It's that time of the year again. The air gets crisp and the leaves fall down on another action packed season of Counter-Strike.
Starting this Friday, teams from all around the world will come back to another season of ELEAGUE Premier, with familiar faces in different places after PGL Major Krakow. The 16 teams will be split into groups of four and will battle it out weekly to earn its spot in the playoffs for the championship. With each group taking place across four weeks of play, let's break these groups down one at a time.
Group A: FaZe Clan, Natus Vincere, G2 Esports, Renegades
Advancing: FaZe Clan and G2 Esports
Arguably one of the best rosters on paper from the EU region, FaZe Clan was recently formed after a pretty disappointing exit to PGL Major Krakow. Gaining the CIS sniper, Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovacs, and 2015 back-to-back Major Champion, Olof "Olofmeister" Kajbjer on the active roster may be too tough to tame. Despite falling out of the playoffs at DreamHack Masters Malmo, the team still needs work that in-game leader, Finn "karrigan" Andersen, will work his magic. Don't let new team chemistry fool you, we are talking about legends here! With two new weapons at his disposal, karrigan may have found the missing pieces to the puzzle that is FaZe Clan. This should be more than enough to carry them through Group A.
Welcome home, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko! After winning the PGL Major Krakow with Gambit, Zeus decided to go back to his roots in the black and yellow jersey of Natus Vincere once again. Na'Vi has had a rocky first half of the year with several disappointing finishes and poor performances across the board. But despite the team being back under the helm of Zeus, the recent showings have been vague. The start of ESL Pro League Season 6 resulted with just two wins in three series. To follow, a quarterfinal loss at DreamHack Masters Malmo topped off Zeus' somewhat rocky start to his second tenure with the team. With only a week to prepare, Natus Vincere better find some ground and keep on going.
The recent DreamHack Masters Malmo Champions of G2 Esports will be soaring into the start of ELEAGUE premier with all eyes on them. The French super team finally conquered the playing field and claimed its second title of the year after the EPL Season 5 Finals. G2 had been up and down recently after missing out on qualification for ESL One New York and a group stage exit at the Major. The win at the Masters seems to have rejuvenated the team. One possible issue is that G2 will now have to follow Valve's coaching rule at ELEAGUE, which could hinder the momentum without the help from coach, Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux. Although if Dan "apEX" Madesclaire has another maniac series then nothing will stand in his way. However, G2 didn't just win DreamHack Malmo for nothing as this team is more hungry than ever to win. Though the team may not take the spotlight on Friday, but will surely advance into the playoffs along side FaZe.
Securing the last Premier qualifier spot, Renegades rounds out Group A as this line-up is up to something...and that something got even bigger with the recent addition of Keith "NAF" Markoviv to bring some firepower into the lineup. Of late, the team has been playing fairly consistent at the ESL Pro League and even took down Virtus.pro at DreamHack Masters Malmo. Remember that they did all that with a stand-in, too. Renegades isn't a team to sleep on, as they have proven to be a tough contender when it matters the most.