EPL Season 14 Quarter-Final Preview: The Hunt to Stop Natus Vincere
Before the quarterfinals of EPL Season 14 go underway, take a look at esports.gg's flyover of how these teams got here and who has the best shot at lifting the trophy.
The Round of 12 matches have concluded and the group stage’s finest are now tasked with challengers galore. A BLAST Global Finals spot, nearly one month of grueling competition’s prestige, and 175,000 dollars are on the line. In some cases, the fight to fend off Natus Vincere on the cusp of their IEM Grand Slam remains the top priority; In other’s it is only the trophy in their sights. Each quarter-final provides exciting stories coming to their inevitable conclusion in the following days…where will the final chips fall at EPL Season 14?
OG vs NiP: Redemption from shadows of Cologne
Bombing out of the Cologne Play-Ins on one hand and the groups in the other, OG and NiP both respectively have chips on their shoulders to return to their prominence as a top threat. OG has single-handedly rediscovered their winning ways throughout Group B as the well-oiled machine of Aleksi “aleksib” Virolainen led crew went undefeated during their group stage campaign.
The international roster shut down the favorites of Virtus.Pro and G2 swiftly through the brilliance of Valdemar “valde” Bjorn Vangsa and Maneusz “mantuu” Wilczewski. Now the EPL Season 14 playoffs present a new test for OG with pressure mounting and map pools being tested to its limits. Having not played a single official game of Vertigo or Ancient, NiP may have the series in their back pocket through the vetoes alone.
The maps may favor the Ninjas, but they also have had their fair share of issues. A turbulent group stage with losses against FURIA and Liquid paired with a shocking win over Gambit leaves the Swedish roster in an odd state of affairs. Nicolai “device” Reedtz has struggled to put up consistent numbers throughout his team’s group stage, but Fredrik “REZ” Sterner continues to ramp up as NiP’s true star.
The odd clutch from Linus “LNZ” Holtang has shown a little more comfort given the seeming instability of his role in the organization. In addition, having played both Vertigo and Ancient, NiP surely have an edge in the veto but the individuals of OG remain fully focused on another deep run.
Gambits vs Vitality: ZywOo’s Last Stand
The CIS titans of Gambit have picked up exactly where they left off before the player break and have solidified their place as one of the contenders to the trophy altogether. A ruthless Vertigo paired with the in-form duo of Sergey “Ax1le” Rykhtorov and Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov continuously pulled Gambit to a nearly unblemished record during their group stage.
The Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov led roster now has an easier time in the playoffs with the potential to play NiP or OG if they can defeat Vitality here in the quarter-finals. With the tantalizing prospect of shutting down Natus Vincere in the Grand Finals, the Gambit crew are confident they can brush aside the Frenchmen and march closer to sweet revenge.
Vitality have done well Group A, but Gambit will be a class above any of their previous competition. Wins over ENCE, BnB, Astralis, Spirit, bode well for the confidence of their stars, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Kevin “misutaaa” Rabier but cannot be the final say in the team’s current standing.
The Frenchmen remain firmly on the fringes of the contending champions but still have a long way to go to stick it to the likes of Gambit. A labored affair against a wounded Complexity leaves doubts that Vitality can show the same level of poise they did during the group stage. How far can ZywOo and crew push the titans of Gambit?
Natus Vincere vs. ENCE: A formality or a threat?
The goal remains the same for Natus Vincere: the IEM Grand Slam or nothing at all. Having to navigate the tides of Group C, the odds for things spiraling out of control for the squad were still something to consider. But with the usual stellar performance of Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and incredible clutching from Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy,
Na’Vi passed with flying colors. The victories over fnatic, mousesports, Evil Geniuses, and FaZe now place Na’Vi in a clear position to enter the semifinals. Although ENCE has looked cohesive during their elimination match against forZe, the threat levels of the world’s best are much worse than anything of forZe’s caliber. The sights for Natus Vincere are beyond this quarter-final and in order for ENCE to get a respectful edition of a lot must fall into place.
The international squad of ENCE have made waves throughout their campaign at EPL Season 14 thanks to the revelation of Poland’s new stars, Olek “hades” Miskiewicz and Pawel “dycha” Dycha. Keeping competitive with Heroic and Vitality is no easy feat and remain the more impressive losses in ENCE’s recent memory. However, inconsistency continues to plague the roster from a coveted top ten spot in the world rankings.
Elsewhere ENCE has lost to HAVU and Dignitas in qualifiers and sparks worry in how competitive the international roster can truly be. Nevertheless, ENCE stopped the momentum of forZe in their tracks by manhandling them in their Round of 12 series.
Snapping the 17-game winning streak on forZe’s Mirage was a tall task turned into a minor inconvenience for ENCE and shows promise in their bout against Natus Vincere. Whether or not they can push Na’Vi remains a dangerously obvious answer.
Heroic vs Liquid: A battle of tenacity and pride
Heated controversy continues to swirl around Heroic as they enter their quarter-final against Team Liquid. Even with this storm building, the Danes looked unstoppable in the group stage. Dropping only two maps in their entire Group A adventure, Heroic have seemingly shrugged off any and all drama.
Casper “cadiaN” Moller continues to boastfully AWP and shot call for the team, Ismail “refrezh” Ali sublimely returned to form, and the trio of Danes beside them all chime in for an unstoppable Danish machine. Revenge for the disappointment in Cologne, revenge against their rivals of Gambit, revenge against the IEM Grand Slam contenders of Natus Vincere, cadiaN’s crew will stop at nothing to topple Team Liquid’s red-hot run and fight to defend their title.
IEM Cologne and the end of the season for Team Liquid spelled disaster. Regardless of a NA RMR championship under their belt, their return to LAN left a sour taste and an early elimination. Now North America’s final stars return to the professional circuit with a bold and threatening bang. Nearly defeating Gambit and practically flawless in the remainder of Group D, TL seem a force to be reckoned with.
The trio of stars in Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, Keith “NAF” Markovic and Michael “Grim” Wince already strikes fear into the hearts of European teams. But the marked increase in danger comes from the outstanding tournament Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo has had thus far.
The legendary Brazilian AWPer decimated Fnatic throughout their bout in the Round of 12 and now poses the question of whether the North Americans can take it all the way once again. Heroic will by no means be an easy task of defeating but the potential for a blockbuster upset could indubitably be on the cards during the EPL Season 14 playoffs.