Stories to Watch at ESL Pro League S16 Group C Edition
ESL Pro League S16 continues with Group C beginning on September 14. The second to last group of six teams will battle it out for just three playoff spots, and a first-round bye for the top finisher. Group B was incredibly top heavy. In contrast, Group C is essentially a group of life. Almost any combination of teams could make it out.
|ESL Pro League S16 Group C Participants
Astralis Back in the Driver’s Seat
Ever since the legacy Astralis roster went their separate ways, the Danish organization hasn’t looked the same. They tried filling missing spots with a variety of players, but just couldn’t recreate the same magic of the old lineup. Astralis found the final missing piece, an AWPer to finally fill Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz’s shoes, in the middle of last season.
With Asger “farlig” Jensen’s arrival, Astralis finally had a team to work with. It was not an instant fix however. Astralis grinded the rest of the season up until the player break without much success. That was until the very end, when they took back-to-back top four finishes at Roobet Cup and IEM Cologne.
Astralis have been on the rise, and with a group as wide open as Group C, the chances of them taking first seed are very high. They are not overwhelming favorites by any means, but the classic Danish consistency could be enough to push them into that top spot. The competition will be stiff, including some from their main Danish rivals.
How Good are Heroic?
Heroic is the other all-Danish team present in Group C. This roster has been together for a long time now, and seen high highs and low lows. Currently, they are in a bit of a downswing, as indicated by a drought of high placements at big events ever since IEM Katowice in February. While they did make top eight at PGL Major Antwerp, a very disappointing end to IEM Cologne prompted a roster change.
Heroic’s newest addition is Jakob “Jabbi” Nygaard, formerly of Copenhagen Flames. He is replacing Ismail “refrezh” Ali, who was tied for the least tenured player on the roster. As for how this change will affect the roster, it’s hard to imagine that this will be enough to instantly reverse Heroic’s fortunes. Jabbi is five years younger than refrezh was, but raw mechanics was not the main issue that Heroic was facing.
Overall, this team is still very strong on paper. They have tons of experience together as a core and a consistent playstyle. Whether or not Heroic will show up ready to take first seed is up in the air. They’ll definitely be shooting for at least a playoff berth.
ENCE Rebuild Begins Again
Just as ENCE became a consistent threat to the top levels of CS:GO, their roster has seen multiple changes. Their star player, Lotan “Spinx” Giladi, was nabbed by Team Vitality over the player break. Replacing him is perhaps the most interesting roster addition in the scene to look at. Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia of the Movistar Riders is ENCE’s superstar replacement.
ENCE’s previous AWPer, Aleksander “hades” Miskiewiscz, was benched as a result. To fill in the missing rifler slot, ENCE picked up Valdemar “valde” Vangså from OG. As for why the decision to pick up a Spanish AWPer who’s biggest role was on Movistar Riders was made, SunPayus really made a name for himself at IEM Cologne.
He was the driving force behind Movistar’s insane run from the Play-In Stage all the way to the IEM Cologne semifinals. While they were inevitably stopped by eventual champions FaZe Clan, Movistar really put themselves on the radar with that performance. Losing Spinx will not be an easy blow to take. But if SunPayus and valde can gel with the rest of the team, ENCE will certainly be a threat at Pro League.
MOUZ Keep Climbing with Young Talent
One of the biggest CS:GO academy team success stories of recent years comes from the MOUZ NXT roster. This team has now had three players promote to the main roster, replacing established talent. First was Ádám “torzsi” Torzsás replacing Frederik “acoR” Gyldstrand in Janurary. Jon “JDC” de Castro took Nathan “NBK-“ Schmitt’s spot in March. And just over two weeks ago, Dorian “xertioN” Berman came in over Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras.
Despite consistently adding inexperienced players to their main lineup, MOUZ has only been getting better and better. Their crowning achievement, a playoff berth at IEM Cologne in July, solidified the fact that developing and integrating new talent was the route MOUZ wanted to go. Not only do MOUZ have a borderline top 10 ranked team in the world, it’s likely one of the cheapest rosters, even within the top 15.
MOUZ are still a ways away from competing for championships. However, teams would do well not to underestimate a squad of youngsters who have mechanical skill and in-built synergy. Lest we forget what Gambit was able to do when they were promoted to their org’s main roster. For MOUZ, nabbing a playoff spot here is the ideal with gaining as much experience as possible as the overarching goal.
Complexity Still Struggling
While the top four teams in Group C could all stake a claim for first seed on their day, the drop off happens at Complexity Gaming. This team, comprised of tenured North American (and South African) players, has not been exceptional at any point since their signing. It’s strange that we’ve had no signs of life from them at all, since there are some genuinely talented players on this roster.
In the end, the squad just hasn’t been gelling together. A roster change was made during the player break, AWPer Paytyn “junior” Johnson was benched for Håkon “hallzerk” Fjærli who was bought from Dignitas. This move is uninspired to say the least, as hallzerk has been playing for six years and hasn’t shown signs of being a tier one AWPer.
Complexity comes into Group C as a long shot to advance to the playoffs. They’ll be trying to do better than they did at ESL Pro League S15, where they went 1-4 and finished just above fellow NA team Evil Geniuses.
HEET Bring the Heat (For a Bottom Seed)
Sixth seed teams in ESL Pro League groups are often looked at as fodder, free wins, or teams who are just there for the experience with low likelihood of winning. HEET is honestly much more than that. This all French team is comprised of players who have previously played, or could play on higher tier regional teams.
Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro is leading the squad, with new addition Audric “JACKZ” Jug bringing some firepower and experience. Both of these players are most famous for their time on G2 Esports before the team expanded to international territory.
HEET are easily an upset threat within a very tight Group C. Teams will need to focus on competitive matchups that they think they’ll need to win. A match against the perceived sixth seed could blow up in any of these team’s faces with HEET on the other side.
ESL Pro League S16 Group C begins on September 14 at 6:30 A.M ET. The initial matchups are:
MOUZ vs Heroic
Complexity Gaming vs Astralis
ENCE vs HEET