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CS:GO

Stories to Watch at ESL Pro League Season 13: Group C

Zakaria Almughrabi

ESL Pro League Season 13 Group C is about to begin. There is an interesting mix of teams present, three from Brazil, two from the CIS, and one international roster. The six squads fighting for playoffs are Cloud9, FURIA Esports, Gambit Esports, MiBR, Natus Vincere, and Team One. All eyes will be on the CIS teams to see if they can continue their dominance from IEM Katowice, especially Gambit.

ESL Pro League Group C

Gambit will be looking to continue their rise to the top, this time with a target on their backs. (Image Credit HLTV)

Gambit’s Rise to Prominence

Last month saw Gambit pull off an unforgettable run at IEM Katowice, winning one of the most prestigious tournaments in Counter-Strike. As a result, Gambit has catapulted into the top five ranked teams globally. It truly has become a big threat to any team. While playing at this level and having the appropriate respect given to you is nice in theory, there are some major points to keep in mind for Gambit as it moves forward.

From a gameplay standpoint, teams will now be privy to studying your tape. Really well-performing teams must constantly evolve their game to not be figured out by the countless opponents looking to dethrone them. Gambit has some veteran presence in their coaching staff and with Abay “Hobbit” Khassenov, so it should understand this fact. This will be a good first look at how Gambit tries to move forward despite having a target on its back.

Another thing to consider is that the added pressure of needing to perform at a high level constantly while being in the spotlight could affect the rest of Gambit mentally. Aside from Hobbit, this is the first time the Gambit team has been this prominent in their young careers. They were certainly respected back home in the CIS, but the international stage is a whole new ball game. Although there are no big dogs from EU or NA present in this group, Gambit will have to face them eventually since making playoffs is definitely on their to-do list.

Cloud9 Need to Come Online

It has been around six months since Cloud9’s rebuild under Henry “HenryG” Greer began. It hasn’t won a single tournament since they started playing together. Cloud9 also hasn’t placed higher than 5th-8th at an S-Tier and hasn’t made a single finals appearance at one of the smaller events it participated in, like Nine to Five or Snow Sweet Snow. It also recently failed to qualify for DreamHack Masters Spring, losing to the Bulgarian VOYVODA roster.

All this is to say that Cloud9 doesn’t really have anything to show for its efforts yet. The team currently sits at rank 26 worldwide, right between paiN Gaming and Copenhagen Flames. Granted, C9 did have to make some abrupt changes to its roster, picking up Erick “Xeppaa” Bach in place of Özgür “woxic” Eker and coach Chris “Elmapuddy” Tebbit in place of Aleksandar “kassad” Trifunovic. It has been almost two months since those changes came in, so they have had a little time to adjust.

While you would want to keep giving Cloud9 the benefit of the doubt, saying it will get better as time goes on, it is a bit worrying not to have seen any results or at least notable improvement. The project is starting to look further away from its main goal of building a hyper-competitive international roster. If Cloud9 wants to change minds and hearts alike, it needs to start performing. Looking at Group C, it should be able to contend for that final playoff bubble seed. Three wins are what they’re looking for. However, when your first two matches are against Na’Vi and Gambit, you either start with a bang or go down 0-2.

ESL Pro League Group C

Cloud9 needs to start performing at a higher level. it has the capability to, but can the team put it together at Pro League? (Image Credit HLTV)

Brazilian Brawl

Unfortunately for Brazilian Counter-Strike fans, all three of their teams have been seeded into Group C. FURIA is the only one to be in the top 30 teams worldwide and is the favorite to make playoffs. However, the BOOM Esports turned MiBR squad does have some upset potential. Team One is decent, but its overall goal will be to get as many wins on the board as possible.

FURIA is still a very threatening squad to go up against. However, it seems to have hit a metaphorical ceiling as of late. Last year, they were rated highly often due to winning multiple NA Online events then placing well enough at the later international events. However, FURIA’s recent placings have been alright at best. It hasn’t placed better than the top eight at a tournament so far in 2021. Granted, it’s only attended S-Tiers, so that bar is pretty high, but you would still expect more from Brazil’s best. It will be looking to make a big impact in this group and hopefully carry that momentum into the playoffs.

It has been two months since MiBR acquired BOOM Esports’ roster. Since then, the team has done admirably in the tough matches they were thrown into. MiBR took a map off of Na’Vi at BLAST and swept Fnatic at IEM Katowice. While it may not be a favorite to advance here at ESL Pro League, MiBR is not to be underestimated.

***

ESL Pro League Group C begins on March 19 at 7:00 A.M. EST. The initial matches are:

Gambit Esports vs. MiBR

Natus Vincere vs. Cloud9

FURIA vs. Team One