IEM Katowice Minor Playoffs - Preview
Updated: Jan 27, 2019
With the eight minor spots being filled by NRG, FURIA, Renegades, Grayhound, AVANGAR, Spirit, ENCE, and Vitality there is still hope for those who fell just short in 3rd place. The IEM Katowice Minor Play-in has given hope to four teams; Winstrike, North, ViCi, and Envy however only two will be making it out. Each team put up an incredibly good fight, and have just one more shot at proving why they deserve to make it all the way to the major. Bellow I will be giving you a run down of all four teams and how likely they are to be taking one of the two spots up for grabs tomorrow in Poland.
Though their roster consists of several players who have experienced the environment of a valve major, the org itself was coming into the CIS minor as new challengers. The Russian org had been struggling to put together a permanent roster after picking up what was Quantum Bellator Fire back in late June. Eventually benching everyone on the team except for Kirill 'Boombl4' Mikhailov, a move that marked the very beginning of something great. Giving life to former FlipSid3 Tactics duo Jan 'wayLander' Rahkonen and Georgi 'WorldEdit' Yaskin, as well as bringing back former QBF member Aurimas 'Kvik' Kvakshis and up and coming David 'n0rb3r7' Danielyan. There was no doubt that Winstrike was suspected to be one of the better teams of the minor outside of the obvious favorites, and they certainly did a good job of showcasing a sample of what the team is capable of doing.
Winstrike started out their time at the minor with three straight wins, taking down Runtime in a Bo1 before demolishing tournament favorites Gambit and AVANGAR in Bo3’s. They solidified themselves a spot in the upper bracket final of the playoffs with ease, however just as victory was in their grasps things started to go downhill. This time around, their match against AVANGAR did not go in their favor and eventually lead to their downfall in the championship bracket. Losing 0-2 to Spirit and barely hanging onto a spot at the upcoming minor playoffs. Luckily they have one more chance to redeem themselves, and with their confident performances in the CIS minor they have an incredibly good shot at taking down Envy. A team that surprised many at their own minor, however showed plenty of weakness that Winstrike can easily take advantage of. With their hunger to win and the skill they have shown in recent weeks, it comes as no surprise that the Russian team is favored to make it all the way.
The Danish org is no stranger to the major process, having attended four in the past. However this was their first time they had a roster going through a minor to get there, lucking out back in 2017 by picking up the ex-Dignitas lineup after they had already qualified for the ELEAGUE Major. also meaning they had never had to deal with the brutal and intense competition we always see in the European minor. After some pretty up and down performances at their first few LAN events, the state of the Danish roster was a bit uncertain. They definitely have the tools at their disposal to make a tier 1 contending team, they just needed more time to put themselves together. The start of their major run was no pretty showing, but they most certainly gave it their all to pick themselves back up and keep going despite how frustrating it was.
North lost 16-6 against Windigo in their very first game of the minor, as Valdemar 'valde' Bjørn Vangså put it during his interview with HLTV they knew exactly what Windigo was doing “but it was one of those times where you know what they're doing and they're winning anyway. It was really, really frustrating..” It was definitely a big blow to their confidence but they quickly picked themselves back up and went on to beat ex-SS, Vitality, as well as revenge against Windigo. Only having big losses against the two teams that qualified for the major (ENCE and Vitality), it was evident that North did a very good job of fixing their mistakes along the way and where quick to regain a positive mentality. Their efforts may not of been enough to secure themselves a major spot this time around, but it most certainly will be enough to get themselves a ticket out of the minor playoffs. Especially with how weak the competition is compared to them.
The Chinese org is no stranger to the Asia minor, having been apart of four of the past seven Asia minors while placing 3rd three of those times. Just this past year on September 3rd Vici revamped its roster adding Andrew ‘kaze’ Khong, Zhuo ‘advent’ Liang, and Zhihong ‘aumaN’ Liu to join WingHei 'Freeman' Cheung and Weijie ‘zhokiNg’ Zhong. All of these players have played in multiple Asia minors before but none of them have been able to get into the Major quite yet. Fun fact, both zhoking and kaze have played in six of the seven minors. Five of which Kaze himself managed to play under a different org each time. A majority of these players have been trying for a long time to make it all the way and claim themselves a major spot, however this one questions still remains - do they finally have what it takes to jump past that final hurdle?
The majority Chinese team started out the minor weak with a loss to the Korean team GOSU but bouncing back quickly eliminating the Thai Beyond 2-0 while only losing 15 rounds total and then getting revenge against GOSU in the decider match 2-0 in two nail bitingly close games on Mirage and Train. Unlucky for ViCi they had to face Renegades in the Upper bracket semi final, losing 2-1 to the Renegades. It was now or never for the Chinese team who had to go up against favorites the Korean MVP PK. Starting out on ViCi’s map pick, Mirage, ViCi was able to get a small lead, winning the half 8-7 on their CT side and were able to clinch the pistol round and from there were able to close it out 16-12 with ease. On MVP’s pick ViCi were able to start out strong with an 11 round T side on Train and won the 2nd half pistol to close out the game thus securing themselves this spot. Now they will be facing North in the Minor Playoffs.
The big wildcard of the American Minor, Envy before the event looked like they were going to go out in the group. And then they got Finn ‘Karrigan’ Andersen on loan from FaZe. Causing everyone’s opinion to shoot up for them and with that their expectations for the team. What was once a misfit group of players that were deemed by many to be washed up, bad players who should not even be in Pro League were not expected to get out of the minor and make it to the major. With Karrigan the team has looked more structured and he has been able to use his star players, Taylor “Drone” Johnson and Josh “jdm64” Marzano more effectively and it has shown with JDM in the top 8 highest rated players at the event.
Envy started the event hot with a 16-3 win over TeamOne on Dust2 with an impressive showing from Drone and Karrigan. In the winners match against FURIA where they lost a close 0-2 series but won a very close game 2-1 against TeamOne that ended with a 19-17 win on Dust2 and a 16-14 win on Overpass thus clinching themselves the playoffs for the American Minor. From there they suffered a tough defeat from NRG, but beat INTZ in a chaotic three map series 2-1 and failed to take revenge on FURIA thus securing their spot in the 3rd place qualifier.