Who Came Out On Top?

Bleda analyzes the position that the top CS:GO teams are in after the many recent changes.

There have been so many roster changes that alter the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive climate so greatly that it can be hard to tell who sits where. These changes make it hard to find meaning in tournament results too, so it is especially important to have an evaluation of these teams. That’s where this article comes in.

Roster Changes (In chronological order)

  • Pimp joins Team Liquid
  • Liquid CLG swap
    • Koosta joins CLG
    • JDM joins TL
  • zews to Immortals (as player) 
  • s1mple to Na’Vi
    • Liquid sub replaces Zeus
  • Fnatic-Godsent
    • JW, flusha, and KRiMZ join Godsent
    • twist and Lekr0 join Fnatic
    • wenton goes from sub status to playing on the active roster
    • *vuggo steps back from coaching and Jumpy joins Fnatic
  • allu joins FaZe
  • nahtE and Subroza join CLG
  • Tarik joins OpTic
  • autimatic to C9
  • oskar joins Mousesports

What Happened

The first roster change in this mess of them was trading Josh “JDM” Marzano for Kenneth “koosta” Suen. After the young and talented koosta started having attitude problems and was unable to play as well as he had on NME, Liquid saw fit to upgrade. They upgraded to the best North American AWPer, JDM. He is definitely a worthy player to join NA’s superteam, and with time, hopefully, they can build a team that can not only place highly at Majors, but also win international tournaments, something NA hasn’t been able to do in a long time.

Also in the flurry of changes to Team Liquid was Jacob “Pimp” Winneche filling the place that Oleksander “s1mple” Kostyliev had left. For a while, it seemed as though Pimp, who was relegated to the third best Danish team – SK, would never have the chance that he deserved. Fortunately for Pimp, s1mple and Liquid had problems, so they went their own separate ways. Pimp, though a slight downgrade in skill, will be a much more communicative and cooperative player.

For many, s1mple will not be missed, but without a doubt, the departure of Wilton “zews” Prado from SK to play on Immortals leaves many more with a heavy heart. zews was an excellent coach who not only helped call the shots but also set up the strategical and communication structures within SK.

In his interview with Richard Lewis, he said that he had played very well back in Source and that his leadership would be useful on Immortals, a team without a strong leader. SK lost a good coach, but according to Fallen and zews, his work was largely done after setting up the team’s framework. Nonetheless, zews had a very timely departure with the new coaching rule, and hopefully, his leadership qualities will help elevate Immortals to a higher level.

s1mple joining Na’Vi was a surprise to some, but it had to happen in order for both Na’Vi and s1mple to be taken to the Major winning level. For such competitors, second place is not enough, so s1mple joined and Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko left. Though in hindsight, keeping someone with in-game leading skills, Zeus, would be a good idea, but it was the best move with the information at hand.

s1mple is an insane player, and those like him come rarely. Even for someone as destructive to teams, s1mple was needed. However, Na’Vi has additional resources, like coach Sergey “starix” Ischuk and multiple players whose achievements command respect even from people the likes of s1mple. With these added benefits of Na’Vi, s1mple should be able to reach his full potential and stay on a team long enough to achieve great things.

The greatest roster change of them all would be the Fnatic-Godsent shuffle. Not too long ago, Fnatic was clear and away the best team in the world and broke the record for tournament wins in a row. Fnatic was held together quite well and performed consistently until Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson injured his wrist.

After that, things went downhill for Fnatic until they finally split apart at the ELEAGUE finals. Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Robin “flusha” Rönnquist, and Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson left Fnatic to join former Fnatic members Markus “pronax” Wallsten and Andreas “znajder” Lindberg, all Major winners.

While Godsent is now stacked with talented players, Fnatic has been reduced to some good, but not great, players. It’s a shame to see Fnatic break apart after getting so close to a momentous victory at ELEAGUE. I guess it’s true that all good things must come to an end.

