The Five Biggest Storylines Going Into DH Masters Dallas
Updated: May 29, 2019
1. ENCE vs Team Liquid
ENCE’s rise has been meteoric, to the point where it’s undeniable that they are a top five team at this point. With Astralis’ continued absence at some of the biggest tournaments, nobody is quite sure if their level is as high as it was, and ENCE smashed them in the BLAST Pro Series Madrid final. This was particularly important, as Liquid have always struggled to beat Astralis, even with their continued dominance of the earlier stages of tournaments. Team Liquid have forever been the bridesmaid - with Astralis out of the way, they need to prove that they truly can be the best team in the world. Those two are definitely the favourites for the tournament, and there is something of a rivalry just begging to exist. ENCE’s miracle run to the Major final, that now looks like an inevitability rather than the shock it was at the time, was characterised by them breezing past Team Liquid in the quarter finals. Since then, the two have only met a handful of times - and as if the script was being written, it was a 15-15 draw (thanks BLAST Pro for your excellent format that helped me build this point!), followed by them exchanging maps at cs_summit.
Team Liquid, the perennial second placers, versus ENCE, the plucky challengers to the throne - with Astralis out of the way, this is the first time we might see two of the best teams duking it out for a title in ages. Whichever team places higher - especially if they have to play each other - will be able to claim a victory. If Liquid best ENCE and win the tournament, there’s a rock-paper-scissors-type affair happening at the top of the game and overcome some sort of voodoo they have with winning events. If ENCE win the tournament, they have a real claim to being the best.
2. Isurus and the Hopes of a Region
Despite Brazil’s presence at the top of Counter-Strike, and in Counter-Strike history, there’s a feeling amongst the Latin American community that they have a lot more to bring to the game and that MiBR and the other Brazilian teams don’t really represent them - and it’s true that the Brazilian teams often qualify and play from North America. Much of South and Central America hasn’t had much representation on the world stage; but that is potentially about to change. Step forward Isurus, an Argentinian team with one Uruguayan, a line-up that only formed at the end of 2018. Before the additions of Maximiliano ‘max’ Gonzalez and Ignacio ‘meyern’ Meyer, Isurus were hovering around the #100 spot on HLTV’s rankings. But since then, they have gone from strength to strength, impressing in the Americas Pro League, putting up good showings against MiBR in a best of three and actually muscling past CompLexity in a best of three - which for a team with little experience at the top is incredibly impressive. They qualified by beating Sharks, a team who had shown a good level at previous events, before outlasting W7M in a gruelling four map series. They were given a one map advantage in a best of five, but after losing the next two maps, Isurus had to fight back and win both of the last two maps to make it.
Isurus have the hopes of a region blowing a tailwind behind them, and given that the event is in North America, they may actually have a decent following behind them if they can miraculously make it to the arena. If nothing else, DreamHack Dallas offers the fledgling team experience and the fastest learning experience a team can go through as they will be dropped in at the deep end; their first game is against ENCE, whose last game on LAN was smashing Major Champions Astralis. An amazing opportunity, but also an extremely tough start.
The player you really need to keep your eye out for is meyern. The 16 year old hybrid has galvanised the team since his arrival with consistently high fragging numbers, and it was his monstrous 110 kills in 131 rounds that pushed them over the line against D7M to get here. He boasts a 1.23 rating over the last three months, despite playing against some decent teams, and this will be a great chance to flex his skills on LAN. At only 16, there is likely to be some nerves, but hopefully he can show why he’s the biggest prospect from the region at this moment in time.
3. FaZe and North’s New In-Game Leaders
FaZe have had lots of unresolved issues in the past few months, and maybe further - the departure of Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen raised eyebrows, but FaZe hadn’t exactly been setting the world alight before he left. Now, with Filip ‘NEO’ Kubski, they may have finally found a legendary IGL who can keep the egos rowing in the same direction and make FaZe the team they want to be. Dallas offers them a great opportunity to make at least the playoffs, and make a run at the final, if they can get their game into gear in time. With no Astralis, Natus Vincere and MiBR, and though Renegades are likely to be back with their full roster, they may be out of practice somewhat; there is a great opportunity for a team like FaZe to make a serious dent in a tournament. FaZe have always and will always have the firepower and star power to make a run in any tournament, and NEO now has the pieces to make a top team again - we all know how deadly VP were with a loose momentum based style - now imagine FaZe’s stars doing it.
