With only a few days left until The Kraków Major 2017, we've ranked the 16 teams ahead of their games Poland, from weakest to strongest.
Defending champions Astralis face an uphill battle, with SK Gaming having a hot pre-season and FaZe Clan and G2 Esports not far behind.
Here's theScore esports' power rankings for The Kraków Major 2017.
The Bottom 8
mouz, Gambit, Fnatic, IMT, BIG, PENTA, Vega, F3
Whether a team finishes in ninth place or 16th, there's little difference. With all Bottom 8 teams sharing the same, meager prize amount and all Top 8 teams being invited to the next Major, it's feast or famine in Kraków.
For CIS teams Vega Squadron, FlipSid3 Tactics and Gambit Esports, expectations are low. For Vega, getting to this stage is an achievement in and of itself. Remember, the entire squad are Major rookies. Given that good results for Vega are nonexistent in the season leading up to the Major, their goal here is to gain as much experience as possible.
Gambit are the best team in this bunch and the touted map specialists likely have the best chance of making the Top 8, given the best-of-one, Swiss-system group stage favoring that meta. However, their recent struggles in Mountain Dew League Season 25 Europe against mid and low tier teams does not inspire much confidence going into the Major.
As for the Germans, we unexpectedly see a strong representation from the region. Six German players are spread across four German teams, a very high count by recent standards. However, while each squad has potential in their own rights, particularly with their rookie players (PENTA's suNny, BIG's keev and mouz' ropz and oskar), their inexperience will be tested on the big stage.
On the topic of inexperience, the young Brazilian squad Immortals will have a number of barriers to break through on the Major stage. They're a squad that should have made the Major numerous times by now, but choked when it mattered most. If nerves were the primary issue in those moments, they'll need to steel themselves when the pressure mounts in Poland.
5-8. Na`Vi, VP, North, C9
Every team that's made it to the Major is a winner, but when 16 of the best teams in the world throw down, there's bound to be a few left in the dust.
Natus Vincere, Virtus.pro and North are teams in the upper echelon that have largely disappointed in the pre-Major season. Each have their fair share of event wins under their belts, but many more group stage exits, as well as failures in their online games.
VP were relegated from ESL Pro League and North failed to make it past ECS' promotion stage. Meanwhile, Na`Vi have pulled out of ECS participation three seasons in a row due to a busy schedule.
But while Na`Vi, VP and North are likely out of the semifinal contention due to dips in performance, Cloud9 appear to be on the come up. They made a Grand Final appearance at ESL One Cologne 2017, over the likes of Na`Vi and the seemingly rejuvenated Ninjas in Pyjamas.
3-4. Astralis, G2 Esports
G2 Esports is a dream roster for many and though they had a slow start, they've reached the level of play that many expected of them, best shown with their win at the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals.
At a glance, there's been a distinct drop in placing in their most recent events, such as a group stage exit during ECS Season 3 and a quarterfinal finish most recently at ESL One Cologne 2017. However, when you look closer at the results there's less cause for alarm. At ECS, they were in a group of death against FaZe and SK, while in Cologne they lost to a renewed Natus Vincere.
How G2 stacks up to the upper echelon of teams will be seen at the Major itself, but they should have no issues getting to the quarters or semis.
After Astralis won the ELEAGUE Major 2017, they decided to put a limit on how many tournaments they attended on a monthly basis. This was done to counter-act the burnout they felt for much of the season prior. This was a boost to their overall quality of life, but some may question their level of preparation ahead of the Major.
Astralis' last official match was during ECS, which was nearly three weeks ago. That's ages in esports time. There's no doubt that Astralis have been grinding and preparing in their own way, but there's perhaps only so much you can do to prepare in a vacuum like that. Hence, my expectations of them are dampened.
2. FaZe Clan
FaZe Clan are a super team much like G2, but their building process and growth took much longer and required some key roster changes. With karrigan at the helm and NiKo being the driving force, FaZe placed second in three premier events and won one.
Most recently, the team placed 3rd-4th at ESL One Cologne 2017, a drop in performance on paper, but they notably lost in the semifinals against SK Gaming, who went on to win the event. Had they been on the opposite ends of the bracket, we would have seen a very different outcome in the playoffs. Thankfully for FaZe Clan, Cologne was just practice for the Major.
1. SK Gaming
SK Gaming were probably the biggest question mark going into the ELEAGUE Major 2017 after they changed their roster and attended with a stand-in. But after finalizing their roster with former Immortals player felps in the beginning of the year, SK have had a steady upward trajectory.
SK have by far the most impressive record in the pre-Major season with five LAN titles, three of which were consecutive wins right before the Krakow Major at DreamHack Summer 2017, ECS Season 3 and ESL One Cologne 2017.
If their momentum holds, SK are on a path to their third Major title.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah a silenced Cavity 9mm. You can follow him on Twitter.