IEM Cologne 2021 Playoffs - Preview
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IEM Cologne 2021 Playoffs - Preview

Players like s1mple and NiKo have showed up in a big way so far for their respective teams. We look at how they all stack up heading into the playoffs in the first LAN in over a year.

Valle
Freelance Esports Writer
16th Jul, 21·☕️ 7 min read
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Players like s1mple and NiKo have showed up in a big way so far for their respective teams. We look at how they all stack up heading into the playoffs in the first LAN in over a year.

Competition Information

Finally, after more than a year, we can look forward to some LAN playoff action. The CIS teams have proven that they can translate their online form to the LAN environment, with Gambit, Virtus.pro and Natus Vincere all making it through to the playoffs. Joining them will be two skill-heavy teams in the form of G2 and FaZe, as well as an Astralis team that is keen to prove that they have what it takes without device. 

The playoff format is simple. The teams have been drawn into a single-elimination bracket based on their placing in the group stage, with best-of-threes for all matches leading up to the best-of-five final. 

G2 and NaVi are already in the semi-finals as a result of winning their respective groups, with the rest of the teams having to battle it out in the quarter-finals.

The opening matches are:

Virtus.pro (2.09) vs. Astralis (1.72) (Winner plays: G2)

These two sides haven’t played each other in competitions since device departed Astralis, but they played twice at the start of the year with each team winning a match. Both games went the distance, with all three maps being played. Astralis picked Train in both series, something which won’t be possible now that Train has been removed from the active pool. Instead, I would expect Astralis to opt for a map like Vertigo, or perhaps a comfort pick like Inferno. However, Inferno is definitely a good map for Virtus.pro as well which is why I think they should go for a map like Vertigo or Overpass instead.

With teams having several days to prepare for their respective games, it wouldn’t surprise me to see teams deviate from the norm and go for a non-standard veto. Regardless, I’d say that this is a pretty good matchup for Virtus.pro in terms of how their map pools stack up. Virtus.pro bans Nuke which is one of Astralis’ best maps and Astralis themselves ban Mirage which is one of Virtus.pro’s weaker maps. Considering that Virtus.pro have matched up evenly with Astralis in the past, I think they are a decent option here at the longer number.

Gambit (1.32) vs. FaZe (3.00) (Winner plays: Natus Vincere)

These two teams have not played each other at all with the current lineups. Gambit are coming in as a big favourite, which is unsurprising considering their brilliant form. FaZe have certainly looked shaky on their way to the playoffs, having been on the ropes on multiple occasions against teams like Vitality and Spirit.  I think it is likely that Gambit picks Overpass in this series, a map that FaZe hasn’t played a ton. FaZe’s pick is more unpredictable. Dust2, Mirage and Inferno are all options, and FaZe is also a team that has been willing to pick Ancient, picking it against the likes of G2 and NaVi. This would be their best option.

I think if you want to take a stab at the underdog in this series; it makes the most sense to bet on FaZe to win their map choice over the straight money line. It will be a lot harder for Gambit to prepare for FaZe’s map choice, considering the unpredictability.

The Current Season

*** All stats are from IEM Cologne

Virtus.pro

Virtus.pro
Record: 6 / 0 / 3
Most Played Map: Dust2 (66.7%)
Best Map: Ancient (100.0%)
Worst Map: Mirage (0.0%)

Virtus.pro’s only loss in the group stage came against BIG, a result that we successfully predicted. However, they got their revenge later down the line to secure their spot in the playoffs. Their lower-bracket run included wins against NiP and Complexity. Their match against Complexity was close, but they were the far better team in their match with NiP. YEKINDAR has been a key player for VP so far with his high impact plays and he will have to continue this form if they are to get past a fundamentally strong Astralis side. I believe they can, as they have a solid map pool to deal with Astralis.

Natus Vincere

Natus Vincere
Record: 6 / 0 / 3
Most Played Map: Mirage (100.0%)
Best Map: Nuke (100.0%)
Worst Map: Overpass (0.0%)

s1mple has posted absurd stats so far this tournament, leading the way with an 1.74 impact rating, 94.6 ADR and a 1.75 K/D, all good for a 1.52 overall rating. However, what makes me a NaVi believer at this point is that the addition of B1T has made a big difference to their overall fire power. We have seen him post some bonkers numbers, and this appears to have lifted electronic as well. In the past, it has really been the s1mple and electronic show, and with electronic struggling for form at times during the pandemic, we have seen a lot of inconsistencies from NaVi. But now when they have a very capable trio, I think we will also see a more stable NaVi. Certainly the favourite for the trophy alongside Gambit.

Gambit

Gambit
Record: 5 / 0 / 4
Most Played Map: Inferno (33.3%)
Best Map: Vertigo (100.0%)
Worst Map: Ancient (0.0%)

Gambit opened up strong in the group stage with wins against mousesports and NiP, but they later fell to G2 in a close series so they will have to start their playoff journey in the quarters. We already knew that Gambit can falter, but man is it difficult to break them down. They have this uncanny ability to come back from difficult situations, and they don’t seem to break mentally. While we often see other teams show clear signs of tilting, Gambit aren’t really that sort of team which is one of their key strengths. They will be big favourites against FaZe and a win could set-up a rematch against NaVi, an opponent that they are all to familiar with. 

G2

G2
Record: 6 / 0 / 2
Most Played Map: Inferno (100.0%)
Best Map: Inferno (100.0%)
Worst Map: Vertigo (0.0%)

G2 has looked great so far this tournament. NiKo and huNter- have been firing on all cylinders and it really seems like NiKo is happy to be back on LAN. G2 blitzed through the competition in the group stage, beating Complexity, BIG and eventually Gambit to secure their spot in the semis. They have the better side of the bracket with Virtus.pro and Astralis, both teams that they have beaten this year. G2 in the finals is a real possibility.

FaZe

FaZe
Record: 6 / 0 / 4
Most Played Map: Mirage (100.0%)
Best Map: Mirage (100.0%)
Worst Map: Overpass (0.0%)

FaZe are probably the big underdog of this playoff bracket. They have an unbelievably tough opponent in the form of Gambit in the opener, and even if they were to win that game, they need to get past a super strong NaVi side. Personally, I wouldn’t expect them to get past both, but they have shown signs of promise with players like Twistzz and broky popping off in a big way. I think they can certainly steal a map against Gambit in the opener if they go for a map like Ancient, but that is likely all they get.

Astralis

Astralis
Record: 5 / 0 / 2
Most Played Map: Dust2 (100.0%)
Best Map: Nuke (100.0%)
Worst Map: Ancient (0.0%)

So far, Astralis have proven that they are more than capable without device. Both Magisk and dupreeh have posted big numbers, and we have seen gla1ve do well when he has been forced to wield the AWP. Their opening match against FaZe was awfuly close, but they followed that up with a convincing win against rivals Heroic. The last game against NaVi proved to be too much for them, but considering that they are on the side of the bracket without NaVi and Gambit, I could see a world where they wing it and make finals. However, I’d certainly favour the CIS sides in an eventual final and it needs to be said that Virtus.pro are a tough matchup for them in terms of map pool as well.