EPICENTER, ESL New York 2018, both BLAST’s, cs_summit 3, and StarSeries S6 have all taken place in the little over a month since the FACEIT Major. Phew. It’s been a stacked series of international LANs. Interestingly though, even after listing off so many big events, there’s a missing flavour to their respective results. For all the light-shows, swept confetti and hype, the after-taste for this month of play or-so lacks bite.
IEM Chicago looks to fix that.
In this specific post-major period, we’ve started to see teams finally enact the ‘skip-an-event-to-recharge-for-the-next-one’ protocol that’s been talked about for so long. Many top teams, most notably, Astralis, have opted out of many opportunities to compete for large prize pools throughout September. In fact, the only events we’ve seen Astralis compete at so-far have been both BLAST events - both of which are almost dismissal due to their Bo1 group format.
Likewise, the events that have had the #2-#5 teams in the world in-attendance have failed to yield the big series we want. Specifically, Liquid and Na`Vi have yet to definitely settle who is the heir to the Astralis throne. And both FaZe and MIBR have either lacked consistency or a large enough bank of games to draw a solid pattern from.
In-general, the last month of play, despite having 1.5 million dollars in prize pool between tournaments didn’t dramatically change the elite CS:GO landscape. The largest changes have occurred outside the top ten; largely due to the aforementioned lack of top teams at these bigger events. And even these shifts of form have been more a series of validating reference points than upheaval of international dynamics i.e NRG proving themselves as a top eight team, or G2 consistently being underwhelming.
As such, the broad narratives from this period of time can be classified into two main threads: the validation and solidifying of the tier two hierarchy; and the lack of such amongst the top five teams in the world. IEM Chicago looks to force both of these loose ends together in an attempt to make sense of where the scene’s biggest, and hottest entities currently stand.
Nine of the top ten teams in the world are in-attendance with only NiP making up the absentee list. The only other notable team in diaspora from Chicago is ENCE who failed to three separate Bo3’s to qualify, most notably to AVANGAR who take their place.
IEM Chicago will therefore be the most important staging ground of the post-Major period. It will frame how the rest of the year will come to a close, and most notably the strength of the Danish grip on the crown. Astralis will have the fortunate draw of neither Liquid or Na`Vi being in their group, with only domestic rivals North and the ever dangerous FaZe/MIBR being real roadblocks. In-theory they should have an easy road to the playoffs, but beyond that, will likely be facing the most cut-throat of the revolutionaries below them.
Liquid and Na`Vi have new company in the ‘elite’ category of teams, with FaZe having bested both of them in a vintage run of form at EPICENTER. With the new in-game leadership of NiKo, the mix-team deployed a fast-paced execute style that blitz the playoffs and earned them a trophy in shock fashion. The manner in which they won though, doesn’t necessarily suggest long-term consistency. Especially given that both Na`Vi and Liquid have showed they still have their primary win conditions showing up on the right day in-lieu of a dominant FaZe.
What was once just Liquid and Na`Vi trying to contest for the throne from two different approaches is now three. FaZe is an added pressure and factor Astralis will likely have to contend with - on top of a well-prepared MIBR and new(but also old)look Mousesports.
IEM Chicago will be either the staging ground for the coup d'etat that usurps Astralis’s control and begins another period of uncertainty. Or it will be the validating stage which the Danes furthermore extend the shadow of the red star over the scene. Either or though, at least we’ll have a concrete narrative amongst the top teams in the world heading forward, unlike what the last big runs of events have given us until this point.