PGL Major Stockholm 2021 roundtable: players to watch and teams to flop
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PGL Major Stockholm 2021 is well underway. With the group stages over, upsets by both Copenhagen Flames and Entropiq have caught many by surprise — but the real action is right around the corner as the top teams prepare to clash in the Legends Stage.

To help digest the madness about to come, here’s part two of Upcomer’s PGL Major Stockholm 2021 roundtable. This time around, our experts shared their thoughts about the players to watch, top teams that could possibly flop and the most exciting matchups yet to come.

The roundtable members:

Joshua “Dweg” Nathan – Commentator / Observer
Donald “voo” Parkhurst – Analyst / Content Creator
Jamie “EternalJay” Martin – Commentator
Harvey “Skriv” Rodgers – Commentator
Mike “DarfMike” Winnick – Commentator
Jack “Wolfy” Saunders – Commentator / Analyst
Colin “Koi” Thor – Analyst for Mouz
Arnav “xL” Shukla – Writer – Esports.gg
Michael “YouM3” Cassidy – Commentator
Arron “King Dempz” Dempsey – Writer for HLTV
Dafydd Gwynn – Writer for Rush B Media
ynoT – Commentator
Coldy – Community member
Tony Lavender – Betting Analyst
Coby Zucker – Writer for Upcomer
Zain Merchant – Writer for Jaxon

Who is your player to watch for this tournament?

Wolfy: Denis “electronic” Sharipov. His numbers in the last three months have been incredible, and he does a lot to enable Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, whether it’s getting him into the best positions, playing aggressive setups on CT to bait players into his crosshair or pushing in on entry alongside s1mple T side. He’s looked scarily good recently, and if he keeps this form, he’ll enable s1mple and pull the rest of NaVi up with him.

Dweg: Aleksey “El1an” Gusev. I think Mr. Gusev is going to bang at the major. He hasn’t played a single LAN event in 2020 and 2021, but my goodness, he is an incredible player. El1an is currently the 13th highest-rated player in the world across 2021, posting on average a 1.24 rating over the course of 367 maps played. That is wild.

YouM3: Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi. We’ve all seen the effect he’s had on NAVI. He’s another firepower threat, but he’s also helped make NAVI look much more cohesive. The big thing to note is that not only is this his first major, this is his first big stage LAN event with a crowd. The crowd screaming, the sounds that are so loud you’re able to feel it through the booths. The “crowd-LAN” element won’t be exclusive to him, as this is the case for many at the event, but the fact that NAVI enter this major as favorites is an added layer of pressure for b1t, and overcoming that is a necessity for NAVI in the playoffs.

If one top contender was going to flop, who would it be?

DarfMike: Evil Geniuses. It pains me as an NA guy to have to pick them, but they’re the obvious choice. Roster instability, fading stars, piss poor results — every arrow points down for EG. Even in the IEM Fall RMR event, EG showed very little to make me believe they can compete. They struggled against a Triumph roster in tiebreakers that didn’t even have a solid five at that point. The only reason they’re here is Jack “xCeeD” Holiman’s lack of an alarm clock. I would love to be wrong about this prediction, but I just don’t see it.

EternalJay: G2 are a team I’d rate as a dark horse. That’s a team that is straight-fire and can make a championship run. My problem is that their results have been up and down the entire year, and the last couple of months have been tumultuous. I have a big fear that things will fall apart at the wrong time here, and if you want to pick one of the Legends to bottle it, then it’s G2 for me.

Dweg: BIG. Now, I could be wrong here, but BIG have not recently impressed me. In 2021, BIG have been upset so many times by tier 2 teams in elimination playoff games, lost 1-2 vs. Sprout in ESL Meisterschaft when Sprout had Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov standing in, lost 1-2 vs. LDLC in ESEA S37 Premier in June, lost 1-2 vs. SKADE in Elisa Invitational Summer 2021 in July and lost 0-2 vs Fiend in Elisa Invitational Fall 2021 just two weeks ago.

Matchups to look forward to

xL: NaVi vs. Gambit is a classic that we’ve seen time and time again but never gets old. Those two teams are at the pinnacle of CS right now, and both are amazingly fun to watch. Whenever they face each other, it’s always a toss-up as to who will take the win. NaVi generally win all the best-of-fives against them, but Gambit can take wins in the best-of-threes. The Major factor will play a part in this match, but it’ll still be extremely interesting to watch.

King Dempz: I will go with Astralis vs. NIP here. We may not get it if draws don’t go our way, or if Astralis don’t make it to top-16, but my oh my, would it be a tasty one if we did get it. The storylines alone are mouth-watering; the greatest core the game has seen seeking revenge on their former star, one of the most decorated players of all time needing to best his old allies to cement his legacy, an organization dragged from the doldrums by a mega-signing seeking to claim another Major title. Honestly, it’s a movie that writes itself.

Dafydd: If we get a rematch of Gambit vs. Heroic, I think that will be an epic matchup. Both teams have so much to prove, and there’s history there, tense matchups that made the online period interesting. Don’t be surprised if these “onliners” play with more heart than you expect.

If you had to put your money on a team to win the entire event, which team and why?

Coldy: Right now, my money would be on NaVi. Their move to replace Egor “flamie” Vasilev with b1t has worked out better than I think anyone expected, and they finally seem to have figured out their T sides. Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy is a very smart player, and in my opinion, heavily underrated. Electronic has been looking sharp as always. S1mple, I mean, what can you even say? The guy is the most skilled player ever to touch the game, and some of the things he can pull off are impossible for the majority of players. b1t has, of course, stepped up brilliantly, helping NaVi out a ton more than flamie was doing.

My only question mark for this team would be Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov. However much I love his charismatic and kind-hearted personality, I am still not convinced of his tactical prowess. I hope he has been putting in time with Andrii “B1ad3” Gorodenskyi to study the game and improve in that regard. I think NaVi are definitely the favorite for the major.

EternalJay: It’s a toss-up for three separate teams to win this major for me. Gambit are the team that has my heart. I’ve followed this team since the summer of last year, and their rise to prominence has been something that I’ve experienced firsthand. However, you can’t deny that all their results have been achieved in the online era. Their one offline event was a Top 6 at IEM Cologne, which is decent, but it doesn’t solidify a definitive win.

Meanwhile, Vitality have started coming out of their slump in the first half of the year, and with the record set from last year, it feels like this is a championship-winning squad. With Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut included, they’ve got all the pieces needed to take the trophy. However, the fact remains that they’ve had abysmal results this year. It’s on them to prove that that dark spell is over.

Then there’s Na’Vi, the hottest team coming into the tournament. They’ve got the best player in the world, and they’ve taken so many tournaments since July; they’re just coming in with so much momentum. My concern is that, as proven in IEM Katowice and EPL 13, they have the potential to drop off completely, and my main fear is that it’ll happen in this tournament. If I was a betting man, I’d probably have to split my money between these three teams: 50% on Na’Vi, 25% on Gambit and Vitality, each.

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