Similarly, North have too often been a team of unrecognised potential. What was the labour of love of Mathias ‘MSL’ Lauridsen has gone through several facelifts - lots of moves have frustrated and bemused fans and analysts, but North themselves have know what they were trying to achieve. So far, outside of the odd tournament, North have flattered to deceive a little bit. Valdemar ‘valde’ Bjørn Vangså has moved from being the key fragger to a backseat role - another move that has attracted cynicism. Similar to Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovac, a star who believed he needed to lead the team to get the results he wanted, valde was the biggest player in the side and the one who kept them ticking when all wasn’t going well.
That said, since the acquisition of coach Torbjørn ‘mithR’ Nyborg, North’s fragging totals and approach to the game seems to have become a bit more holistic, with Markus ‘kjaerbye’ Kjaerbye and Philip ‘aizy’ Aistrup both having massive performances in recent matches. The switch to valde from leading by example to just straight up leading has gone well so far, as they qualified with ease for ESL Pro League and looked pretty damn solid whilst doing it. This is a great chance for North to prove that the most confusing and frustrating move from the outside might actually be the best move they could make from the inside - and we all know that North love DreamHack events.
4. NiP vs Fnatic
Whilst Team Liquid vs ENCE is primarily a newfound rivalry, NiP vs Fnatic is like Counter-Strike’s El Clasico. Two legendary teams from the same country vying it out for… well, nowadays it’s more like a top five spot in the rankings. Nevertheless, both teams are eerily similar in terms of their style and inconsistencies, but NiP seem to have found a way to stay near the top of HLTV’s rankings and Fnatic are having to climb back up. Fnatic have been grinding since their embarrassment at WESG and actually find themselves in a rich vein of form. They made the final of IEM Sydney, even beating NiP on the way there, and have been grinding out wins in ECS and the ESL Pro League in the last few weeks. Their inexperienced stars Simon ‘twist’ Eliasson and Ludvig ‘brollan’ Brolin are growing into their roles and maturing nicely, whilst the veterans do what they always have. This is now a great chance for Fnatic to take back their title as the best Swedish team.
Ninjas in Pyjamas are a strange team, a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in losing a round to a full eco and then breaking their economy back by winning with Deagles. The only consistency with NiP is their inconsistency, it seems, and yet they do seem to have a knack of getting back into games that they look dead in and finding themselves in the top eight of a bunch of tournaments. Whilst they do seem to have hit a glass ceiling, this roster has consistently thrown up surprises and though Fnatic look dangerous, there is a reason NiP have been around the top five of the HLTV rankings so much.
Sweden is having something of a mini-crisis given how strong the nation used to be - but DreamHack Dallas offers a good chance for both of these teams to lay claim to the Swedish crown. I just hope we get to see a best of three between them, because those games are always superb duels.
5. Windigo and TyLoo Fighting to be One of the Big Boys
Windigo have shown themselves to be no pushovers in Pro League and have found themselves in the top 20 on HLTV. They have been something of a gatekeeper team - if you can beat Windigo, you’re a solid team, if you can’t, you need to make some changes to be a real threat. G2 in recent times have struggled against them quite a few times, which has been seen as proof that the new G2 roster will be underwhelming - but really, the truth is that Windigo are a genuinely solid team. They’ve had big wins over Fnatic, MiBR, BIG and Heroic this year, and Dallas offers them a chance to establish themselves as a genuine threat to tier one opposition. A lot of the teams at Dallas have had some issues recently, or roster changes, and everyone except ENCE and Liquid have question marks over their head - which means there has been no better chance for a borderline team like Windigo to make a charge for the finals. If they can fire themselves into the upper echelons of this tournament, it will be a great marker for how far they have come and will finally prove that they can dance with the big boys and set themselves apart from the tier two/three scene. Unfortunately, Windigo will be without Yanko ‘blocker’ Panov, with Bugra ‘Calyx’ Arkin standing in, which may make it slightly harder for them. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how Calyx performs on a different team, as he is a player who has been highly touted but failed to reach the heights hoped of him on Space Soldiers.
Watch out for Valentin ‘poizon’ Vasilev - though his name is well-known now, I still think poizon is underrated and has the ability to be a serious superstar. If Windigo are to do well, poizon is likely to be at the forefront of that.
TyLoo have similarly skirted around the idea of being a top team; some great results and super series have somewhat masked the lack of consistent results. However, TyLoo are the premier team from Asia and seeing them at international events is always fun, and helps to show how big the gap between Asia and the rest of the world. TyLoo’s unique style has made them a favourite of mine to watch, and given them some highlight results. In the same vein as Windigo, they really need a showstopping result to really cement their place amongst the biggest teams in the world and Dallas offers them that chance.
As always, watch HaoWen ‘somebody’ Xu, because he’s absolutely hilarious to watch. That man can’t even spell fear, never mind feel it.