Viktor “vuggo” Jendeby, Fnatic’s coach, has stepped down to make room for Jimmy “Jumpy” Berndtsson. Jumpy is a rather unknown player/coach from Sweden. He is best known for his time on Meet Your Makers back in 1.6, but even then, he wasn’t playing at a very high level. As far as in-game leadership of the teams he was on goes, he was surrounded by geniuses that are still around today like Björn “THREAT” Pers and Faruk “pita” Pita. If it were me, I would have went after the now free-agent pita instead of Jumpy. Though vuggo may be more in his element as an analyst and performing behind the scenes work, Jumpy does not seem like an appropriate replacement to someone who was behind two Major victories, which is becoming a very tiring story when discussing this new version of Fnatic.

Aleksi “allu” Jalli joining FaZe Clan put an end to all possibility of a revival of Finnish Counter-Strike, like the breakup of Fnatic ending the empire. ENCE was a gathering of the best Finnish talent, and it should have gone somewhere. The problem was that ENCE could not even get the basics of teamplay down and had failed to really take off. Easy for ENCE they say.

This time it should have been easy, but they could not even do better than Premier. allu joining FaZe will be a big upgrade, but they probably will not be able to put him to much use either. FaZe, a mix team of the best aimers, also lacks many of the fundamental parts of a team. They have the firepower but none of the roleplayers. Like ENCE, FaZe will repeat the same mistakes and never take flight.

Yassine “Subroza”‘ Taoufik and Ethan “nahtE” Arnold joined CLG, filling in the spots left by pita/Jacob “FugLy” Medina and Tarik “tarik” Celik. CLG, at certain points, was poised to be a top NA team, if not already in such a position. They had equal opportunities to Cloud9 and Liquid to transform their team into something NA could really be proud of, and with time, they still might be able to. Except, no team is going to be special after picking up players like Subroza and nahtE. They are complete unknowns to top level competition and have no place being on a team looking to rise to the top, further solidifying CLG’s acceptance of mediocrity.

Not all players on CLG were content with mediocrity and a good paycheck. JDM was able to find his way to Liquid while Tarik straight up quit. Although the entire story is not known, Tarik was fed up playing with CLG, but the org still wanted to keep him, quite an awkward situation for him and his teammates.

It was thought that tarik would be joining Cloud9, as was rumored once before, but instead, he joined OpTic. Tarik goes into OpTic replacing Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz, but even with players as good as Tarik and Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas, there is still not much more hope of finding greatness on OpTic than on CLG.

Perhaps, yet another failure to create a good team lies in Timothy “autimatic” Ta leaving the improving TSM for Cloud9, a team who keeps falling further from the ever growing distant 2015 summer’s grace. Not only the loss of a good player for TSM will be an issue, but also, Cloud9 being left without an in-game leader presents an even greater problem.

Alec “Slemmy” White was thought to be moving to coach so that they could benefit from his knowledge without being weighed down by his weak fragging. Unfortunately for Cloud9, Valve’s newly implemented coaching rule prevents Slemmy from having as much of an in-game input as was accounted for when making this roster change.

Both Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný have a better chance at winning titles now that these two stars are playing on the same team. Both of them come from countries where there are few Counter-Strike players at a competitive level, so they went abroad and joined teams like HellRaisers and mousesports to compete.

In the case of both of them, their teammates were much worse players than they were, so they lacked both the fragging and the teamplay from their teammates that the skills of these two players would deserve. When Fatih “gob b” Dayik was kicked off of mousesports, it looked like NiKo would be taken down a notch further into oblivion by his teammates.

Despite losing the veteran in-game leader, NiKo not only frags to levels we haven’t seen from him but also took up in-game leading. With oskar on the team now, mousesports will have the tools to go beyond even their ELEAGUE finish.

So Who Stands Where?

Many pieces of this game have been shifted around the board, which makes it difficult to discern where teams truly stand. Of all these teams, Godsent has benefited the most. They went from having a weak team with only a few decent placings in the past eight months to now having an extremely stacked lineup. Fnatic, on the other hand, has been affected terribly by these changes. Godsent takes the bulk of the team, and while they may be slumping at the moment, they have always been able to find their form again. Even ignoring olofmeister’s wrist injury, it would be hard to see this team accomplishing great feats with the current lineup.

