ECS is back, which actually came as a bit of a surprise as we thought it was a few weeks away, despite us going to an event last week about the new changes for Season 3 where we had a nice chat with Ninjas in Pyjamas CEO Hicham Chahine.
Anyway, back on topic. The first round of matches for both the Europe and North American divisions kick off on Friday (April 14) and boy does week one have some top notch action.
In the NA league it seems like someone has a vendetta against OpTic as they have one of the hardest weeks we have ever seen in an online league, while in Europe we get to see Astralis face off against their old nemesis Virtus.Pro and the new hot team in the scene, G2. We also get to see the debut of the new Dignitas roster and a tasty match between Cloud9 and Immortals. None of these matches are particularly easy to call, but that is exactly what we are going to do, right here, right now.
Liquid vs OpTic
G2 vs GODSENT and Astralis vs NiP are both good matches to start off the new season, but the highlight of day one is easily OpTic vs Liquid. The first action in the NA division is one of our new favorite grudge matches, that will see former OpTic in game leader Stanislaw face off against his old team mates, who have only just got a remotely stable roster. The matches between these two thus far have usually been pretty close, but with JasonR coming in for OpTic this becomes even more intriguing. You can be sure that both sides will put everything on the line to win, so we are going with a 1-1 draw here. We think OpTic will come out of the gates strong and with a good plan, but then Stan and co will fight back and massively out frag OpTic in the second map.
Astralis vs Virtus Pro
This matchup has so many layers that we could probably write an entire predictions article just about this match. The short version is that just a few short months ago this would be one of the most difficult matches to call. Virtus.Pro and Astralis traded wins at the ELEAGUE Major and DreamHack, with the winner of each lifting their tournament’s respective trophy. However since then VP have fallen off massively and don’t even look like the same team from the start of the year. Astralis meanwhile are still in top form, although the loss to FaZe at StarLadder may have shaken their confidence. We still think the Danes will pull this off with a 2-0, but we have counted out VP before and have been burned.
Cloud9 vs Immortals
The big North American matches all seem to be stacked in week one of ECS and one of the highlights is Cloud9 vs Immortals. Cloud9 have found a good bit of form online, winning 10 of their last twelve matches. Immortals meanwhile come in off the back of a disappointing performance at StarLadder where they ended up outside the top eight. The maps for this one are Cobble and Cache, which doesn’t help our predictions at all, as both teams are pretty nifty on both. However we do think this will end up in a 2-0. We have no logical reasoning for this, it is just our gut feeling. We are going with Immortals to take this 2-0. We feel like ECS could be the event where they finally go all the way, and starting off well in the group stage will be just what they need.
OpTic vs CLG
CLG is one of the most rapidly improving teams in all of North America. A few months back they would have been lucky to make it to the ECS finals, but now they look like a real contender, which will surely worry OpTic. CLG snuck into the top eight at StarLadder (which we totally called) so will be riding high on confidence, and we think this will carry over into their series against OpTic. We have OpTic taking the first map on Cache, purely because CLG’s record on that map isn’t great and OpTic love it, but the second map on Train is all CLG’s in our opinion. That ties it up in a 1-1 draw, if everyone sticks to the plan.
Mouz vs Dignitas
Dignitas is back and thanks to the way ownership works for ECS the players instantly get to play in one of the most competitive leagues in the world, without even having to play a single qualifying match. The new roster sure looks good on paper, but it remains to be seen if they can get it done against the big names. A match against Mouz is a nice starting point, but will won’t be a walk in the park. We are taking a massive gamble and saying Dig will take this 2-0. Obviously we have zero data to back this up so this is as much of a gut feeling as you will ever see. Moving on…
SK vs OpTic
Someone over at the ECS scheduling department must be a FaZe fan or something, because OpTic have been given one hell of a opening week. In the first three days of competition they face Liquid, CLG and SK, three teams that you would expect to be in contention for a trip to London come the end of the regular season. Easily the hardest match of those three is against SK, who continue to look good despite a poor finish at StarLadder. The Brazilians seem to be doing okay with felps and we expect to see them lifting another trophy sooner rather than later. We don’t see this going anywhere other than a 2-0 for SK, but if OpTic roll in off a few good wins earlier in the week then this score line could easily be reversed.
Astralis vs G2
While the EU division seems to be a little quieter than the NA one for the first week the headline match is easily Astralis vs G2. With their first ever LAN event G2 looked great, until they came up against eventual tournament winners FaZe. If the draw had gone a little differently then this could have easily been the final at StarLadder and it probably would have been just as close as the one we eventually got. As for this match in ECS we are pretty confident in saying this will be a 1-1 draw. Both teams are playing some great CS right now and seem pretty evenly matched, although we wouldn’t be surprised to see overtime appear in this series.