After many twists and turns, the finals of ESL Pro League Season 11 (or at least its European bracket) will be contested between the same teams as Season 10 was. It goes to show the skill level and consistency of both sides – but have you noticed how awfully similar they are in composition as well? Pound for pound, role for role, storyline for storyline: it’s almost as if they were one and the same.
Every top roster list begins with a top tactician, and Fnatic and mouz are no exception to this. No wonder the mishmash of post-Columbus Fnatic sides only found their groove once they’ve promoted Golden from the academy side, winning their first event in two years under his stewardship followed immediately by WESG 2018. With yet more time wasted in the wilderness under Xizt, the team’s recovery was nothing short of spectacular, with Golden’s individual improvement in the fragging department an underappreciated aspect of their rise.
Meanwhile, karrigan needs no introduction, the man with the plan for every occasion who is one of the remarkable select few who kept up with all the meta shifts and weapon changes over the years and nevertheless managed to remain a top tier IGL. Finally with a team that he can consider his own, it's no surprise he found a way to win something with kids.
Though many in the Twitterati made memes of Brollan's demise after the Krieg nerf, the young Swede is certainly no one-trick pony. A revelation since his surprise signing in October 2018, he's gone from strength to strength the same way Fnatic did as a whole over the same time period, proving he can keep up with the very best and that he always has some sort of incredible play in his back pocket.
By the same token, frozen has also slotted in briliantly to a young mousesports side that struck gold twice in a row with his pickup after ropz. Slowly but surely asserting himself as a key part of karrigan's puzzle, his individual performances have consistently improved since the middle of 2019 despite mouz going up against progressively stronger opposition.
JW's unique playstyle has made him a walking highlight reel since the beginning of his CS career, with a real renaissance last year playing an important part in Fnatic's resurgence as a whole. Meanwhile, woxic's famed high sensitivity settings and ridiculous flick shots established him as a unique beast in the world of AWPers in the game. Their battle in a best-of-five final promises to be one of the most exciting part of this grand final.
On Fnatic, flusha pretty much made a habit of making history throughout the years, with insane and seemingly impossible plays based on his impeccable game sense. Like ropz, he also had his fair share of cheating accusations to deal with. One has to wonder whether that round came to karrigan's mind as he prepared for this series, the pivotal part of the Swedes' comeback against FaZe Clan in the IEM Katowice 2018 grand finals.
If CS:GO teams eventually end up erecting statues to their legends the same way some football teams do around the world, chrisJ is already a lock-in for one. He's Mr. mousesports if there ever was one, a pioneer for Dutch CS and loyalty personified, playing on mouz since October 2013, always remaining a useful part of the equation and surviving two different instances of being benched - not many players can say the same.
On Fnatic, KRIMZ was notably effective on an individual level even during Fnatic's multi-year slump, and it's great to see he has been able to keep up his form even as the team climbed back to the top. Pick any year between 2014 and 2020 and you won't find a single one where you would be looking forward to an aim duel with this man.
On the other side, ropz may be a baby-faced assassin, but his playstyle is so effective that his pro career was almost scuttled before it could even begin amid a plethora of cheating accusations back when he was still pugging away on FACEIT. Famously, he was flown in to the FACEIT headquarters to prove himself under the watchful eyes of Bardolph and co., and history was made. If you're looking for clean and crispy headshots, he's your man.
Benching an important player and then returning them to the active lineup? Check. Beating Astralis in a semi-finals with their current roster before winning their first big trophy? Check. Karrigan, of course, played for Fnatic in a different era, for a short stint in 2013. Contesting back-to-back Pro League finals between one another? Well, check. With multiple young players and strong team chemistry forged after a series of wobbles, both of these teams could stick together for a long time. Currently #4 and #5 on the HLTV rankings (no doubt on the rise in light of the current tournament results), their fates could very well remain interlinked for a while.
Photo credit: HLTV