Though narrowly losing out to a surprise Ninjas In Pyjamas performance at IEM Oakland, SK Gaming are still looking like the team to beat in the ECS Season 2 finals. Cruising in at the top of the North American league, the Brazilian world champions have also appeared in the top four of every premier tournament since their landmark MLG Columbus victory under the Luminosity banner.
However, some of the teams they’ll be facing at the Anaheim Arena on December 9-11 have proven to be thorns in SK’s side in the past few months. Which of them have the potential to deny the champions their final win of the year?
If you want to see how SK does on the finals stage, use this special link to get 30% off ECS Season 2 Grand Finals tickets!
Showing there’s still some surprises left in the North American scene, Optic are throwing curveballs left and right for some of the biggest names in the region. Their most direct challenge to SK was knocking them out of the iBUYPOWER Fall Invitational, but Optic do have issues persisting past the qualification stages of larger tournaments. Sitting three points clear with a game in hand in the ECS North American league, there’s little chance they’ll fail to make it to Anaheim, but can they pose a threat to the kings once they arrive?
Into the final week of qualifying matches for the European side of the league, things are much more variable. With five of the ten teams still with four or more matches to play, there’s a lot of potential for last-minute table shuffling, and Virtus.pro are in a great place to capitalise on their remaining matches. If they can make it through to Anaheim, the Polish side stands a significant chance of running deep into the finals. Part of that is their recent performances against SK, bumping them out of the semi-finals at both ESL One NY and EPICENTER in close 2-1 matches. If they come up against the champs this time, perhaps it’ll be another little case of history repeating.
Also sitting within striking distance of ECS finals qualification, and with a massive five games to find the points in, is Ninjas in Pyjamas. The Swedes’ performance at IEM Oakland is all the proof you need to know they’re capable of beating SK when the pressure is on. Though NiP has struggled to find form in the past few years, the return of Pyth replacing Maikelele appears to have been the magic move especially against the fast free-flowing style of play SK are best known for. The hardest part for NiP will be actually getting to Anaheim, though, with their final qualifiers against Astralis, EnVyUs, and FaZe waiting to throw a spanner in the works.
The second team to qualify for the finals straight from the North American league, Cloud9 also have some pedigree against their region’s leaders. C9’s victory over SK at the ESL Pro League Season 4 finals at the end of October may still hang heavy over the Brazilians, especially losing 1-2 after going up 1-0 with a brutal 19:17 overtime struggle in the first map. SK’s ability to shake off particularly heavy losses is better than many teams, hence their status as top dog in CS:GO right now, but Cloud9 have been growing from strength to strength on home soil with newest member autimatic making great plays. But perhaps an even stronger threat lurks even closer to home.
The Brazilian understudies have challenged their bigger brothers on several occasions, and come out on top more often than not. Even though SK holds the upper hand in accolades, if it comes down to an all-Brazil finals, it may be a difficult decider. At this summer’s DreamHack the Immortals squad formed and trained under FalleN’s tutelage bested SK before going on to win the tournament overall. What’s more they have a solid record against others in SK-killers category, triumphing over Optic after they put them out of iBP’s fall invitational to take the top prize there, too. Could ECS be their chance to step out of the shadow of their countrymen?
As with most teams, SK can sometimes be their own worst enemies. FalleN has said the team has suffered some internal conflicts of late, certainly their performance after shocking the world with ESL One Cologne and MLG Columbus wins back to back has been rockier than expected. Despite the most consistent deep runs of any team in CS:GO this year, in recent months first places have become a rarer occurrence for the boys in blue. Could it be finals stage fright? We’ll find out when they take to Anaheim Arena this December.
Where can I buy tickets for the ECS Finals?
You can buy ECS Season 2 Finals tickets online today, and if you use that link then you'll get 30% off the regular prices! There are four ticket types:
Student Ticket - FREE! Includes access to matches, partner booths, signing sessions and other activities on December 10th and 11th. Ticket holders must show College ID.
Ticket - $10.50 - A regular ticket gives you access to matches, partner booths, signing sessions and other activities on December 10th and 11th.
Ticket Plus - $24.50 - Everything you get from a regular ticket, plus a Limited Edition ECS Anaheim Cap and access to an improved seating area.
Premium Ticket - $52.50 - Everything you get above, plus a Limited Edition ECS Anaheim Hoodie and Fast Track for queues.
Good luck and have fun!