Since it is so soon after Dreamhack Marseille, IEM Sydney will be an opportunity for top teams to solidify themselves and weak ones to break the mold. Teams like Space Soldiers, SK, FaZe and mousesports will try to improve on disappointing results at Marseille while Na'vi and Astralis will try to ride their hot streak. After some surprising outcomes in France, we'll get answers to many questions in Australia.
Last week we said Astralis was coming into Marseille looking to reestablish itself as the best team in the world, and it did just that. It was a dominant performance for the Danes, who combined tactical innovation with strong individual form to lift the trophy. Coming into Sydney, Astralis should be considered a heavy favourite. With the titans of 2017 in SK Gaming and FaZe down in the dumps, this is Astralis' summer, and any LAN it loses will be an opportunity lost.
Heading into IEM Sydney, Fnatic again sits at No. 2 in the power rankings. After back-to-back titles at the WESG World Finals and IEM Katowice, Fnatic forged another big result in Marseille with a top-four finish. Its only losses came from the two teams that made the grand finals. While several players dipped in form compared to previous events, Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson continued to assert himself as one of the best players in the world in 2018. Krimz has been on point since the middle of last year and really hit a new level ever since the last Major at ELeague Boston. If Krimz can stay on pace and if some of Fnatic's usual suspects can step back up in Sydney, the Swedes should have the ability to add another deep run to their résumé.
After more than a year of disappointment, it looks like Na'Vi are finally turning a corner. This is its second decent placing of the year, and it's starting to come into best-of-three series as favourite. Much of this success has come about through the form of Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, who has established himself as one of the most dominant players of all-time given in the past few months, But part of Na'Vi's success is also coming off the improved calling of Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko and the rising form of Denis "electronic" Sharipov, who was one of the best player at the event. Star-studded with a deep playbook, Na'vi are rising as the teams above them fall. The finals placing here is deceptive, but this team is in a good place right now, beating mousesports and Fnatic in best-of-threes in Marseille.
Coming into Marseille we rated mousesports No. 1 in these power rankings, coming off two significant LAN victories. Unfortunately it did not live up to the billing in Marseille, losing to Na'vi in the quarter-finals. In itself this series loss is not damning, but it also lost a best-of-three to NiP, and lost Mirage convincingly against Na'vi. That does not bode well for a mousesports that already suffered from a limited map pool and heavily relied on being the best Mirage team in the world to carry them through series. That said, mousesports are so successful because of its mid play, and s1mple and electronic proved too hot to handle in that match. The result was not damning enough to seriously penalize mousesports in these rankings, but it's certainly cause for concern.
Cloud9 debuted their new lineup in Marseille and had mixed results. The North American side looked solid in the group stage winning all of their maps against G2 and FaZe. However, once in the playoffs Cloud9 fell apart against Gambit, a team that were having plenty of struggles heading into the event. On paper it seemed Cloud9 should have been able to top the CIS squad, but with a new in-game-leader and a lack of time to prepare it was a decent finish. Certainly Cloud9's stars will need to step it up if it is hoping to make some noise in Sydney as it looked a bit off in France. Regardless, the efforts in Marseille combined with the core doing fine a IEM Katowice and taking care of business online puts them in the top five as it heads to the land down under.
Many were concerned when it was announced that Richard "Xizt" Landström would step in for Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer. So far, it looks as if these concerns were justified. FaZe was eliminated from the tournament in a convincing defeat against Astralis. This isn't so bad given Astralis' form. However, FaZe also lost a best-of-three to Cloud9, which should've been a gimme given the excellent play of Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and Håvard "rain" Nygaard in that series. Unfortunately, it was edged out by Cloud9 2-0, which isn't a great look for the previous best team in the world. Now this was the first LAN for this lineup and we should take the results with a grain of salt. However, with only a week to prepare for Sydney, it's hard to imagine.
7. SK Gaming
The Brazilian core of SK departed Marseille with its third group stage exit in a row. This is the longest string of poor results the core of this team has had since their come up in 2015. In the past, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo managed roster changes well and always discovered the adjustments that were needed to create a winning lineup. In the long term, with more time to work in new addition Jake "Stewie2K" Yip, there is a good chance SK can get back on track. However, in the short term with still little time to prepare and given the most recent results, it is not really possible to place SK any higher than this. While there is certainly the possibility SK can make something happen in Sydney given the stars it has and the strategic prowess its shown time and time again throughout the years, it will need to actually attain a great result in order to move up the ranks.
