Not the results I want but what I think will happen
With the recent confirmation from Carmac that the intial group stage of Hannover will be a Best of 1 and not a Best of 3 as previously reported, it's much harder to make a prediction about which three teams will make it out of their group.
A single game lost may prove fatal.
With that in mind here are my picks for who we will see in Day 3 of the Intel Extreme Masters.
UPDATES: Invictus Gaming is out of the tournament due to visa issues, and has been replaced by German team ALTERNATE. World Elite is now also out and replaced by Against All Authority. Predictions for Group A changed.
Group A (CLG, Fnatic, WE aAa, Dignitas, Millenium, iG ALTERNATE)
CLG: No other team has been in as many high stakes tournaments and come away with a top three finish as CounterLogic Gaming. They have the most IEM points to prove their pedigree. That said their recent international performance has not been up to their own high standards. The competition has expanded beyond when LoL was played by a few teams in a dark corner. CLG now has to prove they are once again able to take all comers and are the best in the world. Their signing of and scrims against CLG.EU are possibly the best decisions they have made.
But it's not that simple. They have a move to Korea and other tournaments on their minds for the next two months. There is also still the question of whether the Doublelift addition was the best choice.
Prediction: Unless they really step up their practice soon, and get comfortable playing some the champs they have dismissed, they will not make it out of group.
Fnatic: This is a team that has always been about LAN dominance. They now have the money, motivation, and the venue all on their side. They too like CLG are also competing in Korea but have a better history of handling consecutive LAN tournaments. Many teams will likely write them off based on their poor showing in recent online tournaments. They do so at their own peril.
Prediction: We will see forgotten champs and comps that fnatic will use to easily get out of the group stage. Double WotA builds inc. Hope you brought your MR.
Against All Authority: aAa is probably the strongest EU entrant in Hannover and many were upset when iG was replaced by [M] instead of aAa who were tied for ESL points. Against All Authority have beaten every team left in their group convincingly. Many are now predicting they will make it to the finals. While I see that as a distinct possibility I'm not so sure we should bowing down to the new EU overlords just yet.
Prediction: aAa will do very well in group losing maybe a game or two at most and advancing to the next round.
World Elite: WE is the strongest Chinese team at Hannover. Even some iG members have said as much. Yet most of NA and EU forget about this powerhouse team. Yes they have the disadvantage of being behind the great firewall of China and several patches behind. What they do have is mechanical skill and teamwork in spades.
Prediction: Will make it out of group provided their opponents don't turtle, ward early and split push them to death.
Team Dignitas: When they bring their A game, they can take on the best in NA. Not having the exposure to EU and Chinese teams will likely take a toll. Yet these players have come up with comps that have reduced other LoL teams qualifiers to squash matches and the format favors them.
After the departure of Jatt many said that Dignitas was done for because they now lacked a viable shot caller. They have found something of a team voice and it seems to be working. Here's hoping they get the practice and the leadership to at least make it out of group.
Prediction: Unless they really step up their practice they will just barely miss the group stage cutoff. It's a shame too because they have far more innovation than many give them credit for. With the removal of iG and the late addition of ALTERNATE I now believe Team Dignitas will make it out of groupstage.
Millenium: Yes they have a gaming house now. Yes they have capable players. Yes they have been brought under the team banner. But that isn't enough. This group will dismantle a team that isn't ready.
Prediction: I see Millenium as the team least likely to make it out of group stage. Please prove me wrong.
invictus Gaming: Living in the shadow of WE sucks. iG isn't out to prove they are better. They just want to do their best in group stage and make it as far as they can in the tournament. That's going to be a big feat on it's own. They probably have the right mindset to do it. Still they are vulnerable to the same stuff as World Elite. If they get to play their game though, they will probably win.
Prediction: If CLG gets eliminated as I predict, iG goes through.
ALTERNATE: While tied with Against All Authority (aAa) for points many including myself consider ALTERNATE to be the much weaker team. Being the last minute sub is never a great position to be put in. Just ask Team Sypher about what it felt like in IEM Kiev.
Prediction: ALTERNATE will not make it through but their addition makes it easier for teams like CLG to do so.
Group B (TSM, SK, M5, Sypher, Curse, EHOME)
Team SoloMid: This is a team right now playing like four people on the same page and a fifth reading a glamour magazine upside down. It's gotten to the point where it seems like most of TSM is ready to just be enablers and work around it instead of laying out the problem and solving it. As a fan I want them having a mix of solo queue, scrims, discussions and analysis to get better both individually and as a team. They have all the tools at their disposal but this hasn't happened yet. Instead of sucking the marrow out of both EU and NA platforms, they have favored one over the other making them vulnerable.
Forget rolling in puddles for money, trying to change the meta, secret AP mind games, going out to sub par movies, updating guides. Just focus on making TSM a team and winning the Intel Extreme Masters in Hannover.
Prediction: Unless their problems get solved and a real Korean gaming house mentality takes hold in the next few days they won't make it out of group.
SK Gaming: On paper they are the second best team going into these Intel Extreme Masters. They have the points but the team has changed greatly since their first wins. Opponents will likely try to probe and exploit any weaknesses.
Prediction: If TSM isn't making it out of group SK probably will.
Moscow5: A well oiled machine that can dominate based on their endless ranked 5's play. Many teams think they have M5 figured out. Even if they do, I don't think it will be enough to win. Moscow 5 as an organization will pull out all the stops to ensure their team is not a one hit IEM wonder.
Prediction: Moscow5 will leave group stage at least two fan favourite teams wondering why they aren't with them.
Team Sypher: When they have the time to prepare they are a fairly consistent top 3 placing team in group. They have had that prep time and should surprise many people.
Prediction: Team Sypher will just eke out enough points to make it out of their group.
Curse: They have all the potential to be upsets. But potential doesn't equal wins. Their sponsor Curse Gaming has them playing/casting showmatches and writing guides. Thing is that isn't what they need to be doing right now if they want to win. I really like some of their comps but am not sold that they will be able to excute better than their competion.
Prediction: Curse fails to make it out of group.
EHOME: They will have all the vulnerabilities of WE but with less overall skill and team cohesion. Still they may provide some of the best matches of this group.
Prediction: Will not make it out of group. But will cause more trouble for their opponents than any other team save M5.