It’s been quite a while ago now but OG’s entry to the CS:GO scene was quite a tantalizing prospect and there was quite a lot of expectation on the squad. An odd mishmash of results followed as the world turned upside down, but after a seemingly endless stream of 14-16 losses and overtime defeats, it seems like they have finally turned a corner, ready to challenge for the top spots.
Let me start by saying that OG is exactly the sort of team I adore, and therefore I may very well be biased in their assessment. The idea of a group of big brain players with limited firepower coming together after having been rejected by their respective squads is exactly the sort of revenge/redemption story I watch CS for, and I always found a flank more impressive than a flick, if only because I myself can only rely on the former in the game. That said, there’s no denying this is one of the more exciting projects in the scene, an international side with an approach closer to Astralis’ than FaZe’s, one that has already leapfrogged all but one of the squad members’ previous teams.
Let’s run down the list: ENCE is down in the dumpster having burned through most of the capital they earned with the fans, North remain a perennial punchline, Hellraisers is so irrelevant you wouldn’t even be able to tell whether they’re in the top 30 without looking it up (nope, #34 at the time of writing) and ALTERNATE aTTaX have never really been a part of this conversation to begin with. Vitality have done well after shedding their skin twice, and they are certainly among the top teams right now, but they still remain incredibly top-heavy – and a quick glance at Na’Vi’s last few years tells everything you need to know about the ceiling of such a side.
The potential has always been there for OG and now it finally seems to have begun to materialize, and it makes sense that a team full of cerebral players would show slow but steady progress instead of a quantum leap to the top of the charts. As the many close defeats begin to turn into wins and their tournament runs get deeper over time, there’s a very tempting direct comparison you can make about the team: their win over EG yesterday versus how they accomplished the same at BLAST Premier Spring Series back in February.
14-16 on Inferno, 16-14 on Nuke, 19-17 on Dust 2 to cap things off. Though OG seems to have some sort of a spell over Evil Geniuses, the different nature of their victory this time around is worth discussing. Not only were two of the maps a whole lot more one-sided (and the veto questionable on EG’s part, floating Overpass despite their awful record on the map, not to mention their economic self-immolation in the last rounds of the series), the way the close rounds played out were markedly different and less chaotic than in the Spring Series event. This comms sample from OG the February BLAST broadcast was full of crosstalk and noise in the late-round scenario. Now listen to this clip from yesterday’s game against Na’Vi where Aleksib is basically playing as a Commander in Natural Selection 2 rather than the dead guy in the middle of a round of CS:
The difference is night and day, and make no mistake, the sense of calm and focus on the comms in the middle of such a close game (and especially the fact that they still managed to close out the map 16-14 after losing this retake) suggests they have shattered the mental block that caused so many of their narrow defeats. The numbers also bear this out: the players’ clutch success rate has ticked up since the end of the summer, with Aleksib himself contributing three different ones against Na’Vi across the two maps. This may not seem like much, but when your team became synonymous with close defeats, turning around one or two rounds on confident and calm individual play matters a lot. No wonder their position in the HLTV rankings has also shown the same sort of slow but consistent improvement over the last few months.
It’s rare in CS to see a team materially improve without a roster change over the course of multiple months, and one has to wonder whether they would have been given the chance to work things out the same way had the LAN circuit not been interrupted by the pandemic. With OG’s recent performances, the question is rapidly becoming academic, and they will no doubt be an exciting prospect once the offline events roll around.
Though it’s usually the pressures of LAN we consider the most important mental part of competition, doing well in the online era requires its own sort of resilience. More games, lower prize pools, less prestige, no end in sight, stuck at home – more than six months into this upside down world, we’ve got to give credit to those who keep on keeping on playing the same permutations of CS over and over again for our entertainment, and finding a way to get better in the meantime. With that in mind, the teams forged in the monotony of the pandemic may end up doing a whole lot better than expected once the LAN circuit returns.
A quick word about one of OG’s vanquished rivals, too: the first act of the much-hyped intercontinental reunion has not worked out the way North American fans would have hoped it to, with Evil Geniuses suffering an early and painful exit, but there’s no reason to panic about their level of play just yet. Small and closed ecosystems don’t tend to produce excellence, and with the same set of familiar faces going up against each other over and over again in the NA bracket of the online era, there’s more to adjust to than just the bootcamp circumstances in Serbia. Even if the North American sides fail to live up to expectations at the first few events where they get to compete against the European powerhouses, their level of play will only improve from there as the cross-regional encounters (hopefully) become regular affairs again going forward.
Now, if FURIA come in hot and dominate the competition, that would paint a very different picture altogether…
Photo credit: HLTV