There are eight teams left in the fifth season of ECS, and each will be going for the lion's share of $660,000 dollars this weekend in London. Yet only one can win, and not all games are created equal. We break down the teams in our power rankings.
Astralis are on top of the world right now, fresh of three consecutive final appearances and two finals. Already sparking conversation about its inclusion in the list of the best teams of all time, the Danish squad has never looked as strong as they do now, and are consequently the favourite in any tournament they enter. That said, expect Astralis to weaken with time. Much of its success stems from its creativity with grenades, which will surely be imitated and adapted by other teams. However, Astralis is clever, and the team as taken a few weeks of break, giving themselves time to prepare new strategies to prevent being countered. In truth, this will be a defining moment in this roster's legacy. Can the squad dominate through the whole summer? If they win this tournament after months of being the top dog, you bet they can.
While FaZe have officially brought Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer Gustafsson back from his spring hiatus, he will not be attending this tournament, and Jørgen "cromen" Robertsen will serve as a stand-in. This certainly weakens the team, and some may be surprised to see this FaZe lineup so high on this list. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind. For one, FaZe with Richard "Xizt" Landström would've been second on this list, and cromen showed some promising talent at EPL Season 7 Finals. That said, he did not convert his momentum into DreamHack Austin, which was disappointing for Heroic overall. But while cromen may not be olofmeister, his skill level is certainly comparable to that of Xizt. Crucially, since FaZe's style does not require as much preparation as other squads, it should be a simple case of plug and play for its stand-in. And with the holy trinity of Håvard "rain" Nygaard, Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, FaZe have more firepower than any team below them despite its stand-in. Coming into ECS, the pressure is off for FaZe because of its roster situation. As we saw in Sydney, this can be very beneficial to these players, and FaZe remains the biggest threat to Astralis at this tournament.
3. Team Liquid
Despite recently being bested by its regional rivals NRG during the StarSeries playoffs, Team Liquid enters the ECS Season 5 Finals as one the world's best performing teams. Outside of a disastrous performance in Marseille, Liquid has made the playoffs of every offline event it has attended this year. This includes a marvelous run to the finals at the EPL Season 7 Finals. Although there were some questionable losses from Liquid in Kiev, the Americas team still houses some of the region's most skilled players as well as one of the deepest playbooks. Liquid also seem to be one of the teams that has responded well to the addition of Dust2 to the competitive map pool which provides some flexibility. While Liquid have the tall task of dealing with Astralis in the group stage, it should have an edge over a Cloud9 team that is in the middle of making a roster move, as well as a Fnatic that is in flux after adding a player and changing roles.
Not so long ago, Fnatic was one of the best teams in the world. A couple months later, after nearly cutting Maikil "Golden" Selim and actually cutting Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson in favour of Xizt as its new in-game leader, the roster looks a tad underwhelming. While the key pieces of the machine remain, Lekr0 brought to the team much needed explosiveness in force-buy and entry situations, often bludgeoning a way into the round. While he wasn't Fnatic's best player, Lekr0 was certainly one of its most valuable assets, and cutting him instead of former in-game leader Golden is puzzling. On one hand, Fnatic has added a veteran in-game leader to replace the one the old guard on the team don't respect. At the same time, Fnatic has replaced one of its entries, Lekr0, with its former in-game leader and mediocre fragger Golden. The upgrade at the in-game leader position is debatable, but the shift in the entry role is a net loss. While Fnatic still has one of the world's most dangerous players in Freddy "KRIMZ"Johansson, his supporting cast seems to have taken a hit coming into ECS. Fnatic's success will hinge on Xizt's ability to use JW and Golden effectively to find openings into the round; without an improvement from both players, Fnatic will struggle to make a deep run at this tournament.
The men over at NRG just delivered a big performance with a second place finish at the StarSeries i-League Season 5 Finals. After months of fantastic online play yet relatively neutral offline results, NRG has now made some big progress in the world rankings. Star players Ethan "nathE" Arnold and Tsvetelin "CERq" Dimitrov played excellent in their finals run at StarSeries with Vince "Brehze" Cayonte continuing to play at a consistently high level. Even Jacob "FugLy" Medina looked much improved in the team's last outing. They team continues to operate well tactically and it seems this will only be strengthened with the addition of coach Chet "ImAPet" Singh. Given the mystery surrounding how well the new G2 can perform as well as the constant struggles Luminosity has had offline, NRG should have a solid shot at another playoffs appearance in London. The only thing stopping NRG from a higher ranking here is the need for more big offline finishes. The fact of the matter is that the core of fnatic has had a great past few months. NRG could certainly change things with a big result at ECS combined with what we have seen so far.
We all know that Cloud9 is in a transition phase with Pujan "FNS" Mehta being demoted to a stand-in for this event. This combined with the team's recent struggles in offline play make it hard to expect much from them as they head to London. There is certainly a chance that Cloud9's stars will perform well in what is now a "dead team" and therefore a fairly pressure free environment. Even with that in mind it's hard to put much stock in Cloud9 until they make a decision on what changes they want to make long term. Given the difficulty of the teams in its group, there is really only an outside chance that Cloud9 reaches the playoffs.
7. G2 Esports
With G2, we're kind of at a loss for words. All but two of the members of the previous French lineup remain: Kenny "kennyS" Schrub and Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro. On one hand, the roster is exciting due to kennyS' reunion with Richard "shox" Papillon, as well as the long awaited return to the top tier of in-game leader Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans. On the other hand, the roster feels clunky, as the three new players haven't played at tournaments for quite a few months now. Given the big names, G2 is a team to keep an eye on, but the lack of recent data leaves us in the dark when it comes to how good G2 will be, and how fast.
Luminosity recently was able to pick up a very experienced player to lead the team in the form of Lucas "steel" Lopes, yet the Brazilian squad has still struggled to produce notable results. While Luminosity did do well in the ECS regular season and managed to qualify for DreamHack Open Valencia, the team looked in rough shape recently at DreamHack Open Austin. Luminosity has also fallen short in several qualifiers over the last few months and thus has not made many offline appearances. On top of that, the core of the team has never made it past the group stage of an international tournament and have also often taken group stage exits in North American events. Unfortunately, there just isn't much going for the Brazilians as they head to London with some tough opponents in front of them.