With Group A done, we now intend to focus on a Group B that is more open to possibilities. While there were early favourites in the form of North and ex-SS, the departure of XANTARES and North’s recent performances have perhaps, given a more competitive look to Group B.
Ideally Group B consists of a North team that is learning the ropes of the game under a new in-game leader after years with MSL, one of the most promising and improved teams of 2018 in ex-Space Soldiers, an ENCE lineup that already came close to booking a spot at the Major last time around and a Windigo side that are on the up-and-up after the addition of poizon to their roster.
ENCE (HLTV Ranking #12) (allu, Aerial, xseven, Aleksib, sergej)
There have been many attempts to put together an all Finnish lineup which can compete internationally against the best of teams. But, ENCE’s current experiment is perhaps the best till date of any Finnish lineup in recent memory.
allu was handed a free rein to pick his teammates and it seems he has done more than a commendable job. Led in terms of raw ability by Finnish prodigy sergej, ENCE have achieved quite a lot this year.
While the 2nd place at Dreamhack Open Montreal was redeemed by winning the Atlanta iteration, later on, they also picked up small titles like the Vectorama Lan, Finnish Championships and Assembly GameXpo.
But, their biggest achievement was their triumph at StarSeries i-League Season 6, a Tier 1 event consisting of teams like mousesports, BIG and Gambit, albeit with a new lineup.
They were heartbroken at the failure to qualify for FACEIT Major. But, they are at the Minor again, this time with a more established playbook and with wins in the bag. The youngsters have had time to settle on the big stage, which means nerves are unlikely to play a big role.
ENCE have all the ingredients. But, will they be able to make the most of it at the EU Minor?
Ex-Space Soldiers (HLTV Ranking #45) (MAJ3R, yam, Calyx, paz, ngiN)
Their ranking has taken a dip mostly because of XANTARES opting to join BIG. In reality, they are a solid top-20 team, even without their mercurial star. The Turkish team have decided to play the Minor with Australian star yam, who has previous experience of playing at a similar level with Renegades.
yam is yet to actually play an official match with the ex-Space Soldiers guys. But, it is unlikely that he will be stationed in the same role as XANTARES. The Australian has never been the go-to man and is more a versatile star who is known to adapt to situations.
While primarily an Awper, yam has previously shown he can play as a secondary Awper and even as a pure rifler in teams, which will aid the team’s cause. According to many, it will be paz will be expected to step up and assume the same responsibilities and positions as XANTARES, with yam taking more of a support role within the lineup.
It will be interesting to see if MAJ3R and his troops can find success with a stand-in at the EU Minor.
North (HLTV Ranking #10) (cadiaN, aizy, Kjaerbye, gade, valde)
Their inability to land a spot at the New Legends Stage of FACEIT Major was the tipping point for North, with the organization deciding to bench long-time servant MSL in favour of inculcating new ideas and a new approach to Counter-Strike.
cadiaN’s success with Rogue saw him being brought in by North, who also chose to bring back gade into the active lineup. Replacing MSL is no easy task. A slow start was soon converted into positive momentum, with North qualifying for the LAN finals of both ECS Season 6 and ESL Pro League Season 8.
A top four finish at ECS Season 6 Lan Finals brought in hope for the new lineup, with North losing to mibr in the semi-finals over three maps. But, a Group exit from the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals saw them miss the chance to play in front of the home crowd at Odense and brought them crashing down the ground.
Individually speaking, valde has really stepped up while the most telling difference is the fragging ability of cadiaN and MSL. cadiaN’s playstyle is still structured but perhaps a more flexible brand of Counter Strike, which will aid the individual stars like Kjaerbye and aizy to express themselves more on the server.
North should be the favourites to advance from Group B. But, crazier things have happened. What cadiaN and his men need to find is consistency, which is what could unlock their chances of being a top 5 team rather than cruising in and out of the Top 10.
Windigo (HLTV Ranking #30) (bubble, v1c7oR, blocker, SHiPZ, poizon)
Just inside the Top 30 of HLTV Rankings, Windigo are always a dark horse. The Bulgarians have time and again produced upsets. But, at the same time, they are prone to losing against teams of similar level right after.
The arrival of poizon though, might just push Windigo to break their current ceiling. The youngster’s addition was not without it’s fair share of controversy, with contractual disputes regarding his situation with his former team Bpro.
Since his addition, Windigo have claimed smaller tournaments with relative ease, winning ESL South East Europe Championship Season 8, NoxFire League and Rivalry.gg Rising Stars while placing top four at the ESL Bucharest Gaming Week Invitational.
Individually speaking, pozion is head and shoulders above everyone else, averaging a rating of 1.25 under the Windigo banner. The kind of impact that the youngster has had could be gauged by the fact that the second best-rated player since his arrival is SHiPZ, with an average rating of 1.05.
Having a near 60% success rate overall in Opening kills, poizon is Bulgaria’s very own prodigy. And the EU Minor could just be the platform he needs to show he is just as good as the other up-and-coming stars in the European scene while also proving his skills against the top teams at a LAN event.
Teams to Qualify from Group B – ENCE, North
- ENCE-Qualifying as the second seed from Group B
- Ex-Space Soldiers: Eliminated in the Elimination Match
- North– Qualifying as the Top seed from Group B
- Windigo– Eliminated in the decider
Windigo have a tough task at hand, opening their EU Minor journey against the outright favourites of the group North. The Danish roster is known to be shaky and inconsistent. But, they are likely to have worked on their issues and should prevail over Windigo.
The other match pits ENCE against the ex-Space Soldiers. Ideally, Space Soldiers would have been favourites to take the matchup. But, without XANTARES and very little to incorporate yam into their playstyle, which also might have to be tweaked, things do not look too promising for the Turkish lineup.
Expect ENCE to take the win and face off against North, who are likely to be too much for the Finnish lineup. Although, it might end up being the opposite, based on the maps that come out from the veto process.
Regardless, there will be one upset in Group B, atleast that is what we are going for. We expect Windigo to eliminate ex-Space Soldiers purely based on the fact that they have been a team for longer and will have better-defined roles and significantly more chemistry than their counterparts.
But, the Bulgarians will fall in the Decider, be it against ENCE or North. We expect North to top the group solely based on the fact that the lineup has achieved greater heights compared to other teams and genuinely, have a team capable of being higher up the rankings than they currently are.
North stickers would look good, won’t they?