IEM Winter 2021 – Tournament Preview

December 1, 2021 | 0 | 344| |

December is here, and so is the final ESL event of the year, IEM Winter 2021. Featuring sixteen teams from the entire event, IEM Winter will be hosted in a studio environment in Sweden starting this Thursday.

Before the event starts, though, let’s take some time to review everything we need to know, as well as some of the most interesting storylines ongoing.


IEM Winter 2021 will start this Thursday, December 2nd at 11:00 AM UTC. In order to see which time that is in your time zone, check this handy link. The event will end on Sunday, 12th as teams will be taking a small break after the playoffs quarter-finals.

As for the event format, IEM Winter is a two-stage event. First, we will be having a group stage featuring two groups, each running a GSL bracket. Opening matches will be best-of-one map, and the remaining games are BO3s. The top three teams from each group will advance to the playoffs, and the first placed team of each group advances directly to the semi-finals. The playoffs will run a single-elimination bracket, and the grand-finals are going to be a BO5 match.

Finally, the event features a USD $250.000 prize pool, and it will be played offline in one of ESL’s studios in Sweden. This means no crowds, but you will be able to catch every bit of the tournament through ESL’s official channels on Twitch.


With all details covered, let’s check the most interesting storylines being developed during the event!


Astralis left the Royal Arena this past Sunday with their heads up. The Danish squad had just gotten two new players and a new coach, and they managed to finish in 3rd in a fairly packed tournament, and they made the home crowd proud during it.

Now, Astralis isn’t a proven squad just yet. During BLAST Premier Fall Finals, the Danes were experimenting with the AWPer role and that’s a dangerous role to play with nowadays. Back last week, it worked for Astralis, but there’s no guarantee that the team’s captain Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander will keep working with it so well.

Furthermore, IEM Winter have a bigger team list, which means that Astralis will be test on different levels. From GODSENT to G2, there’s danger everywhere in this event, and this new line up will be truly put to test then.

If you’re an Astralis fan, IEM Winter is an event you won’t want to miss. It’s the second trial for this team, and it’s their opportunity to clear doubts left during the BLAST Fall Finals. If this team can perform at the same level they did on Royal Arena, then 2022 will suddenly be looking a lot more interesting as this team can only get better from this point. On the road to the stars.


FNATIC’s new roster have been making the news lately for a good reason. The squad just won two events back-to-back and while these were lower tier competitions, it still shows that finally FNATIC has a working team in their ranks.

However, FNATIC still has to prove themselves against the top tier competition, and IEM Winter will be the first time for this team in such an environment. FNATIC’s opening match will already push them to their limits as they will be facing Gambit there.

Overall, IEM Winter is the event that FNATIC has been waiting since they added Owen “smooya” Butterfield and became a mostly English roster. IEM Winter could be the event to finally see English Counter-Strike successfully taking on other, historically more successful regions.

Of course, doing well at IEM Winter is also extremely important for the FNATIC organization. After a rough year, they need to have some securities that this team will work going into 2022. It’s past time for FNATIC to get back competing at the highest level, and the organization haven’t fielded a roster this promising in a long time. It’s time to shine, mate.


On paper, IEM Winter 2021 was the perfect tournament for G2. Natus Vincere isn’t taking part on it, so Gambit and Vitality would be G2’s biggest threats, both teams that G2 could put a fight against.

However, G2 won’t have it their way this time around. Not only the rumors about this roster future might’ve taken a toll on the squad morale, G2 will play IEM Winter without their in-game leader.

Announced this past week, G2 revealed that Nemanja “nexa” Isaković will be missing IEM Winter due to visa issues. In his place, G2 will be bringing in Kenny “kennyS” Schrub. As one of the most famous CSGO players, KennyS getting back on the server certainly is good news for some fans, but for G2, it’s undeniably that it turns this event from the perfect opportunity to lift a trophy to a tournament where they will just try their best to do well.

It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing G2 can do about it. Furthermore, it’s clear that the squad is more interesting into the future of this roster. Whether or not the team manages to sign their wishlisted player, it’s clear that chances are coming. IEM Winter is just one of the final events for this current line-up. Nothing you can do about it.


