With the group stage ending, it’s time for the playoffs of DreamHack Masters Marseille. Most of the groups had surprising winners, resulting in the winners being rewarded with some difficult matchups in the quarterfinals.
Natus Vincere vs Mousesports
We open the quarterfinals with a rematch of the StarSeries Season 4 Finals as Na’Vi takes on Mousesports.
Natus Vincere took first place in Group C off the back of great individual performances from Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Denis “electronic” Sharipov, defeating Renegades and Fnatic.
Mousesports were one of the tournament favorites going into the event. After a surprising defeat at the hands of NiP, they didn’t give SK Gaming much of a chance in the decider match. Following some questionable individual performances earlier in the tournament, all the Mousesports players looked on point against SK.
I expect this matchup to go similarly to the StarSeries Season 4 match. In their previous encounter, Mousesports changed things up and banned Inferno instead of Overpass. This resulted in a relatively easy 16-7 victory for Na’Vi. This time, Mousesports will most likely go back to banning Overpass, resulting in the maps being Inferno, Mirage, and Train. While Na’Vi should be favored on Inferno, Mousesports are one of the strongest teams in the world on both Mirage and Train. As always, s1mple will be the x-factor. If s1mple shows up in top form, Na’Vi can win any map off the back of him opening up the map and his clutches.
Players to watch
Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev is always a player to watch for Na’Vi, as a lot of their victories depend on his individual plays. But if Na’Vi are going to make it far in the tournament, they'll need more people stepping up. One player who looks to have returned to form is Denis “electronic” Sharipov who has shown in the past that he can be a star player. If he keeps up his form, Na’Vi are suddenly looking a lot scarier than before.
Tomas “Oskar” Stastny has been up and down for Mousesports throughout the event. However, in the direct AWP matchup against s1mple, it'll be vital for Mousesports that Oskar shows up.
Prediction: Natus Vincere 1-2 Mousesports
Cloud9 vs Gambit Esports
The first surprise of the tournament came out of Group A, with Cloud9 coming out on top. After 3 close maps, Cloud9 defeated both G2 Esports and FaZe Clan to take first place. Will “RUSH” Wierzba was the standout player, and it’ll be one of the key factors for Cloud9 that he keeps up his performance.
Going into the event, nobody had high expectations for Gambit Esports. At the Bets.net Masters they lost to GODSENT and Fragsters in an unimpressive showing. After opening Marseille with a 16-7 loss to Team Liquid, things weren’t looking much better. But Gambit turned things around and defeat Space Soldiers and Team Liquid to advance from the group.
On paper this is the weakest quarterfinal, and neither team will be favored going into their semifinal matchup. However, based off Gambit’s recent results you have to give Cloud9 the edge. In terms of maps, this series could go a lot of ways. I expect Cloud9 to pick Mirage, a map that they’ve been very strong on in the past and in this tournament. While Gambit managed to defeat Team Liquid on Mirage, they hold no other victories on the map over the last 3 months. Normally you’d expect Gambit to go towards either Train or Overpass, but with Cloud9 showing their strength on Overpass against FaZe, I expect Gambit to pick Train. Train is a map we have yet to see the new Cloud9 lineup play on LAN. For the last map, Cloud9 should have good chances to win on either Cache or Inferno, depending on which map they feel more confident on.
Players to watch
If Cloud9 are going to make it far in this tournament, it’ll be very important for them that Will “RUSH” Wierzba keeps up his form. Normally you would give Cloud9 the edge in terms of skill in this matchup, and if RUSH continues to play at a high level Gambit should be outmatched.
Against Team Liquid, Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev showed up in his old form. While his star performance was one of the key factors in defeating Team Liquid, Gambit will need more firepower than that to have hopes of making it far. One player to watch out for is Abay “Hobbit” Khassenov who needs to step up and play at a higher level to match the likes of Tarik “tarik” Celik and Timothy “autimatic” Ta.
Prediction: Cloud9 2-1 Gambit Esports
Astralis vs FaZe Clan
In what could be a barnburner of a match, Finn “karrigan” Andersen takes on his former teammates from Astralis.
Astralis showed that they’re in fantastic form in Group D. Except for a close 16-14 loss on Team Liquid’s map pick, Astralis have only lost 8 rounds in total throughout the tournament.
With the addition of former NiP player Richard “Xizt” Landström, many people were questioning how FaZe would look going into the event. So far they’ve taken care of business twice against EnVyUs, but lost against Cloud9 despite their star player Nikola “NiKo” Kovac having a great series.
One key to this matchup has always been the shared permaban of Cobblestone. In the past, we’ve nearly always seen Astralis ban it, as FaZe has showed that they’re willing to play it occasionally. However, this time things might be different. With FaZe having added a new player, it’s very unlikely that they’ve put any time into practising Cobblestone at all. But with Astralis looking like they’re in great form they might ban the map out of sheer confidence, which could come back to bite them. Normally I’d favor Astralis on Overpass, Train, and Nuke, while I’d favor FaZe on Mirage, Cache, and Inferno. This leaves Cobblestone in the middle, and whoever bans it will be at a disadvantage when it comes to maps. I still think Astralis has a better chance to win overall even if they ban Cobblestone. In that case, the third map would likely end up being Mirage, a map that both teams can play and win on.
Players to watch
For this matchup I’d highlight the AWP duel between Nicolai “device” Reedtz and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs. Traditionally you’d consider GuardiaN the better AWPer, but based off recent form device has the edge. GuardiaN hasn’t been on his best form so far in this tournament, and he needs to step it up to shut down device in what is a key duel in this series.
Prediction: Astralis 2-1 FaZe Clan
Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Fnatic
The last quarterfinals is the Swedish derby between NiP and Fnatic.
NiP also surprised people by taking first place in Group B. They were arguably the underdogs in both their matches against SK Gaming and Mousesports, but came out on top in both encounters.
Fnatic came into the event off the back of 2 tournament victories at IEM Katowice and WESG. They were expected to win Group C, but ended up taking 2nd place after a loss against Natus Vincere.
This should be another close matchup. Fnatic were the stronger team going into the event, but NiP have their chances in the series. NiP have shown a lot of strength on Train throughout the tournament, a map that Fnatic hasn’t played a lot as of late. Meanwhile Fnatic should be big favorites on either Cobblestone or Mirage, depending on which map NiP opt to leave open. The third map could very well end up being Inferno, a map that both teams are strong on, and a map that could go either way. A lot of this will come down to which individuals show up on the day. Fnatic’s Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson is looking like the strongest player in Sweden by far. Meanwhile NiP should have the stronger fragging overall, but they’re going to need every player to contribute to have the best chances possible in the matchup.
Players to watch
One matchup where NiP has the advantage is the AWP duel. William “draken” Sundin has been in great form as of late, while Jesper “JW” Wecksell isn’t living up to his previous level. Draken had a dip in form in the group stage at this tournament, but if he can play at the high level, he has shown over the past few months, he can be the star that NiP needs to take this matchup.
On the other side of the equation, we know that Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson is going to perform at a high level. The key for Fnatic is for someone to be at the top of the scoreboard along with him. They'll need either Robin “Flusha” Rönnquist or Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson to perform above their usual level to ensure a victory in this series.
Prediction: Ninjas in Pyjamas 1-2 Fnatic
Who are you looking forward to? Comment below!