The Last Dreamhack Open: A Preview and Eulogy

Tomorrow, eight teams from across Europe and CIS will duke it out to secure a spot in the ESL Pro League Season 15 Conference. Despite the “Open” moniker, we have the chance to see some of the best teams in the region challenge each other. The winners will join other Dreamhack Open winners Godsent, Extra Salt, Renegades, Sharks, and more to play for a seat at the big boys’ table in ESL Pro League, and they will receive a cool fifty thousand dollars. This is the last Dreamhack Open before the closed tournament, so this is the final opportunity any of these teams get to make their way into the Conference, meaning there’s a lot riding on this event.

After the PGL major, we have a little reprieve before the next S-tier event, and many top teams are on the lookout for up-and-coming talent to complete their post-major shuffles. Perhaps this is the time for rising players to prove their worth in the eyes of big organizations. Finally, not only is this the last Dreamhack Open event to qualify for the ESL Pro League Conference, this is the last Dreamhack Open. After this tournament, ESL is replacing the circuit with the ESL Challenger brand, so this is the last chance you’ll ever have to see the Dreamhack title.

ENCE

The highest-ranked team in this event is HLTV’s number eleven ENCE. who are just coming off of a stellar run through the challenger bracket of the major, defeating BIG, Godsent, and MOUZ to collect a team 1.09 rating and a 3-1 record. Unfortunately for the international roster, they weren’t able to recreate any sort of success in the contender bracket and quickly left the stage 0-3. The team looked particularly strong with their riflers Joonas “doto” Forss and Lotan “Spinx” Giladi, and Olek “hades” Miskiewicz continued to impress on the AWP as he did in the major qualifier. ENCE has a chance to claim some retribution in this event though as they can exact revenge on the team that knocked them out of the contender stage of the Major, MOUZ.

MOUZ

MOUZ, fresh off a rebrand and a similar run in the major to ENCE, have much to play for in Dreamhack Open. For one, teams itching for a roster change likely have their eyes on Robin “ropz” Kool, so he has an interest in showing off his mechanical skills. On the other side of the coin, the rest of MOUZ has an interest in performing to their peaks to entice the young Estonian to stay with the team. Christopher “dexter” Nong’s squad found initial success at Flashpoint 3 where they took home first prize and all but secured themselves a spot at the major. However, since then, the results have been middling with not much to speak of other than a closed qualifier win. The Australian IGL still has to prove that his style of leadership will work in Europe, so once again he and his cross-continental lineup will be tested.

BIG

The next team in Dreamhack Open November is the German giant BIG, another team coming off a slightly disappointing major result. Unlike the previous two teams, BIG was unable to even make it out of the challenger stage of the major, ending with a 2-3 record with their final two losses coming from none other than MOUZ and ENCE. Due to that, this event can be seen as a bit of a revenge tour from the German squad with their new Danish member, Nicklas “gade” Gade. The team must be reeling from not even making top 16 at the Major, and so they will need to show their talent here before they compete in Blast Fall Finals in a few weeks. 

MAD Lions

Mad Lions as a squad are on the up and up, reaching their highest HLTV rank of twenty-one just now as a core, the highest it’s ever been for the organization since Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen’s iteration of the team won Flashpoint. Pulling the team along is the twenty-year-old Ukrainian Vlodymyr “Woro2k” Veletniuk who boasts a 1.20 rating over the last 3 months. This is his first real chance to prove his worth against top 20 rated teams and shake off the shackles of his “FPL star” title. On MAD Lions is also Johannes “b0RUP” Borup, the lowest-rated on the team (still above 1.0, mind you), but he brings an invaluable sense of experience to the young squad having been on the Heroic roster that won ESL One Cologne 2020. At Dreamhack Open November, we’ll get to see if this team on the berth of top-tier relevancy can impress or if they’ll falter at the finish line.

Spirit

Next on the list is Team Spirit, continuing our streak of teams with disappointing major runs. Unlike these other teams I’ve already mentioned though, the silly season has already begun for Spirit, and their post-major roster moves have already come through. Replacing Leonid “chopper” Vishnyakov and Nikolay “mir” Bityuokov are Robert “Patsi” Isyanov and Aleksandr “KaiR0N-” Anashkin, so while not much can be said about them yet, Patsi was on Spirit earlier before being relegated to their academy team and being promoted once again now. It’s also unclear if this is the final iteration of the Spirit roster, or if this is a patchwork team put together just for this tournament. If it is the latter, then that’s all the more to play for each of the players as they’re all vying for a position on one of the premier CIS organizations.

ForZe

ForZe finished 7th in the CIS RMR standings and thus was not even able to compete in the major. As such, Dreamhack Open November will be their best chance to prove their talent against high-ranking opponents. After the disappointment of the previous year, they need to work their way back up the ranking by playing teams such as Spirit and Mad Lions, so this is a great opportunity for the Russian squad. Teams like ForZe don’t have too many chances to play against non-CIS top 20 teams so this will also serve as a great test for Jerry’s leadership and strategy.

Fnatic

Fnatic is the team to watch coming into the last Dreamhack Event as it’ll be the Swedish-British squad’s first top 20 opponents since the formation of their new roster. The team remains undefeated since adding Smooya to the roster, so this will be the hardest test for the outspoken AWPer thus far. Finally, we get to see the roster compete on a bigger stage, and with their last match being over two weeks ago in the qualifier to this event, ALEX surely has some interesting tactics up his sleeves.

GamerLegion

The last team in Dreamhack Open November is the obvious underdog Gamerlegion. However, don’t count them out entirely, they pulled off a great lower bracket run beating Sinners and ForZe to make it to this point, so they’re completely capable of taking down competent teams in this event. GamerLegion has been stagnant around rank forty in the world for a few months now, but that’s no reason that they can’t pop off this event and take down some bigger names. 

Gone, but not forgotten

Finally, I wanted to touch on the fact that this is the last Dreamhack event ever. The event is expected to be great and the teams are going to be playing their hearts out, but the name itself has so much meaning. DreamHack has hosted three prestigious majors including the first-ever Global Offensive Major, so it’s a disappointment to know that three will be the limit. In addition, the DreamHack brand has been enormous to the growth of tier 2 and 3 Counter-Strike in North America and all around the world. Not only was DreamHack incredibly meaningful to growing new competitors, but it also gave the first step to so many of the production talents that grace us with their skills in every S and A-tier event we watch.

With DreamHack, casters, observers, hosts, and production workers were able to get their foot in the door and expand their knowledge to become the wonderful talent we take for granted now. DreamHack isn’t entirely going away, according to ESL, simply the branding is being changed to ESL Challenger. The community can only hope that is the case, as the next generation of talent will come from these Challenger events. Nonetheless, even if there is no actual difference in the growth of production opportunities and it does just go down as a name change as ESL hopes, I think it’s important that the name DreamHack stays in the minds of viewers. We should remember that everyone came from somewhere, and for many in the limelight now, DreamHack gave them their first chance. 

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