It’s sad to see MOUZ in this state, but it’s undeniable that this team has seen better days. After a disappointing year in 2021, MOUZ is coming to their final event of it, and the odds are stacked against them.

MOUZ opening game against Vitality already puts them as the underdogs. Then, if they can’t upset the 2nd best team in the world, they will be facing either Astralis or NiP in an elimination match. MOUZ chances of surviving the group stage are low.

None of this should come as a surprise though. There are few teams looking as bad as MOUZ in IEM Winter. Despite winning Flashpoint 3, the squad almost missed the Major, and most of their results are negative for a reason or another. Whether it’s Christopher “dexter” Nong leadership, Frederik “acoR” Gyldstrand inconsistency or something else, this team isn’t working anymore. To make matters worse, it’s obvious that MOUZ’ star, Robin “ropz” Kool future isn’t with the red-themed German organization.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many good things to say about this roster which could end its last tournament with a last place finish. Even if they manage to not finish last, this project doesn’t have legs anymore. You hate to see it.


It has been a while since we last saw OG playing. More specifically, OG last official game was in October, in BLAST Premier Showdown where the team failed to qualify to another event after failing to get to the PGL Major Stockholm.

So, it’s understandable why most viewers will expect next to nothing from this squad. Morale certainly mustn’t be great, and people are now asking if this team really has any chance of working. On paper, this squad is perfect, but it after so many disappointing showings, it’s clear that OG won’t be reaching the potential they could. Since ESL Pro League Season 14, this squad has faced an issue in every event they played that costed them a chance to go further.

Now, as the post-Major shuffle is on its way, rumors about OG’s future are scarce. However, recently we have heard news that the team’s leader Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen might not continue with OG in 2022. This puts this roster in a very difficult situation as Aleksib was one of most interesting pillars of the project.

IEM Winter 2021 will be the last tournament of the year for OG, and unless this team finally performs up to the level they were expected to, it’s safe to say it’s the final showing of this roster. IEM Winter will instead be an opportunity for the individuals on this team show what they’re worth of, and if OG should keep them going forward or not. Hope’s gone.


After BLAST Premier Fall Finals, it’s fair game to be a little excited for what Team Liquid can bring to the table. The North American squad failed to impress when it mattered the most, and this project is over, and as shown at the Royal Arena, this might be the ideal conditions to see this team shine. More or less.

Coming to IEM Winter 2021, Team Liquid doesn’t have any expectations. Yet, after the Fall Finals, it will be great to see if this team can do an upset or two, or if Keith “NAF” Markovic can bring his A-game to the event. Nobody is expecting Liquid to reach IEM Winter’s grand-finals, or anything at all, but this team always had potential, and without the pressure, it’s easier to appreciate the little achievements they might accomplish here.

Again, no one’s expecting Liquid to win this tournament. Instead, expectations are low, and this squad seems to operate better like this. For Team Liquid, it’s time to sit back, enjoy whatever Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo can bring and wait until the roster moves start. It’s not about winning at this point.


Natus Vincere, the best team in the world won’t be attending IEM Winter as the team chose to rest before the BLAST Premier World Finals. This means that for G2, Gambit and Vitality, this is the perfect opportunity for them to lift a trophy before the year ends. With G2 having to call in a substitute, now it’s just Vitality and Gambit as the favorites.

For Vitality, this is excellent news. Yes, Gambit still is an issue they will have to deal with it but after the Frenchmen last showing at the Royal Arena, they have shown great signs, and they should be able to face Gambit in equal grounds.

At the same time that this is a great chance for Vitality to finally lift their first trophy in the year, it’s also a sad one. As rumors have been pointing out, Vitality is going to be part of the post-Major shuffle and it’s unfortunate that one of the team’s best performances of 2021 might be one of their last.

Still, all things considered, IEM Winter has Vitality’s players names all over it. It’s finally time for this team to lift a trophy, and everything is set in place for them to get it. C’est notre moment.


Make sure to tune up to ESL’s channels on Twitch starting this Thursday, as the second-last premier event of 2021 will be starting then. IEM Winter will also be the final opportunity to see some teams like MOUZ and OG playing this year!

In order to not miss a beat about everything Counter-Strike, make sure you follow us here!

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.

More articles from MJunior
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x