As for the NA shuffle, there really isn’t much that can be expected from CLG or OpTic. It’s been months since FugLy’s departure from CLG, and they only have found a permanent replacement now, and all the while, Tarik can’t put up with playing on CLG. CLG’s CS:GO division has been run into the ground, but that isn’t to glorify OpTic either. They have been a middling team making bold roster changes without doing anything to back up the expenditure. These are not the NA teams to watch out for after this shuffle.

The team everyone should want to watch is Team Liquid. s1mple leaving did mean that there would be no opportunity for a Major run to top the last one. Now, a new Team Liquid has the opportunity, and they do have an opportunity to do great things. A roster with players like Team Liquid’s is bound to do great things, and it looks like through the unfortunate timing of the iBuyPower bans he has found his way to another North American super team that can compete for Majors.

Team Liquid are not the only team that have the opportunity to take tournament wins back to a region that hasn’t seen them in a long time. The reinvigorated mousesports gives both NiKo and oskar, from Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Czech Republic respectively, a chance to win tournaments as well. mousesports, though it has seemed to be a prison to NiKo at times, now provides a way for these players to break the chains that these weak Counter-Strike countries had placed upon them. All that is left for mouz to do is to see just how much further the infusion of talent will bring the team beyond their top-four finish at ELEAGUE.

s1mple joining Na’Vi should have elevated the team, even with his unproductive attitude, but now that Valve has changed the rules regarding coaches, the team has even less of a chance of taking off. In case s1mple hasn’t gone into Na’Vi respecting his teammates, starix, someone who has a history with these matters, would help him to understand how to play on a team. Now with starix having a reduced impact on the game, emotions may get out of control and the game along with them. Fortunately, s1mple is already understanding how to be a team player already with reports of him giving the secondary AWPing role to Denis “seized” Kostin. This team still has a chance to win a Major. After all, “Born to Win” is there name.

On the flipside, autimatic joining Cloud9 will probably affect little change. Like s1mple, he is a skilled player, but he does not come with the same attitude problem. The problem with autimatic joining Cloud9 is that Cloud9 has shown in the past that they are unable to make use of their skilled players. Jake “Stewie2k” Yip joined the team, and besides his excellent individual performances, the rest of the team is unable to turn his abilities to anything of value. Cloud9 will keep up this cycle until they cut one of their core players that have been on the team for far too long.

If winning is the most important thing, then friendship should not get in the way of improvement. If winning is not important, then why are they even playing Counter-Strike? This could have been a pretty good move for Cloud9 without the coaching changes, but now, Cloud9’s inability to transfer individual plays to the greater picture should be even worse.

The addition of allu to FaZe should bring them better results, but with this kind of team, adding extra firepower is not what they need. FaZe needs people to hold the sites that others don’t want to play and play the way that stars don’t play. allu can do that to a certain degree, but he does not provide enough of it for FaZe to shoot to the top of the rankings. Like this team’s other roster changes, an upwards movement in the rankings can be expected, but their success will probably not last for long.

Finally, zews joining Immortals should bring the team some additional success. With the new coaching rule, it was a stroke of luck that zews was able to make it to another skilled team of Brazilian players. zews joining Immortals is the kind of roster change that teams like FaZe and C9 need, but it’s not the kind of change you should expect from those teams and those players any time soon.

Players that are remembered are players that win. These roster changes have altered the current landscape of CS:GO so that many good players have better opportunities to win. However, there have been a great number of changes that show that certain teams and players make the same mistakes and refuse to make the moves needed to win.

The weaker teams that have failed to make roster changes recently tell an even greater story of their lack of hunger for victory. In the coming months, you’ll see which players and which teams are winners and which ones are committed to getting their paycheck and playing with friends.

Photo credit: Dreamhack, Mineski, HLTV.org, Unikrn, theScore esports

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