ESL Pro League Season XIV – The Storylines from Group A

August 11, 2021 | 0 | 384| |

With Counter-Strike: Global Offensive off-season coming to an end, fans are excited to see the professional players and teams returning to the team next week. Of course, that’s when ESL Pro League Season XIV kicks off and it will go on until next month.

In the first week of the tournament, which starts on the 16th, we will be watching fifteen games from the six teams that are part of group A. This group is particularly interesting when you consider their wildly different backgrounds and current storylines, and they definitely are an interesting bunch. Moreover, group A has an interesting underlying theme going on. There’s three favorites surrounded by uncertainty and pressure, and three underdogs that could see EPL Season XIV being key for their development as a team.

So, what exactly are the expectations for each one of these six teams? What are their storylines? Here we will take a closer look at these six teams and their ongoing stories in order to fully understand what’s on the line for each of them.

ASTRALIS – A Chance to Reignite The Flames

Gla1ve will be key for Astralis in ESL Pro League Season XIV
PLAYERROLE (according to Liquipedia)HLTV RATING IN 2021LATEST EVENT HLTV RATING
BubzkjiRifler0.981.01 @ IEM Cologne 2021
dupreehRifler [entry fragger]1.011.03 @ IEM Cologne 2021
gla1veIn-Game Leader0.970.99 @ IEM Cologne 2021
LuckyAWPer1.131.21 @ POWER Ligaen Season 17
MagiskRifler1.081.05 @ IEM Cologne 2021
Xyp9xRifler [support, lurker]1.011.07 @ IEM Cologne 2021

Astralis is far from the peak the team once reached before the pandemic, and 2021 hasn’t been an easy year for the Danes. The team’s situation took a turn for the worse months ago when Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, Astralis AWPer and four-times Major champion announced that he was transferred from Astralis to Ninjas in Pyjamas.

Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, Astralis’ captain, however, didn’t throw the towel. While earlier results weren’t great, Astralis latest showing gave fans hope. The team achieved a deep run in IEM Cologne 2021, and that was essential to turn the atmosphere surrounding the Danish squad.

A turn for the better

During the player break, Astralis was hit by various rumors regarding its players leaving the team once their contracts expire. Fortunately, what we officially have so far is fairly positive instead. Not only their captain signed a new three-year contract with the organization, but a new player was also brought in. Philip “Lucky” Ewald is Astralis’ newest AWPer, finally filling the role that dev1ce left open when he left the team. Moreover, we have to mention Xyp9x recent performance resurgence. The veteran player was key for Astralis run in IEM Cologne, and the team will be counting on him to deliver solid performances again in EPL Season XIV.

With the player break over, Astralis return to the server with good expectations surrounding them for the first time in quite a while. Their newest AWPer will need some time to adjust, and the rumors surrounding some players leaving the team still are there, but overall, Astralis is the favorite team.

During ESL Pro League next week, Astralis are favorites to top their group, and their outlook is favorable enough to make this a realistic expectation. The squad isn’t quite out of the woods yet, but they are close enough of an opportunity to reignite the fire that once took them to the top.

BAD NEWS BEARS – Keeping the Flames Burning

BNB is coming to ESL Pro League with low expectations and without their long-running player 'ptr'
PLAYERROLE (according to Liquipedia)HLTV RATING IN 2021LATEST EVENT HLTV RATING
JonjiRifler [entry fragger]1.161.12 @ ESEA Summer Cup Cash Cup 5 NA
JuniorAWPer0.951.29 @ ESEA Summer Cup Cash Cup 5 NA
ShakezullahIn-Game Leader1.001.01 @ ESEA Summer Cup Cash Cup 5 NA
SpongeyRifler1.071.17 @ ESEA Summer Cup Cash Cup 5 NA
SwisherRifler1.121.27 @ ESEA Summer Cup Cash Cup 5 NA

With North American Counter-Strike getting heavily impacted by the pandemic, the scene has definitely seen better days. Now, teams on the lower tiers of the competition are struggling to keep playing due to the lack of organizations interested, and Bad News Bears is one of the affected teams.

