In many respects, the upcoming ZOTAC Cup is a tournament with a full field of teams in transition. While this and the general strength level of the participants could be a good enough reason on the surface to dismiss the event as a Shanghai-like collection of rag-tag also-rans, there’s more to it than what meets the eye at first. Treat it as a madman’s laboratory where you can take a glimpse at the inner workings of mid-level teams that are vying for a spot at the top. With four of the eight participants gearing up for the London major, there’s a lot to watch out for here, even if the event itself is of dubious prestige.

A who’s who of works in progress

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this tournament is how essentially every participant has still got a long way to go. The Made in Brazil project has been running in place for a while now despite poaching two players from Cloud9, and one of the most interesting storylines is the involvement of YNk as a coach for them – expect it to be repeatedly brought up during the broadcast. Their opponents also have quite the upheaval to manage as the joint teams of ViCi Gaming and Flash Gaming went up in flames, leading to a temporary line-up with two loanees which may not have involved any change in personnel for now, but something that will surely have an effect on the players’ mindset.

On the other side of the bracket, Ghost Gaming will also feature a loanee, replacing Pollo with kRYSTAL for now after the American’s release from the roster. Their opponents will be OpTiC Gaming, perhaps the most impressive team from the recent European minor, and while they don’t have any player changes to contend with – perhaps a rarity in and of itself for this organization –, it’s only recently been confirmed that they would be participating as Team Liquid has withdrawn from the tournament. Expect the unexpected – chaos is imminent here.

ghost gaming ZOTAC

Oh, Poland!

Another interesting subplots of the event is that it will mark one of the rare occasions where Polish fans will have not one but two teams to root for at the event as both and Kinguin will be featured in Hong Kong. They are on a very different trajectory, at least historically speaking: VP are plummeting into depths unknown as one of their ex-players is trying to lead a new breed of puppies to glory elsewhere.

It’s a rocky road to say the least: Kinguin had an extremely disappointing showing at the European minor recently, crashing out as the bottom feeders of Group B after failing to finish off a 15-6 lead on Dust 2 against Red Reserve, a team that has never played the map competitively. This is their next shot at redemption after their win in the regional qualifiers for this event, but their pairing against TyLoo is ominous to say the least. Their opponents are steadily catching up to the top dogs, finishing second in Shanghai, and there isn’t much to suggest that TaZ and co. can counteract this trend.

Unfortunately, the event will likely deny us a spicy Polish-off even if they make it past them as could only meet their domestic rivals in the final: that being said, they are the overwhelming favorites over MVP PK in the quarters, a team with no reasonable accomplishments to date. CS:GO

Roses, thorns and all that jazz

Make sure you keep your perspective though: there are quite a few reasons to not take the tournament that seriously. The size and stature of the broadcast talent and the quality of the qualified teams clearly don’t hold a candle to the premium events despite the decent-sized prize pool, and while the format features best-of-three matches throughout the entire cup until the bo5 final, it is a single-elimination bracket with no room for error.

As such, the volatility of the rosters and the added variance of the format means that you’ll likely get more out of the event by focusing on individual matches and player performances as opposed to treating it as the holy tome of ranking order between the participants. In any case, ZOTAC Cup can very much be a harbinger of things to come for what should be an exciting autumn for CS:GO fans – and it should serve as an exciting curtain-raiser if you calibrate your expectations accordingly.