At long last the revitalized NRG will make its LAN debut in Sydney. After a long period of instability, NRG has managed to craft quite the lineup and its online results thus far have been spectacular. The acquisition of Ethan "nathE" Arnold has proven to be a fantastic move as the young player is putting up big numbers since he joined the team. He has been a huge addition of firepower next to star AWPer Tsvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov. The combined minds of in-game-leader Damian "daps" Steele and coach Ian "Immi" Harding have been putting together a diverse style for the team which has netted them plenty of success. NRG topped the NA standings of ECS Season 5 with a 17-1 record and took second in the NA EPL with a 17-5 record. It also qualified for IEM Sydney by besting Torqued, Team Liquid and compLexity. Most recently it solidified a spot in the StarSeries i-League Season 5 Finals. The only real blemish on its record is a loss to compLexity in the ESL One Belo Horizonte qualifiers. It has certainly earned the attention surrounding them heading into Sydney, but it'll need to perform well there to keep the hype train rolling.
Not much has changed regarding Renegades since the power rankings for DreamHack Masters Marseille. In France, Renegades took a group stage exit having only beat Tyloo. However, it is also true its losses only came against the finalists Natus Vincere and Fnatic who placed top four in the end. The team has also been able to remain in playoff contention for ECS and made the playoffs of the current season of EPL. With that in mind, there is a chance Renegades could find the playoffs in Sydney, but it's going to take a lot more than what it showed in Marseille to put on a show for the home crowd.
10. Space Soldiers
Coming into Marseille, Space Soldiers were somewhat of a hot commodity after decent LAN results and strong online performances. Unfortunately, this team bombed this tournament, and look completely out of its depth against both Astralis and Gambit. Expect a rebound, but don't expect too that much as it's difficult to imagine a team that was that bad a week ago.
11. MVP PK
Slowly but surely MVP PK out of South Korea has become another team to keep an eye on in the Asian region. Recently, MVP PK qualified for the EPL Season 7 Finals by winning the Asia-Pacific branch of the league including victories over Grayhound and Tainted Minds. Prior to that it qualified for IEM Sydney by beating teams such as Tyloo and Flash. MVP PK also won the CS:GO Asia Summit with wins over Grayhound and B.O.O.T-d[S]. Even at WESG the team caught some attention with a double overtime game against Fnatic on Mirage and map wins over EnVyUs and Team Russia. It's a very fast paced team with well coordinated executes. It also has a bit of firepower to back it all up thanks to their star Hyun-Pyo "XigN" Lee and the wit of Counter-Strike veterans Keun-Chul "solo" Kang and Min-Soo "glow" Kim. While it is very unlikely it can make a deep run in Sydney, be on the look out for this team to perhaps cause a map upset or two.
Grayhound is the best team in Australia and it'll be looking to make its mark on the international scene on home soil. This will be the proving grounds for some of Oceania's best talents in Chris "dexter"' Nong and Sean "Gratisfaction"' Kaiwai. If any home team will do some damage here, it'll be this one.
While Tyloo waltzed into Marseille as one of the best teams from Asia it certainly didn't look like it at the event. Tyloo got absolutely demolished by Natus Vincere in the opening map and then lost a close game to Renegade to go out last in France. Tyloo still has some value thanks to some of its online play and the title at the Chongqing Invitational, but its position coming into Sydney is pretty clear. All of the teams outside of the APAC region that will be at IEM Sydney have looked more impressive than Tyloo. Within the region, MVP PK and Grayhound have been scoring wins over Tyloo recently. It's debatable where these teams are truly better than Tyloo given Tyloo was regularly beating MVP PK in the not too distant past, but for now we have to go with the most recent showings, and Tyloo has come down a few notches in those games.
Order is a bit of a mystery because it has only attended two LANs for a total of nine matches with this roster. Back in February, the team got trounced by NiP and FaZe, but last week it beat MVP PK in a best-of-three and narrowly lost to Grayhound. Not a bad start, but it's difficult to imagine this team do some damage, despite some possible fireworks from Jay "liazz" Tregillgas and Simon "sico" Williams.
Last year, Chiefs put up a good fight in Sydney, beating North in a best-of-one and nearly beating Optic. Since then, however, the roster has changed dramatically and the team has been superseded by other Oceanic teams like Grayhound. Things look grim for Chiefs here, but perhaps its recent best-of-three win against Order is a sign of things to come.
B.O.O.T Dreamscape come into Sydney sitting at the bottom of the barrel. For one, the team just lost one of their best players with the departure of Benjamin "moxie" Kou. To replace him, the team picked up Alikhan "w1nt3r" Kopzhanov who has put up decent numbers so far. However the overall results haven't been there at all. Grayhound and Tainted Minds absolutely smashed Dreamscape in the EPL Season 7 APAC tournament and the team has regularly lost to the likes of Tyloo and MVP PK when it has had to face them. While it did manage to beat the old Flash and Signature to make this event it has struggled against the bigger names in their region. It is hard to expect much from this team given their results.