With ESL Pro League and the BLAST Showdown in the rearview mirror, the world watches as the latest iteration of the DreamHack Masters series provides the stage for rising stars to cement their legacy among the world’s best, legends of the game to reclaim their former glory, and underdogs to crash the CS:GO scene with resounding upsets galore. This preview will showcase the hungry 16 teams and their respective aspirations, recent performances, and key players to watch for throughout the tournament. Welcome to DreamHack Masters Spring 2021, where the passionate clash and the persevering scribe their name into history. (Written on 21/04/21)
Fiend: A Chance For a Bulgarian Resurgence
Formerly known as VOYVODA, Fiend find themselves with the greatest chance to bring Bulgarian Counter-Strike back into the limelight since 2019. The veterans of bubble and v1c7or under Windigo had a considerable amount of success after winning the WESG Finals in 2018 but have yet to find the same glory again. After a brief stint in some European mix teams, the duo finally reunited with the hungry youngsters REDSTAR, dream3r and mar under Fiend and found scalps off both OG and Cloud9 on route to enter the main event. While the Bulgarians have an opportunity at redemption, the squad will have quite the task ahead after dismal losses against much lesser opposition. Will Fiend rise to dogfight against the world’s best or find themselves floundering to stay afloat the mighty sea of competition?
Mousesports: Searching For a New Identity
The dexter-led roster of mousesports look to bounce back at DreamHack Masters after an abysmal run of tournaments, crashing out of the BLAST Showdown Qualifier and coming in dead last at ESL Pro League Season 13. However silver linings still lie in wait for the Europeans to snatch going into this tournament. With ropz and frozen showing world class mechanics and keeping the team afloat through their win at the lesser Snow Sweet Snow cup, mousesports certainly have potential to ignite a deep run this week. It will be up to the rest of the squad to rise to the caliber the duo has shown throughout their struggles. AcoR, who has forever shown the potential to become the successor to device’s Danish AWP’ing throne, must show the ferocity he once held under MAD Lions and prove to the world that he has what it takes to be feared. Bymas, who has shown flashes of brilliance under karrigan, is now tasked to show independence in his form and storm through the opposition. Dexter, who’s odds will forever be stacked against him after the departure of karrigan, must not only tactically handle star-studded firepower, but hunt down the new identity that mousesports so desperately needs. The squad’s time is slowly drawing to a close…it is now or never for the Europeans to strike once again.
FaZe: The Opportunity for Domination
The beginnings of a legendary roster continue to brew for FaZe and DreamHack Masters, and it very well could be the time for the squad to unleash its firepower onto the scene. While the most recent outings at ESL Pro League 13 and IEM Katowice were less than optimal results, the team continues to have a ceiling that potentially nobody can answer. With proven IGL karrigan at the helm, having showcased to the world that he can create world-class rosters at every turn, it is only a matter of time before the caged beasts are left to ravage at the international stage. With Twistzz searching for the absolute dominance he displayed in the summer of 2019, coldzera clamoring for a return to superstar heights, rain rejoining to replicate the FaZe of old’s fame, and broky looking to cement himself among the best AWP’ers in the world, karrigan has every tool to carve a path back into the top of the Counter-Strike kingdom.
paiN: A New Underdog From South America
The Brazilian underdogs of paiN gaming have been fighting in the North American scene for over two years and have failed to make any meaningful results occur that would allow them to ever play at this stage. But after a dream run at DreamHack Open January, the squad were finally able to receive a direct invite to the Masters iteration. Contributions from the explosive AWP’er saffee and consistent rifling from biguzera led the team to their highest caliber win yet against Liquid at DreamHack Open March, showing potential for the Brazilians to do great things at the world stage. However, the lack of consistency that the team displays on a regular basis could be an issue going into their opening match against the ESL Pro League champions, Heroic. It will be not only on the shoulders of saffee and biguzera to continue to show their star form, but the more seasoned players NEKIZ and PKL to guide the budding prodigies to victory against the world’s best. The odds are certainly stacked against paiN, but with absolutely no pressure for them to perform at this event, the underdogs from Brazil have the potential to sucker punch the stragglers.
