Image via Ubisoft
On Feb. 8, the Six Invitational will see the top 20 teams meet to compete for the global title. The tournament is split up into two parts, with the group stage taking place from Tuesday to Saturday, before the top four teams from each group progress to the six-day playoffs the following week.
Starting from the front, Group A on paper is possibly the “group of death”. Included in it are the reigning Six Invitational champion, the best team in North America, the Mexico Major’s runner-up, APAC North’s top overall team of 2021, and Europe’s newest breakout stars.
While the four Pro Circuit teams -- NiP, Soniqs, Empire, and SANDBOX -- all finished as a top-two team in their respective regions, MnM Gaming is definitely the underdog and will be hoping to not be the lone team from the group flying home after the first week
Luckily for them, their lack of top-tier play also means they have a lot of surprises in store. This is also true for the other teams to a degree as they’ve each had three months with relatively few games to play, and we have only seen two of these upcoming matchups before: Empire taking down SANDBOX 7-3 at SI 2021 and NiP defeating Soniqs twice, 7-2, 7-5, at the Sweden Major.
Let’s take a deeper dive at the numbers that will drive the teams in these upcoming games:
Starting from the top, Ninjas in Pyjamas came off their Six Invitational win in May to exit the Mexico Major in the group stages following back-to-back defeats to the Korean side, DWG KIA. The team then bounced back to reach the grand final of the Sweden Major with a single map loss to FaZe Clan being the only thing between them and a second title to their name.
Looking deeper, the team had a truly awful BR6 stage during Stage 3, finishing in ninth place with a 1-2-1-5 record. They only managed to qualify for the Copa Elite Six playoffs due to the somewhat unfair way LATAM counted their points. The stats reflect this, as "Julio" Giacomelli led the team on a low 1.03 SiegeGG Rating, while the team’s Iana player Gabriel "pino" Fernandes had a negative kill-death spread.
On the international stage, NiP then stepped up, completely blowing away expectations to reach their third grand final in four consecutive international tournaments. While Murilo "Muzi" Moscatelli jumped to a somewhat better 1.13 Rating, the biggest change came from the team captain Gustavo "Psycho" Rigal, who went from a record-setting low 4-20 to a much better 35-24 entry record.
This dramatic change in performance from NiP’s national results compared to their regional and global results means that for much of the last six months could mean that NiP has been saving strats and experimenting with their setups. With three months since their last global game, a whole new NiP may be waiting for teams at the Six Invitational.
Empire, meanwhile, has effectively the exact opposite six months to NiP. The Russian side is the only one at SI 2022 to have won multiple tier-one titles previously. Three months after their Mexico Major grand finals appearance, however, their Sweden Major campaign ended with a group stage exit following upset losses to DWG KIA.
Stats-wise, it is always hard to pin down Team Empire during regional competitions. While their individual numbers are never as high as their opponents, the team has always played better on LAN than online, due to their higher ping from Russia.
Their overall performance during Stage 3 was very close to the numbers they hit during Stage 2. For example, Danila "dan" Dontsov rose from a 1.18 Rating to 1.19 while Danil "JoyStiCK" Gabov went from 1.00 to 1.02. When comparing this online performance to LAN, however, the team’s hard support player Artur "ShepparD" Ipatov excelled the most in Mexico, jumping from last to top on the team in terms of Rating, while playing Thermite and getting down 29 plants.
Empire is one of the world’s best teams, but in order to match or beat their Mexico performance, they’ll likely need something very special from one of their players.
Next up we have the Soniqs, a team that attended both Mexico and Sweden Majors and so far out of 12 attempts have won just two maps -- an 8-7 over oNe and a 7-4 over Invictus who was playing with a stand-in. Nevertheless, the sheer regional prowess the roster has shown in the North American League means they still enter this tournament as an outside contender.
While NiP and Empire finished runners-up in their regional finals, Soniqs actually won the NA title and has been the region's most consistent team across all three stages. Now on their third international event, they’ve been gathering the experience needed, now they just need to translate this success globally.
When looking at the numbers, the team cannot be mentioned without talking about Seth "supr" Hoffman’s record-low 0.64 overall Rating. This is not only the lowest of any player at this event but is also lower than any player competing across the four other pro-tier leagues during Stage 3.
While this would usually derail the whole team, the Soniqs are instead, consistently, one of the very best teams in their region. This is thanks substantially to the fragging power of Richie "Rexen" Coronado and Pablo "Gryxr" Rebeil -- both of which were listed on the NAL Team of the Year -- while supr is clearly playing his part, even if the stats aren’t showing it.
Globally, however, this dynamic has not held up. While NA did somewhat struggle during Mexico and Sweden, the events saw supr hit two pretty consistent ratings of 0.66 and 0.65 while no one on the team 1.04 in either event. Furthermore, this is not just an NA issue as SSG managed to make top-eight at both Majors while Mexico saw DarkZero’s njr finish as the fourth top-rated player.
Soniqs’ playstyle has not been working globally. Luckily for them, they’ve had three months to fine-tune out these issues.
While they have slipped into DWG’s shadow in the past few months, SANDBOX is a very strong regional force of its own. As well as topping the APAC North 2021 table and having over four years of international experience to draw from, the team had its best-ever performance just two months ago in Sweden.
Here like NiP and Empire, they were also bested by their Korean kryptonite of DWG. Nevertheless, with wins over Vitality and DarkZero, two heavily hyped teams coming into the tournament, they made a mark on the global stage which they’ll now hope to add to at SI22.
Looking at the statistics, while Seongsoo "EnvyTaylor" Kim has been SANDBOX’s top player for Stages 1 and 2, Stage 3 and the Sweden Major saw Dongseon "SyAIL" Song come to the forefront. He jumped from a last to third to second and then finally to the top of the team in Sweden by SiegeGG Rating. As the team’s Zofia/Jager main, this return to form seems pretty crucial to a good performance at a larger stage such as this.
While SyAIL’s good performance heralds a strong SANDBOX result, EnvyTaylor’s 0.78 Rating during the Sweden quarter-finals and his 0.39 Rating in their one loss against DarkZero really show how reliant the team is on EnvyTaylor showing up. Both players need to be on form to succeed, something that NiP’s incredible fraggers, in particular, may be able to shut down effectively.
Finally, we have MNM Gaming, the #1 underdog across the whole tournament. As well as taking down SI21’s joint-ninth finisher, Mkers, to win EUCL, the team then bested Vitality, Secret, and cowana in a straight lower bracket sweep to reach the Six Invitational. Now following in the footsteps of BDS and Empire themselves, the question is: where is MNM’s peak, are they a mid-tier EUL team, or much more.
The team itself is hard to quantify due to their lack of top-tier games, something which is itself an advantage only Elevate has going for them across the rest of the tournament.
The one thing that definitely stood out is Josh "Yuzus" Pritchard. He achieved the remarkable 1.45 SiegeGG Rating during Stage 3, albeit against easier Challenger League opponents. Even more remarkable than that league-topping Rating is his 23-3 opening record which no other player comes near to.
While the remaining three players each performed about the same in the SI EU Qualifier, Tyrant really showed up here with a 1.6 kill-death ratio against the tier-one opponents while Yuzus was relegated to third in opening engagements. Looking at individual games, Yuzus had topped the team while knocking out Vitality and Secret while Tyrant got 65 kills to 36 deaths (a 1.37 Rating) in the 3-2 decider match against cowana.
Yuzus and Tyrant have both shown their ability in the MNM roster to perform very well against these European opponents. Whether this can translate from the likes of Mkers and cowana over to NiP and Empire is a whole other question.
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