The Bears results don’t inspire much confidence on them in EPL, sure. BNB came in last place during IEM Cologne 2021 Play-In, and even in the Americas-only event cs_summit 8 the team also finished last.

However, the players under the BNB logo are some of the few players remaining of their tier. With many players from the region having announced their retirement from esports or moving to other games, their efforts are most admirable.

Not giving up

Overall, expectations for BNB are low. To further complicate their situation, the team lost their previous AWPer Peter “ptr” Gurney right before the event. While they already have loaned Paytyn “Junior” Johnson from FURIA to replace ptr, a roster change will always require some adjusts initially.

Still, it’s hard to wish anything but the best for the Bears. Their efforts deserve nothing but respect, and hopefully this project manages to survive through the pandemic, so we can see this team reaching its full potential once they are able to train consistently against European teams.

ENCE – It won’t be easy to get through ESL Pro League

ENCE is another underdog of ESL Pro League Season XIV
PLAYERROLE (according to Liquipedia)HLTV RATING IN 2021LATEST EVENT HLTV RATING
dotoRifler [support]1.031.12 @ Pinnacle Cup II
dychaRifler1.101.15 @ Pinnacle Cup II
hadesAWPer1.170.93 @ ESEA Summer Cash Cup 3 EU
SnappiIn-Game Leader0.991.04 @ Pinnacle Cup II
SpinxRifler [entry fragger]1.131.23 @ Pinnacle Cup II

ENCE is in an interesting position at this point. The squad currently has the man who used to be the face of ENCE, Aleksi “⁠allu⁠” Jalli, on the bench. In his place, Olek ‘hades’ Miskiewicz’ was brought in. The Polish AWPer has been putting solid performances, which is something every CSGO team needs – a reliable AWPer. On paper, with the addition of hades, ENCE has an incredible trio with him, Paweł ‘dycha’ Dycha and Lotan ‘Spinx’ Giladi – and their ratings back it up.

Unfortunately for ENCE, hades – and the aforementioned trio – wasn’t enough to completely turn the tides in their favors. While they are doing well in the lower tiers, they aren’t doing quite well compared to a team like Sinners, which is also present in ESL Pro League Season 14. In fact, ENCE’s latest showing at Pinnacle Cup II puts some doubts on what we can expect from ENCE in EPL.

At the end of the day, ENCE is an unknown variable in group A. On paper, they have potential to take a spot in the end of the tournament if they can get some upsets on their way. Yet, even with hades, they simply don’t have the results to back any confidence on them. It won’t be easy for ENCE this time.

HEROIC – The Defending Champions of ESL Pro League

PLAYERROLE (according to Liquipedia)HLTV RATING IN 2021LATEST EVENT HLTV RATING
cadiaNIn-Game Leader1.131.08 @ IEM Cologne 2021
refrezhRifler [entry fragger]1.010.82 @ IEM Cologne 2021
sjuushRifler [support, lurker]1.081.06 @ IEM Cologne 2021
stavnRifler, AWPer1.081.01 @ IEM Cologne 2021
TeSeSRifler1.121.09 @ IEM Cologne 2021

Back in the thirteenth season of ESL Pro League, Heroic surprised us all. Not only that, but they – specifically Casper “cadiaN” Møller, their captain – gave the Counter-Strike community one of the best plays of the year.   

A couple of months later, Heroic returns to ESL servers. CadiaN’s team isn’t the same team that lifted the trophy from that season, though. Since them, Heroic results have plummeted as the rivalry between Gambit and Natus Vincere took the main stage.

With the rise of G2, Heroic ended falling even further. Right now, cadiaN’s squad isn’t even considered a top five team. This makes ESL Pro League Season XIV an even more crucial event for them.

Back being the underdogs

Here, Heroic is one of the favorites to make through and advance to the playoffs. They are more than able to do it, but what happens after it? And let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After all, Heroic’s showings during IEM Summer 2021 and IEM Cologne were disappointing and exposed many of their weaknesses. With a team like Spirit around, their spot isn’t guaranteed.

Still, Heroic went to EPL Season XIII as underdogs, and they are in the same situation here. As we mentioned previously, Heroic thrives as underdogs, and underestimating them here is a serious mistake that could cost any team an important map. However, their lost of momentum alongside with their recent issues with the previous coach of Heroic, Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen, makes this a much more complicated circumstance than the one they were back in EPL Season 13.

