Stories to Watch at the IEM Dallas Group Stage
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s next big tournament, IEM Dallas, begins on May 30th. Sixteen teams from across the world will gather in Dallas, Texas for a chance at the $250,000 prize pool, as well as a bevy of ESL Pro Tour and BLAST Premier circuit points. While it is difficult to follow up a biannual Valve Major, this tournament has some big implications for the CS:GO scene. First up is the IEM Dallas Group Stage.
Who is Playing at IEM Dallas?
The 16 teams present at IEM Dallas qualified via a mix of being an ESL Partner Team, having a top ESL World Ranking, or winning their last chance Regional Qualifiers. These teams are:
|ENCE||FaZe Clan||FURIA Esports||G2 Esports|
|Ninjas in Pyjamas||Astralis||Cloud9||Team Vitality|
|MOUZ||Team Liquid||Complexity Gaming||Imperial Esports|
Due to IEM Dallas coming just a week after the PGL Major Antwerp ended, multiple players and even full teams either couldn’t secure their visas to come to the United States in time, or had last-second COVID-related issues. Team replacements were chosen based on overall ESL World Ranking, while player replacements were chosen at their team’s discretion. Some very strong title contenders are left out, as well as some players who were integral to their squad’s success.
Here is a summary of all the replacements happening at IEM Dallas:
|Natus Vincere||replaced by||BIG|
|Entropiq||replaced by||Movistar Riders|
|Ninjas in Pyjamas||hampus||replaced by||ztr|
The first thing that jumps out is that Natus Vincere and Heroic, two of the top four rated teams in the world (according to HLTV), will not be attending IEM Dallas. The former cites visa issues, while the latter has pre-travel COVID-related problems. Na’Vi and Heroic are both fantastic teams when they are playing up to their potential, and to see both squads missing entirely from the event is unfortunate.
Heroic will be back in full force on June 8th for a Pinnacle Cup. However, Na’Vi’s situation is a lot more complicated. They recently benched in-game leader Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov for “high reputational risks for the club.” The short post states that Boombl4 was not benched for performance reasons, and that the team will have a replacement ready for BLAST Spring Finals starting on June 15th. Replacing an IGL is never a simple process, and Na’Vi could struggle for a bit as a result.
Other Impacted Teams
Two more top tier squads affected by the visa/health situation are ENCE and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Both of these teams qualified for the Champions Stage at PGL Major Antwerp and showed a major upwards trajectory. With Na’Vi and Heroic out of the picture, a potential Grand Finals appearance for both teams is very possible.
However, each side is missing arguably their best and most impactful player specifically. Lotan “Spinx” Giladi was a monster at Antwerp, putting up one of the best stat lines of the entire tournament. The rifler was one of the main reasons that ENCE’s top four finish came to be, and missing him will certainly be a massive blow to ENCE’s fire power.
NiP is down their in-game leader Hampus “Hampus” Poser. Hampus is an IGL unlike any other, frequently putting himself in key fragging situations for his team. Hampus plays as an all-purpose lurker, entry fragger, and clutcher depending on the round. Without him, its hard to imagine this NiP team having anywhere near the same direction.
With Na’Vi and Heroic gone, and ENCE and NiP crippled, the field has opened massively for other teams to swoop in and claim a high finish at IEM Dallas. These four teams were all in the Champions Stage of PGL Major Antwerp, and with Team Spirit and Copenhagen Flames also not attending, only two of those top eight teams are here in full force.
A Tale of Two Groups
IEM Dallas’s Group Stage has been separated into two groups of eight. Each group will be a double elimination bracket, with the top three teams from each advancing to the playoffs. Group A contains only European teams (and one Oceanic), while Group B has every North American, CIS, and Brazilian squad.
Group A is the much more difficult group on paper. Not only do they have FaZe Clan and ENCE in there, G2 Esports, Team Vitality, and Astralis all bring massive upset potential to the table. On the opposite side, FURIA Esports and Cloud9 should be sure shots for a top three finish. Normally, NiP would be in that conversation, but the loss of Hampus means that anyone could realistically slip in.
FaZe Clan’s Tournament to Lose
One of those teams is the currently indomitable FaZe Clan. FaZe are coming off of back-to-back-to-back championships at IEM Katowice, ESL Pro League S15, and PGL Major Antwerp. The international squad is definitively the best team in CS:GO right now, and with a lot of the top level competition either gone or hurting, IEM Dallas should be their easiest trophy this year.
FaZe Clan already have two out of four IEM/ESL tournament wins towards the Intel Grand Slam. They will certainly be looking to add to that total at IEM Dallas. If FaZe can do the expected, they’ll have seven whole tries to win just one more and claim the coveted Intel Grand Slam.
Now, that’s not to say that they can get complacent. There are plenty of teams at IEM Dallas that can beat FaZe Clan on their day. But if FaZe show up nearly as strong as they’ve been over the past few months, they’ll likely be hoisting their fourth trophy of 2022.
The Door Swings Open
There are multiple teams at IEM Dallas who are strong on paper, but just haven’t quite found a consistent winning formula yet this year. With the field now wide open for almost anyone to earn a top six and playoff berth, we’ll be looking for those teams to make their move.
G2 Esports is one of those teams. They started out the year hot with a second-place finish at IEM Katowice, but haven’t been able to replicate that level of success. Star player Nikola “NiKo” Kovac just watched his former team win the Major that he couldn’t, which is as good a motivation as any. If he can replicate the performance he had at Katowice earlier this year, G2 should be able to comfortably make playoffs.
FURIA Esports is another team that should be feared coming into IEM Dallas. The Brazilian squad is the only team from the Antwerp top eight, aside from FaZe, present here without complications. They notably qualified for the Champions Stage with a 2-1 win over G2. While FURIA couldn’t get past a surging Team Spirit, they are still one of the most aggressive teams in CS:GO. FURIA are in the easier of the two groups, so they are definitely expected to make top six overall.
The IEM Dallas Group Stage begins on May 30th at 12:00 P.M. ET. The initial day one matchups are:
MOUZ vs ENCE
G2 Esports vs Movistar Riders
FaZe Clan vs LookingForOrg
Astralis vs Team Vitality
FURIA Esports vs Imperial Esports
Team Liquid vs Cloud9
Ninjas in Pyjamas vs BIG
MIBR vs Complexity Gaming