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The five storylines to follow at Intel® Extreme Masters Oakland!

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IEM Oakland will use a best-of-one round robin format for two groups of six teams each. Teams in the same group face one another once. The two group winners qualify straight for the semi-finals, the second and third ranked teams play quarters first to determine who moves on to the semis.

The playoffs will take place at the Oracle Arena and will use a BO3 format all the way to the grand finale, where we will then be gifted BO5 carnage.

The Main Storylines

FaZe Clan

The idea of super teams is not new to Counter-Strike, yet the formation of such teams has always been held back by certain beliefs. Mainly the belief that too many stars on a team would ultimately result in a clash of egos.

FaZe Clan threw that ‘wisdom’ right out the window. They went all out when forming their current squad, proving that this age-old myth is nonsense.

Three hall of famers in olofmeister, GuardiaN and karrigan, with NiKo and rain soon to join their ranks.

How are they making it work? It’s probably a combination of several factors. Great leadership by the Danish mastermind karrigan. Olof and GuardiaN aren’t the world-beaters they once were anymore, and are therefore more likely to play within a system that isn’t tailored solely around them. NiKo and rain still have a long list of unachieved goals and are willing to do whatever is asked of them.

A lot of hype surrounds the team these months. I’m not fully sold yet. How are they going to handle adversity or pressure? Two good tournaments aren’t enough to justify all those superlatives thrown at them. IEM Oakland will tell us more about what they’re made of, as they will surely get tested.

Immortals

The Immortals have been struck by misfortune at the turn of every corner these past weeks. A dispute over Twitter lead to kNg getting benched. Two weeks later he was fired for playing in an EPL match without his orgs consent, which in turn lead to HEN1 und LUCAS1 stepping down from the active roster, as they wanted to keep playing with kNg.

Replacement for the three players was quickly found. horvy, destinyy and zqk were brought in. But the bad news doesn’t end here, because now it looks like boltz will team up with his old teammates from SK to replace felps.

The Lone Survivor

This would leave the Immortals with only steel from the roster that made the Krakow Major final. Skill-wise it will be impossible to replace the departed players adequately. A long and difficult way back to the top is imminent. Oakland will tell us where the Brazilians are on that journey. My guess is, right at the very beginning.

Gambit Esports

After their surprising win at the Krakow Major all should have been cheerful and flowery in Gambit land, but shocking news reached the scene merely days after. Zeus was set to leave to team up with Na’Vi once again. Apparently a conflict between the players and coach kane was the catalyst that prompted this move.

Bektiyar “fitch” Bahytov, who played for Tengri, was brought in to take Zeus’ spot. Three months later one thing is certain - Gambit got the better end of that deal!

The Kazakh squad has been quite inactive in the past months and it’s difficult to evaluate their strength. But from what we have seen of fitch, he’s talented and very skilled, but seems to struggle with consistency.

At the EPICENTER event this week, Gambit played a strong series against FaZe, before getting eliminated by VP. In Oakland too, they will face top-tier opposition. Let’s see if they can bring some of that world championship quality they undoubtedly possess!

OpTic Gaming

OpTic is the team I most look forward to seeing play in Oakland. It will be this iteration of the roster’s first LAN event. So far, everything is smooth sailing for friberg’s boys in NA’s EPL. And it should be, as they possess more individual skill than most of their opposition.

IEM Oakland will be the team’s first proper test. We will see how well they perform against top-tier opponents, and if their second rank in EPL North America is merely a by-product of the region, or if it reflects the actual strength of the European mix. I want to see them succeed, but at the same time believe that it’s too early for Magisk & Co. to face their foes from Europe.

Nevertheless, their matches promise entertainment, and maybe they can do some serious damage already against the likes of SK, FaZe, Astralis & Co.

The MongolZ and the state of Asian CS

Our guests from Asia at IEM Oakland will be The MongolZ and, as every time when an Asian team participates in a western event, their strength is a mystery.

The predicament the Asian teams find themselves in remains the same. Individually talented, tactically underdeveloped. There’s no doubt, players like Machinegun, BnTeT or somebody can click on heads just as well as their western adversaries, but their tactical flaws get punished brutally by the more versed western sides.

Seeing how Tyloo got smashed by FaZe this past week at EPICENTER, gives me little hope The MongolZ have what it takes to do serious damage in Oakland.

Just last month, CS:GO has been released in China on a massive scale. Hope remains that, with time, a new breed of Asian Counter-Strike players comes from this. If the Asian region fully buys into CS, it will radically boost the game to new heights. For the growth and popularity of our beloved game, it is immensely important that Asia starts to catch up. From a competitive standpoint too, it would boost excitement to greater heights.

Let’s hope The MongolZ start an Asian uprising at IEM Oakland.

Be part of IEM Oakland this November

The world’s best teams are coming to IEM Oakland to compete for a first place prize of $125,000 and to enter into the Intel Grand Slam race.

Nothing beats the unforgettable experience of watching the world’s best teams compete live in a legendary stadium. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity and join us at the Oracle Arena on November 18-19 - secure yourself a ticket today! And don’t forget to follow IEM on both Twitter and Facebook for further tournament updates.