StarSeries & i-League Season 8 is the latest in a long line of events that really need a new name, as the mouthful of awkwardness that currently sits under the Twitch stream isn’t helping anyone.
Terrible branding aside, this event has already produced some top-tier CS:GO, which is obviously great news, and some interesting headlines too, so let’s jump in and see who might be lifting the trophy come Sunday evening.
Check the full StarSeries & i-League bracket
Winners' Final - Fnatic v Evil Geniuses
We’re going to do what the spoiled kids do with their dinner and start with the best bit, which is the winners final between Evil Geniuses and Fnatic. This writer was not alone in suggesting the DreamHack win the Swedes achieved was something of a fluke, and enabled by the coaching rules being different at that event, so it’s time for some humble pie as JW and company have already achieved more than should have been the case.
The only loss they’ve suffered to this point would be the 0-2 to Renegades back on day one of the tournament, with Vitality, G2 and Mousesports among their victims. Fans of Melee will know there are some players or teams you just don’t want to meet in losers, as the fear of elimination gives them a power-up that can see Majors won and shocks accomplished. Fnatic also boast an amazing blend of younger talent and experience, with JW and flusha the definition of mentally untouchable.
As for EG, they have replaced Liquid as the de facto best team from North America in recent months, which is mainly due to their signing of Stanislaw, but also partly down to a decline from their countrymen. The spirit and sheer belief that Tarik and Stan give the team is really impressive, but EG are winning games in scrappy fashion, in contrast to the dominance Liquid demonstrated as world leaders.
Taking the victory into grand finals would be great for either side mentally, but it is probably more likely to be of benefit to EG, who are not as experienced as the Swedes and might need the mental edge more. Their loss to Ninjas in Pyjamas exposed a weakness that everyone knew was there, and a loss to Fnatic could see them tilt in a way which ends up being disastrous to their ambitions of winning the event outright.
Losers' semis - Furia v MIBR/Renegades
The first losers match of Saturday saw Furia run over a G2 side that continues to flatter to deceive, as is the way with France generally in CS:GO. The high point of Vitality was built on the genius of ZywOo, just as the greatness of kennyS used to carry teams he played on, but the scene overall isn’t significant at the top level right now due to the inability of orgs to assess how useful players can be to their teams.
As a result, it will be the impressive boys from down under or the new-look MIBR that make their way into losers finals, and either of those are going to make for an interesting contest. On paper, Fnatic should be vulnerable to MIBR or RNG, where EG are theoretically a step ahead of these teams right now, but at the end of a long LAN week anything can happen, and the MIBR team looks more together than it did with Coldzera for much of last year.
Coming through losers can have a galvanising effect on a team, and we know Renegades have been through the ringer a few times, so they are probably best equipped to make it out and into grands, if the draw goes their way. MIBR have talent still, but their mental fortitude is clearly not on the level it used to be, and kNgV is nowhere near as reliable a star as Coldzera was in his heyday.
We’d anticipate the Renegades team to come through the losers semi, but the reality is that EG should win this event from this point. Fnatic are in hot form and there is talent on the other teams, but Stan and his men were brought in to lift titles for the old money of NA esports and this is exactly the sort of situation they should be doing that in. Talent is also on their side, with Brehze in career form and the rest not far behind.
There is also the issue of momentum to consider, with the losers final the same day as Grands, and anyone who saw the last-but-one TI know that can go either way. If EG don’t come away with the title they’ll be annoyed, but we’ve basically got four teams that could win, and deserve to do so, left for our weekend of CS:GO.