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Stories to Watch at ESL Pro League S13: Group B

Zakaria Almughrabi

Group B at ESL Pro League Season 13 begins on Saturday, March 13. Much like Group A, Group B also features multiple teams who have made recent roster changes. ENCE, FaZe Clan, G2 Esports, mousesports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Team Vitality will be fighting for the three total playoff spots with the coveted first seed as the grand prize. The favorites in this group are much more apparent, so let’s take a look at the most important storylines to follow at ESL Pro League Season 13.

ESL Pro League Group B

With ESL Pro League Group B right around the corner, Vitality will have to readjust to only having five players. (Photo Credit PGL)

G2’s New Game Plan

On March 4, G2 made the announcement that were moving on from Kenny “kennyS” Schrub. The French AWPer’s duties will be taken over by their newest signing in Nikola “NiKo” Kovač who will be playing a hybrid role. Audric “JACKZ” Jug has been moved back onto the main roster full time as a result.

When NiKo was still playing for FaZe Clan, they didn’t have a full time AWPer. Instead, NiKo took the big green into his hands whenever it was needed. Upon his move to G2, that was no longer the case since it would always end up with kennyS.

KennyS wasn’t performing terribly with the AWP during recent months. He had stints of inconsistency, but he was serviceable for the most part. The problem came when G2 didn’t have the cash for one. KennyS was much weaker with an AK-47 or M4 in hand. This game from BLAST Spring a month ago is an example of that. G2 were constantly having their economy broken and as a result rarely had the money to get kennyS his AWP. He earned three total kills in that Nuke game, none of them coming from rifles, pistols, or SMG’s.

Moving NiKo to his usual hybrid AWP/rifler role and bringing a main rifler back into the roster should help G2 remedy these issues. In their statement, G2 said this change “gives us a more open-minded approach while also providing more flexibility within our game and the current meta.” Hopefully G2 is able to come out swinging with this new approach and be the powerhouse everyone expects.

ESL Pro League Group B

Jackz is back in G2’s main roster full time. Can he and NiKo help G2 adapt to the meta? (Photo Credit ESL)

Vitality Back to Five

Six-man rosters have been rising in popularity over the back half of 2020 and early in 2021. However, a blog post by Valve in late January put a damper on things in an instant. When viewing the full details of the 2021 RMR system, this paragraph stands out:

“Teams can register a reserve player for each event. Between matches, and subject to tournament rules, the team can sub the reserve player in at a cost of 20% penalty to points earned at the event, and can sub the reserve player out for the original player at no additional cost.”

Basically, even if a team has a sixth man reserved in advance, it will still cost 20% of their earned RMR points to sub them in during an event. This essentially kills the six-man roster for the time being. Teams like Astralis came out quickly saying that they would move back to a five-man roster, but Vitality took their time.

The reason is that their sixth player, Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom, has been integral to their success since he joined the team. Vitality implemented a system where Nivera, Richard “shox” Papillon, and Kevin “misutaaa” Rabier would all rotate based on the map being played. An example of this was during the BLAST Premier Fall Finals where Vitality took down Astralis in three maps. Misutaaa and shox played Vertigo, Nivera and shox played Dust2, and Nivera and misutaaa played Inferno. This rotation allowed Vitality to have players practice more and specialize for their specific maps.

Now that Vitality is down to five, shox and misutaaa must quickly reacclimate to the maps that they previously didn’t have to play. While they are certainly capable of it, Vitality have already been inconsistent so far in 2021. A big change like this could take some time to fall into place.

FaZe Need to Get Up to Speed

FaZe Clan on the other hand finally have their stable roster together. They have been trying to get things in order for some time now. Initially, they went with Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye to try and replace NiKo’s firepower. However, Kjaerbye wasn’t able to put up the raw numbers that FaZe needed. Additionally, their in-game leader Olaf “olafmeister” Gustafsson was in and out of the roster due to breaks. He decided to leave the main roster for good in mid-February, leaving FaZe floundering for a replacement IGL.

The solution to both of these issues came recently. FaZe signed star Team Liquid player Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken in early February. He’s been good so far, having the best rating of anyone on the team by a decent margin. He’s even had true pop-off performances against some of the strongest teams in CS right now.

Replacing olafmeister is their former IGL from 2016-2018, Finn “karrigan” Andersen. Karrigan has shown in the past that he is very capable of taking rosters and elevating them to something greater than the sum of their parts. However, his teams are also notorious for struggling when they get figured out. This FaZe roster’s debut at IEM Katowice didn’t go too well. They were eliminated after just three matches in the group stage and exited the tournament in 9th-12th.

FaZe Clan have had almost a month to get this new roster in order. While they still might be working out some issues, it’s important for them to come out and show that they are improving and will be able to contest at the top level of Counter-Strike. With three advancement spots available, FaZe Clan will certainly be gunning for a playoff berth.

ESL Pro League Group B

Karrigan will be trying to lead FaZe Clan to the same heights that they reached in his first stint with the team. (Photo Credit ESL)

ESL Pro League Group B begins on March 13 at 6:00 A.M. EST. The day one matchups are:

mousesports vs ENCE

G2 Esports vs Ninjas in Pyjamas

Team Vitality vs FaZe Clan