After the giddy high point of Copenhagen Games it seems that we all collectively accepted the unspoken truth that CS:S was a game on its last legs. The remaining events between now and Global Offensive takeover seem small and poorly populated, no matter the prize or incentive to attend.
Having only recently witnessed the grim scenes of UK mix teams butting heads at EPIC 9, Assembly Summer had seemed to be an antidote to that. Yet, while the calibre of team is undoubtedly better, you can’t help but think it could have been so much more.
The new Danish kings of Copenhagen Wolves ducked out but vowed to be making an appearance at i46, and other teams just seemed to stay away from an event that has always been the heart of the Finnish scene. And while it manages to attract some of the top players for SC2, it seems the prospect of having to travel, rolling the dice again with stand-ins and committing to practice regimes… Well, it wasn’t worth the journey except for a select few.
Still, not all doom and gloom. There are some decent teams in attendance, including the crème dela crème of the Finnish scene, some upstarts from Denmark throwing together a mix, some brave Russians and, of course, one of the most successful teams to have played the game. Here’s a run down on what that can all mean in the big picture.
The Favourites – Team ROCCAT
It’s easy to label this group of players as clear favourites for the tournament, and most would do so, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
First, looking at the pros, the core of the team represents one of the most successful in CS:S history as well as one of the most stable. However, there are some things that can’t be avoided and as the march of time stomps all over competitive gaming when it comes to prioritising and that has meant some changes have had to be made. On the plus side though, the changes are as good as they could have been, especially the introduction of Tom “stonde” Glad who is one of the top AWPers in Europe but still seems to be largely overlooked when it comes to handing out such accolades.
Olli “kononen” Salmi is also one of the most consistent players in Europe, a master at almost anything he touches and probably one of Finland’s true greats. Marry those two to the wily brain and calm demeanour of the veteran Juha “aNGeldusT” Kurppa and you have a team that can blow away all the opposition they face here if they are in decent enough shape.
Now for the cons… Firstly, practice time is a limited commodity for this group of players these days and while they are experienced enough to find LAN form as it’s needed, there’s also no substitute for hours on the Steam profile, even if there will be a series of easier group stage matches to use as a warm up.
There’s also their form at Finnish events to take into consideration. Even when they were at the height of the powers they usually seemed to come unstuck at local events through a combination of over familiarity with their opponents and generally not coming into them as well drilled as a bigger event dictates. As such, there’s no guarantee they are going to have their own way.
On the last point though one has to assume that there’s no one really out there with the exception of Team VeryGames who are still a well oiled machine or are willing to prioritise CS:S over anything else. If this is indeed the case and everyone is as ragged as each other then you can safely back ROCCAT to take this one with ease.
Player To Watch: Stonde
No question about it. There’s no doubt that Kononen is a more polished and consistent player, but everything Stonde does seems to be about making jaws drop and his lightning quick reflexes combined with his desire to make spectacular shots always make him the one player you don’t want to take your eyes off.
The Challengers – MoD eSport
It might be called MoD eSport but it’s a mix team bringing together some of the finest from Denmark, including the remnants of TT.esports, the AWP supremo from Copenhagen Wolves and the dude who used ambient occlusion “once” and has become defined by that despite actually being a decent player.
Mix or not they definitely can’t be underestimated. The Danish scene is one of the few that, while unstable, pumps out regular LANs that are attended by all and sundry, as well as producing talent that keeps the game incredibly competitive at a domestic level. These factors make any Danish team a dangerous prospect and while it’s clear they will be treating this as something of a viking raid on foreign soil, swilling mead and burning down a few buildings, they still have the capacity to topple ROCCAT if everything comes together for them.
How likely is that? It depends on a few factors. First is map selection. Any mix is going to struggle to lock down the maps that require co-ordination to defend and attack on, and this team probably don’t have that level of understanding. Second is the personalities in the team which range from the hot-headed to the lackadaisical… If one is out of step with the others then there’s a very good chance the cracks could start to appear, especially as the players will be resuming hostilities after the event.
On pure talent though they’re a good bet and I’d not be completely surprised to see them walk away with a title. That said, they just seem to be one star player short of a line-up that could have made the difference against a team that has more than one to their name. Everyone’s A-games will decide it.
Player To Watch: Nico
Pretty much for the same reasons you would want to watch Stonde… His performances for Copenhagen Wolves (the second time around) have finally seen him start to get the recognition he has deserved for some time and his talent with an AWP is ridiculous. He is still erratic at times and can be overly casual in his approach but if he ever wants to win then he can out-shoot anyone he needs to in order to do so.
The Russians – zNation
Most of the Russian scene seems to have been sucked into the vortex that is DotA 2 and with the old schoolers now practically ancient in terms of CS:S that leaves these guys. And credit to them as well… If they manage to dodge the via troubles that seem to plague Russians every time they want to come and compete in Europe then these guys deserve a lot of credit, especially given it will be in the hostile environment that is Finland.
What are their chances though? Well, somewhere between slim and anorexic for my money and even though they are third on this list I certainly don’t place them at finishing third by any means.Simply put there’s a lack of top talent in the team and with LANs slowing to a crawl in Russia and few chances to compete outside of it, you can safely say that they are going to get gobbled up somewhere in the knockout stages by a Finnish team containing at least one ClanBase hero.
Player To Watch: Lk
A tough call to make given that they are all of similar ability but I’m going to plump for this guy because he is one of the few people I still practicing near religiously at the game when others are moving on to better things. Always solid, if never spectacular, his best plays are usually made with smart defensive work on site, using terrain to his advantage and deploying some intelligent flashbangs and smokes.
The Outsiders – cDailex
Monkey D. Luffy
The first thing I want to get out the way is I’m absolutely certain that back when I was content to pump hours into HLStats I used to play on the same public as Monkey D. Luffy and I remember him being awful… It’s not entirely relevant as we must be talking five or six years ago but it’s a name that sticks with me, awful memories of wasted time.
I’m sure I’ll be told it’s not the same one but that’s not important. What is though is pointing out this team are genuine dark horses for the tournament and a team that should probably finish third if what my sizeable gut tells me is right. Like a shaman I can interpret the rumbles to mean certain things and this particular set of gurgles states clearly that even with such public baggage in tow they have enough good players in the team to cause problems.
Chief among them will be reVicer and VILZU, both players who have been unfairly tarred with the “onliner” brush by other European players, but ones who are capable fo moments of individual brilliance. Both have been involved in some of the top teams Finland has thrown out and they are likely to be the driving force behind the team’s successes.
Coming in as last minute replacements for the Danish absentees the “team” might not have the cohesiveness as some of the other teams but sometimes all you really need is a bit of maverick brilliance and I fancy them over the others for this reason.
Player To Watch: VILZU
An underrated player when in Anexis, VILZU doesn’t get the plaudits as he seems to be one of those annoying players who somehow make WASDA work and as such is usually greeted with derision and occasionally suspicion from those he plays against. Still, a solid rifler and deagler, you can expect him to have at least one or two players thumping their desks in frustration this time out.