As the year ends and the teams that played in the IEM Rio Major 2022 tournament get back to work to improve for the next major, we see the likes of the Elisa Masters, the BLAST Premier Fall Finals, and the BLAST Premier World Final events take place. The Elisa Masters tournament kicks off a few days after the IEM Rio Major event ends and will feature some teams that had success in Rio.
The Elisa Masters has always been a tournament that gives many teams outside of the HLTV top 10 a chance to show exactly what they’re capable of. The format plays out as a group stage featuring best-of-one matches, followed by a single-elimination playoff stage with quarter-finals, semi-finals, and then the final.
Group A consists of ENCE, BIG, Sprout, GamerLegion, HEET, and HAVU Gaming. Many of these teams have become well known over the course of the IEM Rio Major 2022. ENCE and BIG were both teams that finished 2-3 in the Legends stage, narrowly missing a spot in the Champions Stage. GamerLegion failed to even make it out of the Challengers stage after starting their run 2-0 and Sprout, a team many had as a 0-3 team in the official Pick’Em, upset Ninjas in Pyjamas in the 0-3 match.
Due to the nature of the Elisa Masters event and the teams playing here being outside of the HLTV top 10, it is always quite difficult to pick a favourite. Initially though, ENCE and BIG would be my favourites in group A.
Not only did BIG surprise everyone by making it out of the Challengers stage in Rio, but they also managed a deep run in the Legends stage. This was so unexpected because they were using a substitute player who many were worried wouldn’t be able to cope under the pressure of the event.
ENCE performed well in the Legends stage in Rio, finishing their run 2-3. Many analysts may be putting more expectation on this roster after the loss of Lotan "Spinx" Giladi and Aleksander "hades" Miskiewicz and their replacement with new players. Alvaro "SunPayus" Garcia has alleviated the doubts that the impact “Spinx” had couldn’t be replicated by earning a 1.16 HLTV Rating. However, it’s clear that this team still needs some more time to become a solid unit that are capable of winning trophies.
HEET and HAVU would be considered as the weakest teams in this group and until a month ago, Sprout and GamerLegion may have been placed in the same position; however, the Regional Major Rankings (RMR) and IEM Rio Major 2022 events did wonders for the perception of these teams.
Although we are marking HEET and HAVU as the weakest teams, they have some players with an incredible amount of experience. HEET have the likes of Audric "JACKZ" Jug and Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro, whilst HAVU have two players who were part of the ENCE roster that made the IEM Katowice Major 2019 final. Having these players would mean more had Sprout and GamerLegion not just competed at a Major, although had “JACKZ” remained with G2 Esports he still wouldn’t have competed.
GamerLegion and Sprout will be the two teams we look at to take the third-place spot in Group A. In fact, they are completely capable of winning this group and upsetting ENCE or BIG. Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek leads the young GamerLegion team and they have been doing an impressive job of gaining increasingly good results at B-tier tournaments.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect the top three in group A to be ENCE, BIG, and GamerLegion or Sprout. However, the advantage for HEET and HAVU, having not played at the IEM Rio Major 2022, is that they have had more time to practice for the Elisa Masters without having to travel between continents. Will this be enough of an advantage to get them into playoffs?
Group B feature Fnatic, Astralis, Complexity, Bad News Eagles, SAW, and 500. This is a group with three teams that have been huge names in CS:GO. Astralis and Fnatic have won multiple majors but are working with new systems and players to try to win their organisation new titles and trophies. The biggest talking point here is Astralis re-signing Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, who will not be competing with them at the Elisa Masters. “dev1ce” is a name that has been echoed in Counter-Strike as one of the greatest players of all time. His impact in helping Astralis achieve multiple back-to-back Major victories was second-to-none. His lack of attendance will leave the team with a stand-in once again.
Bad News Eagles and Fnatic are the only two in this group that qualified for the IEM Rio Major 2022. William "mezii" Merriman led his side to an impressive quarter-final performance and Bad News Eagles once again shocked everyone by eliminating FaZe Clan from the competition. The firepower in these two teams has been spoken about non-stop and rightly so. It can be expected they will be able to beat the likes of SAW and 500 due to their raw skill.
Astralis and Complexity are two teams that have been struggling to find form since restructuring their rosters. Astralis have had issues trying to get their roster into shape since losing “dev1ce” to NiP and Emil "Magisk" Reif and Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen to Team Vitality. Various other issues have affected the team, but they have finally re-signed “dev1ce” after many months of mystery around his whereabouts.
Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the new year to see “dev1ce” play as he will not be attending the Elisa Masters. This will be a good opportunity for Mikkel "MistR" Thomsen and Kristoffer "kristou" Aamand to continue to make a name for themselves after coming from the Astralis Talent roster.
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Complexity have been doing increasingly well and were among the favourites to gain a place in the Challengers stage at the IEM Rio Major 2022. It just wasn’t to be as they lost to Imperial in the game to determine sixth place. The addition of Håkon "hallzerk" Fjærli seems to have brought a new dimension to this line-up and they’ll be one of the favourites to make it out of Group B.
SAW and 500 will be considered the weakest teams in this group. SAW may be a familiar name to some as they’ve been one of the biggest names in Portuguese Counter-Strike over the last few years. 500 are a Bulgarian roster featuring some names from SKADE. It’s difficult to expect a lot from either of these teams as they even seem to struggle domestically. The rise of FTW Esports has added extra competition to the Portuguese scene and that has put doubts on SAW being the number one Portuguese team.
Our top three for Group B would be Fnatic, Astralis, and Complexity. Although we could see Bad News Eagles claiming victory over a weaker Astralis side and qualifying for the playoffs over them. This group could be just as competitive as Group A, so expect some upsets in Finland!