As the EU and CIS Minors have come and gone, we move on to the next stop – Americas Minor. Eight teams step in to determine who the two representatives from the western hemisphere will be at IEM Katowice. And one of the six will be lucky enough to get one last chance to qualify for the final four-team qualifier with two spots at the Major at stake.
So, on to the predictions. Everything seems quite obvious at first glance. But, is it really? Let’s take a closer look at the Contenders and Pretenders of the Americas Minor.
Contender – Envy
This is one of the teams that many are dying to see in action at this Minor.
Personally, I love when a new skilled player joins the team. No matter how skillful he is, the introduction of a new member brings some temporary discomfort with it, as the team needs time to reach a decent level of team play. But with all of this, every player tries his best to adjust and improve to get the best results possible. Hopefully, karrigan’s arrival at the beginning of the new year is a breath of fresh air for Envy and will bear fruit.
He probably didn’t expect (though he posted it on twitter) that FaZe, witnesses to the Gambit experience, would have the guts to replace their captain. But they made the tough decision, which, I believe, forced him to take a hard look at his approach to playing.
Envy managed to break through the Minor and ESL ProLeague Season 9 Qualifiers without him. But with the addition of a guy with the pedigree of karrigan, along with Nifty and jdm64 on board, Envy could definitely secure a place at the Major.
Pretender – INTZ
We know that winning a tournament with a stand-in is possible. FaZe proved it twice last year with Cromen and Xizt. But they are a tier-1 team, and both times they had a single stand-in. INTZ might have been a decent shout for a deep run at the upcoming Minor, but they’ve got two. Felps, who joined MIBR, and horvy, the IGL and AWPer, were replaced by destinyy and yeL.
I’ve already said that I do believe in the positive effect that replacements can have, but not if they’re integrated into the team just several days before the start of the tournament, with the IGL’s duties being handed to a person who is also expected to perform at a high level individually (kNgV-).
Yes, INTZ have outplayed bigger teams before, competed with the likes of NRG and even MIBR. But, and there’s a big BUT (shout out to Funkmaster Flex): the roster was set well before those matches and they were online.
I wouldn’t expect a miracle from this team.
Contender – eUnited
On paper, eUnited are one of the favorites of the Minor. However, with the field so even except for NRG, they could just as easily crash out without winning a map.
On one hand, we remember eUnited failing to reach the final stage of ESL Pro League Season 8 on round won. INTZ and eUnited had the same number of points, but INTZ had a round difference of -5, while eUnited had -13.
On the other hand, we remember eUnited winning the IEM Chicago NA Qualifiers Grand Final vs Cloud9 (with STYKO on board) being down one map in a bo5 series, and beating Na’Vi 16:6 on Mirage in the first round of the (IEM Chicago) group stage.
After Chicago, the team seemed confident and had consistent results, but the player replacement madness broke up their decent run of form in November. With a new roster, eUnited have already managed to win a spot in this Minor after beating Ghost Gaming and OGC, but several days before New Year, they parted ways with their coach and analyst. Their final replacement (Relyks for dazzLe) happened only six days before the Minor.
However, the NA squad led by FNS, is stocked with experienced players, and even considering all their deficiencies, they’re still capable of winning a spot in the Major.
Pretender – TeamOne
These Brazilians, led by the legendary “bit” shouldn’t have reached the Minor, but here they are!
They predictably lost to Ghost Gaming in the first round of the winner’s bracket, and were already down one map in the first round of the loser’s bracket vs. Shroud and co. when the unpredictable happened. On the second map, they were one round away from being eliminated from the qualifiers after losing a 4v2 in the 28th round, putting them in a 13:15 hole. However, due to some bizarre circumstances, OGC left the server, which gave TeamOne the technical win. And the Brazilians took advantage of their good fortune, dicing up the rest of the loser’s bracket without losing a single map.
That turn of events was pivotal to the team’s turnaround and made them believe that anything is possible. However, TeamOne’s opponents now are formidable. We’ll see if the combination of their skill and emotional fire is going to be enough to drive them to the one of two spots in the Major. I wouldn’t expect their Cinderella story to continue much longer.
Contender – NRG
The undisputed favorite to win the Americas Minor is probably more excited to be getting that $30k prize than worrying about qualifying for IEM Katowice.
NRG are 8th in HLTV.org’s team ratings, so any result other than 1st place at the Minor would be considered unacceptable, to put it mildly. Not-so-bold prediction: NRG won’t lose a single map during this tournament.
Pretender – FURIA
Winning a spot at the Minor straight through the winner’s bracket was quite a big deal for the team, which often gets to the closed qualifiers but is never able to take that next step to the LAN Finals.
The biggest money prize for FURIA ever was the $12k for winning GG.BET Ascensão in the spring of 2018, where they managed to best NTC with fnx, bit, felps, kNgV- and chelo on board in a close semifinal, and then demolished Virtue Gaming as revenge for their earlier loss. So, entering the New Challengers stage, aside from the competitive breakthrough, would be their record in prize money won at a single event.
But having NRG, Envy, and eUnited among their opponents at this Minor makes that a pipe dream.
Contender – Bravado
These days, the team (initially from South Africa) is often spoken about in the context of the Project Destiny story. Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo and other members of esports community have supported the team on its way to their dream, competing with the best teams in the world.
Although a great sentimental tale, the much more than a feel-good story, as they’ve already shown what they’re capable of. During the last three months they’ve won WESG South Africa, the DreamHack Mumbai Invitational, and placed second at their first big LAN tournament, DreamHack Winter 2018, where they beat big names like Optic Gaming, G2 Esports, x6tence Gaming, losing only to ENCE Esports in the Grand Final. It’s hard to not take the team seriously, anymore.
Reaching the New Challengers Stage would be a golden ticket into the world of big-time esports and a reason for sponsors to take a closer look at the team.
Are they motivated? Definitely. Maybe more so than anyone else at this tournament. Will they get a Major spot? Personally, I hope that their skills, seasoned with their extreme motivation will be enough to beat the odds. Go, Bravado!
Pretender – Imperial
There’s nothing much to say about this team, as it was formed only in September 2018 by acquiring former Santos e-Sports players SHOOWTiME, tifa, and dzt, as well as YeaH Gaming players zqk and shz.
They have already won a WESG slot, making it through the Brazilian qualifiers, along with their ticket to the Minor, as they finished second in the South American qualifiers, losing only to INTZ, who came in first. These results are nothing to scoff at, but they are simply not enough to consider Imperial capable of competing for a Major spot.