Astralis: In the Shadow of the Former Titans
Danish Counter-Strike has found a resurgence in the last couple of tournaments under Heroic and has now put their counterparts of Astralis under extreme scrutiny. With only a quarterfinal appearance at ESL Pro League Season 13 and a dismal exit in last place at the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown, the 4-time Major Champion roster is showing signs of buckling before their dominating legacy. Questions continue to enshroud the organization after showcasing an askew map pool, worrying team chemistry, and roster management, all seemingly playing a part in the recent results. The pieces of the puzzle have always seemed to be there for gla1ve and zonic, but now they must face one of their most difficult uphill battles yet. The tactical masterminds must fire up the stars of Astralis lead the troops of dupreeh, Magisk, Xyp9x, and perhaps even Bubzkji at DreamHack Masters. Fighting against the young prospects of the world, fighting away from the LAN stage, fighting for their greatness, Astralis remain the greatest to touch the game, but search to claim more titles for their cabinet. They fight not only for prestige, but to prove to the world that the touchstone of Danish Counter-Strike will forever be remembered by the organization that flew to the stars.
Vitality: Kyojin Enters the Fray
After middling results at every tournament of the 2021 season, the premier French team of Vitality have officially parted ways with founding member RpK, paving the way for yet another new talent in Kyojin. Piquing the interest of XTQZZZ and co through intelligent rifling while playing for Team Heretics and other mix teams, the young Frenchman is now tasked with playing alongside legends of his country’s scene while also proving himself to be a worthy pickup over the capable Nivera and the supportive icon RpK. The integration of young talent at Vitality has been commendable from both apEX and XTQZZZ with how sharp misutaaa and Nivera have looked previously on this roster, so perhaps more of the same is in store with the signing of Kyojin. However, more worrying signs have also begun to crop up under the Vitality banner with ZywOo showing career-low ratings at the Spring Showdown and stumbling in key matches at ESL Pro League Season 13. Will the French superstar find himself reinvigorated alongside Kyojin? Or will the squad continue to showcase a mere shadow of their domination?
FURIA: Stopped at the Brink of Glory
Adding a fresh American AWP’er into the full Brazilian roster of FURIA seemed to be a terrible move on paper. But after consistently making top results with junior, the team now looks to break into the upper echelon of the scene among teams like Heroic and Gambit. Passing test after test, FURIA have dispatched both Astralis and Na’Vi and are in pole position to challenge the new kings of the world. The Brazilians owe a lot of their successes to the career-high performances from both the ultra-aggressive arT and the ever-consistent VINI. With dominant rifling from KSCERATO and yuurih in tow, FURIA have found a stride that few teams can break. The difference maker will lie in the young junior to integrate completely among the Brazilians and fan the sparks of brilliance he showcased in North America. If the budding star can add to the blaze the panthers have laid upon European soil, there is no telling how ravaging the squad of FURIA will truly be at DreamHack Masters.
Natus Vincere: Revenge Upon the CIS and the World
Squeaking by the group stage, Natus Vincere have already faced plenty of flak from fans across the world. However, after bowing out at the first round of playoffs against Complexity, the scene has gravitated to the support of the new kings of the CIS region, Gambit. The fire of s1mple has surely been fueled to an unbearable high, biding his time between the last few tournaments to tear the scene apart at DreamHack Masters. With the fulltime addition of B1T into the roster, the added firepower alongside the deadliest duo of s1mple and electronic cannot be overstated. While the question of frags has never been what brought the team to its knees, the slow-paced T-side tactics from Boombl4 and B1ad3 have fallen under extreme scrutiny. It will be up to the tacticians of the squad to elevate their strategy and truly unleash the greatest players the CIS region have ever offered upon the world. The throne belonged to Natus Vincere. Now it is time to steal it back from the challengers who have grinded tooth and nail for it, for they have always been born to conquer.
