It is time for the CSGO teams to get down and dirty in an attempt to land a spot at the upcoming IEM Katowice Major, starting with the European Minor. A region that has always raised the question of being allotted more than two spots from the Minor has seen the argument grow stronger, with the quality of teams participating in the current one.

In comparison, EU Minor is the most stacked one and has a compelling argument for extra slots, which would only increase the overall quality of the Major. Now, getting down to brass tacks, we take a close look at Group A of the EU Minor, which starts on January 16.

Related: IEM Katowice 2019 Minor Groups Announced

The Group consists of mousesports, a team that is regarded as one of the top five teams in the world and not just by HLTV rankings, an Optic lineup that has looked promising in spades, Vitality, who has one of the hottest properties in the CSGO world right now in Zywoo and the odd one out, unfortunately in Valiance.

mousesports (HLTV Ranking #5) (oskar, ChrisJ, suNny, STYKO, ropz)

Photo via HLTV.org

When you see teams like these appear in the Minor Qualifiers, let alone the Minor itself, it raises questions on the entire process for qualifying for the Major. mousesports have always been a steady and safe bet to perform well at any event.

But, they took a gamble replacing Styko with Snax to add more firepower in an attempt to push to compete with the likes of Astralis, Natus Vincere and Liquid on a more consistent basis. Safe to say the experiment failed to live up to the hype. But, it did offer us a look into just how explosive they could have been had they found a rhythm, as evidenced by their triumph at ESL One New York.

Snax was soon benched, with Styko returning to the active lineup. While it will take time for Styko to be inculcated back into the lineup and in the same rhythm as before, the support player’s return immediately made mousesports more consistent on the server.

Their biggest achievement since the return of Styko would be treading through the waters of the EU Minor Closed Qualifiers. A Top four finish at ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals was also commendable, with mousesports ultimately falling to Astralis in the semi-finals.

But, the real challenge lies ahead. We have already seen NRG falter at the Minor. mousesports have more experience. But, you never know what the Minor can serve, especially if it’s the European one.

OpTic (HLTV Ranking #19) (Snappi, cajunb, jUGi, k0nfig, refrezh)

Photo via HLTV.org

This has been a bizarre association, to say the least. The decision to go full Danish was vindicated earlier. They merely missed out on a spot at the Major – New Legends Stage. But, their decision to replace gade with niko improved them immediately.

Their highlights with the roster was a second place at cs_summit 3 and surviving the ESL Pro League Relegation Phase. While they did qualify for the Minor with niko, they decided to add refrezh to their roster after the youngster’s blistering performance standing-in for Golden representing Cloud 9.

A quick glance at the statistics would show you that while niko performed better than gade, he was still some way off to adding the firepower that is needed to push Optic towards the Tier-1 region.

refrezh is definitely an upgrade in terms of raw firepower. The youngster achieved widespread adulations not just for his performance for Cloud 9 but also during his time at Fragsters, which was also a full Danish roster.

Optic might be an afterthought for many at the European Minor. But, it is difficult to write off any Danish roster at this point of time, let alone one that features konfig and refrezh together.

Valiance (HLTV Ranking #39) (huNter, LETN1, nexa, ottoNd, EspiranTo)

Photo via HLTV.org

Valiance have always hovered around the Top 30 mark with their old lineup. So, when they fused together with the core of Imperial, bringing in nexa, ottoNd and EspiranTo, fireworks were expected. The performances though, have been only decent, with gradual improvement visible.

Their record with the new lineup could be a sign of things to come with 43 wins out of 60 matches. Unlike other iterations of the Valiance lineup though, it isn’t huNter doing the heavy lifting even though he is the highest rated player since the lineup came to fruition.

Everyone is stepping up while LETN1 is carrying his own weight, making the roster a real darkhorse at the European Minor. They already have a small title under their belt in the form of LOOT.Bet Cup #3.

On paper, the lineup is an explosive one if allowed the freedom. But, they will be up against three teams who are all favourites to advance in their own sense. A genuine underdog story could be on the cards should Valiance manage to somehow get through the Group Stage.

Vitality (HLTV Ranking #21) (NBK-, RpK, apEX, ALEX, ZywOo)

Photo via HLTV.org

There are high hopes from this roster. The initial iteration that included Happy achieved some decent results. But, it was mostly due to Zywoo carrying the lineup. The youngster boasts a rating of 1.43 in the matches played under the Vitality banner, which just goes to show how big of a carry he has been.

Despite the heavy lifting, Vitality have not managed to create as much of a splash as was expected. They did win Dreamhack Open Atlanta but again, that was Zywoo doing the lifting, with a rating of 1.49 through the event.

Replacing Happy with ALEX might seem like a gamble. Let me tell you it is anything but. For one, ALEX has been one of the most stable players within the gamut of French teams and despite being British, his association with French teams, especially in LDLC has shown he can more than adjust to what the situation demands.

While they have played just four maps with the new lineup, ALEX has been the highest rated player overall in the combined statistics, which could come in handy at the European Minor.

The addition of ALEX will surely bring an upgrade in terms of firepower. But, will it be enough to get Zywoo and Vitality to the Major? Zywoo stickers anyone?Prediction

Prediction

Teams to Qualify from Group A – mousesports, Vitality

  • mousesports – Top seed from Group A
  • Vitality – Second seed from Group A
  • OpTic – Eliminated in the Decider
  • Valiance – Eliminated in the Elimination Match

The opening matches pit mousesports against Valiance and Vitality against Optic. Talking about the first matchup, even though Valiance have all the tools for success, they are yet to prove it on LAN.

mousesports will come ready to tackle the uncharted territory of EU Minor and should ideally not slip up against Valiance.

Coming on to Vitality vs Optic, it just might come down to who has devoted more time towards building the team chemistry and strategies. According to NBK, they have undergone an intense bootcamp with their new lineup.

Already boasting of one of the most highly-rated prodigies in the Counter-Strike circuit, the bootcamp could just unlock Vitality’s true potential. OpTic, on the other hand, seems to favour a loose and puggy playstyle, which let’s konfig do what he wants.

It was one of the reasons konfig and cajunb reportedly did not like the in-game calling of stanislaw, who had more of a structured way of going about things.

We believe mousesports and Vitality will go head-to-head in the Upper Bracket with mousesports qualifying as the first seed from Group A. We expect Valiance to run Optic very close, who should prevail in the Elimination match to set up a rematch against Vitality.

But, the French team should overcome Optic and qualify as the second seed from Group A.