After an endearing fourth season of the Esports Championship Series, the teams and players will head to the tropical Mexican destination of Cancun, Mexico for the Season 4 Finals. Four teams from each respective region will duke it out over a total of $750,000 in prize money. With eight of the best teams in the world going head-to-head, there is sure to be some hotly contested matches taking place. Let’s take a look at how these groups should shake out.
Group A: Fnatic, mousesports, OpTic Gaming, Luminosity Gaming
Advancing: Fnatic and OpTic Gaming
The heavy hitters of Fnatic will be expected to ease through Group A, despite the recent success of mousesports. Meanwhile, OpTic Gaming will only play their third consecutive offline tournament as a team to cap off the year. Despite their lackadaisical performances throughout the year, both teams have found their individual successes to lead them in Cancun for the playoffs.
Throughout the 2017 year, Fnatic has hit highs and lows with group stage exits and major roster moves that included Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Dennis “dennis” Edman going their separate ways. The core-trio of Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson, Jesper “JW” Wecksell, and Robin “flusha” Ronnquist have finally found some ground working with the likes of Maikil “Golden” Selim and Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson, who both individually find new ways to win. The Swedes of Fnatic have finished with a second best at DreamHack Summer, following a grand final loss to SK Gaming. Of late, however, the team has found success with a 4th place finish at WESG Europe Finals and a 3-4th stand in Odense for the ESL Pro League Season 6 finals. The strong performance in Odense will land the Swedes in the playoff run once again as the momentum is in full swing for Fnatic.
In late August, OpTic Gaming received a whole new look with an all European team, including the former Ninja in Pyjamas in-game leader Adam “friberg” Friberg. The Green Wall plowed through the grueling regular season to make their third consecutive playoff berth, even if they only finished 5-6th. Despite the lack of offline experience as a team, the roster is stacked with elite players, including friberg former North star Emil “Magisk” Reif, to ease the roles for friberg to control. The team has followed through with consistency throughout Season 4 as well as the previous two tournaments to punch their tickets to the quarterfinals, however, coming up just short of a semifinal appearance.
Despite mousesports finding success on the back of the young star Robin “ropz” Kool, the team still struggles with consistency offline. They do have a win at ESG Tour Mykonos and a second-place finish at DreamHack Winter, but there isn’t much to speak of elsewhere. Whereas the Brazilians of Luminosity have a solid lineup but the core of the roster still does not have the experience to go the extra mile.
Group B: Cloud9, Team Liquid, FaZe Clan, Astralis
Advancing: Cloud9 and FaZe Clan
There is no doubt that FaZe Clan will be advancing to the quarterfinals as the team will be hungry after taking another grand final loss to SK Gaming in Odense at the ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals. The mixed-European squad have been dominant with the addition of Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs and olofmeister, winning ESL One New York and ELEAGUE Premier with a runner-up finish at IEM Oakland and ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals. However, during the teams tenure of dominance, the team experienced some results that varied through some individual performance. Nevertheless, FaZe Clan continued to top the groups and advance into the playoffs but a considerable gap still exists between them and SK Gaming, who has never lost to FaZe in a grand final. The good news for Finn “karrigan” Andersen and company is that the Brazilians will not be in Cancun, giving FaZe a wide-open window to end the year with a bang.
The North Americans of Cloud9 surged through the regular season to top off a back-to-back season of leading their region into the playoffs. Cloud9 have found a new identity thanks to Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Tarik “tarik” Celik bringing new adjustments to the team. The biggest adjustments by far have come from tarik in the in-game leader role, as he has led them to wins at DreamHack Denver and most-recent CyberPowerPC Winter Invitational. It has been nearly a month since the team has experienced any offline competition but the team has had plenty of time to prepare and continue their dominance through the group stage.
The Danes of Astralis will have a tough road ahead since they will be without their super-star sniper Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz as he is still on medical leave due to a nagging illness. Despite showing great results with stand-in Dennis “dennis” Edman at BLAST, the Danes’ first tournament with Ruben “RUBINO” Villarroel didn’t fare too well. Astralis is left with no confidence in the long-term playoff run as Team Liquid will share the same fate with a sudden roster change that has former Immortals in-game leader Lucas “steel” Lopes taking the helm. Although steel will bring a whole new look for Liquid, the team won’t have time to make the key adjustments that will allow them to make it out of the groups.
The weekend will be packed with great Counter-Strike action as the teams and players enjoy the lavish hotel in Cancun. The action will kick off Friday at 10:15 a.m. ET with Fnatic taking on Luminosity Gaming.