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IEM Sydney has been Unpredictable moving into Playoffs, an Interesting Start for CS2

Zakaria Almughrabi

IEM Sydney, the first big esports event of CS2, is about to enter its Playoffs stage. There was an inordinate number of mysteries coming into this tournament. This is the first time the esports world is seeing a game swap/sequel like this, and on a huge scale no less. Counter-Strike 2 appears to simply be a modernization of it’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive predecessor, but there’s a lot more going on.

IEM Sydney Playoffs

Image Copyright: Viola Schulder, ESL FACEIT Group

The maps, weapons, and mechanics are all outwardly the same, just with a new coat of paint. This already makes for a stark difference in magnitude of the game transition compared to title swaps within the same genre. For instance, there was enough different between CS:GO and VALORANT that an entirely different kind of player could excel at the latter while struggling at the former, and vice versa.

However, CS2 is much more than a copy-paste. The entire flow of the matches is different thanks to a change from MR15 to MR12, essentially making the average pro game around 10 minutes shorter. Additionally, the game’s feel is notably different than before. Player models seem to slide out faster, hit registration appears to have changed, and the new grenades have added more options to play with.

Already we’re seeing a shift to more aggressive play to abuse peeker’s advantage. Teams have new grenade line-ups and set plays off the back of this. The shortening of the matches makes winning the crucial swing rounds even more important. AWP players are also struggling out of the gate due to the raised difficulty of shooting aggressors first. There’s even more nuances that can be discussed in depth, but you get the point.

The Known Quantities

It’s understandable to think that some teams would look better, some worse, and some the same in terms of form coming over from CS:GO. IEM Sydney has proven this already with its Group Stage results. Some teams that were in top championship form in Global Offensive have made it through. G2 Esports and ENCE are both part of this club.

MOUZ has also continued their meteoric rise despite the game swap. They’ve earned a round one bye, securing a top four finish following their recent win at ESL Pro League S18. Conversely, the team the bested in the EPL finals did not make it through. Natus Vincere has fallen short. Granted, their star player Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyljev is not in attendance, so this one comes with a huge asterisk.

Team Vitality and Cloud9 also failed to make it into the playoffs of IEM Sydney. Cloud9’s newest project of bringing in two former NAVI players has yet to bear fruit. The swap to CS2 doesn’t appear to have helped or hurt them that much yet. Much like the game itself, they appear to just need more time to get an accurate read on their ceiling.

Vitality on the other hand is an interesting case. Yes, they did just lose their previous coach and their new one couldn’t arrange travel in time for IEM Sydney. You would still expect a team of this caliber to do better than last place though. It can be argued that their second loss to FaZe Clan in lower bracket was a 2-1, but Vitality hasn’t really looked that impressive yet.

The New Arrivals

As for Vitality’s first loss, it was handed by the brand new BetBoom Team. This is a CIS squad made up of members from pretty much every corner of the CIS CS:GO world. The in-game leader is Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov formerly of Gambit Esports/Cloud9. Their other players are Aleksandr “KaiR0N-“ Anashkin from, Pavel “s1ren” Ogloblin from Team Spirit, Aleksandr “zorte” Zagodyrenko from ForZe, and a new-to-tier one player in Danil “danistzz” Roslyakov            .

This all-Russian squad has immediately turned heads. In addition to Vitality, they swept GamerLegion and very nearly took down MOUZ in the Group A finals. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new CIS team rise to title contender in the CS scene. Aside from the (Outsiders) surprise Major win, the team that last did so with consistency was nafany’s Gambit back in the online era. It’s very possible that the swap to CS2 has accelerated this young and hungry squad. All the players have something to prove, both to their old teams and the new CS2 world.

Speaking of something to prove, the other big surprise of the IEM Sydney Group Stage is Complexity Gaming. The only remaining tier one NA CS team seems to have transitioned to CS2 quite well so far. They took down Cloud9 and Monte, the latter of which in a 2-0 with back-to-back overtime maps.

Complexity’s performance has come off the back of their riflers. The former Team Liquid duo of Michael “Grim” Wince and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski both had amazing performances. EliGE is even in the top seven rated players at the event so far. They’ve also had help from Ricky “floppy” Kemery who pushed them through the Monte series. Now, Complexity is looking to keep their hot streak going against BetBoom team.