IEM Sydney Preview & Predictions

Sydney will play host to the largest ever esports tournament to hit Australian shores. IEM Sydney will run from the 3rd of May to the 7th of May, with 8 of the best teams from regions across the globe flocking to the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney to compete for their share of a $260,000 AUD prize pool.

The attending teams:

  • Astralis (invited)
  • FaZe Clan (invited)
  • North (invited)
  • OpTic Gaming (invited)
  • Renegades (invited)
  • SK Gaming (invited)
  • ViCi Gaming (Chinese Qualifier)
  • Chiefs eSports Club (Oceania Qualifier)

The tournament schedule:

  • The 3rd of May will be the first day of the group stage, and the 4th of May will be the second day of the group stage matches.
  • The 5th of May, which is a Friday, is a day of no tournament play.
  • The 6th of May will consist of 2 semi-final matches, both of them are in a best of three format.
  • The 7th of May is the grand final day, which will be played out in a best of five format.

The Group Stage Format:

The group stage format is a Swiss format, which is where all matches are a best of one. Three best of one wins are required to qualify, lose three to be eliminated. Teams are required to play a team with the same record. For example, 1-0 must play a 1-0, a 1-0 cannot play a 0-1. Finally, teams cannot meet each other more than once.

The first round match-ups:

Screenshot_4

source: Liquipedia

The round one matches see Astralis face off of against Australian side Chiefs, SK Gaming taking on Chinese side VG, StarSeries Champions FaZe facing off against the predominantly Australian side Renegades, and finally, North, who will take on the only American side at the tournament in the form of OpTic Gaming.

Astralis vs. Chiefs

Astralis should come into this tournament full of confidence. Their last six months under gla1ve have been nothing short of great. To close out their 2016 campaign, Astralis secured a top four finish at IEM Oakland in November followed up by a 2nd place finish at the ELEAGUE Season 2 finals, a 1st place finish at the ECS Season 2 Finals. Then, to kick off their 2017 campaign they went on to win the ELEAGUE Major in a breathtaking best of three vs. Virtus.Pro, then secured a top 4 finish at Dreamhack Masters Las Vegas, won IEM Katowice and then finished second to FaZe Clan at the StarSeries Season 3 Finals.

Due to achieving so much in such a short amount of time, many have dubbed Astralis as the best team in the world, and rightfully so.

This obviously means that Chiefs have it all to do right from the start, as they face off against one of the best teams in the world at the moment. Chiefs have limited experience against top tier international teams, so coming up against Astralis would be a good chance for the Chiefs to get a taste of what the top teams are like from Europe. The draw definitely does not favor Chiefs, but they will definitely be looking to impress against the best.

Prediction: Astralis

SK Gaming vs. ViCi Gaming

SK Gaming is arguably one of the most successful teams in recent history. This team won the MLG Columbus Major in 2016 under the Luminosity banner, and then went on to defend their championship at ESL One Cologne 2016 under the SK Gaming banner. Other achievements include winning the ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals, as well as other top four finishes in a variety of other tournaments, such as ESL One New York, EPICENTER 2016, ELEAGUE Season 2 and the ECS Season 2 Finals. This team was also the runners up at the ESL Pro League Season 4 finals, IEM Oakland and Dreamhack Masters Las Vegas. SK Gaming achieved a lot in 2016 and kicked off their 2017 campaign in a relatively strong fashion before stumbling a little bit, with poor offline performances at IEM Katowice and the StarSeries Finals.

Despite an up and down type of recent offline form, SK are a force to be reckoned with. After their victory at the BeyondTheSummit event, SK are also going to be full of confidence headed into the event in Sydney. If the cs_summit event is anything to go off of, SK are going to be a force to be reckoned with headed into this tournament.

The Brazilian side comes up against ViCi Gaming, a team hailing from China. Most Chinese players are known for their high in-game sensitivity and decent aim. Chinese teams have punished the Brazilian side in the past, however, the same thing should not happen again, and the all-round skill of SK Gaming should be able to overcome ViCi Gaming with relative ease.

Prediction: SK Gaming

FaZe Clan vs. Renegades

FaZe Clan are no strangers to roster changes. In 2016, FaZe Clan was subject to four roster changes throughout the year, and most of them ended up to be for the better.

  • April 3, Maikelele announces departure from FaZe Clan. 7 days later, FaZe Clan acquire kioshima as a replacement
  • August 16, FaZe Clan acquire allu from Ence to replace fox
  • October 19, FaZe Clan acquire former Astralis in game leader karrigan. Kioshima is moved to a backup position
  • November 9, kioshima rejoins the active roster and jkaem is moved to a backup position.
    Then in 2017, the following happened…
  • February 8, aizy leaves to join North.
  • February 9, FaZe announce that NiKo will be joining from mousesports after Dreamhack Masters Las Vegas

It has been quite the wild ride for FaZe Clan, who’s final roster now consists of karrigan, allu, rain, kioshima & NiKo. It is a powerful roster and that power was shown to the world as soon as NiKo joined the squad, and at their first LAN event over at Katowice, where FaZe placed second after losing out 3:1 to Astralis in the finals, which was a best of five. The following event, at the StarSeries Finals over in Ukraine, the two would meet in the finals of a tournament, and this time would succeed in beating Astralis 2:1 in a best of three format to win their first international title of 2017.

With a line up of this calibre, there is undoubtedly many more impressive achievements and potential international trophies to be had. Their confidence will undoubtedly be high, and their first match up will indeed be the predominantly Australian side, Renegades, who are currently trying out new things themselves.

