SK Gaming's pre-coverage started earlier this week when editor Richard 'evan' Armstrong joined Jock Yitch on his gaming podcast, BASH. Other special guests included Ted 'w!$eGuY' Georgoudakis from Team EG and Team Pandemic's in-game leader Joe 'Nabore' Amorosa. You can read more about the podcast here or listen directly here.
You can follow our event coverage through the special event page, here. In this feature we'll look at some of the teams with the most potential to win AEF and some of the crucial early-stage games to look out for.
Group stage predictions – read here
Feature - read here
I pinpointed four key games in the first group-stages which will not only decide who'll finish top of their group but also who goes straight into the play-offs. SK Gaming player and Call of Duty legend Michael 'spaR' Ege decided to give me his opinion on the four matches and crucially, predicting who'll win, by what score and who to look out for.
H2k.Thermaltake versus Team Infused (13:4)
French against the British. H2k recently won the iPOWER' tournament in Paris therefore they seem to be in good shape and performing well on LAN. While the British team have only attended i33' and the CGS CoD4 kickoff with no good results. The team better hope for their own sake to perform better at AEF especially after traveling from the UK to Belgium. The player to watch will be H2k.vazy!
Meet Your Makers versus Serious Gaming (13:7)
After some really impressive results under the flag of TLR, placing second at both CDC4 and the i33 event, it has been quiet silent around this team after they joined up with MYM. They attended two lans and didn't really succeed there, which means that they have the pressure on their side at this event. Serious Gaming were dominating the whole scene for a few months in CoD2, but at the moment they're lacking activity which effects their chance of success. They recently changed their lineup and re-added Solz, their former star-player. As far as I know they haven't got the time to prepare decently for this event which means that they are the clear underdog in my opinion. I'm really looking forward to see the duel between SoCLoN and Solz because they will be the key factor to win this match.
Reason Gaming versus Team SPEED-LINK (13:9)
After strong online and poor offline performance Team SPEED-LINK will be the team to watch. Of course they're under pressure to match their online performances but will they be able to do so after GENE's departure? It seems like this leaves them even stronger as Trigger replaces GENE for the LAN's. The player to watch out for will be SL.smithz, as he has just been nominated for best Call of Duty 4 player at the eSports award and of course everyone wants to see if this is deserved.
Roskilde Ravens versus SK Gaming (9:13)
Well it's pretty useless to write a prediction about your own team but I'll give it a try. We've been struggling with some line-up problems during the last couple of weeks because flie wasn't as active as he was supposed to be. Due to this mokai had to step in and did so in an amazing way. Although we had to face these kind of problems, I can safely say that we've practiced hard and tried everything to be successful at this event. We played four maps against RR in our preparation and won 2two of them, which means that it's gonna be a close game. Champ performed well during the last events and I'm pretty convinced that he will do it once again. On the other hand I hope that we will surprise some people at this LAN and because of that I think that we will win.
Chris 'blackmane' Kinnair
Michael 'Mick' Bradshaw
Jonathan 'raz' Baker
Bas 'SKO' Dirks
Daniel 'Zenith' Joy
2nd Championship Gaming Series Combine
1st Multiplay i33
8-16th Crossfire Devotti Challenge 4
1st Multiplay i32
Best - Citystreets (100%)
Worst – Crash (63%)
Most played – Citystreets / Strike / Crash / Backlot
Dignitas on paper are the most well rounded and capable team in CoD4. A fellow crew member contacted me when he was going over the backend and couldn't believe how long Dignitas's winning spree was, that says enough in its self. Their statistics, even if marginally wrong, are simply amazing. They've only lost three times since i33', fnatic beat them online in the ESL Major Series and on LAN at the CGS. SPEED-LINK were the only other team would could touch them, online of course.
The LAN defeat can easily be explained but what's 'worrying' is that either teams recent record is going to be broken when the two ultimately face each other at AEF. Dignitas have a new player in place of plaZma, that in theory puts them as the underdog but they've a player whose compensating any flaws with activity, not that there were any.
They've no weak maps, a 63% win ratio on their worst map, Crash, is simply phenomenal. They've the broadest range of 'most played' maps meaning they're not relying on the same maps like most teams. They can't be exploited, you can't gain an advantage, you can only step inside the same server and hope your best is ultimately good enough.
Everything about this team deserves to be steeped in hyperbole, you've possibly the greatest mind in the game oiling the cogs and you've your AEF champions waiting to be crowned, mark my words.
