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IEM Katowice Play-in Review

Counter-Strike is warming up for the prestigious Spodek Arena with IEM Katowice’s Play-in stage. A mix of tier 2 teams with very recently built rosters can make for very unexpected results, but so far this Play-in has gone very close to expected. Let’s look at the surprises, disappointments and what to expect next. 

Surprises

Copenhagen Flames start their first Tier 1 tournament of the year with a sweep of the stage against two theoretically stronger teams. Fnatic, one of the most historically successful teams at Katowice, have been on a steady decline, and here fell short again in front of the young Danes in a 16-7 game.

When the BO3 series arrived, the Flames swept the Ninjas, with one of the games being a 16-3 destruction on Nuke. The Ninjas do have the asterisk of still not having Dev1ce back, but that doesn’t excuse such an easy win for CPH.

Mouse is a name very familiar to most CS fans, but their new roster probably isn’t. Trying to improve from their disappointing 2021 year, the team promoted torzsi from their academy lineup and brought in NBK, a balanced mix of flashy, new talent with sturdy, veteran experience. 

Things got shaken up further for this tournament though, with Bymas testing positive for COVID. The solution used by Mouse was bringing in another Mouse NXT player in JDC. Despite the “bandaid” fix and the newly built roster, the team has been one of the best to watch in the tournament. A comfortable win over Godsent followed by a hardfought loss versus the star-studded Faze is nothing to laugh at.

Mixed messages

Astralis seem entirely stuck in a rut. It can be argued if this can be considered a disappointment given how long it’s been happening now, but the Astralis downfall has not been pretty. The team seems to survive based off of godlike performances from Konfig or BlameF and nothing else. Yet, now that they’re in a LAN-lite setting (before the true lan in the weekend) they’re looking considerably better.

BIG had quite a good showing at Blast Spring and they fell to the Danes in a very closely fought series. Is this a one-off, or are Astralis just better when they’re in a LAN environment? A good showing in Katowice would be a welcome change, but being purely good on LAN doesn’t cut it anymore in the COVID era. Let’s see what they do from here on out. 

The second disappointment isn’t regarding a team specifically, but a part of the event that unfortunately cannot be controlled. Although it’s great to be back in LAN, it sucks how much asterisks events like these will have attached to themselves due to COVID.

Losing players days before an event due to a positive COVID result completely messes up with the rosters and throws any expectation out of the window. Regardless of this, LAN is the way to go and I hope everything goes smoothly inside the Spodek Arena. 

What’s next?

Tomorrow the two Lower Rounds will happen, giving us the last few teams qualifying to IEM Katowice. With it being the first big LAN of the year a lot of expectations surround the Polish event, and so far the games have delivered. My personal hopes for tomorrow’s matches are that the new, exciting rosters get through. This first LAN will be the true test for these newly built teams, and the Spoke Arena will be an incredible stage for that to happen. 

The stand-in situation isn’t ideal, but it arguably creates an interesting chaos. It shows how well teams can adapt, whether they opt into a more “FLP” style of play with fluid roles or they manage to fit a new piece into their carefully built puzzle, adaptation will be a crucial factor in who can succeed here. 

The first lan will be here in a few days, and so far the warm-up has been an absolute joy to watch.

Images via IEM/ESL.