| 1. December 2021

CS:GO – IEM XVI Winter Preview and Favorites

IEM XVI Winter is the penultimate CS:GO event of the year. Its size is much smaller than that of the recent PGL Major and even BLAST Premier. But with 16 teams in the race and $250,000 on the line, IEM XVI Winter still promises to offer a lot of great matches.

IEM XVI Winter Details

Intel Extreme Masters Winter is scheduled to take place between December 2nd – 12th. The location will be, once again, Stockholm. The event features 16 of the world’s best teams.

  • Astralis
  • BIG
  • FaZe Clan
  • Heroic
  • G2 Esports
  • Gambit Esports
  • Team Liquid
  • Ninjas in Pyjamas
  • OG
  • pro
  • Team Vitality
  • Fnatic
  • MOUZ
  • ENCE

All of these teams are well-known, but some of them are still much stronger than the rest.

Competitive Format

IEM XVI Winter takes place in 2 stages. For the Group Stage, the teams are divided into 2 groups of 8. The opening matches are Bo1. Every other match is Bo3. The Grand Final of the tournament will be Bo5. The winners of the groups advance to the Semifinals of the Playoffs while the 2nd and 3rd place teams advance to the Quarterfinals.


Apart from the $250,000, IEM XVI Winter also offers a lot of Pro Tour points. The rewards will be divided among the 16 participants in the following way:

  • 1st place: $100,000 / 1000 points
  • 2nd place: $42,000 / 750 points
  • 3rd – 4th place: $20,000 / 525 points
  • 5th – 6th place: $10,000 / 350 points
  • 7th – 8th place: $6,000 / 200 points
  • 9th – 12th place: $5,000 / 100 points
  • 13th – 16th place: $4,000 / 0 points

As you can see, the big rewards are reserved almost exclusively for the Playoffs competitors. But that doesn’t mean the Group Stage won’t be just as exciting.

IEM XVI Winter Favorites

IEM XVI Winter features a number of great teams but Natus Vincere is not among them. Instead, you will have the opportunity to watch the other world-class competitors go to battle for a unique chance to win an important trophy in the absence of s1mple’s crew.

The most important teams to watch at IEM XVI Winter are the following:

  • Astralis
  • Heroic
  • G2 Esports
  • Gambit Esports
  • Team Vitality
  • NiP

Because of how the seeding was done, not all of these teams will make it to the Playoffs. But you can expect Heroic, Gambit, G2, Vitality, and Astralis to survive the groups and play there. The problem with NiP is that the team has already demonstrated big weaknesses after its most recent roster change.

At BLAST Premier: Fall Finals, device and his crew lost against Astralis and then got eliminated in the Lower Bracket Round 1 after they lost to Liquid as well. And keep in mind, Astralis had just made several roster changes while Liquid hadn’t been training for the tournament. If NiP can’t win under these conditions, the likes of Vitality and G2 Esports will absolutely obliterate them.

Here’s a brief summary of the other big favorites.


Astralis is pretty strong right now, despite having to reinvent itself after the recent roster changes. The team clearly has a number of adversaries that know how to defeat it, such as Vitality, G2, and Natus Vincere. But against most teams, gla1ve still knows how to play to ensure the success of his squad.

At BLAST Premier: Fall Finals, Astralis defeated NiP (2 – 0), then lost to Vitality (1 – 2), and then defeated two more strong opponents, FaZe Clan (2 – 1) and Heroic (2 – 0) before losing to Vitality again (1 – 2).

At IEM XVI Winter, Astralis will start in Group A against NiP and there’s a very high chance that the Danish team will win again. NiP will need at least a few months to fix its communication issues. Not to mention the fact that with es3tag in the team, the team’s playstyle will have to be changed radically. Looking at this player’s last few years, the decision to bring him in is a bit questionable.

Overall, Astralis should qualify for the Playoffs of IEM XVI Winter and then, depending on its first opponent, finish either 5th – 6th or 3rd – 4th. A Grand Final participation is excluded at this point, as the lineup simply isn’t ready to face the likes of Vitality and G2.


Heroic is quite lucky because the seeding has made it easy for it to get to the Playoffs. In the first match, cadiaN will have to face GODSENT, but that’s a relatively easy challenge. TACO might be an exceptional player but the rest of his team is lacking in all departments.

Heroic’s most recent result was the 4th place it got at BLAST Premier: Fall Finals. The teams that defeated them during the tournament were Na’Vi (1 – 2) and Astralis (0 – 2). In Group B, Heroic will not have to face these opponents and its only real rival is Gambit. Unless something disastrous happens in the first match against GODSENT, the Danish team should easily qualify for the Playoffs.

G2 Esports

G2 Esports was not present at the recent BLAST Premier: Fall Finals, simply because of the abysmal results it got during the qualifiers. But since the French squad has already proved itself at the PGL Major, where it finished 2nd, it’s hard not to view NiKo’s team as one of the top favorites at IEM XVI Winter.

G2 is currently ranked 3rd globally and will start the tournament in Group A, against TYLOO. The second match should also be easy, because neither OG nor Liquid is capable of defeating them. So the only real question is this: will G2 win Group A or will it finish 2nd and then start in the Quarterfinals of the Playoffs. We’ll have to wait and see. But based on the previous results, G2 is considerably stronger than everyone else in this group.

Gambit Esports

Gambit is the 2nd best CIS team and with Na’Vi missing, it will have an easy path to the Playoffs in Group B of IEM XVI Winter. Its main rivals in this group are and Heroic. But the skill difference is still quite significant, so it’s unlikely for sh1ro and his crew to lose this group. In the worst-case scenario, they will finish 2nd and start the Playoffs in the Quarterfinals.

Gambit is currently ranked 4th globally and has a real chance of winning this tournament.

Team Vitality

Team Vitality proved to be in excellent form at BLAST Premier: Fall Finals, where it lost in the Grand Final against Natus Vincere but defeated Liquid and Astralis along the way. At IEM XVI Winter, Vitality will have a very tough group, with opponents like Astralis, NiP, Liquid, and G2. But based on the French side’s recent performance, finishing in the top 3 shouldn’t be an issue.


Photo credit: IEM|Helena Kristiansson