Then, we get to group stage #2, featuring all the big boys: NAVI, FaZe, ENCE, and checks notes Liquid?
I mean, they are the last team to win IEM Cologne in front of a crowd way back in 2019 but a fair amount has happened since then.
Stewie has had the Romanov treatment, Twistzz has won a Major with a European team, and nitr0 has had a team blow up in an entirely different esport.
Yet, the Yanks have a trap card in the form of YEKINDAR, something we covered here.
The real story, however, despite the Latvian’s visceral sauciness, is whether NAVI’s dominant win in Lisbon is a true return to form.
electroNic, with the help of a 4000 word dossier from B1ad3 a game, has taken to IGLing like an American takes to drama. And, his calls barely even matter anyway: nobody here can withstand b1t, electroNic, and s1mple in peak form.
FaZe would love to disagree but their post-Major hangover has lasted so long we're starting to think they need to drink more water. Yet, it's still silly (and really funny) to write them off: karrigan is putting real pressure on himself and his team, so we've got a feeling they'll roll out of bed for this one.
Next in line is ENCE. They have Spinx back, but that didn't help them in Portugal. Officially they're #3, but their form and firepower beyond Spinx implies that's a placeholder despite their Olympic-diving level deep map pool.
After those three were very much into dark horse category — Cloud9, G2, NIP, and FURIA (if they keep playing to their opponents level…) are all decent outfits.
sh1ro and Ax1Le have that Dallas win under their belts, and we’re never going to say no to a bit of REZ and brollan or NiKo and m0NESY.
But, these teams only become relevant once one of FaZe, ENCE or NAVI slip up. The Major final, despite NAVI’s Last Dance having more asterisks than the night sky, was a great game, and Cologne could bed in a fantastic rivalry — it would be a real shame if the crowd didn't get to see that matchup.
But, it wouldn't be the end of the world: All the best teams are here, vying to grab one last trophy before the player break.
Cologne is as good as a Major. And it's a hell of a lot better than anything else that happens in a Cathedral. Don't miss it.