Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the perfect way to start a Christmas vacation and EPICENTER Moscow 2019 has fans covered. Eight teams will face off in the Crocus Expo Hall in Moscow for the $250,000 top prize.
The event will include eight teams, with Natus Vincere, Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, Team Vitality and AVANGAR receiving direct invitations while Team Heroic, forZe, and EHOME worked their way in through regional qualifiers.
EPICENTER hasn’t released the format of the tournament just yet, but the tournament qualifiers used best-of threes. The event doesn’t kick off until December 17, but it’s never too early to take a look at the competitors and predict who could make an impact.
Natus Vincere has had a rough go of it lately. The team has a string of early exits in recent months and hasn’t won a tournament since April 2019 at the StarSeries & i-League’s Season 7 Finals in Shanghai.
Ever since Danylo “zeus” Teslenko’s retirement in September, Na`Vi lacks tactical depth. Both Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and in-game leader Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov can go off at any second, but those abilities aren’t consistent enough to rely on. Na`Vi and head coach Andrey “B1ad3” Gorodenskiy need to find some way to help the team play to its potential.
At least in the short term, they can rely on a home field advantage as Na`Vi tends to do better with a supportive crowd.
The poor performance at BLAST Pro Series Moscow was an outlier for a team that performs well in their region. EPICENTER’s location should give them a serious boost at this event.
While EPICENTER is Na`Vi’s to lose, both Fnatic and Evil Geniuses could take a win here if Na`Vi shows any weakness. The only problem is that Fnatic and EG haven’t looked unstoppable, either.
While Fnatic shocked the CSGO scene with their win at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019, EG came right back with a first-place finish at StarSeries & i-League Season 8. Both of these teams have looked ready to break out at points, but both have laid eggs in big events in equal measures.
Fnatic is the stronger of the two right now. They just took an ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals berth at the last second with the help of Rasmus “kreaz” Johansson standing in for Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson.
By comparison, EG’s performance at the 2019 CSGO Asia Championships did not look good. On paper, Evil Geniuses should’ve been a lock for the grand final. Instead, they went 1-1 in the group stage and lost a best-of-three to mousesports in two maps.
The North Americans have the talent to compete at EPICENTER, but they haven’t shown fans anything since October. How they perform at the finals of ESL Pro League Season 10 and ECS Season 8 should give some insight.
Team Vitality is in a serious rut. The team missed out on both the ESL Pro League Season 10 and ECS Season 8 finals, which is particularly troublesome given how this collapse comes after the team benched Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt.
Winning an event like EPICENTER would go a long way towards curing their ills but, much like Natus Vincere and s1mple, Vitality depends heavily on Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut’s ability to drag the rest of his team to victory. That’s just not a winning formula going forward and ZywOo’s teammates are going to have to step up after a string of low placements.
AVANGAR enters EPICENTER Moscow after a string of solid performances, but this is their best shot to reaffirm elite status after coming in second at the StarLadder Berlin Major. With some of the betting favorites looking a bit shaky heading into this event, they are a very strong candidate to wint his tournament.
Though EPICENTER doesn’t carry the prestige of some other events, AVANGAR is likely to go all-out here. They have an excellent opportunity for a star-making performance.
Heroic is another team that could be on the cusp of something big at EPICENTER. The European staple takes care of lesser teams easily, but can’t quite break through to the top of the standings.
Some solid performances throughout the year and the addition of verteran in-game leader Casper “cadiaN” Møller has helped boost their stock though, and that could culminate in a crowning performance in Moscow.
As mentioned, the favorites at this event aren’t entering in peak form. Thta cracks the door open for a big showing from the Danes.
The best thing that the last two qualifying teams have on their side is that there isn’t a ton of recent video of them out there. ForZe makes the rounds in the tier-two circuit often, but EHOME making it out of the Chinese qualifier over TYLOO was a surprise.
Both teams will have trouble head-to-head against the rest of the teams at EPICENTER Moscow. But since EPICENTER hasn’t released the format, fans don’t know whether attendees will play best-of ones or best-of-threes.
If Moscow has a slew of best-of-ones, both ForZe and EHOME can surprise. If EPICENTER decides on best-of-threes like they had in qualifiers, these teams will have trouble.