A Closer Look at IEM Oakland, The Top Indie Esports Event

Nico Faraguna

The premier independent esports event, Intel Extreme Masters, makes it’s return to California for it’s third consecutive year. However, this will be the first time the event comes to Oracle Arena in Oakland, Ca. Tournament organizers expect over 10k+ attendees to pack the arena, home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

Fans in attendance will have two of the premier esport titles in the world to spectate. League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive will simultaneously conduct tournaments this weekend.

The playoff portion of the CS:GO tournament will start on Saturday, the 19th. Six teams qualified during the offline segment of the tournament earlier this week.

The LoL spectrum is a bit different, however. The entire LoL tournament begins on the 19th. Many teams pulled out of IEM recently due to roster changes and fatigue, resulting in the talent being less than ideal. Still though, intriguing storylines have surfaced and we can expect some very good games from some teams that fans are not as familiar with.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

A lot has already happened in the group stage of the CS:GO tournament at IEM. Six teams have moved onto the playoffs set to start tomorrow at the Oracle Arena.

Will the Brazilian teams SK Gaming and Immortals make to the Semi-Finals?

Cinderella Story

The upper bracket finalists consist of the all Danish team, Astralis and the surprising FaZe Clan.

FaZe Clan had finished in 3rd/4th place at the IBUYPOWER Masters tournament just a week ago and many thought they would struggle with the competition here at IEM. FaZe went through the group stage without dropping a match, finishing 5-0 with a crazy +40 map win differential. It’s tough to pindown what exactly has changed in the span of a week, but FaZe is simply playing together and making their shots. Their reformed tactics and executions could spell trouble for the other teams in the tournament.

All Brazilian Grand Finals?

Speaking of other teams, the Brazilian CS:GO scene continues to get stronger. Immortals, fresh off their win at IBUYPOWER Masters, have qualified for the finals.

SK Gaming, multiple Major winners, unsurprisingly qualified for the finals as well. Many still think that SK Gaming is the best in the world, and they’re poised to prove it once again this weekend.

SK Gaming is looking to win another international LAN.

North America Falters

On the other end of the gamut, North American CS:GO fans will be disappointed to see Cloud9 and Team Liquid fail to get out of the group stages.

Team Liquid got off to a quick start against Na’Vi, taking down the CIS giants with a dominant performance on the map, Nuke, 16-6. Their next match against Astralis, however, was a disaster. They were decimated by a scoreline of 1-16. Resilient, Liquid bounced back and fought hard, but were narrowly edged out against Immortals and G2 Gaming in very close matches.

Their only other win of the tournament came against the Chinese squad, TyLoo — who themselves went winless.

As for Cloud9, they had a daunting schedule to begin the tournament. Facing FaZe Clan, SK Gaming, and NIP, in their first three matches proved to be too much for them. They finished 2-3, but could have easily finished 3-2 if they had ended up winning their very contested match against FaZe.

With the playing field set for this weekend, FaZe is poised to take home a much needed trophy. However, with Brazil looming — their hopes could be dashed.

League of Legends

It’s been a somewhat anti-climactic build-up for the League of Legends portion of IEM. News of a handful of teams withdrawing from the tournament trickled onto news feeds over the course of November. The unfortunate timing of IEM and it’s static prizepool has made the tournament less attractive to LoL organizations. Nevertheless, international LoL events are few and far between and at IEM Oakland, there is already a lot to talk about!

Will there be any upsets in the semifinals?

WildTurtle Stands in for Doublelift

One of the most talked about stories this offseason in the LoL community was the announcement of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng’s hiatus from Team Solo Mid. Doublelift cited his fatigue and his eagerness to experience a normal lifestyle as the main reasons for his temporary retirement. With that news, North America’s most popular team, Team Solo Mid was in need of an AD carry player.

TSM was able to acquire the services of Jason “WildTurtle” Tran for the tournament. WildTurtle is currently the AD carry for the North American team; Immortals. Fans are excited to see how the team will perform with the absence of Doublelift.

Many folks believe they’re still the favorite to win the tournament, even with a standin. We’ll have to tune in this weekend to find out…

6.22 Will Not be Debuted at IEM

The massive patch that recently hit servers earlier this month has altered gameplay significantly. With all the new changes and lack of format to properly implement theories or practice — Riot and ESL have decided to have the teams play on the previous patch, 6.21.

This is the same patch that was played during the 2016 LoL World Championships, but 6.22 has been on the main client since November 9th. It will be interesting to see how players will adjust to reverting back to 6.21. Will the meta be unchanged since Worlds? Will this short tournament host it’s own mini-meta? It’s an interesting situation that teams do not often find themselves in.

The Underdogs

The four teams in the quarterfinals have an opportunity to make a big splash in the international LoL scene. As the bracket clearly dictates, their seeding shows that they are not as strong as Team Solo Mid and Flash Wolves. Who is the dark horse of IEM Oakland 2016?

Many point to the possibility of Longzhu Gaming making a splash. The all Korean squad plays in one of the toughest regions in all of LCS. They play in a league of champions, as SKT Telecom is one of the many formidable teams they face during LCS. The theory is that their mediocre performances are against stiff competition.

This international tournament might be a pleasant surprise for Longzhou Gaming. It could be the confidence boost they need heading into their new season in Korea.

With a bit more of a of an uphill battle, the cinderella story of Worlds looks to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

INTZ e-Sports of out Brazil looks to continue their presence at international tournaments. Involved in perhaps the biggest upset in League of Legends Worlds history, INTZ wants to show the world they can be consistent against top competition. If INTZ has learned from their mistakes at Worlds 2016, they could be a dangerous opponent.

We hope you enjoyed Fandom’s IEM Oakland Preview. You can watch the tournament on Twitch.tv and in VR at Sliver.tv. If you missed the tournament, don’t worry — we’ll have a wrap-up post waiting for you on Monday!

Nico Faraguna
I enjoy playing PC games, watching motorcycle racing, and eating good grub