Counter-Strike fans just had an excellent week filled with action and surprises from ESL Pro League Season XV, but that was just the first out of four groups in the tournament’s group stage. With Group A over, it’s time to head to B’s this Wednesday.
While Group B might not be as interesting as the previous one on paper, we can still expect some surprises. With FaZe Clan, FURIA and Team Vitality around, this group certainly will have some explosive matches.
So, without further delay, these are the storylines for the six squads in this group.
ENCE – THE QUICKSAND
ENCE has gone through some highs and lows, and right now, they seem to be in the middle of an adaption phase. The squad was already promising last year, but the team decided to bring in ex-FunPlus Phoenix Pavle “maden” Bošković in order to become even more dangerous. Unfortunately, this move isn’t quite seamless as ENCE wished it to be, and maden will be taking some time to fully integrate himself into the roster.
In the meanwhile, ENCE remains much like the same team we saw at the previous season of ESL Pro League. They are somewhat inconsistent, and there’s plenty of tactical issues with this team, from their map pool to their in-game strategies. However, they also are powerful. Individually, this team has enough firepower to compete with some premier teams, even. Their captain, Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer, also has shown to be able to call very well, adding even more potential to this roster.
Independent of which ENCE shows up at this season of EPL, the Europeans will have an uphill battle here. FaZe, Outsiders and Vitality are the favorites. Then, FURIA is supposed to be the team that will be on the watch, ready to punish any of the favorites to take their spot to advance to the playoffs. Against such roster, ENCE has a lot on their plate, but if there’s one team that can surprise, it’s them.
LOOKING AT THE ODDS
For one, beating FURIA should be a very realistic possibility for ENCE. The Brazilians won’t allow ENCE to have an easy time, but as long as Lotan “Spinx” Giladi and Paweł “dycha” Dycha are on form, and Aleksander “hades” Miskiewicz doesn’t disappoint on the AWP, it’s an open game. Considering that Sprout will be underdogs when facing ENCE, that’s another win for this team.
But them it comes the favorites, which ENCE will be playing in sequence from day one. Unless FaZe underperforms, it’s hard to see ENCE taking them down. Even winning one map will be complicated. Now, considering their latest showing, Vitality shouldn’t be an impossible task, but a difficult one nonetheless. It’s hard, but definitely not impossible to see Snappi’s roster upsetting the Danish-French mix.
However, and before we go deeper on the many possibilities surrounding this roster at Pro League, it can be concluded that ENCE will rely on upsets. It’s not a completely different situation than they faced at the fourteenth season, but they can’t count on a team failing to perform like Astralis did back then. Still, looking at the positive side of things, if ENCE somehow manages to reach the playoffs it’ll be time to start discussing to which tier this team belongs, and it’ll be time to stop calling their victories against high tier teams ‘upsets’.
FAZE CLAN – FAR FROM SATISFIED
FaZe won IEM Katowice 2022 just a couple of weeks ago, and they are back for more. This roster has tasted victory, and if there’s a time to peak and start getting titles under your belt and build momentum, it’s now. And Finn “karrigan” Andersen knows it.
However, for some players in this roster, winning here is more personal than ever. For Karrigan, he will be proving that Katowice wasn’t a fluke, or just a honeymoon win. Håvard “rain” Nygaard couldn’t be present at the playoffs stage in Katowice, so he wants to be here all the way, and show that FaZe won’t be better without him. For Robin “ropz” Kool, the 22-year-old Estonian player wants to make up for the time he wasted on MOUZ last year. For Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, there’s a very realistic world where 2022 ends with him being the only North American player lifting an international trophy and being the one carrying the flame for the region.
At the end of the day, FaZe is a team full of storylines, and always has been. The difference this year compared to the last is that this time, FaZe isn’t fighting for relevancy. Karrigan doesn’t have to worry about avoiding finishing in last place anymore. Instead, this team is all about making up for the time they lost, much like ropz. This roster works, they know it, and they can very well take the spot of best team in the world.
FaZe Clan are the favorites to take the first place in their group, unless Vitality shows something much better than they did in Katowice. Sure, one could point that G2 was also the favorites in Group A, but we can’t forget that G2 played most of the event without their in-game leader. So far, FaZe hasn’t announced anything of the sort, so we should be watching the full roster heading to the event.
But, at the end of the day, FaZe has set their eyes on ESL Pro League’s trophy. After all, it has been fourteen seasons and FaZe hasn’t won a single one. It’s time to change that – Karrigan knows it – and this squad is the favorites to do it right now. The only thing able to stop FaZe at this point is themselves.
FURIA – STEP UP
As mentioned above, FURIA is a team that isn’t one of the favorites. However, they will be the one team to eagerly wait to upset one of the big three and take their spot against the odds. There’s no denying that just like ENCE, they will be mostly focusing on Vitality after their last showing, but they will be pushing themselves to the limit against every team here.
In some way, it’s sad to think that FURIA could actually be one of the favorites in this event. Back when Henrique “HEN1” Teles and Vinicius “VINI” Figueiredo were with this roster, they were very close of making themselves a household name among the best squads in the world. After losing HEN1, the squad failed to achieve anything meaningful but a quarter-final finish at the PGL Major Stockholm. Now, FURIA has Rafael “saffee” Costa as their AWPer, and the 27-year-old is an incredible player. However, they have lost VINI, and André “drop” Abreu hasn’t been able to quite fill his shoes.
