ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals: Preview
Posted 2016-05-10 Dare_Dev1L
As the summer slowly edges towards us, we aren’t holding our breath just yet because we still have months of extravagant gaming to behold! From May 11-15, Fnatic will be attending the ESL Pro League Finals which will take place in Leicester and London, United Kingdom. The prize pool will consist of $512,000 with a whopping $200,000 given to the team that wins the event. Go team!
The event will be played in the classic GSL-style format with best-of-one's in the opening round and winners' matches and the elimination and decider matches will feature best-of-three's. The group seeding has been split fairly between each region. European and North American teams are being split into the two following groups, according to their placing in the online league. We will be placed in Group B with Swedish counterpart Ninjas in Pyjamas, as well as North American teams Cloud9 and Team Liquid. We will be playing against Cloud9 in the opening match, so it should be a good start for the team and for John 'wenton' Eriksson who will be making his LAN debut playing with Fnatic, while Olof recovers.
The boys are still fresh off their 6 event win streak that spanned since November 2015. The streak may have been slightly shrugged off since the apparent loss at the MLG Major Championship in Columbus but it definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly. The dominant streak shown by the team solidified their position as the best team in the world, even with the loss at the Major. That said, the result at the Major might not have been the best standing in terms of what the team is used to but it’s not at all bad. Considering the injury suffered by Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer and the team being out of focus, credit should still be given to Astralis for an amazing performance and a Quarter-Final finish is still within the top eight. I recently sat down with Freddy 'KRIMZ' Johansson where he claimed it to be the toughest loss in his career and that it took him a while to reset. The team is famously known to have the ability to refocus at any moment and I truly believe that with the right mindset and motivation they should be more than capable of leaving the Major behind them and starting a new dominant streak.
Now that we’ve discussed how Fnatic has performed at large events, we come to know how Fnatic has performed online so far with Olof on hiatus. The team started off having Niclas ‘PlesseN’ Plessen as a substitute shortly after the Major. As a relatively unknown player, he had a lot of experience with the players in FPL and further in his past. Unfortunately, his skill didn’t translate into team chemistry as much as the team had hoped, and they ultimately swapped him out for John 'wenton' Eriksson. The current form of the team since then has not been bad but is still not optimal. No one had expected the form to be the same as it was at it’s peak with Olof though, considering the years they spent together and Olof being the best player in the world in 2015. However, wenton is definitely not a bad player and has shown his muscle more than once in the aiming department. That said, their performance is varied and depends heavily on the day they’re playing and how well they can fill the void that they’re missing. Normally I’d say it depends on the teams they are against but how the team has performed so far has mostly depended on self-infliction and not the other team, mostly due to Fnatic knowing how to withstand opponents quite well.
What To Expect
The boys will be starting off in Group B so there’s good and bad news. The good news is that currently, the highest performing team is Luminosity who happens to be in Group A, so Fnatic will not have to worry about them until the playoffs and maybe even the Grand Final. Another piece of good news is that Astralis, a team who has had their aims sighted on Fnatic for the past two years and the team who took out Fnatic in the Quarter Final of MLG Columbus, is also in Group A. Normally I’d confidently state that Fnatic would not have to worry that much about any of these teams but with the team’s handicap there’s always a reason to look at the positive side. Group B’s main opponent appears to be NiP, who until recently were in the biggest slump of their careers. That must be good news right? Not exactly, it’s the bad news. While Na’vi and Fnatic have had their issues because of their top players being injured, NiP has been outperforming expectations and even won an event, as well as qualifying for this event. That said, I believe Fnatic are still on the higher pedestal in the domestic rivalry and they should be able to top Group B.
Previously, Team Liquid was a team to look out for as well, considering their result at the last Major. They have lost their best player, Ukrainian superstar Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev since then, and it has definitely shown in their current form. They still have the talent and the ability to cause upsets though, so there’s no reason to take them lightly. Our opening match is against Cloud9, who for the most part has not performed up to par with how they used to when being considered the best team in North America. For Fnatic that is good news however, as the team will have an easier opening match so they can prepare for the rest of the opponents in the group, allowing newcomer John 'wenton' Eriksson to ease into his role at Fnatic.
If all goes to plan, Fnatic should top Group B and make it to the playoffs with ease. After that, the two teams the boys will be looking out for are Luminosity and Astralis respectively. Assuming Group A goes according to plan without any upsets, the optimal route would be to face Astralis in the Semi-Finals, which would likely mean topping Group B and Astralis ending second in Group A. Due to previous fashion, Fnatic should have an easier time taking out the Danes late in the playoffs as that appears to be when Astralis loses the most focus. The Grand Final would most likely be against Luminosity, and that match can honestly go either way. Whether Fnatic wins or loses this match, it will still be a victory either way in their book, considering the team went into the competition without their best player.
All in all, there are a lot of question marks coming into this event. Fnatic is playing with a very similar lineup on paper but with a very different lineup mentally. Balanced with past achievements and current form, how well Fnatic will perform will be a gamble. As I said in my expectations, however, I do believe that Fnatic can make it all the way regardless of the handicap. This may not be a Major, but it will definitely be a big achievement for the team to make it all the way through and I am sure they are excited to prove they can. Will this be a start of a new record? Even without Olof being at the start of it? I believe it can be!