The Chinese city of Changzhou on the southern bank of the Yangtze River is the location for the WESG 2016 World Finals as 24 teams head to the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center to stake their claim for the CS:GO title.
The teams have been split into four groups of six for an initial round-robin phase featuring best-of-two series. The winners of each group automatically qualify for the quarterfinals while the second and third place teams move through to an elimination phase to see which four will join the group winners. All matches in the playoffs will be single elimination best-of-three affairs.
Group A will be a challenge
The obvious group of death, Group A is stacked from head to toe with some of the best teams in the tournament.
It’s difficult not to view Virtus.Pro as not only the best team in this group, but the tournament as a whole. The “Virtus Plow” has been in full effect of late as they have enjoyed a dominant run of form. With the longest current tenured roster in Counter Strike, having recently extended the contracts of all five players once again, Virtus.Pro will have high hopes of getting out of this difficult group. They are also targeting making the Finals and will be aiming to show they are currently one of the best teams in the world.
Group A would be even more incredibly stacked if Epsilon had not replaced Dignitas, who were forced to withdraw after all five players left to join a different organization.
While originally EnVyUs looked like a lock as the second-placed side, recent rumours of a third French Shuffle, where French players switch teams, means the potential dismantling of EnVyUs and leaves the team as a complete wildcard. While the players are still under contract, it becomes difficult to assume that EnVyUs will perform at their normal level with so many off-the-field distractions coming just before the tournament.
Opportunity for upsets in Group B
Over in Group B, the Chinese team VG.CyberZen have a real chance to make it through to the round-of-12 in what appears to be a very weak group.
It was previously expected that k23 of Kazakhstan would be the favourites here, but the removal of mou, AdreN, and HObbit significantly reduces k23’s chance of progression and opens up more possibilities when three must qualify from the group.
Joining VG and k23 are a pair of qualifiers from the Americas – rEAK from Chile and .Colombia. In addition, Hong Kong side ENZO and the Finns from iGame.com will feature. Consequently, look for VG to lean on their cohesion as a team to propel them to victory over the other recently put together rosters.
European 1-2 a possibility in Group C
Shockingly, GODSENT enter as the favourites to come top of Group C. The Fnatic-GODSENT swap earlier in the year has panned out poorly for both teams, but GODSENT have seemingly lucked out with a favourable group draw that puts them in prime position to continue their slowly rising form.
With a recent 3rd-4th place finish at DreamHack Winter, GODSENT will look to former Fnatic stars JW and flusha to carry them through the group stage.
One team that could upset GODSENT’s run for first in Group C is fellow European side Kinguin. Off the radar for some time, Kinguin put together a quality run on their way to a 4th place finish at the WESG 2016 European Finals, falling to the best team in the world right now; the aforementioned Virtus.Pro.
Of the four other teams in the group, the Chinese team Five eSports Club are the most striking, having won the WESG 2016 China Qingdao Qualifier and also placing 1st in the International Gaming League 2016 – Summer event. Second in the WESG 2016 Asia-Pacific Finals to k23, Five eSports Club will have high hopes of getting out of the group ahead of Space Soldiers, Signature Gaming and Bravado Gaming.
Shock if TyLoo are not Group D winners
Perhaps the best draw of them all goes to China’s TyLoo, who find themselves as the favourites in another below average group. As always, TyLoo will depend on star AWPer and Captain Mo to carry them, but in a group such as this, their ability to play as a consistent five-man unit should be enough for them to make it out of the group stage.
One of the teams that could make some noise is Selfless, who have just added Slemmy as their in-game leader. While not a complete game changer, Slemmy has had more international experience than many of the other players in this group, giving Selfless the edge entering the group play. Look for Slemmy to implement a series of complex set strategies that could assist Selfless in moving through to the next round.
JYP from Malaysia, Dark Passage from Turkey and the Mexican squad from Team Quetzal round out the group along with a potential dark horse in Team Ukraine. While none of the members of the latter are well-known players, the CIS nations have a habit of producing good players on a consistent basis. Whether Team Ukraine is worthy of that reputation will be interesting to see, but they are certainly an intriguing team to follow in the group stage.
The unbalanced groups are sure to throw up some interesting upsets and the round-of-12 could be particularly entertaining depending on which marginal teams make it out of Groups B and D. With only the eight teams reaching the quarterfinals being awarded any of the $1.5 million in prize money, the pressure will definitely be on when the tournament begins on 12 January.