IEM Katowice 2016: Recap
Posted 2016-03-09 Dare_Dev1L
Hoorah, the unbeatable record continues! As the boys find a spot for their newest trophy, IEM Katowice still remains on everyone's mind. Just how do the Swedes manage to do it? Is it tactical prowess? Is it strength in aim? Perhaps there's a Swedish version of Hogwarts that we weren't aware of? With $250,000 on the line and multiple top teams in the challenger seats, it's curious how the team seems to pass through the most distinguished events in the same flawless manner as they would a less prestigious event. As the event has now concluded, let's look back to the competition and summarize the outcome.
Usually I bring up the underdogs and the favorites from every tournament, but since there were a number of surprises this event, I will split this recap up into what was generally predicted before the event and divide the sections from there. So what does "expected" really mean in this context? When a team delivers the performance presumed of them due to stature and final standing, that is what we as a community would expect of them. Before we begin, please refer to my preview as I will serve that as a basis to this recap. So who performed as expected? Let's take a look at the results!
Let's start this off by looking at the big picture, almost every single underdog in my preview has gone out in the group stages, with the exception of Tempo Storm. This brings up the underlying issue of the gap between tiers in professional Counter-Strike that has existed as long as the game has. That is not always a bad thing, however, as much as a competitive nature is exciting, consistency is always preferred in anything that is considered a "sport". One thought is that since Counter-Strike is very nation based unlike some MOBAs out there, the majority of the talent pool comes from very specific countries in which the game is popular. The gap is then enlarged by the fact that top teams fish the talent out of their domestic rivals, which lowers the potential of multiple top teams from the same country but also strengthens the one doing the fishing (as is the case with EnVyUs).
Among the underdogs we see different levels, the lowest tier in this tournament was a team named TheMongolz. They have done well in their region to get this far they but still have a long way to go before they can find themselves at the same standard as the upper echelon teams. They should not be disappointed, though, as this was a good experience for them and a big step towards their future. After all, for you to start winning, you must lose.
Then you have teams such as mousesports, FaZe, E-Frag, and NiP. I hate to say it, but I did predict this result for NiP, regardless of them having a new roster. Their LAN debut was quashed with the same results they've been having online lately. If they really are looking to improve, they must find a miracle to even end up as a shadow of what they once were in the early days of CS:GO. With the superstar talent and legends playing under their banner, what seems to hold them back isn't their ability, but their drive. FaZe had a lot of potential back when the team was still called Kinguin, and their new roster looked destined to become an upcoming top team. However, that dream has not come true yet. I still believe that this team will do well if they stay dedicated. We will see how well they do in the upcoming events. In terms of mousesports and E-Frag, I believe they are currently stuck. Both teams have shined before when they have taken other teams by surprise using their underdog status, but now that other teams have gotten the hang of them they are stuck between good and great. Nevertheless, results such as these will not change until they try something new.
Enough about underdogs, let's talk about what was expected from the favorites. Unlike the underdogs at this event, being predicted in their performance isn’t negligible but something to praise. Astralis isn't singing cheers of joy, though, as they are also stuck in their own version of a rut. They have performed immensely well in the group stages by winning all 5 of their matches outright. However, once they got into the playoffs it was like watching a completely different team show up. They did go 1-2 against Fnatic in the semi-final but the maps they lost were by a landslide. Astralis was really dominant in the summer of 2015 before turning back to their usual habit and it's a question of whether or not they can wiggle themselves back out of it.
Virtus.Pro was on my list of favorites, and the team did manage to reach the playoffs as expected but their performance was as forgetful as it has been the past few months. With only barely passing the group stage and a quick exit in the playoffs, there isn't much to be said for the Polish powerhouse. At this event, they had a huge backing, with a large polish crowd cheering their name up until the end. Whatever is keeping the team down lately needs to improve, because everyone knows how strong the team can be when they are confident.
The victor at this event was, of course, our very own Fnatic. Normally, I would place a team victorious at a tournament in the list of surprises, but with an undefeated record of five (now six) events in a row since their debut as a new roster, it's hard not to call them the favorite. Their victory wasn’t without its surprises, though, as Fnatic had to battle really hard this event. The team managed to surprise and awe fans and casters, with multiple consistent but spectacular comebacks at the most vital times. If there's a team confident enough in their ability to do the things we saw happen at this event, it’s Fnatic.
With every competition come several surprises (it would be quite boring if there weren’t). This tournament did have a list of incidents that will surely raise a few eyebrows. Those surprises range from the striking performance of Luminosity to the complete and utter despair of EnVyUs. Let’s take a look!
Luminosity was, in my opinion, both expected and unexpected. As a top five team in the world they are of course entitled to good performances at events, but let's keep in mind how recent they have become a top five team. I saw the team as a roster that could manage to pass the group stages but exit early on, let's say in the quarter-finals. Surprisingly, Luminosity headed straight to the semi-final by finishing number one in Group A and they even made it all the way to the grand final before eventually losing to Fnatic. Their semi-final match against Na'vi was considered so high class and unique that people will be talking about it for a long time. That is, in my eyes, the symbol of a great team.
One of the only competitors labeled as someone who could beat Fnatic's record, was the heavily improving Na'Vi. Unfortunately for them, their loss against Luminosity placed them under the same roof with each other in an unexpected turn of events. With Na'Vi expected to reach at least the semi-final and possibly even second place, the loss against Luminosity surprised them as much as anyone. Either way, this was only one tournament and they have the Major to look forward to.
Tempo Storm was sort of the wild card at this event, no one really knew how they would turn out as competition. Most people thought of them as cannon fodder but Tempo Storm obviously thought otherwise.. The Brazilians managed to defeat EnVyUs and Virtus.Pro in the group stage and had a good fight against Na'Vi in the quarter-final, with a 1-2 scoreline. If they follow this pace, we might have a second Brazilian team in the big leagues in the future.
By far the biggest surprise and disappointment at the same time, is EnVyUs. The massively talented roster was expected to be unstoppable but they've had both ups and downs since their creation. Their result at this event was just appalling, finishing at the complete bottom of their group. With this kind of result, it wouldn't surprise me if the organization considers another shuffle soon, although I would heavily advise against it since their roster is still one of the best in the scene. In any case, they need to change their current course and set sail back to stardom. As a team that was created to rival Fnatic in talent, they aren't showing the same results yet.
Honestly, the future isn't looking as vague as it was originally. Fnatic is constantly improving on their chemistry as a team with Flusha as an IGL. Until another team is able to catch them by surprise or outplay the current lineup, their winning spreewill continue. Currently, there are a lot of underdogs performing well, both in this tournament and in previous ones. However, favorites are slowly starting to weaken, except for Fnatic. With IEM Katowice 2016 behind us and six victories in a row for Fnatic, one can’t help wonder if they will continue their winning spree, especially with another $1,000,000 Major coming up.