2016: What a Year (Part 2)
As we approach the final month of the year, we close the books of Counter-Strike in 2016. Upon reflection, it was a great year. We’ve seen the miraculous rise of teams and the disastrous fall of others. Some things got better and others got worse. It’s now time to look back on it all.
SK Gaming wins ESL One Cologne 2016
SK was the predicted favorite, but some teams gave the squad a run for its money. Virtus.Pro put up quite a fight and Team Liquid appeared imposing on the other side of the bracket, and still, SK closed it out. This was their second Major of the year, and it also meant that they had won all of the Majors of the year. Despite that fact, SK Gaming seemed underwhelming compared to the last team to win two in a row, meaning that SK hadn’t really succeeded in establishing an era like Fnatic had.
FlipSid3 secure legends for the first time ever and NiP lose it for the first time
FlipSid3 Tactics has always been a middling team at best, even back when they had s1mple. Without him, it has seemed the team would only be barely relevant, qualifying for Majors and bombing out in groups every time. This year, however, FlipSid3 has shown up with increasing ability each Major, and against Ninjas in Pyjamas, they made it to the playoffs for the first time. NiP lost its Major spot for the first time ever. Spectators thought NiP was only going to get better since Björn “THREAT” Pers joined as coach, but failing to make the playoffs would suggest otherwise at that point in time.
Only 2 Majors in 2016
There have always been three Majors every year since the system was established, with the exception of the first Major, Dreamhack Winter 2013. To drop to only two would suggest that CS:GO is dying, yet even after the death of skin gambling, CS:GO stays strong. Many fans had hoped that the reduction in the number of Majors would mean that CS:GO would get an International, like Valve’s favorite child, Dota 2. Much to the fans’ disappointment, all this change really only meant that their would be only two Majors in 2016 and that someone was going to lose their Major hosting opportunity next year.
Virtus.Pro wins ELEAGUE Season 1
Fnatic making the finals of ELEAGUE seemed like an amazing comeback story. Like other such stories, Fnatic was poised to take the final from out of nowhere. It clearly didn’t end up that way, but perhaps an even greater story resulted. Virtus.Pro came back from being relegated in the ESL Pro League after many fans called for a roster change. Virtus.Pro held on to their lineup and did as Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas said: “we don’t change players; we change roles.”
Zeus leaves Na’Vi and s1mple gets a chance on his dream team
Danil “Zeus” Teslenko was the in-game leader of Na’Vi until Sergey “starix” Ischuk took over. Once starix had fully assumed in-game leadership responsibilities, Zeus was largely obsolete, so Na'Vi recruited s1mple. Little did they know that starix would be unable to have the same impact because of Valve’s coaching ban and that Zeus’ value went up immeasurably. Though s1mple brings more skill into Na’Vi, they have yet to figure out their style without a hands-on coach.
Skin gambling closes down
After various scandals involving some the biggest personalities in esports, skin gambling was closed down. There are many other articles that get into that, including one of my own, so you can look up those articles if you want a more in-depth examination. Valve issued letters to some gambling companies to cease and desist, yet not all of them did. The Washington State Gambling Commission ordered Valve to step up their efforts in ending gambling in Washington. Apparently, they were the reason for the cease and desists all along, not the class-actions which have since failed. Valve has since contested the gambling commission’s claim by saying that they are not in violation and can do nothing more to prevent the operation of the skin gambling sites. The gambling commission is currently evaluating if Valve is in violation of Washington law.
Valve has changed the recoil patterns on the M4 and AK by making the first bullets more accurate, while making the rest of the spray less accurate than before. This change increased the benefits of tapping and bursting, but negatively impacted the ability to spray. In a different patch, though also related to accuracy, Valve changed the accuracy calculation for guns midair. Before changing the formula, pro players found a way to gain perfect accuracy with any gun while in the air. Though it wasn’t being exploited like the jump scout was, whose midair accuracy has also been lowered, players were crying out for change. All of these changes were positively received by the community.
Godsent turns out to be a flop and loses Major spot with KRiMZ departure
No one who likes to watch Counter-Strike was happy about the break-up of Fnatic. They were a legendary team that always found a way to bring it back together. Jesper “JW” Wecksell wanted to leave for NiP, but he was reigned in by the organization. This was good because JW, alongside Fnatic, went on to accomplish more great things. This time, even though they placed second at ELEAGUE, the team was unable to remain together. Half of the team went to Godsent, and the other half stayed, while some players from Godsent went over to Fnatic. Instead of Mathias “pauf” Kohler joining Fnatic's starting roster, former olofmeister stand-in, John “wenton” Eriksson took the spot. Amid a string of sad showings, such as failing to qualify for ELEAGUE Season 2, Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson left Godsent to return to Fnatic. With him, Fnatic took the Major spot, and Godsent was forced to play in the Regional Minor.
Many new talk shows are created
After By the Numbers ended, there were no talkshows about Counter-Strike. In August, fans were hit with a barrage of them, each one with a slightly different spin. Room on Fire’s State of CS features members of the Room on Fire group and discusses current events in CS:GO. Drop the Bomb features HenryG and Sadokist as the hosts. Every week, they interview a pro player, and sometimes, they’ll have a guest on. Counter-Points is a show run by Thorin and moses. They analyze and speculate on tournaments and news in CS:GO with the occasional guest.
Tarik turns OpTic into a success
Tarik “tarik” Celik was very unhappy with playing on CLG. Because of this, tarik was not even trying, forcing CLG to release him. OpTic picked up tarik, and his arrival to the team launched them onto a path of success. After a crazy roster situation was sorted out, in which it was undecided who was going to leave to make room for tarik, OpTic has beaten multiple top teams.
