As the end of April draws near, CS:GO is going into hibernation. A few tournaments dot the timeline, but none to the scale of a premier event. The period between Starladder Season 3 and EPL Season 5 is generally a quiet one for Counter-Strike. This 2 month gap between top tier events brings a close to one of the most exciting periods of CS:GO, compartmentalizing the early stages of 2017 as their own segment of Counter-Strike history. With that in mind, let’s break down the top-performing teams of the time, and where they stand as it ends.
10. Hellraisers, Europe (DeadFox, STYKO, bondik, Zero, ANGE1)
Rounding out the list is an unexpected familiar face. Since the disbandment of the CIS Hellraisers roster, the international org have teetered on the edge of tier 3.
Over months and months of minor improvements, Hellraisers never had the breakout performance they needed to take them to the next level. Now, they’ve finally crossed the threshold.
At Starladder Season 3, HR outperformed everyone’s expectations, finishing 3rd in the most stacked event since the major. Much of the credit has gone to Hungarian AWPer DeadFox, a young talent who looks poised to become Eastern Europe’s next breakout star. However, a huge amount of credit has to go to ANGE1, the in-game leader of the team. Throughout his career, ANGE1 has been known as a leader and little else. He could effectively formulate a proper team and its strategy, but his role was limited to that alone. In recent months, the Ukranian old-timer has stepped up his game, boasting a 1.09 rating while still maintaining his IGL duties. Even more impressive is the level of responsibility he holds as a leader on this team. Not only is he obligated to perform the basic tasks of a top tactician, he’s also put in charge of an incredibly young lineup.
Both Zero and DeadFox are under the age of 18, and have little experience outside of the org. ANGE1’s ability to develop these players while simultaneously taking his own game up a notch is impressive to say the least, and a major part of Hellraisers’ success. Given the still present unreliability of some of their younger stars, and their lack of results to draw from, Hellraisers shouldn’t be overestimated just yet. But if Starladder is anything to go off of, the future is bright for the Eastern European stars.
9. G2 Esports, France (shox, kennyS, apEX, bodyy, NBK)
G2 is one of the few members of the coveted top 10 to have very few tournament showings. For all the hype that surrounded their long-predicted formation, G2 got off to a very slow start, failing to qualify for early events. Like Fnatic though, the French superteam have gradually climbed their way up the rankings.
Their breakout event at Starladder Season 3 was an impressive display of their full capabilities. In groups, G2 went 3-0, with impressive wins over top-tier teams like SK Gaming. The strength of the shoxS duo came to life in that tournament, bringing the unmet expectations of French fans to a reality. Their groupstage dominance was not repeated come playoffs, but their Kiev debut provides a solid framework to build upon. G2 has no ceiling, and could become one of the most exciting teams on the rise this June.
8. Immortals, Brazil (HEN1, fnx, boltz, lucas1, steel)
Unlike some of the other teams on this list, Immortals’ continuous lack of long-term results is not a mystery. A quick look at the roster will immediately giveaway their inconsistency. The starpower of Immortals is thinly spread, limited to just HEN1 and fnx to carry the weight of fragging on their shoulders. For some teams, this can be an effective playstyle, centralizing all resources in the two major threats of the team. However, neither player has the consistency to fill that role, leaving Immortals desperate when one of them doesn’t step up.
Mechanically, steel and lucas1 are two of the worst players on top tier teams, and lack the ability to take on the burden of their stars. Boltz is a much more capable rifler, but fits better in a supportive role, which he has played for most of his career. With no one able to fill the team’s oft-appearing holes, Immortals has relegated themselves to the tier 2 of CS.
7. Fnatic, Sweden (olofmeister, flusha, JW, KRiMZ, dennis)
Fnatic will never make a total return to form. The Counter-Strike scene has advanced too far to ever see that period of Swedish dominance again. However, Fnatic’s gradual improvement since their reformation has at least given hope for a partial recovery. Olofmeister and flusha are starting to show flashes of their old selves, and while JW is far from his terrifying prime, his moments of brilliance bring back memories of the JW we all knew and loved.
The individual progress of Fnatic’s star players has elevated them to a respectable level of competition with the best of the best, and put them in contention for an unlikely finals appearance. We may never see the Fnatic era again, but we can at least see a sufficient level of performance to see what made that team so special.
6. North, Denmark (Magisk, K0nfig, cajunb, Aizy, MSL)
Over the past 4 months, North has been one of the most consistent teams in Counter-Strike. The Danes are one of just three teams (the others being Astralis and Na’Vi) to make the playoffs of every premier event this year, putting up solid performances each time around. Unfortunately for them, no one gets trophies for solid performances. North’s 6 month finals drought is both depressing and uncanny. Compared to the other middle dwellers of CS:GO, North have few weaknesses on paper.
MSL is a brilliant tactician, able to craft young talents into top tier players. Magisk and K0nfig fit this mold exactly, and provide exceptional starpower from some of the youngest players at the pro level. And yet, with all the pieces to succeed, North have utterly failed to complete the puzzle.
Their roster change, swapping RUBINO for Aizy, has done little to sate the team’s needs, and provided few changes from the days of Dignitas. If anything, it’s only hurt the team, by forcing Aizy into an unfamiliar supportive role that doesn’t match up with his skills. Going into the vernal break, North need to make a real internal change, or face the prospect of eternal disappointment.
