IEM Katowice is one of CS:GO’s most prestigious and important events. With a long history of hosting Major championships and producing some of the most iconic plays across the game’s history, the event is traditionally one of the first opportunities orgs have of picking up some silverware after the winter break. Previous years have also shown how a win at IEM Katowice can catapult a side to hugely successful years, so the stakes could hardly be higher this year.
Starting with IEM Katowice, the return of consistent LANs and (hopefully) crowded stadiums, 2022 is shaping up nicely to be one of CS:GO’s most interesting years. To help give you a better idea of the faces and sides to look out for once the event gets underway this week, here are Gamelevate’s top picks for who we think could be a contender at IEM Katowice.
2021 Was the year when Natus Vincere (NAVI) finally combined all of their individual talents with the level of collective strategy needed to create a meta-defining era. Champions of the last IEM Katowice on LAN back in February 2020, the side have been at the summit of the world rankings since August with headline-grabbing wins at IEM Cologne, BLAST Fall Finals, the PGL Stockholm Major (becoming the first team to win a Major without dropping a map) and the BLAST World Final.
The CIS powerhouse actually started off their 2022 in slightly rusty style, arriving at the BLAST Spring Groups with back-to-back losses against an unfancied MiBR and Astralis. Benefitting from BLAST’s qualifying leniency, NAVI were still able to qualify for the Spring Groups so ‘job done’ to a certain respect, but it’s fair to say we still haven’t seen the best from S1mple and co.
With that being said, it’s going to take something special to dethrone NAVI from their era, and big events like IEM Katowice have consistently been where the team has shone the brightest over the last year or so.
G2 had one of the biggest shakeups during the offseason but finished their first event at the Spring Groups as undoubtedly one of the tournament’s biggest success stories. Nikolai “NiKo” Kovac arrived fresh from being named as the 3rd best player of 2021 with a statement showing, finishing the event with a tournament-best rating of 1.40, whilst the whole team qualified for the Spring Final with the second-best overall rating of 1.15.
It was a solid showing from Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen in his debut as the org’s IGL, however, all the attention was on Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov after his record-breaking rookie move from NAVI during the offseason. His 1v4 clutch against MiBR might have been the highlight, but the whole tournament was a spellbinding showcase of all the skills and talents the young Russian has been eager to demonstrate.
G2 are blessed with an abundance of talent in their ranks, and their current lineup is undoubtedly the most frightening we have seen from the EU org in a long time.
Out of all the offseason roster reshuffles, Team Vitality’s acquisition of the veteran Astralis trio of Peter “Dupreeh” Rasmussen, Emil “Magisk” Reif, and head coach Danny “zonic” Sorenson was one of the most interesting. The first time the org has ever experimented with a mixed international lineup and the instance of them switching the calling to English, the team’s debut at the BLAST Spring Groups could have hardly gone better.
Wins over Evil Geniuses, FaZe Clan, MiBR, and G2 secured Vitality’s progression into the Spring Finals as one of the three highest finishers at the event. Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut backed up his #2 in the world rankings with a stellar 1.39 rating, whilst it was nice to see Magisk and Dupreeh return to the sorts of form we became so used to seeing during their time with Astralis.
There is an absolute abundance of individual flair and experience in the Vitality camp heading into IEM Katowice and, as the impact of zonic in the overall setup of the team continues to grow, expect to see the org continue to be a presence at the top of more events as the year goes on.