It’s only been a few weeks since the major but in many ways it feels like we’re in an entirely different world already. Astralis are still dominant, of course – and won’t be particularly scared by the showing of any of their direct rivals here – but seemingly the entire field entered some sort of a twilight zone, perhaps apart from Team Liquid, whose collapse in the grand finals was very much in line with their previous performances in the business ends of a tournament.
Lost in New York
FaZe have clearly found themselves in a downward spiral and their intended solution is typical of CS:GO’s fallen elites: a desperate swap of the IGL role inside the team in a bid to turn things around. To date, Virtus.pro were really the only ones who managed to make this work on a long-term basis, and it usually just signals the final death throes of the lineup before a roster change. Recently, the then-SK roster opted to let coldzera and Stewie2K call on certain maps instead of FalleN, which was clearly a boneheaded decision and it understandably didn’t lead anywhere. It didn’t work for NiP either, even though they were more willing to rely on a coach and regularly swap their non-Ninja player for a long time. It didn’t do anything for Fnatic upon olofmeister’s return, as their successes had nothing to do with tactics. It won’t work for FaZe either.
Realistically speaking, you’re now saddling one of the best riflers in the world with calling duties while carrying a passenger on your roster in the form or karrigan who obviously doesn’t have the firepower of the rest of the squad. It’s clear that the players have lost confidence in the Dane and that his return to the IGL role at this event was a catastrophic mess: at this point, it’s only a matter of time until a different dedicated strategist is brought into the fold. We’ve seen how ruthless this org can be when they opted to form this super-team: they likely won’t have the patience to watch this mess for a lot longer.
Na’Vi are a different story: you could even chalk this freak result up to the craziness of a “domestic” matchup. Yes, Gambit were impressive at this event, raging against the dying of the light, but they’ve really only delivered anything of note against s1mple and co., losing to mousesports and Liquid in straightforward fashion. Na’Vi actually still finished the event with the third-highest HLTV rating, though it really was a textbook case of the s1mple show. The CIS star was the only player on the team with a positive K/D, but he went all the way to +38 on seven maps (four of which, lest we forget, they’ve lost). They could have also just underestimated Gambit’s impeccable Nuke T side which seemed to come out of nowhere, refusing to ban it in both series. Beyond the persistent rumours about flamie, they likely don’t have that much to be concerned about.
The same can’t be said about Fnatic: the sudden inclusion of ScreaM greatly cooled expectations an they’ve failed to make a mark on the field. It’s clear that the team needs further adjustments before they can even think about returning to the top, but perhaps the single positive sign of this showing is the fact that they may very well be open to an international approach, which could be the best way forward for the side after a few roster changes. Just saying, karrigan may be available fairly soon…
Knights and ponies
In terms of a PR victory, G2 have done extremely well in embracing the “work in progress” label, though this is again one of those LAN performances that might seem a bit underrated looking back. They played an integral part in FaZe Clan’s collapse and gave Liquid a good game on Inferno. Their defeat to NRG was also nowhere near as clear-cut as the 2-0 scoreline suggests as amateurish errors cost them crucial rounds on their own map (most notably, shox’s spontaneous combustion in the 30th round) and they mounted a decent comeback on Overpass. It would have been really interesting to see that game go to a third map. That being said, the limitations of this side seem clear right now, but some of their issues are so basic that even a coaching change could mark a major step towards fixing them. Are G2 going to challenge the CS:GO elite anytime soon? Probably not, but a top ten spot is definitely achievable.
NRG’s story was fairly similar to theirs at the event, their paths intertwining all the way up to the Group B decider match. These are decent showings for a team that can realistically be billed as “one for the future”, with an incredibly young core and a side that seems to have stuck together despite missing out on the major. All they need is time and they certainly have a lot of that.
As for our two finalists, the shock results earlier on makes it a bit more difficult to evaluate their performances. Both mousesports and Liquid managed to avoid Na’Vi and FaZe during the event, and both sides’ runs to the final were underpinned by powerful individual performances from Twistzz and oskar respectively. While Liquid clearly seem to be the most consistent out of Astralis’ challengers, their head-to-head record against the Danes is nothing short of abysmal and series like these clearly show that they struggle to close out the important games. It’s also tough to see how they could find that extra gear they would need to make it to the top: right now, they feel like the old Na’Vi to Astralis’ Fnatic, a worthy challenger that never quite made it.
This could very well turn out to be a turning point for mousesports who have shown incredible resilience in the finals as the first LAN event where Snax went positive overall for his new side immediately got them a title: the incredible lows of the major immediately followed up by heights like this makes it very difficult to judge this side. If anything, this victory bought them time to continue their experiment: one has to wonder whether the rumored removal of oskar would really be a good call right now. Their return to StarSeries has now become the most interesting subplot of that particular event – it’s a good thing we’ve got a week until then because it’s time to put that ChrisJ ace on loop.