IEM Cologne 2021 Play-In - Preview
IEM Cologne 2021 Play-In - Preview

The drought is over, LANs are back!

Freelance Esports Writer
6th Jul, 21·☕️ 5 min read

We look at how the teams match up heading into the first big LAN of the year as the play-in stage of Intel Extreme Masters is set to get underway in Cologne, Germany.

Competition Information

Finally, after more than a year of online play, we are back to LAN as IEM kicks off in Cologne. We will kick off with the play-in, where sixteen teams will battle it out for eight places in the main event, scheduled to start July 8th.

The field features a diverse set of teams, with the likes of North America, China, Australia, Brazil and Europe all represented. The main event will feature a sizeable prize pool of $1 million and plenty of RMR points up for grabs - a carrot for teams hoping to qualify for the major in Stockholm at the end of the year.  Let’s have a look at the format for the Play-in stage.

The sixteen teams will fight it out in a double-elimination bracket, with eight of the teams making it through to the main event. The opening matches are played in best-of-one format, but the rest of the matches are all best-of-three. 

Here are the participants for the event, including their world ranking:

  • 🇸🇪 NiP (#5) 
  • 🇪🇺 mousesports (#7)
  • 🇫🇷 Vitality (#9)
  • 🇩🇪 BIG (#10)
  • 🇪🇺 Complexity (#12)
  • 🇪🇺 OG (#13)
  • 🇷🇺 Spirit (#14)
  • 🇺🇸 Evil Geniuses (#21)
  • 🇪🇺 FaZe (#36)
  • 🇩🇪 Sprout (#41)
  • 🇫🇷 LDLC (#42)
  • 🇦🇺 Renegades (#50)
  • 🇧🇷 TeamOne (#51)
  • 🇧🇷 MIBR (#53)
  • 🇺🇸 Bad News Bears (#57)
  • 🇨🇳 ViCi (#148)

The IEM Play-in kicks off today, July 6th and will run through Wednesday, July 7th. The main event will start on July 8th and run through July 18th.

The Current Season

The Favourites

Chance of qualification: 80% or higher

  • 🇪🇺 mousesports (95.2%)
  • 🇩🇪 BIG (87%)
  • 🇫🇷 Vitality (87%)
  • 🇸🇪 NiP (80%)
  • 🇪🇺 OG (80%)

mousesports have received a favourable draw, going up against Bad News Bears in the opener, a North American team that hasn’t particularly impressed even on home turf. Even if they were to lose that match, they would likely go up against LDLC in the loser-bracket, making advancement highly likely. The same can be said for NiP who are in the same side of the bracket, facing off against LDLC in the opener.

OG and BIG are in the same side of the bracket and have, on paper, favourable opening matches, OG particularly so. BIG, on the other hand, have to face off against domestic rivals, Sprout. BIG have the bigger guns with players like XANTARES and syrsoN, but Sprout have been a tough nut for them to crack historically, making advancement a bit more tricky.

Rounding out the list of favourites is Vitality, who will play against Renegades in the opening match. The inexperience of players like Kyojin and misutaaa on LAN could definitely open up a chance for a lower ranked team to punish them in a BO1 format, which makes me less comfortable with the bookmakers’ assessment of 87% implied probability of qualification.

Middle of the Pack

Chance of qualification: 60% or higher

  • 🇪🇺 Complexity (74.1%)
  • 🇷🇺 Spirit (74.1%)
  • 🇪🇺 FaZe (71.4%)
  • 🇺🇸 EG (69.0%)
  • 🇧🇷 MIBR (62.5%)
  • 🇩🇪 Sprout (60.6%)

These are certainly the more unpredictable teams at the event. Complexity have a really nice opening match against ViCi, a Chinese team that they should be heavily favoured against. It is also worth noting that Complexity would go up against FaZe or EG in the winners bracket if they were to win that match, both opponents whom they have an excellent track record against.

I trust in Complexity’s ability to qualify, but the rest of the teams are more tricky to forecast. FaZe take on EG in an opening match that is anyone’s game. If I have to pick a winner, it would be FaZe. LAN experience could be key in order to qualify from a tough bracket, and FaZe have plenty of that with players like rain, olof and karrigan. 

The Underdogs

Chance of qualification: 45.5% or lower

  • 🇦🇺 Renegades (45.5%)
  • 🇧🇷 TeamOne (41.7%)
  • 🇺🇸 BadNewsBears (36.4%)
  • 🇫🇷 LDLC (14.3%)
  • 🇨🇳 ViCi (14.3%)

Out of this group of underdogs, I definitely favour Renegades. They have a tough opponent on paper in the form of Vitality, but with the inexperience of players like Kyojin and misutaaa on Vitality, I don’t think an upset is out of the question. The fact that Train was removed from the map pool was a bit of a blessing for the Renegades, as this was their worst map in the pool. With an improved map pool and enough skill to compete, I wouldn’t rule Renegades out of this event completely. 

Betting Tips

It is worth noting that the opening matches are played in BO1 format at this event. This always opens up for one or two upsets to occur. Teams like Sprout, MIBR and possibly even Renegades could easily do some damage in a BO1. Teams that I expect to do well at this event are NiP and mousesports, and I like Complexity because of their side of the bracket.