This weekend, teams from across the globe will travel to the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California. Inside The Hangar, two days of competition will unfold to determine the final participants competing for a share of the $300,000 IEM Oakland prize pool at the Oracle Arena.
The iBUYPOWER Masters teams will compete in two GSL groups, with the top two teams from each group advancing to IEM Oakland. The winners of each group will play in the iBUYPOWER Masters finals on Sunday night for bragging rights and an additional share of the prize pool.
Only two match wins separate these teams from continuing their tournament run and competing against the likes of Na’Vi, SK Gaming, and Ninjas in Pyjamas next week. Read on for a preview of the matches we’ll see tomorrow, and some of our predictions on who will make it through to the main event.
First match: Cloud 9 vs. FlipSid3 Tactics
Second match: Echo Fox vs. TyLoo
Coming off of a win at the ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals in Sao Paulo, Cloud 9 are the sure favorites to take a victory at iBUYPOWER Masters. Their tournament run started with a 25-1 season record in Pro League, and continued with wins over FaZe, NiP, Dignitas, OpTic, Mousesports, and SK Gaming at the finals. Few people predict the team that just picked up the largest win for North America ever in CS:GO history to go out in the group stage of iBUYPOWER Masters.
With potent firepower from Stewie2k and autimatic, and a wide playbook of strategies on a diverse map pool, C9 are looking better than ever. With FlipSid3 competing with a stand-in and the team holding a good record against TyLoo in the past, C9 should be able to breeze through the competition and make it out of Group A with the first seed. However, fans of C9 should be ready to sit on the edge of their seats: the Echo Fox roster features three C9 alums and were the only team to pick up a map win against C9 during ESL Pro League.
This legendary team remains mostly unchanged from ESL One Cologne 2016, where they were able to pick up three maps to one against an up-and-coming Team Dignitas. With that said, you did read us correctly: “mostly unchanged.”
Who is “smooya,” and what exactly are a team from Ukraine and Russia doing bringing in a ringer from the United Kingdom? The 17-year-old Briton joins the squad after Denis “Electronic” Sharipov was unable to secure a visa to the United States. If FlipSid3 are able to make it out of their group, the young stand-in will continue with the roster as they compete in IEM Oakland.
With less than a dozen maps played in competitive play, smooya is not exactly well known. However, the competitive newcomer brings a serious amount of firepower and may impress fans of FlipSid3 more used to the nuance and calculated playstyle of in-game leader B1ad3. Nobody knows how will this mish-mash roster do. However, if the team can pick up wins against Echo Fox and TyLoo, we may actually see the squad advance beyond iBUYPOWER Masters.
Fans of UK CS, eat your heart out. The last time young firepower played for FlipSid3, the world was blessed with s1mple.
It’s safe to say that nobody is expecting Echo Fox to lift the trophy at iBUYPOWER Masters, or IEM Oakland. In-game leader Sean Gares has yet to produce results from a roster of players who actually pack some impressive individual skill. ShahZaM, ryx, and Roca are all capable of putting up a performance when needed. Sean Gares and FREAKAZOiD carry the burden of leadership and entry fragging, but things just haven’t clicked against Tier 1 (or Tier 3) competition.
A mental reset is needed coming into this event. The team won just six rounds in three maps at ELEAGUE, which was followed up with a close best-of-three win against ESEA Premier team “Muffin Lightning” in the Americas Minor qualifier. With an opening match against TyLoo, a strong playbook from Sean could actually gift the team a match win. From there, they may be able to sneak out of groups against a volatile FlipSid3.
This team are the undisputed leaders of an underappreciated and underdeveloped region of Counter-Strike. With a string of first place finishes at regional events in Asia, the team are at top performance and ready for battle against international teams. The Chinese squad have already prepared multiple-entry visas to the United States and Europe in advance of the ELEAGUE Major and other upcoming events, and are hungry to close 2016 with a few wins on Western soil.
With tournaments showing a mix of intense and unpredictable aim duels and seriously impressive team strategy and default site executions, TyLoo look coordinated and confident. Will we see them deliver at iBUYPOWER, and advance to put up a solid showing at IEM Oakland?
Editor’s Prediction: C9 take Group A’s first seed, TyLoo take Group A’s second seed.
First match: Team SoloMid vs Renegades
Second match: Immortals vs FaZe
Team SoloMid are not a team frequently discussed when talking about North America’s top talent, in part because they have yet to break into major online leagues. When the team are able to make it to large LAN events, they’ve shown potential, most memorably with a semifinal finish at ECS Season 1 Finals with wins over Astralis and C9.
Without a large number of recent results to look at, TSM seem inexperienced and unpredictable. However, this event will be an important showing for the squad, as they will soon be competing in the Americas Minor against C9, Echo Fox, and Immortals.
After a solid performance in the online season of the ESL Pro League, the Australian squad of Renegades attended the Asian Minor and placed second, earning a spot at the Major Qualifier (behind TyLoo). As one of the last tournaments before the Major Qualifier, Renegades are going to want to compete at peak performance to get all of the experience against top competition that they can.
In what previously looked like a group that the Renegades had little chance making it out of, fans of the team can now expect a strong start against TSM and a possible victory over a weakened Immortals. Will we see Renegades advance to the Oracle Arena?
Sorry, iBUYPOWER fans: that’s Lucas “Steel” Lopes (although Josh Nissan will be casting at the iBUYPOWER Masters!). Steel joined the Immortals squad just one week ago, after recent roster addition and ex-SK Gaming coach Zews left the team. Lucas formerly played on the Luminosity Gaming lineup who competed in IEM San Jose 2015 last year. His departure from Luminosity’s roster alongside Nak saw fnx & TACO join the squad and was the spark that lit the Brazilian team’s dominance of 2016.
Will a last-minute roster change effect Immortals equally well? It’s no doubt that Steel’s firepower is stronger than zews’, but it’s always risky to play with in-game strategy and leadership so close to a tournament. This team will be volatile, but explosive fundamentals can still pick up tournament wins.
A team of ever-changing problems and solutions, FaZe recently announced that kioShiMa is back on the roster in place of jkaem. Kio was previously benched when Karrigan joined the roster in his place.
Despite the team changes, FaZe are without a doubt the most experienced roster in the group. What they lack in strategy and team cohesion, they make up for in raw aim and in-game ability. Despite the turmoil, the team picked up recent wins against the rest of the competition at iBUYPOWER Masters. Expect this team to pick up steam over iBUYPOWER Masters, and also put on a performance at IEM Oakland next week. If they don’t make it out of Group B, it will be the biggest surprise of the tournament.
Editor’s Prediction: FaZe take Group B’s first seed, IMT take Group B’s second seed.
iBUYPOWER Masters will kick off at 9AM Pacific this Saturday and Sunday on twitch.tv/iBUYPOWER. Stay tuned to IEM on Twitter and Facebook this weekend for coverage of the matches, and updates when teams advance to the IEM Oakland main event!