Jindrich 'blx' Zelený
Robert 'cross' Kroslak
Lukas 'luckeR' Blazek
Nikolaj 'Marazini' Lazarev
Tomas 'NiO' Jansta
3rd Crossfire Devotti Challenge 4
Best – Strike (100%)
Worst – Backlot (50%) / Crash (50%)
Most played – Crash
The giant killers are cometh. How a team like eSuba whose very good on merit can be considered giant killers is probably linked to the fact that they don't attend many LAN's, when they do they do it in style. Of all the teams attending, there's only one that's collectively feared by every team and that's eSuba. When you play one of the big three, there's the attention and glamour of losing to one of the best teams in the world. When you face eSuba, wrongly or rightly, there isn't the same sort of feeling. People forget about eSuba until a LAN is announced and suddenly there's a fear of this team from the east.
You can't say much about eSuba because their online performance gives next to no indication of how good the team will perform at LAN. You've to wonder though, when the top teams are already saying eSuba are going to do some damage, just how well they're going to do?
Johan 'LinQan' Lindqvist
Martin 'mint' Rojder
Markus 'odyxz' Nilsson
Daniel 'tidde' Asp
Rickard 'zEm' Intveld
1st Championship Gaming Series Combine
4th Multiplay i33
1st Crossfire Devotti Challenge 4
Best – Backlot (77%)
Worst – Crash (60%) / Crossfire (60%)
Most played - Backlot
If you're looking for the full spectrum of style and play then fnatic surely are the team who've provide it. I'm not a great lover of tidde's “style” but then again it's irrelevant, fnatic have players which cover every base and can adapt to any situation. Any lineup change has complemented the team and pushed them forward.
They're fortunate enough to be in the last group meaning their matches will begin on Saturday and they can watch their opponents and practice on the Friday. They've a full group and will take the phony prestige of beating PGS, another g7 club, in the group stages.
Their only slip was at i33' when they finished fourth behind Dignitas, MYM and EG. zEm had just returned to the lineup and once given time, they quickly moved through the gears beating Dignitas at the CGS. The tournament is set up for fnatic to win. They can assure themselves of a place in the upper bracket semi-final by the end of Saturday and with a loser bracket in place for the “slow starters”, there can only be one winner.
Francois 'gus' Guglielmo
Raphael 'RaigeKi' Nunes
Leonrd 'rukkae' Alzeto
Marc 'vazy' Berthold
Lopes 'xandeR' Romain
1st Packard Bell iPOWER Games 2008
2nd Acer Challenge
4th Crossfire Devotti Challenge 4
3rd Activision LAN
Best – Backlot (80%)
Worst – Strike (33%)
Most played – Citystreets / Strike
I like H2k.Thermaltake. In some unfashionably cool way the team gained a bad reputation and I was drawn to them, purely to balance the hate relationship. The team will do anything to win, it shows. At the iPOWER Games however they proved they were good enough to win an international title. In theory it should've been MYM's, they choked in the semi's versus the French and the rest is history.
I've a feeling that of any of the teams outside the top three, Dignitas – fnatic – MYM, H2k are the ones who're the most likely to win one of the events or collect the most prize money.
They're the only team which hasn't changed line-up and the one of the few teams which has performed equally as well in all tournaments. In fact, if anything they're getting better. They will never get an opportunity like this again, Dignitas and MYM have had recent lineup changes and fnatic's best map is also their own. I don't think they're as skilled as the other three but they've better team play.
Alex 'mofje' Kuiper
Pieter 'pietje' Bijl
Robin 'roby' Swaters
Kevin 'svo' De Groot
Nick 'toxjee' Hol
2nd Packard Bell iPOWER Games 2008
1st Acer Challenge
Best – Strike (100%)
Worst – Backlot (50%) / Crash (50%) / Citystreets (50%)
Most played – Crossfire
KomaCrew are a nuisance, the good kind which breaks down stereotypes and stops writers being lazy. They're the side which has changed lineup and fallen out more times in the last two-months than Dignitas in CoD2, that's saying something!
Removing roman was a good move, I watched his performance for the entire Acer LAN and he was the obvious weak spot. While he may have played well in the final, you don't (this is where the nuisance part comes in) win tournaments with only four good players.
They along with SK are the sides most unlikely to reach the last four. 4Kings pulling out won't help their preparation and two matches against poor opponents won't prepare the team for being thrown into the deep end come the bracket stage, while they've a lower bracket to help it probably works against them as the team thrives in the high pressure overtime situations. They as a team however, just don't have enough skill to finish top four.