G2: The AWP Dilemma Potentially Solved
With a shallow playoff run at ESL Pro League Season 13, G2 found themselves in an awkward predicament. NiKo continued to look middling on the sniper in comparison to his rifling and the squad fell flat against FURIA. However, the sinking ship of the European mix team has seemingly been set afloat after an outstanding qualification at the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown. Showing off their superior firepower, they defeated Endpoint in a tight 2-0. Showing off their stamina, the squad painstakingly rose above the hot-handed OG 2-1. Showing off their determination, G2 qualified for the BLAST Spring Finals by shutting down the rising CIS superstars of Team Spirit in a grueling 3 maps. AmaNEk has now donned the AWP’ing role for the Europeans and has found significant success alongside NiKo’s sublime rifling. With the sniper being used sparingly on the Bosnian’s shoulders, the samurai have looked better than ever and continue to build momentum heading into DreamHack Masters. If the Kovac cousins can continue their cascade of frags upon the server with support from the potential hard hitters of AmaNEk and nexa, the demolition of the competition is inevitable.
Heroic: Denmark’s New King Slayers
While Astralis’ legacy continues to be the greatest of all time, Denmark has found its in-form team to follow in Heroic. In a shocking turn of events, refrezh and sjuush were suddenly recruited by the organization and found immediate success at ESL Pro League Season 13. Not only did the team win the entire event over the tournament favorites of Gambit in a grueling five map series, but they also failed to drop a single series on their route to the trophy. They continued their domination at the Spring Showdown until their newfound CIS rivals stole away their qualification to the BLAST Spring Finals. With the energy and passion that IGL cadiaN has brought to the revitalized Danish squad and the stellar fragging from the quartet of rifles that Heroic has to offer, the pieces are in place for the Danes to make yet another deep tournament run at DreamHack Masters. Heroic, with a chip on their shoulder after their 12-series win streak was snapped by Gambit, will stop at nothing to persevere to the playoffs, strike back with revenge, and claim another trophy for Denmark.
Spirit: Cracks In the Russian Dragons’ Armor
Showcasing a brilliant run at IEM Katowice, Team Spirit proved to the world that yet another CIS team deserves to be in the conversation about the world’s best. Qualifying for the BLAST Showdown easily, the momentum continued on for the squad as they quickly rid of Extra Salt from the tournament. But as the tournament went forward, win conditions began to falter for Spirit against Dignitas where they dropped a map on route to their victory over them. Fighting for a spot at the Spring Finals, the roster reared its uglier side while dueling against G2. The youngsters magixx and degster stumbled in the series as pressure continued to compound upon them. The series reached a crescendo on Nuke where the team capitulated in overtime and failed their first test as the favorites of the tournament and were eliminated from the Showdown. It will be up to the veterans of chopper and mir to dust off the irked youngsters of the squad and bounce back at DreamHack Masters. Blood boiling, the dragons will look to return with a vengeance upon the scene.
Gambit: Rulers of the Roost Chase For More
As ESL Pro League Season 13 finalists, BLAST Spring finalists, and the coveted Katowice champions, Gambit is undoubtedly the best team the world has to offer at DreamHack Masters. Showing absolute resilience to strike back against Heroic at the BLAST Spring Showdown, the roster is a well-oiled machine at every turn. With intelligent and sharp fragging from Ax1le, consistent anchoring from Hobbit, patient plays from interz, ice-cold clutches from sh1ro, and brilliant tactical depth from nafany, Gambit continue to play a complete game of Counter-Strike, series after series. The only resistance shown to these champions have been from the Danes of Heroic and the Brazilians of FURIA. Will these teams finally be able to topple the mighty Gambit? Or will the CIS kings continue to prevail at the most difficult turns yet again? Eyes set on only the trophy, Gambit will continue to surge forward at DreamHack Masters and remain the premier team every challenger hopes to defeat at this event.
