DreamHack Masters Las Vegas Preview

DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, a $450,000 Counter Strike: Global Offensive tournament, will commence on Wednesday, February 15. The event will last five days, and features 16 teams: Virtus.pro, Astralis, Natus Vincere, FaZe, SK Gaming, Ninjas in Pajamas, Fnatic, Cloud9, OpTic, North, Mousesports, Gambit, TyLoo, compLexity, Misfits, and Renegades. Here's how things shape up.

Tournament specifics

Teams are divided into four groups. Each team will play every other team in its group once during the group stage. Teams that go 0-2 during the group stage will be eliminated from the tournament, while teams that go 1-1 will play decider matches. Teams that go 2-0 automatically advance to the quarterfinals. Here are the respective groups:

Group A: Astralis, North, OpTic Gaming, compLexity

Group B: Virtus.pro, Fnatic, Gambit, Misfits

Group C: SK Gaming, Ninjas in Pajamas, Cloud9, TyLoo

Group D: FaZe, Natus Vincere, mousesports, Renegades

The $450,000 prize pool will be divided as follows: first place wins $200,000, second place wins $100,000, third and fourth place wins $25,000 a piece, fifth through eighth place wins $15,000 for their teams, and the bottom eight wins $5,000 each.

The matches will stream live on Twitch.tv and YouTube. Event scheduling and other information can be found on the DreamHack Masters website.

New faces

In the past few weeks, professional Counter-Strike has seen a mad scramble of player movement between top teams. FaZe recently paid mousesports a record-shattering $500,000 to buy out superstar Nikola "NiKo" Kovac, Thiemo Brautigam of Dot Esports reports. The acquisition of NiKo, incredibly skilled with almost every weapon in the game, has FaZe fans buzzing with excitement, but NiKo will play with mousesports one last time at DreamHack Las Vegas. Since FaZe's Philip "aizy" Aistrup recently announced his departure for North and FaZe won't have NiKo yet, FaZe veteran Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad will step out of retirement for the team as their fifth member.

FaZe isn't the only team coming into DreamHack with a new roster. Fnatic recently reacquired Robin "flusha" Ronnquist and Jesper "JW" Wecksell, two historied Fnatic players that left the team in August for a brief stint with GODSENT. Over in Brazil, SK Gaming has swapped out former Major champion Lincoln "fnx" Lau for Joao "felps" Vasconcellos, formerly of Immortals. American organization OpTic has replaced Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz with Spencer "Hiko" Martin, Liquid's former in-game leader.

The pecking order

The early favorites at DreamHack Las Vegas, however, have all stayed intact. Astralis certainly have no reason to make any changes after their first Major win at ELEAGUE Atlanta, and will roll into Las Vegas with full confidence. Eager to avenge their ELEAGUE finals defeat at the hands of Astralis is Virtus.pro, who were two rounds away from completing a 2-0 sweep at the Major before eventually losing. IEM Oakland champion Ninjas in Pajamas and ESL One New York champion Natus Vincere also factor heavily at the top of pre-tournament rankings.

Further down the rankings are the dark horses, eager to prove they can slay the giants. One of them, Cloud9, is off to a rocky new year after shocking SK Gaming in the ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals. Since then, they've fallen to Immortals at the iBUYPOWER Masters and to FaZe at the ELEAGUE Major. But with talented young riflers Timothy "autimatic" Ta and Jake "Stewie2k" Yip at the helm, Cloud9 is equipped to make a deep run at DreamHack. And don't be surprised if fellow American squad OpTic turn heads at DreamHack, either. After winning Northern Arena Montreal in November, they upset Astralis in the ELEAGUE Season 2 Finals, and now they've added a veteran in-game leader in "Hiko." Also lurking in the shadows is Danish team North. Acquiring "aizy" gives a roster loaded with playmakers even more firepower to lean on.

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