ZOTAC Cup Masters in Wan Chei, Hong Kong and at DreamHack Masters Stockholm, the first DreamHack tournament in the Swedish city, will be the two most notable events before 24 teams fight for the Major trophy in September. Over half of those teams will be present between those two events, with MIBR, OpTic and TyLoo present at both. Representing Europe, the Americas and Asia between them, these teams all have strengths that suggest they could lift trophies as well as their own issues they will need to overcome to do so.
Brazilican (with a Serbian twist)
2018 started with rumours about a potential return for the legendary Made in Brazil name, with then-SK Gaming being the most obvious roster to play under the banner. Since then, the team has looked a shadow of its former self.
The departure of Epitacio "TACO" de Melo and addition of Jake "Stewie2k" Yip failed to fix the issues, instead adding a new language for communication into the mix of an already strained roster. Adrenaline Cyber League and Moche XL Esports, a $50,000 LAN in Portugal at the same time as the ECS Season 5 Finals, were the team's only real LAN successes of the year as reports emerged of Marcelo "coldzera" David looking to leave MIBR, potentially to reunite with TACO on Team Liquid and expressing a desire to one day play with FaZe Clan's Nikola "NiKo" Kovac, due to clashing with Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo.
It was Ricardo "boltz" Prass that left MIBR instead, leading to the addition of Tarik "tarik" Celik, uniting two of Cloud9's Major-winning roster and the Brazilian trio that won MLG Columbus and ESL One Cologne back-to-back in 2016. On paper, the team should be a powerhouse and with the further addition of Janko "YNk" Paunovic as coach, should bring cohesion and analytical insight to help return the core to its former glory and fully hone the talents of the NA pickups as they bootcamp in Europe before the upcoming events.
At ZOTAC, MIBR should undoubtedly make the final, with the far easier side of the bracket containing TyLoo, Team Kinguin and their first opponents, Flash Gaming. The other teams should struggle to keep up with the raw skill of MIBR in best-of-three matches, with the best-of-five marathon grand final also favouring them. DreamHack Masters Stockholm should be a far greater challenge and will be the better indicator of MIBR's current form due to the depth of opponents.
They go into the event overshadowed by the likes of Astralis and Na'Vi who are undoubtably the two best teams in the world, with respective dominant displays at ELEAGUE Premier and ESL One Cologne. In a group with three other teams also attending the Major: fellow legends Mousesports, PGL Krakow champions Gambit and CIS Minor winners HellRaisers, MiBR should be one of two teams to make it out. Even with Gambit bringing in Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy to coach and HellRaisers getting to field their complete roster after needing to use a stand-in at IEM Shanghai, MIBR's core have always been far stronger than the two CIS teams. Mousesports should be the only real challenge as they are the clear favourites in the group having had a strong 2018 so far.
ZOTAC Cup Masters - 1st
DreamHack Masters Stockholm - 5th-8th
FACEIT Major London - 5th-8th
The departure of Rene "cajunb" Borg and Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke from North left many wondering what Danish shuffle would follow. An OpTic line-up alongside two NA players and a North Academy prospect was probably few people's first guess. The lineup with Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz and Shahzeeb "ShahZaM" Khan ended on less than happy terms, as the transfer of Heroic's Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer and Jakob "JUGi" Hansen led to the new and improved full Danish OpTic.
The EU Minor was no real challenge for OpTic, the clear favourites, as they secured a spot at the Major in convincing fashion. With both JUGi and k0nfig as aggressive, confident stars, Snappi as a respected IGL, cajunb as an experienced, reliable, solid rifler now he is free of primary AWPing responsibilities and a rising talent in the form of Nicklas "gade" Gade, OpTic could easily be a threat to any team when on form. However, this is what could likely hold OpTic back as the stars have incredible skill ceilings but can sometimes be absent in matches overall. If Snappi and coach Casper "ruggah" Due can motivate and guide OpTic's stars, as well as enable gade to become stronger and more consistent, a top ten finish in the HLTV rankings and a first place finish at a significant LAN this year are easily within reach.
OpTic has not faced top-tier opposition with this lineup yet, besides an early showing at the ESL Pro League Season Season 7 Finals just over two weeks after their latest additions. ZOTAC Cup Masters should be a starter for the team. With Ghost Gaming as their first opponents and the winner of MVP.PK vs. Virtus.pro as their semifinal challenge, OpTic will be in serious trouble if they don't make it to the final in Hong Kong. DreamHack Masters Stockholm as the main course, a true test for the team against FaZe Clan, Fnatic and Heroic just to make it out of the group stage. While they do get to avoid Astralis and Na'Vi, they will likely need to beat Fnatic, their opening match opponents, and FaZe in a best-of-three to make it to the playoffs. A finish better than a group stage exit would put OpTic in a strong position for the Major, with a strong chance of achieving a Legends spot.
ZOTAC Cup Masters - 2nd
DreamHack Masters Stockholm - 9th-12th
FACEIT Major London - 5th-8th
Against all odds
TyLoo and making it through the Asia Minor, name a more iconic duo. Ke "Mo" Liu saw a return a week before the Minor following his accident on a Segway, attending the event while still using crutches to get around and led his team to a strong second place finish in London. Since ESL One Cologne 2016, TyLoo has been the strongest in the Asian region, even sneaking into the HLTV top ten briefly during the player break as other teams saw their points decay and rosters incomplete. Despite their climb, the team often makes little-to-no impact at big international LANs.
ZOTAC Cup Masters is good for TyLoo who have had additional practice, having won their spot at the StarSeries i-League Season 6 Finals less a week before the start of the event and do not lose time traveling to the event unlike the EU and NA teams in attendance. If they win their opening match against Team Kinguin, MIBR await in the semifinal. With MIBR's current form up in the air, it could be a chance for the Chinese organisation to make a statement if they can take advantage of any weakness the Brazilian-American team shows, but even a TyLoo with all the individuals performing will be the heavy underdogs. As they look towards Stockholm, a single best of one against North in their opening match isn't beyond the realm of possibility, but a best of three win against the winner of Astralis vs. Grayhound, when the team has only won significant offline BO3s against AGO, C9 and Fnatic, means their chances of making the Swedish playoffs are looking very slim.
While TyLoo are on the rise, it is unlikely that they will win an event like DreamHack Masters Stockholm or a Major. The big factor that TyLoo has is their upset potential. TyLoo are still viewed by many as a team difficult to counter and play against. While EU and NA teams may practice against each other, TyLoo only infrequently bootcamping in these regions limits the amount teams can get to know their style first-hand. Their showing at IEM Shanghai showed promise, but TyLoo aren't yet at the level to fully challenge the upper tiers of EU and NA teams beyond occasional upsets.
ZOTAC Cup Masters - 3rd-4th
DreamHack Masters Stockholm - 13th-16th
FACEIT Major London - 20th-22nd
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