EPICENTER 2018: Three short storylines

Eight of the world’s best teams convene onto Moscow for EPICENTER 2018. Here’s three intriguing storylines to follow as they battle it out for a share of US$300,000.

by Elbert Nguyen

Photo Credit: (EPICENTER)

FaZe is losing ground

As Astralis cement themselves as the world’s number one team, with Team Liquid and Na’Vi right behind, FaZe are seeking to regain their position inside the top-five. The return of olofmeister to the active roster in July towards the end of last season has yielded little success. The European superteam has made two quarter-final appearances: DreamHack Masters Stockholm, where a win would have netted them $1 million and the Intel Grand Slam title; and the FACEIT Major: London, where the team turned an 0-2 deficit in the Swiss system to a 3-2 record, keeping their Legends status.

These results have not come without internal conflict, however. The Major showed this, as it was NiKo who led the miraculous turnaround in the Swiss group stage, with Dane Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen taking a backseat for the rest of the event. He took up in-game calling again for ESL One: New York, but two surprising losses to NRG and G2 meant NiKo was once again forced to turn around the dire situation, which unfortunately was not the case. With major controversy surrounding FaZe, the team’s performance at EPICENTER will be crucial in predicting the roster’s future.

(Copyright: ESL | Helena Kristiansson.)

Liquid’s chance to break the curse…but Na’Vi

With Astralis and mousesports absent from this event, Team Liquid has a real chance at outright taking the EPICENTER title. Over the past several months, they have consistently placed inside the top-four at tournaments, including a runner-up finish at ESL One: New York and a semi-final appearance at the FACEIT Major: London. The team, comprised of one of the youngest cores in top-tier Counter-Strike, is poised to finally grab their first premier title of 2018, after lifting the trophy at cs_summit 2 last competitive season.

Photo Credit: (Daniel Ranki)

Standing in the North American squad’s path, however, is Na’Vi. Their last victory came over three months ago at ESL One: Cologne over BIG, the German-British dark horse, and have not picked up another title since then. A grand final appearance at the FACEIT Major: London has kept the Ukranian-Russian squad inside the top-five, despite an early exit at ESL One: New York and a quarter-final appearance at DreamHack Masters Stockholm. With Zeus at the strategical helm of the team and mechanical superstars s1mple and electronic ripping heads off in the server, Na’Vi also has a real chance at lifting the trophy in Moscow.

Regardless, both teams will be looking to this event as a confidence boost, with two of the world’s top-five teams absent.

Can ENCE prove it’s #EZ4ENCE?

Photo Credit: (StarLadder)

The Finnish squad, headlined by former Ninjas in Pyjamas AWPer Aleski ‘allu’ Jalli, has proven themselves to be a contender for a top-ten spot. They first showed signs of promise at ESL One: Cologne, where the Finns bested the Ninjas and mousesports in the group stage. Unfortunately, Na’Vi stopped them on their path to the LANXESS Arena in the final round of the group stage. They built on that performance at DreamHack Open Montreal, where the team made a run to the grand finals – only to fall short to TaZ’s squad, Kinguin. All this culminated to a championship performance at StarLadder i-League Season 6, with teams such as OpTic, TYLOO, and mousesports falling to the Finns as they picked up their first major tournament of the year.

With the likes of Team Liquid and FaZe in attendance, EPICENTER will act as a proving ground for ENCE to cement themselves as a world-class contender capable of competing in the highest echelon of tournaments alongside the world’s best teams and players. This assumes that the players maintain composure under pressure situations against these top-tier teams who can exploit the Finns’ every in-game flaw.

Comment below if you think that Epicenter will be EZ4ENCE!

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Elbert Nguyen

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