Stories to Watch at ESL Pro League S16 Group B Edition
ESL Pro League S16 is in full swing, with Group B beginning on September 7. The next six teams are up to bat for the coveted first seed bye, as well as the two remaining playoff spots. Group A was full of chaos from start to finish, as the Pro League format usually enables. With multiple CS:GO juggernauts present, what should we be looking for going into Group B?
ESL Pro League S16 Group B Participants
|FaZe Clan||G2 Esports||BIG|
FaZe Clan Shoot for the Slam
It’s no secret, FaZe Clan was THE team of the first half of 2022. With wins at both IEM Championships at Katowice and Cologne, as well as at the PGL Antwerp Major, FaZe Clan has risen to take the top spot in the CS:GO world. They also won the previous ESL Pro League Season 15, making them the defending champions here.
With all of FaZe’s accolades stacking up, they are now just one ESL/IEM tournament win away from one of CS:GO’s greatest achievements, the Intel Grand Slam. While FaZe do have a whopping six chances to get that last notch, doing it here at Pro League would allow them to cement an era for themselves right now. Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken would also become the owner of the two fastest Grand Slams in CS:GO history, as he was on the 2018 Team Liquid squad that did it just a bit quicker.
It should be noted that FaZe has not been unstoppable throughout their run. They’ve suffered losses against many good teams, even as recently as two weeks ago at BLAST Fall Groups. We’ve already seen Group A’s favorites Natus Vincere barely squeak into the playoffs with a 2-3 record. No win is free at Pro League after all. FaZe are the favorites in Group B, so they’ll need to survive the massive target on their backs to have a shot at the Grand Slam here.
G2’s New Groove
As one of the biggest organizations in esports, G2 has been very willing invest in their CS:GO roster. First was super star Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, followed by young AWP prodigy Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov. During the player break, G2 once again made waves with the acquisition of Justin “jks” Savage and Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen.
Jks is known as one of, if not the best player to come out of the Oceania region. Despite a lackluster performance on his most recent team, Complexity Gaming, jks reentered the spotlight with his IEM Katowice performance as a stand-in for FaZe Clan. The CS:GO world was waiting for months to find out which team would inevitably throw a contract his way. G2 is where he landed, along with HooXi.
HooXi may be a less known name to those not following CS:GO deeply. He’s been playing for about seven years now, but mostly stayed within the Danish scene. His biggest recent accolade was leading an unexpected Copenhagen Flames roster to the PGL Antwerp Major playoffs. While not an established, household name in-game leader, HooXi has the experience to come into the role with confidence. He’ll be in command of a squad that has struggled to come together under previous iterations.
We already saw some of G2 at the BLAST Fall Groups. While they did have lows, like their 0-2 group stage, the squad rebounded to take a last victory over Team Vitality and qualify for the Fall Finals. It’s still too early to be sure that this team will be contending for trophies soon, but the ceiling remains high for G2. The question is, as always, can they reach it?
Where will BIG Land?
CS:GO’s premier German squad has been historically inconsistent. They’ve been a high-level team for sure ever since their core came together in 2020. They’ve seen tournament wins and top five rankings, as well as playoff droughts and barely hanging in the top 20. The core has stayed more or less the same as well, with only one notable departure (İsmailcan “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş) back in 2021.
This is all to say that it’s hard to gauge exactly where BIG is as a team. Especially now, where we’ve seen them place first in the Roobet Cup and top four at IEM Dallas, as well as bottom eight at IEM Cologne and dead last at BLAST Fall Groups all within the past three months.
BIG’s players are mechanically sound and have been able to keep up with the other tier one teams historically, but they lack a stand-out super star. Whether or not BIG does well here is going to depend on how well they game plan and take advantage of the Pro League format. They’ll be shooting for a top three seed at minimum.
Outsiders Start from Scratch
Outsiders, also known as Virtus.pro, underwent a major overhaul towards the end of last season. Two of their core players, Timur “buster” Tulepov and Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis, were both benched. Replacing them will be David “n0rb3r7” Daniyelyan and Pyotr “fame” Bolyshev of K23.
While this may appear to be a normal shuffling of experienced CIS players, this move is likely going to set Outsiders back quite a bit. Part of the reason why the original AVANGAR turned Virtus.pro core was able to find success was their team synergy. They ran a very unique playstyle focused around AWPer and in-game leader Dzhami “Jame” Ali that worked because the entire team leaned into it.
When that core started to drift apart, the hole was patched with sheer star power from YEKINDAR. While VP/Outsiders weren’t contending for trophies, they were still an upset threat to even the best teams on their day. With YEKINDAR and buster gone, Outsiders will need to come up with a completely new style to help integrate their new members. On the bright side, ripping off the band-aid now could be the start of a new age for the team.
MIBR Make their Mark
MIBR is one of just two Brazilian teams here at ESL Pro League. Unlike with FURIA Esports however, the bar for MIBR is a low one. The team still has the same core as before, but with one new experienced addition. Henrique “HEN1” Teles is joining the team after his time on GODSENT. Other than HEN1, the rest of MIBR’s players range from prominent up-and-comers to longer tenure members of the Brazilian CS scene.
MIBR definitely shouldn’t be underestimated, as that’s what lower seeds in the Pro League format feed off of. Five games in five days are a burden on preparation, and teams will be putting more emphasis on earlier matches and more perceived threats. MIBR could easily come out the gate swinging against the mid-table teams looking to slide into a potential third seed.
ESL Pro League S16 Group B begins on September 7 at 6:30 A.M ET. The initial matchups are:
FaZe Clan vs FTW Esports
Outsiders vs BIG
G2 Esports vs MIBR