Form Check: the five top-ranked EPL teams at IEM Chicago

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Astralis, Na’Vi, BIG, MiBR & Renegades have all clinched their playoff berths for the Pro League Finals in Odense prematurely in dominating fashion, but they will also lock horns at Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018. Get your tickets for the bout in the Windy City now! 

Let’s check each teams’ chances:

The Astralis era

It’s official! The Danes have become only the third team in CS:GO history, after NiP and Fnatic, to claim and rule so dominantly over the CS:GO-verse. Henceforth, this period in time will forever be remembered as the Astralis era. In the past seven months, Astralis have made the finals of virtually every big tournament they attended, winning almost all of them, including their second Major in London. They are comfortably in the lead in Pro League, and they enter IEM Chicago as the clear-cut favorites.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to criticize Astralis. gla1ve’s boys seem so superior, that if there are flaws in any aspect of their game, we’ll simply have to wait for an opponent to discover and exploit them. Until then, the Danish deities will simply continue to roam the Counter-Strike lands and leave devastation and suffering in their paths, while collecting more glory and more trophies.

MiBR – time for a title

Six months ago, FalleN, his boys and the Immortals organization revived the MiBR brand. At the time, they were probably not expect to remain title-less until today. But that is the harsh reality the BR-NA mix needs to face. Yes, MiBR is cruising through ESL Pro League Season 8, comfortably sitting in first place, six points ahead of Ghost Gaming. But coldzera & Co. want more.

More than two years have now passed since the core of FalleN, cold and fer won their last Major and they aren’t progressing at the speed they set for themselves with the new boys Stewie2k and tarik. There are two main reasons for that hiccup of course, namely Astralis and Na’Vi – both sides MiBR seem unable to beat. FalleN has been praised for being the world’s best IGL in the past and it’s up to him to figure out a way around these two opponents. How sweet that IEM Chicago offers exactly that opportunity. There’s more than just a title on the line for MiBR. They stand to gain or lose confidence against those two enemies. If things go south, who knows where that might lead the team? Counter-Stiker, as we all know, is a game of confidence…

Natus Vincere – but where are the trophies?

Natus Vincere is Latin and stands for born to win. This summer, this was still a very true statement, when Na’Vi took home three trophies in the span of just one month at StarSeries i-League Season 5, the CS:GO Asia Championships and ESL One Cologne. Since then, nothing. Yes, Na’Vi did make the finals of the London Major, but there they got crushed so hard by Astralis, that it’s questionable whether or not this feat will ever be considered a triumph by the players. In addition, this was already the third Major final for GuardiaN, Edward and flamie, and the second for S1mple, that ended in defeat, which has to be frustrating.

The Ukrainians are playing a strong, no-nonsense campaign in Pro League Season 8, most likely finishing in second place behind Astralis. And while that’s nice, it’s also the duty of such a high-calibre team. It’s also not what Zeus & Co. are after. Their performances at ESL One New York and EPICENTER 2018 have been lacklustre, and it begs the question. Can Na’Vi bounce back in Chicago and maybe even avenge their loss to the Danes in London?

Outback outsiders

The Renegades are certainly one of the revelations of Pro League. After bringing in Gratisfaction and liazz for USTILO and Nifty, no one knew what to make of the team. Now, Renegades are one of four sides that have qualified for the Finals in Denmark before the last matchday, booking their ticket to what will be only the teams’ second tier-one LAN event after IEM Chicago.

In the Windy City, however, Renegades will enter as clear underdogs despite their strong online EPL season, which doesn’t exclude the possibility of an upset of course. AZR and his boys have struggled severly at the two LAN showings they had so far – the Challengers Stage for the London Major and the qualification stage for SL i-League S6. In Chicago it won’t get any easier, with the world’s top teams in attendance, the Australians will be outmatched in almost every area of the game. But a deep run in the lower bracket isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Germany’s hope

BIG’s success this year is still is looked upon with scepticism, which makes this LAN event in Chicago so much more important for them. As a team, in this unforgiving environment, you need to prove repeatedly that you belong, before the fans and experts alike accept you into the small circle of the elite T1 & T2 teams. That’s why even after gob b and his boys made the final of ESL One Cologne, top eight at the Major in London, and achieved impressive results in Pro League, people are still not fully convinced of the teams’ capabilities. They want to see it confirmed again and again, and I’m certain about it, BiG want to confirm it again and again.

It goes without saying, British export smooya has worked wonders for the squad. A strong AWPer like him lends confidence to the entire team. The rise of LANex, the ever strong tabseN and a continually improving tiziaN have made BiG what they are today – a strong tier two team. At events like IEM Chicago and the Pro League Finals in Odense, where BiG will still be considerable underdogs, the Germans can show if they can become something more than gatekeepers. The next step is the toughest to take, and most fail. Let’s see what BiG has in store for us.

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