On Wednesday, February 1, the Play-In stage at IEM Katowice 2023 will begin. As usual, sixteen teams will fight for eight tickets to the group stage of the championship. Since this year’s list of participants is really loud, we propose to sort out the favorites and outsiders, highlighting the eight clear contenders for the continuation of the struggle.
Play-In stage favorites
The Russian team has long been among the leaders of the scene. And although Cloud9 does not always manage to keep the bar high, the team gained stability last season and began to get into the playoffs of big tournaments with enviable regularity. This time, the team is favored by the bracket, since in the first round the “cloudy” ones will play with IHC Esports, and then they will fall on the winner of the ENCE pair – paiN Gaming. Considering a possible defeat, Cloud9 should have enough strength to reach the group stage.
Ninjas in pajamas
“Ninja” failed at the recent BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2023, where they took one of the last places. However, during that tournament, Ninjas in Pajamas lost hampus, but now the club has taken care of the short-term future and signed k0nfig. If the team can come to a common denominator, then by tradition they will not miss such a significant championship.
The Brazilian team has not been shown on the big screens for a long time, and last time they shone at the home IEM Rio Major 2022. However, FURIA taught the fans that it consistently shoots at major tournaments and fights against direct competitors. Here the team got a completely passable net. First, the Brazilians play with Permitta Esports, and then they go to the winner of the BIG match – Complexity Gaming. And I think that FURIA will be among the first who will find a place in the group.
The Dragons have been able to educate fans over the past year about their incredible runs at the big championships. However, the Russian team has not shown up in front of our eyes for a long time, and at the end of last year managed to play several controversial matches. Nevertheless, now Team Spirit got an easy opponent at the start, Grayhound Gaming, and then they are waiting for the winner of the MIBR pair – Ninjas in Pajamas. In general, quite a simple grid, from where you can go directly.
Perhaps ENCE is an enigma among the favorites. If at the start of last season the team consistently reached the finals, then at the end of the year, sAw’s wards began to fail more and more often. Nevertheless, other things being equal, ENCE has excellent chances to advance. And if the grid is a little unlucky, then the team must enter the groups through the lower part of the Play-In.
At the end of the last season, fnatic showed a very confident game, with which they not only reached the playoffs of IEM Rio Major 2022, but also became the winner of Elisa Masters Espoo 2022. Yes, the team did not jump above its head, but managed to gain stability, which is not possible enough in recent years. In general, now fnatic faces quite a tangible task, and in the bracket with Evil Geniuses, OG and Sprout, the team should go to the next stage of the championship.
The German team has been harnessing for a long time in the old fashioned way, but as soon as it starts moving, nothing happens. Exactly in this way, BIG failed at the recent BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2023. However, in the last matches, the guys began to gain, leaving chances for further recovery. And here BIG will have to play with Complexity Gaming, which almost automatically guarantees victory. And if it will be difficult with FURIA, then in the lower bracket the Germans should provide a slot in the groups.
Finishing with the favorites of the Play-In stage, you can not go past OG. This team was close to failing at the last BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2023, but it didn’t work out. However, it is clear that at a distance the team is gaining momentum. The only disadvantage for ruggah’s team is the net, since the guys will have to play against Sprout in the first match. However, in the lower bracket there will be excellent chances to show oneself and visit the Spodek Arena.
“Dark horses” of the championship
The Brazilian team was once again bled dry with the assistance of Imperial Esports. However, judging by the last matches played, MIBR hasn’t lost much confidence. It is clear that the team got into a difficult grid, but if one of the favorites makes a mistake, these guys will be in the wings.
The Sprout team could not help but fall into this category, which began to surprise even at the end of last season, when it directly got into the “legends” of IEM Rio Major 2022. However, at the start of the new season, the Danish-Romanian team does not stand out even at its level. However, BERRY is good because he knows how to bring his wards to the main starts.
Speaking of “dark horses”, one cannot fail to notice Evil Geniuses. At the last BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2023, the North American team tried to shoot, and even managed to upset Heroic. So far, the guys lack stability and, it seems, a pinch of courage. But among those who do not pretend to great success, Evil Geniuses can surprise and bleed some of the leaders.
Outsiders of the Play-In stage
If not in the category of outsiders, then where do you put Complexity Gaming? Perhaps the group stage of BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2023 was indicative in this regard – the North American team can’t do anything against more experienced opponents. Yes, and here the team got into the most difficult grid, and there are no prerequisites that the guys will be able to create a miracle in the lower part.
People who do not follow the Polish scene obviously thought: “Who is this anyway?”. If you do not bring up the history of all the accusations of Permitta Esports, then there is nothing to talk about. In essence, the team is clearly weaker than all the participants present, except for their own kind.
Perhaps the paiN Gaming team could have got into the basket higher, but, given the past attempts of the Brazilians on the TIER-1 stage, I somehow don’t believe in a miracle. And at the end of last season, the team managed to slow down. Therefore, here we are more likely to see a couple of quick defeats, albeit with a close score.
Last season, these guys were able to conquer the stage, having entered the major twice. However, in recent months, the Mongolian team began to slow down, and even in Asia it stopped taking tournament after tournament. Yes, and here IHC Esports got a heavy net, which already on the first day risks turning into a relegation.
Let’s finish the summary review with an outsider presentation by the Australian team Grayhound Gaming. If in their region the team is still at least somehow afloat, then in Europe the guys have not shown anything for a long time. And to think that now the team will create a miracle is definitely not worth it. And if you add the existing grid, then the chances of Grayhound Gaming tend to zero.
IEM Katowice 2023 will take place from 1 to 12 February in Katowice at the Spodek Arena. As part of the championship, 24 teams from the CIS, Europe, North and Latin America, Asia and Oceania will compete for a total prize pool of $1,000,000, as well as a ticket to IEM Cologne 2023 for the winner.
Prize pool distribution at IEM Katowice 2023
- 1st place: $400,000 + ticket to IEM Cologne 2023
- 2nd place: $180,000
- 3rd-4th place: $80,000
- 5th-6th place: $40,000
- 7th-8th place: $24,000
- 9th-12th place: $16,000
- 13th-16th place: $10,000
- 17th-20th place: $4,500
- 21st-24th place: $2,500