The top dogs are back in town – what to look out for at ELEAGUE Premier

Hot on the heels of the London minors, the best and brightest of Counter-Strike are making an appearance in Atlanta to duke it out for their share of the $1 million prize pool at ELEAGUE Premier in a star-studded event featuring Astralis, Faze Clan, Na’Vi, mousesports, Fnatic, MIBR, Team Liquid and Cloud9. It seems like the ever-longer period of upheaval in the CS:GO scene still has no end in sight – however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of interesting storylines to pay attention to during the eight-day event.

Is there a new titan in town?

No one has managed to pull together such complete and undisputed domination as Fnatic did during their incredible LAN spree after the arrival of dennis – there have always been niggly little caveats, what ifs, stumbles in the semis or way too many simultaneous events to truly crown anyone as the absolute ruler in the realm of CS:GO – and it feels like Astralis could be the third team after SK and FaZe who fail to remove the asterisks around their exquisite form. Seemingly out of nowhere, Na’Vi have picked up three big tournament wins on the trot, crashing the party at Cologne where most would have expected a showdown between karrigan and gla1ve for all the marbles. If they are able to break the stranglehold of Astralis and FaZe once more, it might just herald the beginning of even more upheaval in the tournament scene.

Roster roulette

Almost all participants have some sort of a roster issue to deal with: FaZe will have to re-integrate olofmeister after a lengthy absence, Cloud9 will have two stand-ins in the form of STYKO and Golden while MIBR will have to find a way to make use of tarik for the first time. With mousesports trying to achieve a new balance with Snax – an ambitious but risky move that had an awful initial return at Cologne – and fnatic getting used to Xizt at the helm, ELEAGUE Premier will feature only three teams with a stable roster – and even one of those will be missing their coach as Team Liquid’s zews unfortunately “had to return to Brazil to take care of some health issues”. Does this put one of Astralis and Na’vi in pole position? It certainly makes sense.

Not only that, but these changes – whether temporary or permanent – all create juicy storylines for the event, potentially pitting tarik’s new team against his old one in Group A or the exiled member of Fnatic and mousesports against their ex-comrades if the major title holders can make it out of the group. It’s not impossible: Astralis’ star may be shining bright, but neither Liquid nor the former SK Gaming team were particularly impressive recently – then again, it’s not like C9 are on the up and up either.

Astralis Tournament

Made where exactly?

Much was made of the revived MIBR brand’s inclusion of two North American players, and if you consider the former Cloud9 roster’s performances both prior to and after their miracle in Boston, you probably wouldn’t be looking at them to find the potential solution to an alarming and long downturn in form, especially under a legendary IGL who has clearly been struggling with managing comms in what is a non-native language for the majority of the team.

FalleN’s always been famous for ruthless roster changes but this one seems the riskiest of all to date: fail to deliver once more and the Brazilian core with its historic accomplishments might fall apart for good. If any sort of revival is on the cards, we might just catch its first glimpses at this event.

mibr FalleN

The twilight struggle of Sweden

Fnatic’s old guard have got to show something after their contentious removal of Golden, who lest we forget, was responsible for the team’s only title wins after a two-year drought. Their performance at ESL One Cologne was fairly unimpressive, even if they made it to the playoffs through the upper bracket – though it’s worth noting that they very easily dispatched one of the eventual finalists in BIG before suffering a heavy defeat against the other one –, and the old aristocracy of JW, flusha and KRIMZ are under pressure to deliver after forcing out a roster move that certainly seemed very illogical from the outset.

Fnatic Tournament victory

It’s not just a scrim

It may be a simple eight-team invitational on the surface, and memories of ELEAGUE’s former Clash for Cash events might bring up some lacklustre memories, but it’s worth reminding yourself of how much is on the line here: the winner takes $500000 home with them – the event’s overall prize pool actually matches the major’s – and the best and brightest of CS:GO all accepted their invitations despite a cluttered summer LAN schedule. The double-elimination, bo3-all-the-way format with a five-map final is also extremely skill-testing, so don’t expect a lot of flukes, but look forward to some excellent Counter-Strike.