Get up to speed before ESL Impact Season 5 Finals

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Dreamhack Dallas has double the Counter-Strike action at play as the festival is home to IEM Dallas AND the Season 5 Finals for ESL Impact. If you have even an inkling of curiosity about the women’s Counter-Strike scene, here’s a quick introduction on what to expect from the three-day event running concurrently with the ESL Pro Tour event.

ESL Impact Season 5 finals will run over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 31 May to 2 June. There are eight qualified teams split into two groups. The groups will play a double elimination format to determine which teams proceed to the Bo3 single elimination Playoffs. You’re likely pretty familiar with this format as it is the same one used in ESL Challenger events. Let’s talk about the teams though.

The teams to expect

Undeniable Favorites 

Angelka at ESL Impact Katowice 2023
Angelka at ESL Impact Katowice 2023. Photo by Stephanie Lindgren for ESL

ESL Impact has been dominated by one team for a considerable amount of time. Nigma Galaxy has, so far, won every Impact trophy available. They are undefeated. However, there has been a shuffle in women’s Counter-Strike and it came around the same time teams began to close the skill gap with Nigma Galaxy. The best women’s Counter-Strike team in the world started by parting ways with IGL Ksenia “⁠vilga⁠” Kluenkova. For perspective, Vilga led the roster to six LAN titles in a two year time period. She was replaced by another Godmother of women’s Counter-Strike Zainab “⁠zAAz⁠” Turkie, with Victoria “⁠tory⁠” Kazieva taking over IGL responsibilities. The roster change occurred around the same time the team became orgless and began to play as “Pigeons” after their time with Nigma Galaxy came to an end. That didn’t last all that long and, it is no surprise, this lineup was picked up by Imperial Esports (around a week before they flew to Dallas). Now playing as Imperial Valkyries, the favorites have their work cut out for them. They’ve had two losses to NAVI Javelins recently and that should be cause for concern.

Why? Because the latest best-of-five defeat was a convincing win for the Javelins. The Polish roster has seen a consistent improvement since their showing at ESL Impact Valencia back in 2022. They sit in the opposite group to the Valkyries which could guarantee an intense playoff matchup between the two heavy hitters. 

Time to deliver

GooseBreeder at ESL Impact League Season 3
GooseBreeder at ESL Impact League Season 3. Photo by Adela Sznajder for ESL

Ironically, the strongest performing team coming into the Season 5 finals is also the team that tends to regularly under-deliver on LAN. North America’s FlyQuest RED are coming into the finals on a 12-win streak. They obliterated the American competition BUT in the Season 4 finals, they clearly struggled on LAN (so much so that THAT infamous clip came to life after they were called out for it). There’s going to be big question marks around this team as they take to the stage. The biggest mark of all? Can Europe’s dominance be countered? Mounira “GooseBreeder” Dobie and Vivienne “BiBiAhn” Quach have had a remarkable season and will now need to keep that momentum rolling into these finals.

Notable mentions

GFi at ESL Impact League Season 4
GFi at ESL Impact League Season 4. Photo by Luc Bouchon for ESL

HSG were responsible for knocking FlyQuest RED out of the Season 4 finals and under the leadership of Ramona “GFi” Azween, the Asian representative is not a team to be ignored, especially with the addition of Brazilian firepower in the form of Olga “olga” Rodrigues GFi was rather candid in sharing the team’s journey on the recently released “Making an Impact” documentary.

BIG Equipa has a familiar face for long-term women’s CS fans with Julia “juliano” Kiran while Let Her Cook, an orgless team, took a win off NAVI Javelins during the regular European season, so they’ll be hoping for lightning to strike twice as they face off against the org in their first matchup of the group stages. North American side Shimmer is now TSM Shimmer after being picked up by the organisation…. Though based on TSM’s current reputation, the jury is out on whether this might help or hinder the team. 

The potential upset

The final team in the finals in South America’s Fluxo Demons and, they may just be the team to completely overturn the Apple Cart (I’ve realized while writing this that that is one hundred percent a saying my mom would have used but I’m getting older so I’m just going to roll with it). The Brazilian team had a remarkable run to qualify to this point and finished in the top 4 last season. I’d say it might be worthwhile to keep an eye on them. They might just change the whole narrative right out of the gate.

Dedicated fans of the women’s scene will know a lot of these storylines and be invested but if you’re still not following, let me summarise this one for you. The skill gap between the top team and the rest has decreased. The teams are far evenly matched and, there is a strong chance, that a new champion will arise for the Season 5 finals. So it’s undoubtedly worth a watch.

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