This article is part of our Upcoming Schedule series.
After a long road of qualifiers and anticipation, the PGL Major Krakow is upon us. We've got a full week of top level Counter-Strike action to look forward to and it all starts with the Swiss group stage.
Now, since I start doing previews for the last few events, I am 9-for-16 in group stage predictions. That's pretty good if you ask me. I'd like to see you try and do better (but not really because you probably would indeed pick better than me).
Before I get into my picks, let's take a look at the full slate of teams. Competing in Krakow will be Gamibt Esports, mousesports, Fnatic, FlipSid3 Tactics, Virtus.pro, Vega Squadron, SK Gaming, PENTA Sports, FaZe Clan, (geez is this list still going?) BIG, North, Cloud9, Natus Vincere, G2 Esports, Astralis, and Immortals. That's a ton of talent, but only eight will punch through to the playoffs. Let's break it on down.
Astralis: As the defending Major champions, it's hard to bet against these Danes. While they most recently came up short against SK Gaming in the semifinals of ECS Season 3 back in June, they have spent the last month practicing solely for this event. They even skipped ESL Cologne to keep getting reps in. Look for them to come out swinging.
FaZe Clan: While Nikola "NiKo" Kovac and FaZe were still unable to shake the SK-shaped monkey of their backs at ESL Cologne with another semifinal loss, they should still have no problem getting to the playoffs. Now if they could just avoid SK on their way to the grand finals...
G2 Esports: Oh, G2. After a big win at the ESL Season 5 Finals, things have been all downhill since. They finished 3-1 in the group stages of ESL Cologne only to fall 0-2 against Natus Vincere in the quarterfinals. I feel as though this prediction will eventually fall through given G2's declining performance, but for now I will trust in Kenny "kennyS" Schrub and his hair to see the team through (at this point I'm going to keep the running hair joke just to aggravate my boss).
(Editor's note: It's working.)
SK Gaming: Back-to-back ESL Cologne champions. Winners of three straight tournaments (DreamHack Summer, ECS Season 3 Finals, ESL Cologne) on the current European swing. These Brazilians are playing like their vaunted mid-2016 selves and show no signs of stopping.
Virtus.pro: Okay, look, I know. These guys bombed out of ESL Cologne without a single win in the group stages. But I just can't count out the Polish Plow. I mean, look at that face. Does it look like he wants to lose again? I have faith!
Natus Vincere: Good old, Na'Vi. They had a good start to ESL Cologne, with a 3-1 group stage and a 2-0 win over G2. But then they got absolutely dusted by Cloud9 in the semifinals. But hey they're good in the group stages, so this should (hopefully) be a solid prediction? Clearly my confidence in these picks is waning.
Immortals: This is a tougher one. After barely squeezing into Krakow in the Offline Qualifier, Immortals won just a single game in the group stages at ESL Cologne. There's still just something about the other Brazilians that just make you want to root for them. Hm, am I putting too much emotion in these predictions? *shrugs*
BIG: This is my coin flip prediction. Outside of the seven above, I was struggling to figure out who I wanted to round out the eight playoffs teams. So I'm taking a shot in the dark and going with BIG. They went 3-1 at the Offline Qualifier to even get here, with strong wins over Immortals and Team Liquid to boot. I will take full credit for this if they make it out of groups, but we will forget this ever happened if they don't.
So there you have it. Those are the eight teams that will definitely (probably not) make it to the payoffs of the PGL Major. Regardless of the veracity of my picks, this should be an incredibly fun event. Things get underway this Sunday at 5 a.m. ET with Gambit Esports taking on mousesports.