Still, FURIA is slowly improving and getting back to the point before HEN1 left the team. As seen in IEM Katowice 2022, they got very close against G2. They also gave a masterclass in Overpass against Astralis. The point is, FURIA is a good team. Furthermore, they have potential to be great. ESL Pro League Season XV will be the event to show how far this team is in their improvement process.
ENCE has a lot of potential when it comes to firepower, but FURIA has potential in every area. As mentioned, saffee is showing to be the AWPer this team needs. As for drop, he is adapting to become the ideal support. But then you have the rest of this roster. Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato is the best rifler in Brazil, and is a force of nature on point.
FURIA’s captain, Andrei “arT” Piovezan, is an incredibly versatile player, too, as a second example. Andrei seems able to perform well independent of the pace his team takes. Also, whichever position they need him to be, he’ll do just fine. As for Yuri “yuurih” Boian, he is a strong rifler that might’ve struggled a bit recently. Still, once he picks up, he adds a lot to the squad.
This makes FURIA a team that you simply can’t sleep on, even if you’re FaZe, Outsiders, or Vitality, especially the former two. Every team will be on their limits against the Brazilians, and they only need one opening to take one of the three top spots that lead to the playoffs.
OUTSIDERS (VIRTUS.PRO) – DEFYING CONDITIONS
Teams from the Eastern Europe region are in a difficult situation right now considering the ongoing situation happening there. Still, players from both Russia and Ukraine want to keep competing, and the players from Virtus.Pro are here to show that despite conditions being far from ideal, they still want to perform, and play the game they love professionally against the best in the world.
ESL Pro League Season XV will be the perfect time to do just that. Outsiders is coming to the event as one of the favorites of Group B, and besides FaZe Clan, every other team here can be defeated by Dzhami “Jame” Ali and his teammates. The only question here is, are Outsiders in a position to play their best game?
Once Wednesday comes, we’ll be able to take another look at this team, and only them we’ll be able to know how they are right now. Until then, though, it’s hard to make any predictions for this roster. Yes, this is the same Virtus.Pro that was competing among the best a few weeks ago. But it’s not fair to have high expectations for this roster just now.
SPROUT – ONE STEP AT TIME
Finally, the underdogs of Group B of ESL Pro League Season XV. Sprout, the second-best German team in CSGO, managed to qualify for the event thanks to three players from Extra Salt moving to Complexity and leaving the spot open. While they failed to qualify for this tournament through the qualifiers, they still are a very interesting team that should make the most out of this opportunity.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to expect much more from Sprout than just them being a team looking for experience here. Rasmus “raalz” Steensborg certainly is proving to be quite the leader for this roster, and Timo “Spiidi” Richter’s experience in all tiers of competition certainly brings a lot to the table, but the squad as a whole just isn’t ready to face the likes of FURIA.
Still, Sprout can be proud of attending their first season of ESL Pro League, and hopefully, this is the first of many. Just like Looking for Org did this past week, as long as Sprout takes a couple of maps from the favorites, they can consider their attendance in EPL a success.
TEAM VITALITY – HONEYMOON’S OVER
Vitality is coming to their third event since they brought in Danny “zonic” Sørensen. Emil “Magisk” Reif and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen. So far, their two results have been quite mixed. They did well at BLAST Premier: Spring Groups, but couldn’t keep the same form in IEM Katowice 2022. In Poland, Vitality disappointed. Besides winning a hard-fought game against MOUZ, they got beaten by Heroic and Gambit. And it wasn’t as closer as one might’ve expected.
During Katowice, the main talking point regarding Vitality is how both teams that defeated them managed to shut down their star. Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut couldn’t do much against either Heroic or Gambit, and the rest of their team failed to step up. It’s obvious that many teams took notes from these games and are hoping to do the same when they face ZywOo. If these teams are able or not, it’s up to the team’s coach, zonic, and their in-game leader, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire.
So, ESL Pro League XV will be the first real test for this roster. Is Vitality able to rely less on ZywOo and still find success? They have dupreeh, at the very least, but both Magisk and Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier will need to step up individually, especially the latter as no one in this team can afford to be “carried” anymore.
ALL OR NOTHING
Right now, Team Vitality is the only one that could challenge FaZe Clan on paper. At the same time, they could also be the perfect targets for FURIA. And losing to them and not qualifying for the playoffs here would hurt a lot. Sure, they aren’t together for more than four months yet. And it was expected that this roster could need some extra time considering the difference between both Danish and French players’ cultures. But even so, not qualifying in this group isn’t a positive result.
At the end of the day, excuses can only go so far. Team Vitality is one of the best squads here, and they should qualify for the playoffs. More importantly, this team might be still coming together. Yet, issues as prevalent as the ones exploited back in Katowice need to be fixed. If this roster keeps relying too much on ZywOo and this becomes their downfall here, they will be facing a very difficult situation ahead of the PGL Major. Antwerp RMR events.
So, ESL Pro League Season XV will put Vitality in a trial by fire. And they have to pass. There’s no Gambit or Heroic in their group, and they have five games to guarantee a spot in the top three. This includes one against Sprout, which should be a given victory already. More importantly, results alone won’t be enough. This team needs to show more cohesion on the server in order to be considered the stronghold Vitality’s supposed to be.
GROUP B STARTS THIS WEDNESDAY
This Wednesday (16th) at 11:30 AM UTC, EPL XV’s Group B will be kicking off with Vitality and Sprout. From then, until Sunday, we’ll be having three matches from the group each day. The top three teams of the group will advance to the playoffs. Until then, make sure to follow us here!