR.
Liquid | nitr0, EliGE, Twistzz, TACO, NAF
The greatest team never to win a relevant event yet, Liquid will be hoping to go one step further than they did at ECS S5 finals. They were soundly destroyed by Astralis in the grand finals, a result which we have seen repeated many times over the course of 2018. Recently, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken has been turning heads after excellent individual performances. He had 1.19 HLTV ratings at both IEM Chicago and EPICENTER 2018, but despite his own prowess Liquid failed to topple either Astralis and FaZe. That is going to change in Arlington. Team Liquid will be prepared for Astralis after the heartbreak of Chicago. The team will be emotionally firing on all cylinders to take down the Danish powerhouse.
NiP | f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, Lekr0, dennis, REZ
A surprising runner-up placing at Blast Pro Series Copenhagen 2018 was the epitome of NiP’s graft in recent months. They have returned to the Major cycle, beaten Astralis in a BO1 and reached the finals of a top-tier event once more. The magic is still there within NiP. Recent improved performances from Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund have displayed this. The former world’s best player had a 1.09 HLTV rating at the FACEIT Major, and 1.01 at EPICENTER 2018. Despite his inconsistency, the Swedish talisman has reminded spectators of his former glory. This quality must result in a solid showing from NiP at ECS S6 Finals. They will find it tough to escape a difficult group featuring three fellow top ten teams, though.
North | cadiaN, aizy, gade, Kjaerbye, valde
Poor LAN results have followed for North after replacing Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen with Casper “cadiaN” Moller. They notably fell to French fluke-makers LDLC in the group-advancing decider BO3 at IEM Chicago. They finished 9-12th at that tournament, which is disgraceful for a team inside of the top 10. At StarSeries i-League S6, they fell twice to NRG in a BO1 then eliminating BO3 series. They also fell to Danish youngsters Fragsters in a BO1, and North’s inconsistent weaknesses have set them in poor stead going into this group. Liquid are far better than them, and North have had poor recent results against NRG so they will find it difficult to claw their way out of the group.
NRG | FugLy, CeRq, nahtE, Brehze, daps
North American hopefuls NRG will be gunning to build on their trophy-winning performance at cs_summit3. Top 4 finishes at ESL One New York at StarSeries i-League S6 preceded their solid victory in Kiev, but recently they finished a poor 7-8th at IEM Chicago. The team’s X-factor, Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov, has been their shining star having yet to go negative on LAN since iBP Masters 2017. He excelled at IEM Chicago and cs_summit3, achieving 1.17 and 1.15 HLTV ratings respectively. The team will be hoping to bounce back from their poor finish in Chicago. NRG should be able to advance from a group featuring a team they routinely beat, North.
Opening Match Predictions
Astralis > Cloud9
mousesports > MIBR
NRG > NiP
Liquid > North
Both groups will be very competitive groups. Cloud9 and North in Group A and B respectively will finish bottom. Cloud9’s roster is new and North have inadequate past performances against their fellow group members. Liquid and Astralis will win their groups due to their skill and style. MIBR will advance from Group A because mousesports still look volatile with their refreshed roster. NiP will advance because NRG have had poor placings recently, and their disciplined style will prevail over NRG.
It is Liquid’s time for a trophy. On home turf once more, sore from IEM Chicago’s failure and with Twistzz in magical form, Liquid will win. They are ready to beat Astralis, and an exciting BO3 series vs the Danes will be tantalising to watch.