Virtus.Pro: Fighting Through Inconsistency
IEM Katowice boded well for the Virtus.Pro lineup after the unleashing of YEKINDAR led to an incredible finalist appearance. Now the team fights to replicate these results and showcase a consistent and experienced game at DreamHack Masters after several knocks to the ground. At ESL Pro League Season 13, Virtus.Pro were nearly eliminated in the playoffs by the new look ENCE lineup, but overcame a 15-3 deficit on Dust 2 to advance to the next round of play. Their run was ended by an elimination from Complexity, who fought through the grit of the polar bears and silenced the dominating forces of Jame and YEKINDAR. The team continues to face hardship as they have most recently dropped a series against forZe with the Latvian continuing to go missing. If the Virtus.Pro lineup that shattered expectations at Katowice arrives at DreamHack Masters, quite the fireworks will ensue on the server. However, if the rifles of the CIS squad continue to go absent, the circling challengers will certainly pounce at the opportunity to silence Virtus.Pro.
BIG: Falling From Startling Heights
As the former world number one team, BIG would be expected to continue providing outstanding results at any tournament that they attend. However, this year has shown a cagey edition of the roster that enters DreamHack Masters with the task of reviving German Counter-Strike once more. Last place at Katowice, last place at ESL Pro League Season 13, failing to win lower tier tournaments against the likes of HAVU and Extra Salt, this five-man lineup truly has their work cut out for them. The pieces of BIG remain to be a solid core as tabseN, syrsoN, and XANTARES continue to play at a high level amongst the competition. The last piece of the puzzle that eludes the team is the consistency of their fourth rifler, k1to. The young German must rise to the level that the rest of the roster will showcase at DreamHack Masters if BIG stands any chance to reignite the former beacon of Germany once again.
Extra Salt: North-America’s Challengers Return
Let go from the Cloud9 organization after middling results, JT and company searched for new options among the Counter-Strike scene. Floppy rejoined Cloud9’s European ventures and motm searched for new opportunities with the North American team of High Coast. The core of JT, oSee, Sonic, and their coach T.c, however, kept their heads down and continued to dedicate their time honing their craft in the North American scene. Recruiting the services of up-and-coming rifler FaNg, the FPL-experienced Mexican rifler MarKE, and the core of ex-Cloud9, Extra Salt was born. Quietly continuing to dominate the North American scene, the squad earned invites and qualifications to a string of European events where they have more chances to redeem themselves at the international stage. The team was met with fierce kickback after getting instantly eliminated from the Spring Showdown against Spirit. However, with scalps over BIG and Dignitas recently, the North Americans have showcased a rebirth of their game and have the capability for knocking down greater European opposition at DreamHack Masters. Look for the return of AWP’er oSee and the arrival of a new rifler, FaNg, to reignite a passion for North American Counter-Strike across the region.
Complexity: The Climb Back to Stabilization
After a great run from the European roster, Complexity showed reinvigorated T-sides courtesy of poizon’s return and k0nfig’s mechanical brilliance. Wins over Virtus.Pro, Na’Vi, and pushing Heroic to the brink of defeat, the blameF-led unit at times look unstoppable. Their ESL Pro League Season 13 was ended by NiP in an outclass of a performance by both hampus and nawwk. Showing signs of fatigue, the team has been struggling at FunSpark ULTI with a loss against forZe. The lineup is now searching for stabilization amongst the chaos the online era has provided and DreamHack Masters will be just the event for them to find it. The continued consistency of blameF is a given for Complexity, but truly the success of the team lies in the aim of k0nfig, poizon, and jks. If this trio can reach their individual peaks together, the ceiling for the roster knows no bounds and the eradication of the competition will come thick and fast. The Juggernaut’s climb begins once more. Us the fans shall wait in bated breath for a spectacular rise or a dramatic fall.
If you enjoyed this preview, look to my website for weekly CS:GO content, paladinsalliance.com! If you want more bite-sized analysis and commentary, follow me on Twitter @DatPaladin.