IEM Sydney is almost upon us and with that comes the beginning of tier one Counter-Strike 2 action. The first IEM Sydney since 2019, although it might be on at unusual times for a typical Counter-Strike event, it will be an exciting return to one of Counter-Strike’s greatest crowds.
A new game, no one knows exactly what to suspect, but we’re willing to bet that with MR12 best of ones, there could just be a tonne of unexpected results. Oh, and definitely a whole bunch of shoeys once we reach the playoff stage.
There are two groups to look at, so we’ve decided to split our preview into two articles. Group A has already been covered, so let’s get into Group B.
One of the best teams of the year, ENCE are without a doubt one of the favorites to win the whole event, and with the news breaking that Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy will be playing for NAVI and Bram "Nexius" Campana will be playing for MOUZ, ENCE’s chances of claiming the trophy have gone up massively.
Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer is one of the best in-game leaders in the world, and with Alvaro "SunPayus" Garcia and Guy "Nertz" Iluz within his brigade, ENCE has enough firepower to take on any team in the world. Add in Pawel "dycha" Dycha and Pavle "Maden" Boskovic, and they have a great recipe for success.
Facing off against Lynn Vision in their opening game, ENCE have an incredibly favorable first match-up, one that could easily set them up to win their group. Cloud9 and G2 will have something to say about that of course, but ENCE has seen off both of those teams before and will be happy to do so again.
Disappointed by their failure to secure a place at BLAST Premier Fall Final in the BLAST Premier Fall Showdown, ENCE will be looking to start CS2 much better than they closed out CS:GO, and nothing would do that better than an event win.
A run of good form has seen Lynn Vision recently climb into the HLTV top 30, and they’ll be looking to extend that run into IEM Sydney. The tournament's sole Asian representatives, they had to beat 5yclone, TheMongolz, and TYLOO in order to get this far. Outside of that run, they also recently beat 9INE at ESL Pro League Season 18, so they have the chops to succeed against European opposition.
Sike "z4kr" Zhang is the team’s biggest star, his 1.10 Impact rating is the highest on the team and combined with his 79.2 ADR makes him the biggest threat alongside Lizhi "Starry" Ye, who is at 1.09 Impact rating and 78.4 ADR.
With an opening match against ENCE, Lynn Vision will have a difficult time getting into this series, but they’ve been impressive of late and nothing is impossible.
Since the formation of fnatic’s latest roster, things haven’t exactly looked too great for one of Counter-Strike’s most successful organizations. They bombed out of the RES Western European Masters and were eliminated in the round of 16 at Pro League after only winning versus Imperial, 5yclone, and Apeks.
William "mezii" Merriman has been unlocked by handing over the reins of IGL to Chris "dexter" Nong, and Aurelian "afro" Drapier has impressed since stepping up to tier one, but that’s about as good as it gets for fnatic.
Whether it’s Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson not being what he used to be, or Fredrik "roeJ" Jorgensen still not managing to find consistency in tier one, we couldn’t tell you, but this fnatic squadron doesn’t seem fated to last long.
Set to face Cloud9 in their opening match, fnatic couldn’t ask for many harder opponents. Making playoffs isn’t impossible, but they’re almost definitely going to have to do it from the lower bracket.
Many people may have expected Cloud9 to hit the ground running when they signed Denis "electroNic" Sharipov and Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy, but we always thought it would be more of a slow burn.
We were never convinced by electroNic as an IGL, and a role clash between the former NAVI player and Abay "HObbit" Khassenov was always going to be tough to figure out, but with HObbit now taking over the IGL role, the rest of it may come easily, and their win at BLAST Premier Fall Showdown seems to be a strong start to that.
In Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov, Cloud9 have one of the best AWPers in the world, and his 1.19 Impact rating and 0.79 kills per round make him a threat even without the big green. Their success will largely be dependent on sh1ro’s form, and the AWPer will be keen to start claiming some more trophies now that CS2 is here.
Even before the news of MOUZ and NAVI being without two key players, we’d have said Cloud9 were a favorite to win IEM Sydney. With that news, however, we’re now confident that this could be the true start of greatness for the superteam.
Of all the tier-two teams that surprised everyone at the BLAST.tv Paris Major, it’s Monte we’ve been most impressed by in the months since then. They may have lost Mohammad "BOROS" Malhas, but they seem to have only improved since then.
Alexander "br0" Bro might not be the dynamic opener that they lost, but the Dane has been a consistently solid figure since his arrival. The stepping up of Sergiy "DemQQ" Demchenko has also helped the team, and he’s become a key figure in them holding on to relevancy post-Paris.
Semi-finalists at ESL Pro League Season 18, Monte looked strong in Malta, and given that they come into Sydney with their full team, they could go far once more. Complexity will be tough cookies to crack in their opening fixture, but should they overcome the NA team, the playoffs could be attainable once more.
Since Liquid turned their back on their roots in favor of an international team, the narrative around Complexity has been whether they can truly become the best team in NA. Given their absolute demolition of Liquid in the BLAST Premier Fall Showdown, we’re willing to say they’ve now done that.
It may have taken a while for Complexity to become a threat after the signing of Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski, but with their win at the Showdown and their playoff finish at Pro League, we think they’re finally ready to start pushing up the ladder on the international stage.
Monte will be tough in their opening game, and beyond that they’ll have G2, ENCE, and Cloud9 all to contend with in order to make playoffs, but it’s not impossible, and the new game could be all Complexity needs for them to bring trophies back to the US of A.
They aren’t a favorite for the event, far from it, but they are a dark horse, and we wouldn’t be too surprised to see Complexity do some serious damage down under.
If anyone is going to get supercharged by Counter-Strike 2’s gameplay, it’s Nikola "NiKo" Kovac. The greatest rifler in CS:GO, CS2 perfectly suits his aiming style, and IEM Sydney could be the perfect place for him to claim his second MVP of the year.
There’s also Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov, who was seemingly born to go down in history as CS2’s greatest-ever player, so a win in the first big LAN event seems almost destined for the Russian.
Even without mentioning the three other players on G2, they’re without a doubt one of the favorites, and they have everything needed to go all the way. Kicking it off with a favorable match-up against hometown heroes Grayhound, the Aussies will be well up for it, but G2 will be ready for anything.
We expect G2 will at least make it to the final, and given NAVI and MOUZ news, we can already see the international team lifting their third event trophy of the year.
If there’s ever been a team more deserving of a strong event, speak up now. Greyhound have been plugging away for years with little success, and there’ll be no better time for them to come alive than in Sydney in front of their home crowd.
Reaching that home crowd will be Greyhound’s biggest advantage at this event, and despite having to face a difficult Group, the desire that comes from attending the first IEM Sydney since 2019 could see them become a force to be reckoned with.
A large part of that will fall to Joshua "INS" Potter, the star rifler whose 1.20 Impact rating makes him by far their best fragger, and who will be keen to see his impressive 2023 transfer into the new era of Counter-Strike.
Let’s face it, the boys might not be winning this event, but we’ve seen magic from Aussies in Sydney before with Renegades in 2018, and we’d be thrilled if history repeated itself now.