With the backing of the Hungarian Digital Success Programme, the V4 Future Sports Festival is set to showcase the best players and teams from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. From the 23rd to the 25th of March, eight teams will battle it out for the lion’s share of the €500,000 prize pool. Here are four teams to keep an eye on.
FaZe's chance to bounce back
This will be FaZe’s third offline event in as many months, and it will need to prove themselves to be worthy of being the best team in the world. Their first offline event of 2018 — the ELEAGUE Major: Boston — was a devastating heartbreak, as Tarik ‘tarik’ Celik and Tyler ‘Skadoodle’ Latham led Cloud9 and North America to their first Major Championship victory in a historic and nail-biting grand final. The European superstars came up short yet again at the StarLadder i-League Season 4 Finals, as they were eliminated in the semi-finals by Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev’s Natus Vincere and fell short in the third-place consolation match against Team Liquid, which recently added Keith ‘NAF’ Markovic to their starting line-up.
The IEM World Championship in Katowice was the team’s most recent chance at acquiring another title. With fellow pre-tournament favorites SK Gaming being eliminated by Cloud9 in the group stage, FaZe Clan were heavy favorites coming into the grand finals, defeating the North American squad in the ELEAGUE Major: Boston grand finals rematch and Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen’s former teammates on Astralis in the playoffs. However, the trophy seemed to slip away yet again, as a resurgent FNATIC completed the underdog story to take their first title in over two years and become the first-ever three-time IEM Katowice champion.
Virtus.pro's continuing slump
A surprising semi-final finish at the Krakow Major last July, led by Paweł ‘byali’ Bieliński with a 1.12 rating, gave many fans hope that Virtus.pro would soon be on its way back up to the glory days of old. That was not the case, however, as a group stage loss to Renegades at Dreamhack Masters Malmö just a month later would start the freefall of this legendary Polish lineup, the longest-ever standing roster in CS:GO history.
Despite finishing 2nd at EPICENTER in a nail-biting grand final series to SK Gaming with stand-in Ricardo ‘boltz’ Prass, failure to qualify for the ESEA Season 26 Global Challenge, WESG Global Finals, and an upset runner-up to Renegades at the Starladder i-League Invitational in Shanghai dampened those hopes and sparked rumors of potential roster changes.
The ELEAGUE Major: Boston was a chance for the Polish squad to reset, get back on their feet, and start off 2018 on a high note. Unfortunately, the team could not show up, as it was stripped of Legend status and eliminated from the running for the trophy by eventual Major Champions, Cloud9. Online performances were not faring any better, leading to word that one of the original Golden Five members, Wiktor ‘TaZ’ Wojtas, would be benched in favor of up-and-coming Team Kinguin player, Michał 'MICHU' Müller.
This came as a surprise, given the veteran player was under contract with the organization until the end of 2020. However, when looking at the statistics between the two players, the roster swap was a no-brainer: throughout all of 2017, the 31-year-old posted a 0.93 rating, whereas MICHU averaged a 1.19 rating through that same timeframe. MICHU was eventually loaned to Virtus.Pro in favor of TaZ, who subsequently filled MICHU’s spot on Team Kinguin.
With MICHU on VP’s starting lineup, the team was starting on a fresh slate coming into StarLadder and IEM Katowice. Any new player on a team needs time to mesh with the playstyle of their teammates, and some initial showings will be poor. Virtus.Pro is no exception, as the team was eliminated in the group stage by Cloud9 and Heroic at StarLadder and IEM Katowice, respectively. MICHU had a strong start at StarLadder, but drastically fell off towards their final match against Cloud9. Hopefully the veterans in Filip ‘NEO’ Kubski and Jarosław 'pashaBiceps' Jarząbkowski can show signs of improvement as they head into Budapest.
The Mousesports train
Despite attaining legend status at the ELEAGUE Major: Boston, in which Chris ‘chrisJ’ de Jong attained Legend status at a Major for the first time, the European squad failed to qualify for IEM Katowice twice. In the IEM EU Closed Qualifier, Mouz fought through the lower bracket, beating teams such as Epsilon Esports and BIG, before finally falling to AdreN’s Gambit for the final qualifier spot. The squad was invited for a second chance to qualify through Farmskins Championship #2, where Timur ‘Buster’ Tulepov’s AVANGAR, who had to fight their way through the group stage of the tournament, swiftly defeated Mouz and went on to qualify for IEM Katowice after sweeping up-and-coming Polish squad AGO Esports in the grand finals.
The team’s online results have been stellar, thanks in part to Tomáš 'Oskar' Šťastný. The team is fourth in the ESL Pro League with a 9W-5L record after four weeks of play, taking down FNATIC and FaZe Clan 2-0; the European squad have yet to go 0-2 in EPL, as it has split the rest of the sets with Astralis, North, G2, NiP, and Heroic. However, Mouz are dead last after the first week of competition in ECS with an 0-2 record. It is important to note that mousesports faced off against FaZe Clan in the season opener and went 0-2, despite having faced off against Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen’s squad in EPL just two days prior. Given adequate time, Mouz is in contention to make playoffs in both leagues.
The team shined in their most recent LAN event: StarLadder & i-League Season 4 Finals. Here, Miikka ‘sunNy’ Kemppi showed up for mousesports, holding down the defensive line like this quad-kill on Banana against VP and a triple-kill hold against Cloud9 on Mirage en route to the playoffs. In the playoffs, it was Robin ‘ropz’ Kool’s turn to shine, starting off with this 1v3 clutch on T-side Inferno against G2 Esports in the quarterfinals.
The clutch plays did not stop there, as ropz plowed through Team Liquid in the semis with 56 kills and 87.5 ADR, the highest of the entire squad. In the grand finals against Na’Vi, the raw firepower and strong defense from ropz and the rest of the Mouz squad was too much for s1mple to handle. If Mousesports want to become a top team, everyone on the team must keep up their current level of play, which should be fairly easy when they face off against VP, x-kom, and eXtatus in Budapest.
eXtatus's time to shine
This Czech squad is primarily known for fielding some of Czech Republic’s youngest talents, including 15-year-old David ‘frozen’ Čerňanský. At just 13 years of age, he became one of the rising stars to look out for when he was signed by nEophyte, alongside then-19-year-old Patrik ‘DEV7L’ Stuchlík, another up-and-coming Czech talent.
However, this pool of talent, led by 22-year-old Richard ‘queztone’ Strnátko, has not shown up on at a top-tier international event since their joining of eXtatus, aside from ESEA Premier S27, where the team stands in 19th place with a 6W-10L record, and ESEA Global Challenge, where the team failed to qualify for the ESL Pro League after falling to Space Soldiers in the semifinals, 0-2.
With FaZe Clan, Virtus.Pro, and mousesports in attendance, the €500,000 tournament is eXtatus’s time to shine. It’s time for frozen, the 15-year-old Czech prodigy, to be unfrozen in time and prove to the world he is capable of playing against the likes of NiKo and olofmeister, NEO and pasha, and Oskar and chrisJ. It’s time to show the world that the Czech Republic can produce an abundance of CS talent. It’s time for frozen to dethrone Oskar as the face of the Czech scene.
What team do you see taking the top prize in Budapest? Comment your predictions below!