SPIRIT – Underdogs from the CIS region in ESL Pro League

PLAYERROLE (according to Liquipedia)HLTV RATING IN 2021LATEST EVENT HLTV RATING
chopperIn-Game Leader1.000.93 @ IEM Cologne 2021
degsterAWPer1.191.34 @ IEM Cologne 2021
magixxRifler1.050.80 @ IEM Cologne 2021
mirRifler [entry fragger]1.211.17 @ IEM Cologne 2021
sdyRifler1.080.96 @ IEM Cologne 2021

Earlier in the year, many teams from Eastern Europe followed Gambit, Na’Vi and Virtus.Pro in their dominant run over Europe. Team Spirit was one of these teams, and one of the most successful at it, only below the three aforementioned squads.

However, things aren’t quite the same at the moment. Much like Heroic, Spirit’s momentum seems to have faded, and now the team will be fighting to build it again.

Spirit chances

The difference between Spirit and Heroic comes to what other teams expect of them. Captains and coaches can predict Heroic – and many other teams – to a reasonably extend. Trying to predict what Spirit will do, however, isn’t that easy.

Lastly, Spirit is coming to ESL Pro League Season XIV after a disappointing showing at IEM Cologne 2021. Right after that, though, they won Pinnacle Cup II. While not a premier tournament, events like Pinnacle Cup are perfect for a team like Spirit. It allows them to experiment, and more importantly, regain their confidence.

So, Spirit are the underdogs but when it comes to a fight for the last two spots, they surely will become even more dangerous. Don’t be surprised to see any of the favorites being left behind while Spirit advances to the playoffs.

VITALITY – Results Needed

PLAYERROLE (according to Liquipedia)HLTV RATING IN 2021LATEST EVENT HLTV RATING
apEXIn-Game Leader0.960.85 @ IEM Cologne 2021
KyojinRifler [support, lurker]0.950.90 @ IEM Cologne 2021
misutaaaRifler [entry fragger]1.010.91 @ IEM Cologne 2021
shoxRifler [lurker]1.011.04 @ IEM Cologne 2021
ZywOoAWPer1.271.12 @ IEM Cologne 2021

House of one of the best Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players in the world at the moment, Vitality is severely lacking in results this year. Besides finishing in 3rd back in BLAST Premier Global Finals back in January, and a 3-4th finish in IEM Summer 2021, Vitality hasn’t just been the team they were supposed to be.

It’s past time to change that. EPL XIV should be one of the last events we see the French team with this exact same roster if they don’t start achieving respectable results for a team of their caliber.

Is it time to ‘save ZywOo’?

Before we talk about their chances, it’s important to try to understand what’s happening with Vitality. Which is a challenge in itself.Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire, the team’s captain, seems to be particularly struggling lately. Unfortunately, his slump isn’t restricted to his individual performances, as the team often looks incapable to answer their opponents’ advances. Case in point: their latest game against Natus Vincere.

Whether or not apEX has recovered his form, EPL Season XIV is here and Vitality will be playing on the first day. Getting eliminated in the group stage would be devastating, but it’s an undeniable possibility. To make matters worse, the pressure on this team is simply absurd. After all, it’s not just about the investing that went on the squad, but also the fact that Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut is one of their players. Having one of the best players in your squad and failing to bring results will haunt any captain and any manager. It’s a severe situation, and ESL Pro League Season XIV will be the climax of Vitality’s storyline in 2021.

CSGO returns next week!

Starting on Monday 16th, CSGO fans will be closely waiting for the first game in ESL Pro League Season XIV after almost a month without matches from the best teams in the world. If you want to make sure you’re up-to-date with the tournament, feel free to check our guide here!

As always – thanks for reading! Tune-up on our news page next week as we’ll be taking a look at EPL S14 Group B.

The author

My name is Marcos, I have been following the CSGO pro scene since 2015 but really got into in following games and pro teams in 2016. Used to bet a lot, stopped a bit but never stopped following the esports scene. I'm a student right now so I got a lot of time to keep with it and discover new things.

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