After the departure of Rickeh, the team seemingly looked worse for wear. Rickeh was a terrific AWP player who was able to “wow” players and fans alike with his skill. The team then lost yam, due to personal reasons and were stuck with a 3 man core, and the temporary stand in, atter. Atter has since left the Renegades’ house in Detroit after fulfilling his duty for the side, and the Renegades have since brought in Nifty from Selfless Gaming. The Renegades have recently announced their fifth player, nexa. Without a doubt, Renegades have injected two young, talented players with great potential into the squad, and they should do well after a while together.

However, FaZe Clan should be able to outplay the Australians, and it may be quite a comfortable win for the European side. Renegades may be able to string some rounds together against FaZe Clan but ultimately the European side should be able to close out the game and take the win.

Prediction: FaZe Clan

North vs. OpTic Gaming

The North is coming down to the southern hemisphere. North will be competing against OpTic Gaming in their opening round of the group stage. North are a solid team. Lead by MSL, as well as boasting incredibly talented players such as Magisk, aizy, cajunb and k0nfig. This team could be dubbed as underachievers, a strong line up all round that has failed to make the top four of an international event in a while, their most notable feat is winning EPICENTER in 2016 under the Dignitas banner and with RUBINO instead of the recently added aizy.

IEM Sydney could be the tournament where North will look to make their mark with an impressive finish and hopefully fall into a bit of form with some confidence. A top 4 finish from Dreamhack Vegas is the only thing that North have going for them at the moment, with a disappointing finish against HellRaisers at the StarSeries finals. North will be looking to make their mark down under, as they are definitely looking to improve on a disappointing finish from the StarSeries finals.

On the other hand, OpTic Gaming are in a similar sort of situation. Decent runs in 2016 winning a championship or two (Northern Arena Montreal and ELEAGUE Season 2). Their 2017 run so far is not looking that good. After the departure of stanislaw to Team Liquid after the ELEAGUE Major, OpTic have been struggling in terms of offline performance. Their trial period with Hiko and Peacemaker yielded no meaningful results, with OpTic crashing out of IEM Katowice and Dreamhack Vegas relatively early on in the tournament’s life.

OpTic will be taking hazed to IEM Sydney since jasonR is unable to attend. The team has looked good under jasonR so far, both offline and online. Their run at cs_summit was admirable, as they were able to trump sides such as EnVyUs, Cloud9 and Team Liquid. cs_summit was the last offline tournament before IEM Sydney for OpTic. and considering the fact that JasonR is only a stand in at the moment for OpTic, they performed quite well. What will be interesting for OpTic during the IEM Sydney event is how they fare with hazed, who is their coach, instead of JasonR.

This time for OpTic could be considered experimental, as they are evaluating their options carefully before moving forward with a full-time fifth. However, the North American players playing under the OpTic banner are incredibly talented and coupled with hazed’s experience, they should be able to put up a fight against the competition at IEM Sydney.

With that being said, this match has the potential to be the closest opening group stage match in terms of score – both teams looking to make a mark, and on top of that this match has the potential to be one of the most even match-ups on paper.

At cs_summit, it looked like hazed gelled well with the team, and his calls during the pauses and general influence as a coach paid off. It will be interesting to see how they fare with hazed in the server, but as mentioned previously, the roster is full of talented individuals, and hazed is able to provide the team with good calls on top of being able to calm his players down, therefore…

OpTic should be able to take it in a tightly contested match.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

What about the rest of the tournament?

To put it simply, there is no way that Chiefs or ViCi make it through to the playoffs. The European, Brazilian and American talents are too strong for these teams. Despite being dominant domestically, there is little chance that they will qualify through to the playoff stages. Renegades are likely to be in the same position, despite their international experience. They may be able to draw closer scorelines in their matches, but playoff qualification would be difficult for them.

OpTic are a strong side, but so are North and SK. All three of these teams are facing their own sets of difficulties, whether it is in finding form or finding a fifth player.

Whilst OpTic have every chance at qualification, just as all teams do, them actually qualifying for the knockout stages seems unlikely. Therefore, the predicted teams to go through to the knockouts would be:

SK Gaming, FaZe Clan, North & Astralis

These teams seem like the strongest candidates to make it to the playoffs, with OpTic possibly causing some trouble and potentially throwing themselves into contention. SK Gaming finally look like they are in their element after a strong cs_summit win, and the rest of the European teams are arguably the strongest teams present at IEM Sydney. If any one of these teams falters, OpTic will be close behind to take their spot.

Based off of current team form, and the strength of the teams involved in the hypothetical final four, a FaZe vs. Astralis BO5 final is highly possible and will be the predicted final.

The predicted winner of the hypothetical final?

FaZe Clan.

FaZe should be able to ride the momentum after their StarSeries win and subsequently win out at IEM Sydney. Astralis will be a difficult opponent and the series might stretch the whole length, but FaZe Clan should be able to clinch it now that they have more time to gel together.  Astralis are arguably the best side in the world, but FaZe Clan may just be the team that will give them a run for their money throughout the course of the year.

This match up, if it occurs in a best of five style format has the potential to be close throughout all maps played, and more than likely will stretch over the course of all of the maps until a winner is decided. Astralis and FaZe clan are definitely the strongest teams that have been invited to this tournament. Both teams are filled with smart and talented players, and it is for this reason that this final is likely to occur, and since they are both teams of high skill level, and both commandeered by top tier in game leaders, it makes for a series that could potentially go all the way.

FaZe Clan should be able to claim their second international title of the year in a very tight best of five series.

The knockout stages of IEM Sydney will run from the 6th of May to the 7th of May.

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