Key Storylines Coming Into the IEM XVI Cologne 2021

by in CS:GO | Jul, 6th 2021

It’s finally happening, boys and girls! Today marks the day! What day? The day of CSGO’s return to LAN following a year and a half long hiatus. IEM XVI Cologne is the first post-COVID (in a way) CSGO event. Most other esports returned to LAN events months ago, but that makes CSGO’s return that much more special.

Today, we’re here to talk about IEM XVI Cologne storylines! And it’s not just going to be any storylines; we’re going to be talking about teams’ performances on recent online events, as well as their past LAN form.

As you probably know, online and LAN CSGO events are not the same thing. They are worlds apart; it was always going to be the case in a tac FPS like CSGO… but there’s more to the difference than lag. Yes, I know we’re talking about a crowdless studio environment LAN here, but still, playing in such an environment is going to drive a lot more emotion and spirit than typical online events we’ve suffered through over the last year and a half.

IEM XVI Cologne Storylines

But, enough with the intro – let’s see what kind of baggage some of these teams are bringing to IEM XVI Cologne!


Gambit is among the major winners during the pandemic. Players like ax1Le and sh1ro asserted their dominance, first over their CIS brethren, followed by a full-on assault on the rest of the world.

The chaotic nature of online gameplay favored their clutch-friendly, round-to-round approach. Right now, Gambit is the best team in the world; most consistent too! They won six events this year and played in three other grand finals. In the last two months of 2020, Gambit won five events as well. Talk about consistency, huh?

But their LAN performances weren’t that good. They struggled with tier B teams for the most part, which could pose an issue going forward. That’s all for Gambit from our IEM XVI Cologne storylines!

Natus Vincere

No matter what sort of gameplay we’re talking about, be it LAN or online, NaVi are always good! They can’t stop winning; it’s their thing! Perhaps they don’t have that many titles to show off, but their consistency and overall quality are second to none.

In 2021 alone, NaVi has three notable titles, with BLAST Premier Spring Finals narrowly escaping their grasp last month. As for late 2020, they finished it off with one of the most consistent runs in the game’s history (not counting Astralis and Fnatic’s GOAT rosters, though).

Overall, NaVi is set for great things at this event. If you’re looking for promising IEM XVI Cologne storylines, they are the ones you should be paying close attention to!

G2 Esports

NiKo’s arrival marks the best thing that happened to G2. Heck, scratch that – the best thing that could have possibly happen to G2! NiKo has been an absolute miracle; he synced up with the team right away (not surprising considering nexa and huNter are his colleagues now) and didn’t take too long to start showing off his vast pallet of skills.

The Kovač connection, NiKo and huNter, were the driving force behind G2’s current run. G2 has finished top four on five latest tournaments and hopes to extend the record to six on IEM XVI Cologne.

NiKo and the company are kicking things off from the group stage. They are in group A with Gambit, Liquid, and, crossing with the latter in the second round, assuming they both go through, of course.


Vitality was inconsistent before online events, and they’ve been pretty inconsistent during them too. They did have a short period of solid results back in the summer of 2020 when they played grand finals on three consecutive events but went ahead and lost all three of them. They followed it up with wins on IEM XV Beijing and BLAST Premier Fall titles, which was enough to clinch ZywOo, the flattering “player of the year” title.

Coming into IEM XVI Cologne, no one knows what to expect from Vitality. They still have ZywOo, which is always a massive plus, but their expectations are an unknown fact at this point. They could go all the way and pose as one of the main title contenders, but they could also get eliminated with two losses from Renegades and the loser of MIBR vs. Spirit. You never know with these guys. 


Heroic is one of the biggest winners during the online era of CSGO! They went from 36th place on HLTV world rankings in May 2020 to the first spot on several occasions. Their consistency on online events, their clutch potential in the final stages of key maps, their teamwork, and cohesion, in general, made them a force to be reckoned with.

Even though they’re not in the best form right now, they are still ranked as the fourth-best team globally; second best in Europe, mind you.

But, we don’t know how they’ll react to IEM XVI Cologne’s LAN environment. Perhaps their team puzzle is puzzled in perfectly, and perhaps this LAN will emphasize all of their glaring downsides. Either way, it’s going to be a fun event for Heroic, no doubt about that!


The biggest difference between pre and post-pandemic NiP is the fact they now have dev1ce. He’s not in the greatest form at the moment, he’s still not fully synced up with his teammates, but that’s all bound to change sooner rather than later.

Knowing his gameplay, knowing his coolness under pressure, he’s the type of player NiP will need in a LAN event such as this one. If he can start delivering right off the bat against LDLC, he’s bound to keep things going against the better of Bad News Bears vs. Mousesports too.

The group stage door is wide open for the Swedish team. It’s on them to grab the opportunity with both hands and push themselves through.

FaZe Clan

Let’s be realistic; FaZe Clan was an absolute mess no matter the event setting. Whether we’re talking about online or LAN events, FaZe Clan disappointing their fans was an agonizing constant. To make matters worse, FaZe Clan lost their key player in NiKo. The BOSSnian jewel went to G2’s greener pastures, with FaZe Clan trying to mix things up on several occasions following his departure.

At the moment, they’re fielding rain, olofmeister, broky, Twistzz, and karrigan as the IGL. Coldzera and Kjaerbye are on the bench, with the latter announcing his retirement from CSGO a few days ago.

For a team that has Coldzera benched, one would expect great things from FaZe Clan. And, who knows, perhaps LAN gameplay is what they needed all along! Knowing them, getting off on the right foot in the opener will be of crucial importance. They’re playing against EG in the opening match, a nicely poised clash, that’s for sure.

If FaZe Clan wins the first one, seeing them go up against the winner of Complexity vs. ViCi will be a real treat!


Astralis is coming into this tournament with very high hopes. It won’t be easy without dev1ce, but I’m sure xyp9x and the company are already used to the new setting. Plus, Bubzkji shows glimpses of brilliance, suggesting the first post-COVID LAN could be his big breakthrough.

Astralis is perhaps the team that was struck by the online gameplay the most. Before the pandemic, Astralis finally took control of the EU, finishing 2019 with style

Early 2020 started on the right foot, too… well, everything except the BLAST Premier Spring regular season. But then game online events and Astralis had three catastrophic campaigns on BLAST Premier Spring Showdown, DH Masters Spring, and ESL One Cologne. They did win four events since May 2020, but that’s nowhere near their standards.

Everyone expects a different Astralis on IEM XVI Cologne. LAN is what they thrive at, and we’re bound to see them in the best of light cometh the opening group stage round.


That’s it for our IEM XVI Cologne storylines. These are the eight teams to keep tabs on throughout the event. Some of them start from the play-in, others from the group stage; no matter the case, they’re bound to make for some exceptional CSGO action!


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