Natus Vincere: Edward, flamie, Zeus, s1mple, electronic
With eight finishes inside the top four, including three championships and a runner-up placing, 2018 looks amazing for Na’Vi so far. Coming into Stockholm, the Ukrainians are seeking to cement themselves as a contender for the world #1 spot, currently held by the starry Danes in red Astralis. Their results here will indicate how they will perform at the upcoming FACEIT Major.
Their return from the player break has not gone without a little rumour, however. On 23 August, neL tweeted there was a “possibility” flamie would not be attending Stockholm with the rest of the players, with two players from “practice games” on hand should he have been unavailable. This was soon shot down by Na’Vi’s coach, Mykhailo ‘kane’ Blagin, who confirmed on social media that flamie would attend, despite previous personal reservations.
Even if flamie could not attend, the team would still have a more than capable roster. Zeus is a strong in-game leader whose fragging potential can complement the leaderboard when someone else falls short. However, you won’t see s1mple and electronic - the team’s two star players - fall short on the leaderboard ever. The latter player has seen a growth over the past eight months and has become a contender for the title of world’s best player, alongside the aforementioned s1mple. It would be quite the upset to see the Ukrainians fall short of the Ericsson Globe.
Ninjas in Pyjamas: f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, Lekr0, dennis, rez
Compared to Na’Vi, the Swedes have not had the same success in the first half of 2018. However, since trading draken to FNATIC and handing the IGL role to Lekr0, the Ninjas have been on the rise, and will attend their first Major Qualifier in nearly two years. Stockholm will be a proving ground for NiP, along with the other teams attending the upcoming Major Qualifier.
More than anything, this tournament will be a test for the Swedes, who are returning to home turf for a premier tournament. They took the trophy at the first-ever DreamHack Masters event in Malmö back in 2016, and are looking to become the first two-time DreamHack Masters champion. And they have the potential to do so. Lekr0, despite not being an IGL by default, has taken that responsibility off dennis. This allows dennis to be a competent fragger on the server, alongside REZ. And despite being the remaining two oldest members on NiP, f0rest and GeT_RiGhT have shown glimpses of their former selves and allowing this team to succeed. Given the competition in this group, the Swedes should make it through to the Ericsson Globe with relative ease.
NRG: Brehze, FugLy, daps, CerQ, nahtE
After a shocking loss to eUnited at the Americas Minor last month, NRG recovered by sweeping the competition en route to a first-place finish at IEM Shanghai. Coming off the player break, this North American squad are looking to build on that momentum heading into the second half of the 2018 season. With ESL One New York and the next season of StarLadder to begin shortly after the finish of the upcoming FACEIT Major, a good performance here could put those teams attending the aforementioned events on guard.
If NRG are to make it past a resurging NiP and strong behemoth in s1mple and Na’Vi, the team must step up big. While CerQ, nahtE and FugLy posted some insane K/D numbers at Shanghai, it was against some lower-tier competition. Against the world’s elite, and NRG might have a difficult time posting those numbers. Besides repeating that Shanghai dominance, daps still needs to work on his in-game calling. Historically against this caliber of teams, NRG have failed to close out crucial rounds that define the difference between a map advantage and a map deficit in a best-of-x series.
Ghost: Wardell, koosta, kRYSTAL, steel, Subroza
Ghost is coming into the event as a dark horse, following their shocking third-place finish at ZOTAC Cup Masters in which they upset OpTic in their opening match and nearly knocked out Team Kinguin in the semi-finals. Their performance in Stockholm will be a good indicator as to where the team stands ahead of the start of the next season of ESL Pro League; however, Stockholm will be kRYSTAL’s last event with the roster, and Ghost is in the search for a new permanent fifth.
This roster, sans kRYSTAL, has not seen a lot of play on the international stage. If Ghost are to upset and make a deep tournament run, all eyes will be on steel’s ability to call and Subroza’s impact on the killfeed. The latter, having found his stride during his CLG days with teammate koosta, is ready to prove himself on the international stage as a star player. The same goes for koosta, who never really found his stride while on Team Liquid and CLG. This team has a whole lot of untapped potential, and Stockholm will be a place for them to put up a fight against the world’s best.
- Natus Vincere - Given their performance in the first half of 2018, Na’Vi are looking poised to make it out of the group and stop Astralis in its tracks. With electronic’s play now coming into fruition, the Ukrainians have two reliable star players that can show up out of the gate and destroy the competition.
- Ninjas in Pyjamas - Stockholm is home turf for NiP, and they are ready to make a triumphant return to the highest echelon of competitive Counter-Strike. Having f0rest and GTR showing glimpses of their former selves is a good sign that this team is on the rebound. With young stars REZ and Lekr0 alongside the aforementioned legends, and dennis there as a reliable carry, the Swedes have all the pieces to make it to the Ericsson Globe.
- NRG - The North Americans have what it takes to perform at the highest level of professional CS. However, given their shocking loss at the Minor and their relatively easy victory in Shanghai to lower-tier opposition, daps and co. have to work on quite a lot if they are to surpass either Na’Vi or NiP en route to the Ericsson Globe.
- Ghost - Despite upsetting OpTic and nearly knocking out Kinguin at ZOTAC Cup Masters, Ghost are outclassed on paper, player-for-player. Lekr0’s tactical prowess outclasses that of steel’s; similarly, koosta will not be ready to take on the almighty s1mple. Unless every single player on this roster shows up in a stunning fashion, this tournament run will be rather short-lived.