Who Will Survive the IEM Katowice 2021 Play-In Phase?

16 Teams will fight for eight spots in the IEM Katowice 2021 Group Stage. In a Double Elimination bracket,... Fabio | 15. February 2021

16 Teams will fight for eight spots in the IEM Katowice 2021 Group Stage. In a Double Elimination bracket, they’ll get the chance to place themselves next to the likes of Vitality, Astralis and Natus Vincere. But which teams really have a shot at making the main tournament?

The Play-Ins will be played out by teams like BIG, Cloud9, mousesports, Complexity and Team Liquid. With Fnatic and OG clashing heads, one favorite is already guaranteed to lose out early on – but fortunately for them, the Double Elimination format is there to help them out.


The first few games of the Play-In Stage will only feature one single map. Obviously, this means less time and work for the teams, but that also makes upsets much more likely to happen than in longer series. At the start of the year, some lineups have shown great promise and have already taken on the likes of EG and G2. Still, they will have to navigate through this bracket before they can face them again.

En route to qualification, BIG will meet up with Movistar Riders. After the Germans’ phenomenal display in the BLAST Premier: Group Stage, this shouldn’t pose too difficult a challenge. After that, they will either have to face Team Spirit or Cloud9. In Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov, the Spirit boys have found a star player who can pop off at any given moment. He has already revealed his prowess going up against BIG before. Cloud9, who have been struggling ever since their debut, will likely have a hard time against the Russian team.

In the mousesports and Renegades duel, Chris “dexter” Nong gets to clash with his former team. The mouz management had recruited dexter as a replacement for Finn “karrigan” Andersen, who has gone on to lead FaZe Clan into the fight. For mouz, this surely is a huge switch-up, as the Australian will first have to get used to life in Europe. At the same time, however, he will have to create a foundation together with the mouz players. It stands to question whether he can do (or has done) that in time for IEM Katowice. Nonetheless, they should be able to best Renegades, but Gambit might actually be a tough challenge for them.

Just a month ago, a Ninjas in Pyjymas versus Complexity match would have barely received any special attention. But now, the Ninjas have made second place in their BLAST Group with a replacement player, even besting Astralis along the way. Complexity, whose AWP player had been on sick leave for months, suddenly took over their BLAST bracket. The moved past G2, EG, and even Team Vitality for a first-place finish. So this game will actually be one of the hottest and most interesting match-ups of the entire Katowice Play-In phase. Will both teams be as strong as they were two weeks ago?


OG put up a weak display in the BLAST Premier: Spring Group A. Mateusz “mantuu” Wilczewski and his colleagues didn’t show their full potential, but their chances to do so at IEM Katowice are even slimmer. In so many tournaments of 2020, they always fell at the hands of Fnatic. Now, OG are meeting their end boss once more, all while Fnatic have already achieved promising results with Jack “Jackinho” Ström Mattsson on board. Maybe this time around, OG can finally defeat Fnatic. The Best-of-One format definitely gives them a fighting chance.

Whoever makes it through this match-up will likely face Team Liquid next. The North American team had set themselves on top of MIBR just days ago and there is no reason to believe that MIBR will now have the skills to best them in the Opening Match. Fnatic, OG, and Team Liquid will fight a bitter battle for the IEM Katowice spot.

At cs_summit 7, Virtus.pro have proven that they’re ready for a higher level of play. The team surrounding Dzhami “Jame” Ali has repeatedly beaten lots of high-tier international rosters. Now, they will have to add to their tally in the Play-In phase. Wisla Kraków shouldn’t pose a real challenge, but afterwards they’ll meet either the Ninjas in Pyjamas or Complexity. Both teams are currently hard to read and could ruin the VP boys’ clear run to the IEM Katowice Group Stage – or at least send them to the Lower Bracket. Fortunately, the tournament will feature Best-of-Three series after the initial matches, which gives the favorites at least a little bit of comfort.