IEM Sydney is at our doorstep and the excitement that has been brewing in the Australian esports scene over the past few months is about to erupt. With the focal point of the event being the presence of international powerhouses Astralis, FaZe and SK, many might overlook some of the underdog teams attending. The likes of OpTic, Renegades, Chiefs and ViCi have all been on the rise in their respective regions of late and, in the event’s best-of-one swiss group stage, have the potential to cause upsets.

OpTic Gaming – NAF, RUSH, tarik, mixwell, hazed

The loss of stanislaw to Team Liquid in February has been a massive detriment to OpTic’s play. A team once considered to be top three in the world, taking the title of ELEAGUE Season 2 champions and placing second at ECS Season 2 finals, OpTic have been struggling to find a permanent replacement for their departed in-game leader. However, under the leadership of jasonR and coaching of hazed, OpTic managed to place third at the recent cs_summit, with best-of-three wins over Liquid, Cloud9 and EnVyUs.

OpTic haven’t looked like threats since losing stanislaw – Photo by Patrick Strack/ESL

With hazed taking the helm in Sydney, due to jasonR having prior arrangements, it’s unknown what kind of OpTic we’ll see. Under jasonR, the team played a very loose style, centered around the playmaking ability of its members, such as the aggressive rifling of RUSH and tarik. hazed’s in-game leading career only stretches to his time with the experimental CLG lineup of late 2016, so it’s unlikely we’ll see any innovative or highly-tactical plays from OpTic. If the team come into the event with a more refined version of their pick-focused play, the talent of players like mixwell, RUSH and NAF may be able to carry OpTic to victories in Sydney.

Renegades – AZR, jks, USTILO, nexa, Nifty

The new look Renegades side will be, mostly, returning home for IEM Sydney and looking to play in front of the home crowd. The Australian core of AZR, jks and USTILO are joined by American AWPer and ex-Selfless player Nifty and Serbian rising talent nexa, who has taken on in-game leading duties. With a 12-10 record in the ESL Pro League and 2-0 record in ECS, the team are on the rise in the North American region, picking up recent wins against CLG, Luminosity, SK and Liquid.

AZR has been leading the way for Renegades online since adding nexa and Nifty – Photo by HLTV

Renegades rely on the raw aim of AZR and USTILO on the T side in expanding map control and opening bombsites. Both players are very aggressive, and while it benefits the side in site takes, it can often be their undoing on CT, with a lack of discipline in early round or man advantage situations. Renegades need to control the aggression of these players and pair it with nexa and jks’ great ability to clean up frags and clutch out the late round. The question marks for Renegades in Sydney will be whether Nifty can find some form with his streaky, mobile style of AWPing and whether the inexperienced nexa’s leading will be up to the ask against some of the world’s best.

Chiefs – INS, malta, aliStair, tucks, pecks

It’s undeniable that Chiefs have been the best team in the Oceanic region over the past few months, with first place at the CGPL finals and two best-of-three wins against Tainted Minds to qualify for IEM Sydney. However, as seen many times before, form in a domestic region doesn’t translate well to the international stage, with a lack of experience against high caliber teams often being a major downfall. Chiefs will be thrown into the deep end right off the bat, facing major champions Astralis in their first matchup.

Chiefs have been dominant in the domestic scene

With a well-rounded roster in terms of roles, Chiefs have the pieces to do damage in this event. The star trio of INS, aliStair and tucks, supported by malta and spearheaded by the entries of pecks, prove deadly on the team’s strong T sides. INS in particular has been a force to be reckoned with in the Oceanic scene, taking control of mid round situations through a clean up of loose frags and dropping 26+ kills in their last three matches. If the team’s stars can show up against the world’s best like they have been in domestic matchups, Chiefs might be able to claim an upset win later in the group stage.

ViCi – zhokiNg, advent, aumaN, JeXeN, Freeman

The ViCi Gaming split of February this year highlighted the problems with the Chinese scene, with the talent of VG.CyberZen splitting up into two separate rosters under the same organisation, spreading skilled players further apart. However, after the addition of Hong Kong’s Freeman, ViCi have been one of the best teams in the Asian scene, even taking out TyLoo to qualify for IEM Sydney, a feat that the previous ViCi Gaming lineup struggled to accomplish.

zhokiNg recently filled in for TyLoo at StarLadder – photo by HLTV

Despite the known ability of players like zhokiNg and aumaN, it’s been young guns Freeman and JeXeN leading the way in the server for ViCi. In matches against experienced Chinese teams, such as TyLoo, UYA and VG.Renascence, both players have consistently found themselves at the top of the scoreboard through great ability to close out rounds. These two players are backed up by consistent riflers zhokiNg and aumaN and the in-game leading of advent, setting ViCi up to be a well-rounded side. The team will struggle to find wins at IEM Sydney, but the experience gained from the event will be crucial for ViCi in the campaign to claim a spot at the top of the Asian scene.

IEM Sydney 2017 kicks off from tomorrow with the group stages – the main event begins this weekend at the Qudos Bank Arena in Olympic Park Sydney from May 6th -7th 2017. Tickets available here.