Heroic and Dignitas become contenders
Astralis was, at one point, the one and only Danish team that people could look to as an international contender. After Jacob “Pimp” Winneche was kicked and Philip "aizy" Aistrup left for FaZe, it seemed as though Dignitas would need Astralis talent to be good again. Astralis slowly degraded and couldn’t even keep up with their standards. After the creation of Heroic, which was a combination of SK and unu.Ain players, and Dignitas’ trade for Rene “cajunb” Borg, these two teams were firmly planted as the top two Danish teams.
The newest version of Inferno has yet to reach the competitive scene, but it is nonetheless a promising edition. The map looks nicer than before, and it no longer looks and feels like the poorly ported Source version that it once was. Banana has been widened, the crack in Newbox was filled, and various other complaints have been responded to. Perhaps we will see it at the next Major, but hopefully there will be time for professional teams to practice on it first.
Astralis breaks up and gla1ve comes back into the fold
Astralis is like FlipSid3, but there are some significant differences, of course. They are similar in that they have underwhelming results that can’t be ignored, but are different in the level of results that they attain and the players that make up the team. Astralis has only won a few tournaments, but with that lineup, they really should have won many more. Desperate for change and probably because of some personal tension, karrigan was kicked from Astralis, and Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander was brought in. Gla1ve made a statement a month or so earlier pledging his allegiance to Heroic, but he then abandoned all that Heroic had worked for and joined Astralis, which has seen some improvement since he joined, so it hasn’t been been a repeat of Rene “cajunb” Borg’s departure. Heroic, on the other hand, has faded away.
FaZe starts to turn it around with karrigan / FaZe turns out not to be a vanity project and the deep roster proves innovative
In early 2015, Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom and Maikel “Maikelele” Bill formed a team owned by Kinguin. Most people thought the team was a joke because it was a group of players who couldn’t speak the same language, and people like Alexander “SKYTTEN” (pronounced “hweetten”) Carlsson only contributed to the joke. Mostly, the appeal was in seeing Maikelele and ScreaM play again. The culture of the team had changed and developed through the many roster changes, but was still resemblant of its origin. Under FaZe, in early 2016, the team was five all-star players who couldn’t win a best-of-three on LAN. Actually, they weren’t a team of five players. FaZe’s lineup included a bench which allowed the coach to swap player based on current performance and to motivate lazy players. Besides the flashy plays, that was pretty much what FaZe’s appeal was rooted in. They weren’t going to achieve anything now, but everyone knew that what they were doing was going to have implications on the future. While 5+ man lineups have existed and were successful before, SK ‘03 being much much more successful than FaZe, they were still treading relatively new ground. The future is nice to talk about, but FaZe has rocked the boat in the present with their recruitment of Finn “karrigan” Andersen. FaZe has lacked an in-game leader that really meshed with them since Danniél "dalito" Morales was blocked from coaching at Majors due to a past VAC ban. Recruiting karrigan and actually listening to his calls now shows a big difference in the team that was once only about one-taps.
C9 becomes the first NA team to win an international tournament in 10 years
ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals was a tournament lacking Virtus.Pro and Na’Vi, but the tournament still had the prestige and enough teams to make it a legitimate international victory for Cloud9. Beating SK on home soil is a big accomplishment, and being the first NA team to win an international tournament is an even bigger one. All players on Cloud9 showed up at some point in the tournament, even if it was for just a half, but the heaviest hitter was Tim “autimatic” Ta.
Standard salary in NA mentioned multiple times to be $125,000
Peacemaker's salary was leaked to be $125,000. It can be reasonably assumed that the rest of Liquid makes that money and that it is the standard rate for a big time pro. That is quite a jump from the reported numbers of previous years, but the real shocker is that Spencer “Hiko” Martin is making more. Hiko was to make two-and-a-half times as much as the other players, as per his contract that was leaked in 2015. Assuming that portion carried over, since it was based on his streaming income, Hiko made a whopping $312,500 in salary in 2016. Even if the two-and-a-half stipulation did not carry over into 2016, Hiko and other pros are making a lot of money.
zews leaves SK for IMT, and that fails
Wilton “zews” Prado was the coach for SK Gaming, and was also a player back in Counter-Strike Source. Because he missed his playing days, zews decided to join Immortals, a weaker Brazilian team, as their in-game leader. The results of Immortals dropped, and zews was subsequently kicked for Lucas “steel” Lopes, a player historically thought of as quite underwhelming. Now, Immortals has won iBuypower Masters, a massive improvement that goes beyond their past results.
Echo Fox and NRG were a waste of money
Recently, Echo Fox announced that all of its players were free to join other teams, and the organization was not happy with the results, and NRG's results have been far from impressive. The traditional sports owners of these two teams were not happy with the results at all. NRG just hired Luis “Peacemaker” Tadeo, and rumor has it that he is coming into the team as the leader. Instead of it being a player or group of players’ team, it will be Peacemaker’s team, something we haven’t seen in esports but is commonplace in traditional sports. It’s no wonder that the people behind these teams, given their background in sports, would want to try things their way after being humiliated. All that can be said about these teams is that “they tried.” In the case of NRG, maybe Peacemaker will have better luck this time.
ELEAGUE Season 2 playoffs begin today, and there is a lot riding on this event. What are the limits to Dignitas? Does SK have what it takes to win a tournament like ELEAGUE and state that this is their era? Will magic sustain the Ninjas? Does Astralis deserve to be considered a contender? Where do mousesports and OpTic stand? How much has karrigan transformed FaZe? Can Virtus.Pro win two ELEAGUE’s in a row? Where will ELEAGUE Season 2 stand in history?
Photo credit: Esports Edition
And if you feel I left something out, you know where to contact me. Follow me on Twitter @Bleda412.