5. SK Gaming, Brazil (coldzera, felps, fer, TACO, FalleN)
Sk Gaming’s last tournament victory was nearly 10 months ago. On July 10th, 2017, the Brazilians established their absolute dominance, becoming one of two teams to win back-to-back majors. Since that date, the Brazilians have fallen from first, never able to match their previous successes. Now, the South American success story has come to a turning point. Since the roster change, SK’s history of consistency has faltered significantly.
In their LAN debut, SK looked amazing, finishing second with an all-new lineup. But since that epic first impression, SK has been decidedly unimpressive, unable to make playoffs at their last two events.
SK’s lack of success can be tracked back to two main causes: A decreasingly dominant map pool, and the underperformance of FalleN. The latter issue seems to be under control, given FalleN’s remarkable return to form at SK’s latest event, cs_summit. However, the lack of top tier competition and laid back atmosphere at the event makes it difficult to tell how sustainable FalleN’s revival really is.
The former is a much larger, more difficult problem to solve. At the moment, SK don’t match up well with top tier teams on any of their best maps. Train and Nuke, two maps that each of the top 3 teams excel on, have both become weaknesses for the Brazilian team. If SK don’t improve this aspect of their play, it will be difficult for them to find the same level of success that they did last year.
4. Natus Vincere, CIS (S1mple, flamie, GuardiaN, Edward, seized)
For much of late 2016 and early 2017, Na’Vi seemed doomed to mediocrity. Time after time, the star-studded lineup failed to live up to their early potential, falling early on in playoffs. The raw talent on the lineup was bogged down by a poor map pool and glaring communication issues. As the months went on, little improved, killing any hype for a return to form for Na’Vi.
As we head into the break though, everything is set for a Na’Vi turnaround. After another underperformance at IEM Katowice, Na’Vi finally made a change, releasing 2-year coach starix from the org. In his place, Andi has been promoted to the head coach position, bringing a new voice to a static team. Immediately, his influence has led to improvements, especially on the CT sides. Rotation time and efficiency has been vastly improved, allowing the star players of Na’Vi to use their talent in an advantageous position.
With a two month break to focus on self-improvement, Andi could smooth out the major flaws that hold Na’Vi back from being a top team. His influence will be especially vital in the expansion of Na’Vi’s map pool. Under starix, Na’Vi hardly ever practised Nuke or Cache, seriously limiting their map pool. If Andi can improve their play on just one of these maps to at least a passable level, Na’Vi could become a truly dangerous team, on the level of Astralis or FaZe. Natus Vincere is still an unknown, but their future could be bright.
3. Virtus.pro, Poland (Snax, PashaBiceps, byali, TaZ, NEO)
Virtus.pro may be ranked highly for now, but the security of their spot is rapidly diminishing. At the start of the year, VP seemed to be the only team able to compete with Astralis. In their first two tournaments of the year, the vintage version of Virtus.pro came to play.
Top 2 performances at ELEAGUE and Dreamhack Masters gave Polish fans hope for a return to form. However, the less triumphant side of old Virtus.pro was the one that shined through. VP’s inconsistency issue still lacks a solution, preventing them from achieving the dominance that other teams of their legendary status have accomplished. Their last event was an especially embarrassing example of their continuous fall.
In three games against European teams, the Polish veterans only managed to rack up 9 rounds, a massive drop off from their Vegas performance. That being said, VP should not be counted out of the mix just yet. Even in their darkest hour, the Polish team always seem to bounce back, reaching greater heights than ever before in their return.
This is especially the case after a long period of rest, exemplified in their high-powered returns after ESL Cologne, and, more recently, the ELEAGUE Major. At the earliest, VP’s next event will be at the ECS Finals in late June, giving them four months to prepare their epic resurgence.
2. FaZe Clan, Europe (NiKo, rain, allu, k1oshiMa, karrigan)
If anyone can challenge Astralis in the imminent future, it will be FaZe. Of the many teams to make roster changes after ELEAGUE, FaZe were one of the few to see immediate improvement. The addition of NiKo has elevated this team, finally bringing them out of perpetual mediocrity. The new roster made finals in each of their first two events, and found their first premier victory at StarSeries Season 3.
Like Astralis, FaZe doesn’t have a clear weak link. Each member of their team can step at anytime, supplementing the already terrifying star power of NiKo and rain. Under karrigan’s guidance, FaZe has transformed from a team of individuals to a well-oiled machine. Despite their recent success, they lack the wealth of results or consistent performance to warrant a spot at the top of the list.
Their Starladder success was marred by a poor groupstage and inconsistent performances from NiKo and K1o. FaZe have the potential to develop into the best in CS:GO, but they have to prove it first.
1. Astralis, Denmark (Dev1ce, Kjaerbye, dupreeh, Xyp9x, gla1ve)
2017 has been a chaotic time for CS:GO. Between the constant roster changes and myriad of inconsistent teams, the past few months have been anything but ordinary. But in the midst of this chaos, Astralis has stood out as a beacon of consistency. In their 6 months as a unit, Astralis’s current roster has yet to miss semifinals. More often than not, they’ve gone farther, finishing top 2 in 5 of their last 6 events. This era of CS:GO is defined by Astralis. No other team has displayed their level of consistency since the days of Fnatic’s old roster. Unlike Fnatic, Astralis show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Their weaknesses are few and far between, and rarely exploitable when they appear. Minor issues like Gla1ve’s individual shortcomings or Kjaerbye’s inconsistencies are generally made up for by the strength of the team as a whole. Even in their losses, Astralis always keep it close, and rarely show serious holes. Going into the next period of CS:GO, these Danish superstars are clearly the favorites.