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Counter-StrikeCSPreview

Epic Epicenter — The story-lines and clashes to look out for

2
Epicenter looms, and with it comes some interesting story-lines and developments to keep our eyes on. The battle of the best, the legends on their last legs and restless rosters.
Saint Petersburg, Russia, eight teams fight for their share of $500,000 between October 24-29. Five out of the top six teams in the HLTV rankings will be in attendance with Faze Clan having the chance to make it the full six from the wildcard qualifier.

Faze will be joining Liquid , TyLoo and Vega Squadron in this four team wildcard qualifier. Two teams will join the confirm six teams in the main event, whilst the other two are sent packing.

There will be two best of three matches, from which the winners go through. The first match will see the current world number 1, Faze, taking on Tyloo, ranked 123. Meanwhile in the second match Liquid, ranked number 8, going head to head with Vega Squadron, who sit at number 23. On paper these matches should be but a formality, but if Counter-Strike has taught us anything of late, it is that anything can happen.

Battle of the best

I'm working on the assumption that Faze make it through against Tyloo and take part in the main event. Should this happen, the event will not only have the entire top 6 in attendance, but also give us the possibility of an Eleague Premier Final replay.

For those who missed it, the final was essentially a battle for the number one spot in the world, with Faze and Astralis sitting in first and second respectively. The first map, Cache, appeared to be all but over when the Danes led 12-3. However when a team has as many individual superstars as Faze they can never be counted out and an incredible 13-2 second half comeback ensued. Moving on to the second map Faze carried the momentum with them and took a commanding 12-3 lead out of the gates. Not keen to make the same mistakes as their opponents they only drop a further four rounds in the second half taking the map 16-7 and thus the final 2-0.

Over the two maps Håvard "rain" Nygaard was very much the bane of Astralis' life, finishing top of the scoreboard both times including an impressive 122 ADR on Overpass. He's far from the only star on the side and not the only one to post impressive scores, however Astralis will be hoping that on another day they will be able to keep him quiet.

Speaking of stars, Astralis will be looking for some of their own to shine should the two meet again. Over the two maps only one player came out positive on each, Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth in the first and Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye in the second. Whilst this would indicate the entire team needs to pull out a little more firepower, one man in particular, Nicolai "device" Reedtz could really be the difference between a loss and a victory.

Nicolai 'device' Reedtz can be the difference for Astralis.
Nicolai 'device' Reedtz can be the difference for Astralis.

G2 Esports , North and SK Gaming will be looking to challenge the top two, but should require some special performances that they haven't quite pulled off as of yet to manage it.

Legends on their last legs

The story of Virtus.pro is a long one with many chapters. The characters stay the same, but the story chops and changes from an adventure fantasy to a tragedy. Just like your favourite children's book, the heroes always seem to manage to come out on top, no matter the odds. But with every heavy flood you begin to wonder how much more the levees can hold.

Wiktor 'TaZ' Wojtas may struggle to keep the team together much longer
Wiktor 'TaZ' Wojtas may struggle to keep the team together much longer

The previous Polish powerhouses have posted poor performances in recent results. This includes losing 9-16 to Venatores to be knocked out of the WESG 2017 Poland. Other notable recent losses include AGO Gaming and Japaleno in the ESEA Mountain Dew League, and Ninjas in Pyjamas and Envyus in the Eleague Premier groups. Their run of poor results goes further back than this, but I think you get the point here. They are struggling hard.

This isn't the first time the lineup has struggled, granted, and last time they made it out with their roster intact. This may be the final flurry for the roster however, despite their steely resolve, as such under-performance must take a toll not only on the organization but the players themselves.

Restless rosters

Finally, the third backstory to keep an eye on for this event. There have been reports of change coming for the Brazilians after losing their rank as world number one and failing to recapture their world beating form.

Despite currently being miles ahead in ECS Season 4 North America, they have dropped out of Eleague Premier 9-12th losing to Heroic, only taking 3-4th at ESL One New York, 3rd at ESG Tour Mykonos and 5-8th at DreamHack Masters Malmo. They were the favourites at many of those events, with every loss people expecting them to bounce right back at the next event.

Will this be the final test for Joao 'felps' Vasconcellos in the SK lineup?
Will this be the final test for Joao 'felps' Vasconcellos in the SK lineup?

Seemingly due to this, there is supposedly a change set in motion that will see Ricardo "boltz" Prass replace Joao "felps" Vasconcellos. There is conflicting reports as to when and how certain this change is to happen, with some expecting it to be imminent while others suggest felps will stay with the roster at least through the Eleague Boston Major 2018.

The interesting points to watch at this event will be whether their form can return, and if not, how the players interact with each other both in and out of the game. Some of the reports suggest there is high tensions and with the team never being afraid to show their emotions, they may be clear to see.

Update:Restless indeed, the news broke late tonight that Boltz will indeed be playing at Epicenter in place of Felps. Felps however will return for the major.

Conclusion

All in all, whomever you support and regardless of what stage they are knocked out there is many reasons to keep a close eye on this event. Whether it be the prize pool, the calibre of the attendees or the fate of one of the longest standing teams, there is sure to be plenty of action.

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The French G2-player Dan "apEX" Madesclaire takes down the entire of Faze to win the round in the ECS Season 4 Europe-match.
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