Olofmeister will continue his leave of absence from professional play(Copyright of Daniel Ranki. Photographer: Daniel Ranki)
Eight teams will battle it out for the lion's share of the US$200,000 prize pool, and a point towards the US$1,000,000 Intel Grand Slam. With Astralis absent from this event, favorites such as FaZe Clan and SK Gaming — who are tied in the Grand Slam with two points each — could overtake the Danes and be only one major tournament victory away from securing the first-ever Intel Grand Slam. Meanwhile, teams such as BIG and Não Tem Como are coming into the events as dark horses, looking to make a name for themselves on the international stage.
Here are the storylines to watch for:
Olofmeister out, cromen in for FaZe
Despite a brief return after a 55-day absence, which saw Richard "Xizt" Landström stand in for the Swedish legend, Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer has taken a personal leave of absence once again. In his place, Heroic stand-in Jørgen "cromen" Robertsen will be placed on the roster for the time being. This will be his second tournament with FaZe, having been called on just days earlier to stand in for olofmeister at the ECS Season 5 Finals in London.
This comes as a huge blow to FaZe, who have been in a state of uncertainty since olofmeister stepped down from the starting lineup. During Xizt’s short tenure on the roster, the team has had posted good results, most notably their first-place finish at IEM Sydney, in which they swept Astralis in the grand finals in a nail-biting best-of-five series. They have also made two quarter-final exits in that time span, coming in at the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals in Dallas and DreamHack Masters Marseille. In both tournaments, they were eliminated by the Danes, who would eventually win both tournaments in stunning fashion. With cromen in, they made a semifinal appearance in London, where they were once again eliminated by the Danish squad in a dominant best-of-three series.
Even without olofmeister, FaZe are still the heavy favorites to take the tournament overall. This is a learning experience for the 23-year-old, to show the world he can compete alongside the likes of NiKo, GuardiaN, rain, and karrigan. His heroic performance in Dallas was just the beginning; Belo Horizonte will be his chance to cement himself as a world-class player that can compete at the highest echelon of professional CS:GO.
SK and NTC on home turf
Despite rumors that SK Gaming had signed Não Tem Como’s roster to play under their banner — which would be a conflict of interest, since the current SK lineup are still under contract — DBLTAP journalist Jarek “DeKay” Lewis and ESL have since confirmed that the two Brazilian rosters would play under separate banners. Each team is looking to cement themselves as a world-class contender on home soil.
Stewie2k and the rest of SK have home crowd advantage, but will it be enough?(Copyright of DreamHack. Photographer: Adela Sznajder)
Since acquiring Jake “Stewie2K” Yip from reigning Major Champions Cloud9, the SK squad have produced no meaningful results, with group stage exits at DreamHack Masters Marseille and IEM Sydney, the latter of which they were the defending champions. The team also failed to qualify for the LAN finals of ECS Season 5 in London’s SSE Wembley and bowed out of the EPL LAN finals in Dallas early, in which FaZe took a quick and convincing 2-0 best-of-three series. However, with another championship coming at the Adrenaline Cyber League, the once-legendary Brazilian squad are once again finding their stride. Belo Horizonte will be a chance to cement themselves as one of the world’s best and, with a victory, will bring them within striking distance of the Intel Grand Slam.
On the other side, Não Tem Como are one of the dark horses entering the tournament. Comprising former 100Thieves and SK Gaming player Lincoln “fnx” Lau and Brazilian legend Bruno “bit” Lima, the original roster was expected to compete at the Boston Major, taking over Immortals’ Legend spot that was got from their semifinal finish at the Krakow Major last July. However, another social media tirade from Vito “kNgV-” Giuseppe led Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag to drop the roster and exit competitive CS:GO altogether. With the Teles twins out, the Brazilians are looking to make a name for themselves with the likes of kNg, bit, and fnx, along with up-and-coming player Marcelo “chelo” Cespedes from Luminosity Gaming, and prove to the world they can compete at the highest echelon of the competitive scene.
BIG debut for smooya
This will be smooya's second international start with the German organization(Photo via Twitter: @smooyacs)
Owen “smooya” Butterfield will make his second international start for BIG at Belo Horizonte. One of the United Kingdom’s top CS:GO prospects, he became a household name in the scene following a November 2017 Twitlonger, in which he addressed Epsilon Esports’s decison to bench him after the organization signed an all-Swedish roster to compete in the second season of the Gfinity Elite Series. Butterfield also could not scout out offers for other teams as the organization had a buyout clause in his contract for US$100,000. The benching led to the Brit taking a long hiatus from competitive play, and it wasn’t until the 21st of April that the German organization bought out his contract.
There is still a lot that smooya has to prove to himself and to the rest of the world. At his debut LAN, the Qi Invitational, he posted a rather impressive 1.27 rating across three maps despite being eliminated in the group stage after losses to TyLoo and Eclipse; the latter being a relatively unknown Chinese squad. With the likes of GuardiaN and FalleN in attendance at this event, smooya’s play on the AWP is up to the test against the world’s best. His agility and utility across the map will be vital, especially against fast-paced teams, such as FaZe. If he can challenge the world’s best AWPers, smooya will have cemented himself as a player to watch throughout the rest of 2018.
Oskar out, n0thing in for mousesports
Mousesports will attend Belo Horizonte without their one of their star players, as Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný has been ruled out for "personal reasons," the organizastion announced in a tweet. This is a major blow to the European squad as oskar was instrumental in their success earlier this year. In their two first-place finishes at V4 Future Sports Festival and StarLadder i-League Season 4, oskar averaged a 1.21 rating with a K/D differential of +153 across the 35 maps played in those two events total. By comparison, the rest of mouz averaged a 1.09 rating and a K/D differential of +135 in those same events. Without oskar, it will be up to the rest of the team to step up as a unit to make a deep run in the tournament, especially someone like Martin "STYKO" Styk, who over the past three months has posted a below-average 0.98 rating. Chris "chrisJ" de Jong will need to relinquish his role as in-game leader to take up the AWP in absence of oskar, but he is more than capable of holding down the role against veterans in GuardiaN and FalleN, and up-and-coming star smooya.
The 27-year-old will stand in for oskar at Belo Horizonte(Copyright of DreamHack. Photographer: Alex Maxwell)
Former Cloud9 rifler Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert will stand in for oskar. Playing for Old Guys Club in ESEA Open alongside Counter-Strike legends Robin “fifflaren” Johansson and Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen, the North American player is renowned for his lurking and map movement. Lurking around the map for crucial information will be vital for mouz’s mid-round calls, and with chrisJ back on the AWP, it will most likely be n0thing who will take up the in-game leading role for the mousesports roster. Having someone like n0thing — a versatile role player who can adapt to the team’s needs, yet maintain his own unique playstyle — will benefit mousesports at this event, given that their only real competition will come in the form of FaZe Clan and SK Gaming, both teams that are still getting comfortable with all that has happened in these rosters over the past several months.
With Belo Horizonte just days away, who do you think will walk away with the trophy?
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