Rejoice, for our CS:GO esports withdrawal symptoms are about to recede – if you were also hit by a post-Major bout of sadness, the eight-day wait is about to end. IEM Dallas may not feature the recent winners, but there will be a variety of interesting storylines to follow as we edge ever closer to Counter-Strike 2 – least of all, whether some of the teams that missed out on Paris altogether could rise to contender status. Whisper it, but much like how Vitality were dark horses for the final Major, this tournament could mark the beginning of a long road back for Astralis and Cloud9.

Who’s going to shoot J.R.?

So, IEM Dallas. A year ago, this tournament was also a bit of a post-Major recovery, with an imperious FaZe Clan side clearly somewhat out of sorts and not firing on all cylinders, missing out on their first and best chance for an Intel Grand Slam, which they would close out almost a year later. The winners of that tournament, Cloud9, have been floundering as of late, struggling to deal with the mature metagame and the relentless pace of the tournament calendar.

Not that anyone would want this sort of solace, but missing out on the Major offers them a better chance to defend their title here. It’s clear that the firepower prowess of the sky-blue outfit remains as good as ever, but the question of leadership and mental fortitude has been a significant issue of the side as of late, surrendering huge leads in key matchups (think Vitality in Rio or FaZe in the last chance qualifier) while clearly being good enough of establishing said leads over and over again.

With a bit of rest and recovery, and comparatively more time to prepare for this event – and perhaps more motivation than the remainder of the field –, the Rio semifinalists could well remind us of their prowess.

The return of the red star?

Cloud9 are not the only team with a uniquely good, if unwanted opportunity, to make a deep run in Dallas. Astralis have also missed out on the Major, despite device’s continued excellence, and the team’s performances against the tier 2 field in online events since suggest that the post-Xyp9x roster may have some flickers of potential. With a pristine AWPer and growing tournament experience under the youngsters’ belt, Astralis may very well go far in this tournament.

Now only if they got rid of their cheating coaches, maybe we could root for them again without that bad taste in the mouth.

Notably, both Astralis and Cloud9 made it here through the regional qualifiers, not thanks to direct invitations like Complexity or Evil Geniuses. It’s just a minor sign of form and relevance, but it’s still more than anything the North American orgs have showcased as of late.

With roster changes and visa issues, this tournament will be about making lemonade out of lemons for many of the orgs and players involved. For the Danes, it’s an opportunity to test a hopefully long-term roster in CS:GO matches featuring a meaningful LAN environment. For Cloud9, they once again enter the event as one of the favorites, much like Rio, no matter the hiccup at the RMR.

The brackets also look quite juicy. In Group B, we will immediately get a gust of nostalgia with their start against Team Liquid, the last event where nitr0 will don the blue-horsed outfit in a competitive affair. Back in the FalleN/Stewie2K era, this team was the most dangerous when they already knew they were about to break the roster apart, so they could pose a real challenge.

Meanwhile, Cloud9 were afforded a layup in the form of Grayhound – and should both of these teams win their opening matchups, they will face each other in the upper bracket semifinals, with a guaranteed playoff spot on the line.

With FaZe and ENCE lurking on the other side of the bracket, it’s still tough to envision both Astralis and Cloud9 making the playoffs – but make no mistake, whichever finds the form to do so will have a stronger than expected chance to make it all the way in the gloriously low-scale Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center – a return in spirit, in not in form, to the concept of North American CS:GO events in furniture stores.