A look at the major storylines, pieces of news and context heading into Dreamhack Malmo and what you need to know before watching the first games.
The primary storyline heading into Malmo is the distinct absences and new additions of certain players and teams. Due to super-star player, Olofmeister’s hand injury, Fnatic will be missing out on a chance to compete in the quarter of a million dollar tournament and will be replaced by French side, G2. However Just like the pairing of Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy to sing “Whatzupwitu”, bad things come in pairs and like his super-star counterpart, legendary awper Guardian from Na`Vi will be missing out on Malmo due to a wrist injury. Unlike Olofmeister’s situation however, Na`Vi will still be at the event but with long time veteran Na`Vi player, and secondary awper, now coach, starix standing-in. So although Na`Vi are still a potent threat in both the playoffs and group stage due to the incredible depth of talent that the side possesses, there is certainly hampered optimism about their chances of winning the entire event.
Team Liquid will also finally play their first large international tournament with their new roster of –AdreN +koosta. The switch comes after AdreN put on an surprisingly inspired stand-in performance at the major, due to koosta not being able to play because of the cumbersome Major/Minor rule set. Koosta will face not only the recently crowned major winners Luminosity in the groups, but also a tremendous amount of community pressure to perform to the, albeit recently elevated level of AdreN. Koosta will look to work in tandem with s1mple when it comes to awping responsibilities as although koosta is the primary awper, s1mple’s level with the weapon hit a new height at the major and puts even more pressure on the young player to perform.
A surprising move in the traditionally turmoil filled time that is post-major is the departure of French scene veteran Ex6tenz from G2 esports. Having been the backbone of 3 different iterations of Titan/G2 line-ups the master tactician has struggled to find a place for his old-school style of calling and anti-stratting in a changed counter-strike landscape. With E6xtenz filling the role of in-game-leader for so long, the task of calling will now fall on star-play shox, a task which he has not taken up since his stint on Epsilon in 2014. If we cast our gaze back to this time period we will find that shox struggled to take up the mantle and although he was still the best fragger on the team, his skills suffered greatly and it was clear that the responsibility of calling was limiting his own game. Although the overall net fragging power of G2 probably won’t change, the strategy and play-style of the side should be drastically different, and whether or not this will be a positive change remains to be seen. However in such a close group with so many teams of roughly the same skill level, this tactical change could be the factor that either puts G2 in the round of 8 or leaves them scratching their heads and regrouping for the next tournament.
During MLG Columbus, Maikelele of Faze announced that he would no longer be with the team after the tournament. Almost immediately there was speculation on who would be the 5th man, with the most likely candidates being the recently free Kioshima of EnVyuS or the superstar carry Niko from mousesports. The former would be picked up and Faze Kioshima will be rounding out their roster heading into Malmo. Kioshima is being picked up after a having one of the worst slumps in his career as part of EnVyUs, having once being a great carry in the French scene as part of Clan Mystic and Epsilon, before transitioning into a more entry role with LDLC. With the departure of Maikelele not only does it take away a big personality from the team but also puts awping responsibilities firmly in control of Fox; a player who dispelled the massive amounts of criticism put on his awping with an incredible performance at Cluj-Napoca last year. So the real question in Copenhagen will be whether the shake-up that the induction of the former French star occurs will be enough to revitalise the Faze roster to being a top 8 team in the world again.
Player changes aside another interesting storyline heading into Malmo is the destiny of the two Brazilian sides, Luminosity and Tempo Storm. Luminosity has just come off the back of an incredible performance at the biggest event in the history of counter-strike. Hosting a one million dollar prize-pool and over 1.3 million concurrent viewers, it was an outstanding milestone for the first non-European team to not only win it, but also in relatively dominating fashion. However the key caveat to this win was that they did not have to play against the other two greatest man-for-man line-ups of the era, Fnatic and Astralis. Fortunately for Luminosity but unfortunately for us, Fnatic will not be attending due to the aforementioned olofmeister injury; however that is not to say that this will be a free first place for Fallen’s side. The primary competition will be the Danes, Astralis, fresh off the back of a rollercoaster event, from beating the best team in the world in a convincing 2-0 in the round-of-8, to a heartbreaking semi-final loss; they will be hungry to get a title under their belt. So if Luminosity wants to not only win a major but start a dynasty of Brazilian dominance, unheard of since MibR’s era of 2006-2007 in 1.6, they will need to start by winning Malmo, and more than likely beating Astralis along the way.
On the complete other end of the Brazilian spectrum is Tempo Storm, the second best team of Brazil and essentially an extended family of Luminosity, with both teams regularly practicing and playing together. Although Tempo Storm didn’t qualify for MLG Columbus they had a breakout performance at IEM Katowice earlier this year, after beating many fan-favourite NA teams to get to the Polish LAN. Although they had a significantly weaker group at Katowice, they still managed to beat slumping international titans, Virtus.Pro and EnVyUs. Furthermore in the quarterfinals they took a map off Na`Vi and played admirably close on the third map with star awper HEN1 confirming his place as an international contender. In their group at Malmo they will be in an eerily identical situation from their Katowice group, facing off against VP, Faze and EnVyUs. When this context is combined with the recent controversy over Tempo Storm not being invited to even qualify for the 3.5 million dollar ECS league, it shows that this side definitely has something to prove. So even though the three teams in their group are fragments of their former selves if Tempo Storm wants to be considered a legitimate threat on the international stage, and get a degree of vengeance for not being allowed to compete at ECS, they will need to get into the playoffs.
Another interesting note is that this will be the first major international LAN for the Asian powerhouse side Tyloo. Having dominated domestically, with their only real competition being CyberZen, there are a myriad of questions as to how the Chinese side will hold up internationally. As an extension of Tyloo’s presence in Malmo, so will their best player Fancy1. Comparable to machinegun from the Mongolz, Fancy1 will aim to show his fragging prowess to the rest of the world. Although the chances of them getting out of groups is as likely as the chinese stock market rebounding in the next 3 months it will be interesting to see Asia represented again on a big stage and could be the inklings of counter-strike gaining a foothold in the east.
Dreamhack Malmo is a very unique tournament with the apex predator’s Fnatic and Na`Vi either out of the running or severely weakened, it will give a chance for the rest of the food chain to flex their muscles and show what they’re made of. So although I only talked about a handful of the teams attending Malmo, keep in mind that virtually every single team in attendance has something to prove and desperately will want to get out of groups, which should make for a string of good Bo1 games and a good tournament as a whole.
Written by Max Melit – @max_melit