Meet Your Makers
Tom 'D1ablo' Newman
Jason 'LoOkZor' Perez
Mark 'mark' Horner
Danny 'SoCLoN' Perez
Stevie 'stat' Szabo
3rd Packard Bell iPOWER Games 2008
2nd Multiplay i33
2nd Crossfire Devotti Challenge 4
2nd Multiplay i32
4th Activision LAN
Best – Crash (100%)
Worst – Crossfire (40%)
Most played - Strike
I'm not sure why no-one took the former TLR side seriously until they finished second at CDC4, even then finishing second at i33' was a reaffirmation of what the team already knew, yet the community was still waking up to, they're the most widely traveled, experienced and successful team in CoD4. Gotfrag thinks so anyway and so do I, to an extent.
While the self-destructive Brits have a rather flippant attitude to practice and CoD4 in general, the only thing which has changed since their first LAN is the pressure. On themselves, from the community and from the name – MYM. Ever since joining the Danish organisation they've failed to improve on their initial promise. A dreadful SGL performance combined with the line-up change that never was has only done the team harm. While their confidence is unlikely to be affected, the longer they've to wait until they secure their first LAN win the harder it will get.
While it's doubtful they will under-perform, it's entirely reasonable to say that their expectations won't be met but it will have to more to do with how other teams are performing rather than MYM themselves.
Andreas 'flie*' Rhein
Andre 'iFEARdilemma!' Merzinsky
Daniel 'L-KING' Luther
Burak 'Mokai' Bolat
Michael 'spaR' Ege
Volkan 'thundeR' Kocakahya
5-8th Crossfire Devotti Challenge 4
Best – Strike (100%) / Crash (100%)
Worst – Citystreets (28%)
Most played – Strike / Citystreets
Why do SK deserve to be here? I can already feel the incandescent glare from a thousand CoD community members who feel they're being subject to a biased writer. Well it's true, you could throw a whole number of teams into this eighth and final spot but bare with me while I explain.
This is SK's event, while they may realistically have the-eXperience next weekend as well, if SK don't perform many will class them not as the underachievers of CoD4, but something much much worse. The never-beens, all bark and no bite, all mouth and no trousers, all...
SK have improved immensely from their first LAN at CDC4. L-KING, spaR and Fuchsstute give much needed experience and guidance to the raw and untapped talents like thundeR. The also have the advantage of taking a six-man line-up to the event unlike the rest of the top teams which can only work in their favour. Rotating Mokai and flie depending on map, opponent and performance mean they in theory should always perform to their full capability.
Adam 'deny' Phan
Chris 'ntt' Gillett
Rob 'rob-wiz' Kennedy
Ted 'wiseguy' Georgoudakis
Mark 'wombat' Larsen
3rd Multiplay i33
Best – Backlot (100%) / Crash (100%) / Crossfire (100%)
Worst – Strike (0%)
Most played - Citystreets
I've the distinct feeling EG are being over-hyped. Their third place finish at the Multiplay i33 has merited applause and top three predictions from almost every top European player and commentator, despite the fact that only a handful of teams have played against the North Americans.
Being as brutality realistically as one can be, EG only beat one top team at i33' and that was fnatic. While their map statistics give a skewed view of their ability, it does highlight one flaw – Strike. I could expand on this and say all team-play maps. Fnatic had their reasons for under performing, comparatively, at i33' and the problem the North American's face is the depth. EG beat one of the best teams in the world but were beaten shortly after MYM.
In Europe, EG and Pandemic face up to ten or more teams of the same quality, beating one just isn't good enough and unless they adapt to the increased pace of the European scene, a cause of using three SMG's not two, they're going to struggle especially when played on their 'bad' maps.
EG's lineup has improved or at least they've removed the visible weaknesses which puts them in a good situation compared to the likes of Dignitas, KomaCrew and MYM. Pandemic aren't mentioned because they're essentially EG but worse, I feel that of the two EG is the only one in with a realistic chance of achieving top four at either AEF or TEX but the likelihood is that they will run out of steam.
- mymym.com [one article]
- SK-Gaming.com [multiple articles, columns and coverage]
- ESReality.com [one column]
- Crossfire.nu [multiple articles, columns and coverage]
eSports media achievements:
- Long-listed for eSports scene journalist Award 2008
- Nominated for best eSports coverage 2008 (SK)
- Nominated for best eSports coverage 2007 (SK)
- Published in Times Higher Education (THE); online and print.
- Long-listed for the Guardian's 2009 International Development Journalism competition; online.
- CGS European Qualifier and Draft
- Multiplay i31
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