The seventh season of StarSeries i-League is soon upon us. Sixteen teams will travel to Shanghai, China to battle it out for the first place prize of $250,000.
The seventh season of StarSeries i-League is soon upon us. Sixteen teams will travel to Shanghai, China to battle it out for the first place prize of $250,000. We should be in for a great one as many of the world’s best teams will be in attendance. Follow along as we break down all you need to know about this year’s tournament.
StarSeries i-League will be underway for the seventh time since it’s inception. The previous six iterations took place in Kiev, Ukraine — but this year we will see a change of scenery as the tournament has been moved to Shanghai, China. The sixteen teams will be competing for the first-place prize of $250,000 and the title of StarSeries i-League Season 7 Champion. The tournament will kick off March 30 and the winner will be crowned on April 7.
Whoever wants to go all the way in China will have to earn it, as the format used for this tournament will be swiss system with best-of-threes all throughout the group-stage, best-of-threes in the playoffs and best-of-five in the finals. As such, it’s unlikely that we’ll see too many upsets here. However, without the number one team Astralis in attendance the title will be entirely up for grabs.
Last year we saw the Finnish side ENCE take down surprise finalist Vega Squadron in a three-map series. A tournament in which the young talent Jere ‘sergej’ Salo earned his first MVP medal. The Finns will look to defend their title against a far stronger field this time around, as teams such as NaVi, FaZe and MIBR will be in attendance.
Natus Vincere has an excellent track record at StarSeries.
It is perhaps unsurprising to see that Natus Vincere (NaVi) has been successful here historically. The CIS team has finished in the top 3 four out of the five times they have attended, including a win back in season five against NRG. An impressive feat considering the difficulty of the format. In fact, since the new format was introduced, NaVi has finished no worse than second place at StarSeries. The team which features current number one player in the world, Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev, most recently won Blast Pro Series Copenhagen but followed that up by bombing out in the group stages of IEM Chicago in disappointing fashion. NaVi is heavily reliant on their star duo of Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev and Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov, but as long as those two are firing on all cylinders they are a dangerous team that could quite easily walk away with the title.
Other teams that have found success here include the likes of FaZe, NiP and Mousesports, all of whom have won here in the past. It is worth noting, however, that all of these have since made major changes to their rosters. As of the writing of this article, mousesports has yet to finalize their roster after letting go of Martin ‘STYKO’ Styk and Chris ‘chrisJ’ de Jong and their performance will hugely depend on what type of roster they will field for this tournament. FaZe has replaced longtime in-game leader Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen with Dauren ‘AdreN’ Kystaubayev. The star-studded roster looked questionable at iBuyPower Masters, losing twice to Ghost Gaming — but they redeemed themselves by winning ELEAGUE Invitational just a week later. As such, they will likely be among the favorites going into this year’s event.
One team to look out for will be NRG. They will be making their second appearance at StarSeries since first qualifying back in Season 5, a tournament in which they earned themselves a second-place finish. The North American side has gone from strength to strength since adding Ethan ‘Ethan’ Arnold back in January of last year. Since then they have picked up wins at tournaments such as the iBuyPower Invitational, cs_summit 3 and IEM Shanghai. They have also shown good form at IEM Katowice, having advanced to the new legends stage of the major undefeated. In addition to the aforementioned entry-fragger Ethan, NRG also has two other young talents in Vincent ‘Brehze’ Cayonte and Tsvetelin ‘CeRq’ Dimitrov. Together they make up a really strong trio of fraggers who all complement each other quite well. NRG has yet to win a tournament of this caliber — but without Astralis and Team Liquid in attendance, they will certainly have a chance to prove that they belong with the big boys.
Another team to pay close attention to will be BIG. The Germans have made a roster change, opting to replace Owen ‘smooya’ Butterfield in favor of Turkish superstar, Ismailcan ‘XANTARES’ Dörtkardeş. This will be XANTARES’ third LAN tournament with the team and he has been quite impressive since joining, to say the least. He leads the way in most of the statistical categories for his team with a total K/D ratio of 1.35 and an average of 0.91 kills/round as well as 0.16 assists/round — best on the team by a long shot. The competition at this year’s tournament will be fierce, but BIG has a lot of the necessary ingredients to cause upsets. They have always been a team with strong fundamentals and a good strategic understanding of the game thanks to in-game leader Fatih ‘gob b’ Dayik. Their utility usage is particularly strong and the stats help support that claim. They lead all teams in total Flash Assists per round for the last year and they are second only to number one team Astralis in total Grenade Damage per round. With the additional firepower that XANTARES brings to the team, BIG now possesses serious upset potential. As of the writing of this article, the Major in Katowice has yet to finish. It will be worth keeping an eye on how BIG perform there moving into StarSeries. Regardless, XANTARES will make for an excellent pick in fantasy moving forward.
One of the major talking points for the last few months has been the price deductions made to the scoped rifles AUG and SG-552. For the last few tournaments, it has been commonplace for teams to run four to five AUGs on ct-side due to how strong they are in comparison to the M4. Interestingly, BIG was one of the first teams to pick up the AUG, which again goes to show that they are not afraid to embrace changes to the meta. However, by the time you are reading this, it is entirely possible that a patch has been sent out to address the strength of the AUG in particular.