It may be difficult to believe, but it’s been exactly six years since the CS:GO major cycle has begun in earnest, with the 2013 DreamHack Winter event getting the official designation as the first-ever Valve-sponsored large tournament for the game. It’s tough to describe the monumental transformation the scene has overseen since then – let’s just say that it was the biggest CS:GO tournament to date with $250 000 on line, the same sum that’s now handed out for a weekend escapade by the BLAST Pro Series. NiP were the undisputed top dogs back then, with VeryGames earmarked as the only team with a real chance to stop their procession to glory, but in the end it was Fnatic who pulled off the mother of all upsets to walk away with the historic title.
Fnatic were one of the six teams with a direct invite to the sixteen-team event. They were placed alongside Na'Vi, Clan-Mystik and LGB eSports, all featuring names that should still be familiar to the Counter-Strike enthusiasts. Their opening match against the CIS side (featuring Zeus, starix and seized) was a straightforward 16-9 win on Mirage, followed by an even more comprehensive win in the winners' match against Clan-Mystik (who had kioShiMa, KQLY and apEX in their lineup at the time), a 16-6 on Inferno. This meant that they avoided a meeting with LGB eSports, a team with Krimz, dennis and olofmeister available to them. You may have heard of those guys. In fact, LGB would be the ones who stopped Fnatic from defending their title, beating them in the quarter-finals at Katowice at the following major.
Yes, the group stage featured nothing but best-of-ones. Those were dark times.
Fnatic's quarter-final opponents were Recursive eSports, one of the two online qualifiers to the event. Their roster featured Happy, kennyS and Maniac alongside GMX and Uzzziii. The Swedes won the series 2-1, setting up a meeting with compLexity in the semis, who were at the time still the org behind the team which would end up playing under the Cloud9 banner: Hiko, Sean Gares, Semphis, swag and n0thing. Back-to-back 16-7 wins against the North Americans on Train and Mirage set up an all-Swedish grand final in Jönköping.
It seemed like a straightforward affair, so much so that the clash of the titans on the other side of the bracket was billed as the "true final" by many at the time. NiP took down VeryGames in a three-map thriller off the back of great performances by GeT_RiGhT and friberg, pipping the SmithZz/shox/NBK-/Ex6TenZ/ScreaM quintet to the final.
Tellingly, one of the first lines of the HLTV match report was that "most viewers anticipated an easy win for the defending champions", but their incredible comeback on Dust 2 would turn out to be the first of many in the CS:GO major era, the 16-14 win giving them enough breathing room to make up for the heavy 16-6 loss on Inferno. It's safe to say no one could have predicted what followed: a decider on Train, where pronax and co. took the bull by the horns and raced to a 16-2 thrashing, cementing their place in Counter-Strike history.
It's a testament to the greatness of these sides that many of the players featured in the grand final are still active in the scene.
Perhaps the most iconic player in the scene – at least until s1mple stole the show by being so much better than everyone else –, his personal struggles with illness and the requisite reinvention of his playstyle makes his perhaps the most compelling story on this list. The man who lurked his way through the entirety of CS:GO is still around, and though the tail end of his NiP tenure was nothing like its beginnings, the question whether he can embark on yet another exciting adventure will be one of the more interesting storylines going into 2020.
Total winnings: $615 859
Still one of the most impressive players around, the thirty-year-old wunderkind has not stepped aside for a second, sticking with the Ninjas through the good and the bad. His impressive commitment to the game allowed him to keep up with the pack, taking down four different top 20 spots on HLTV’s yearly player rankings, plus a massive spike in his individual performances so far in this year culminating in a 1.29 rating at the first stage of the Katowice major. Whether the rumors about a Dignitas reunion are true remains to be seen.
Total winnings: $718 531
Who would have thought that he would end up swapping sides after having been deemed surplus to requirements by an NiP side struggling to reinvent itself? Though many questioned his in-game leading prowess over the years, Xizt still marks one of the select few who can still steer a Swedish side to the finals of a top-tier LAN event in 2019 – though embarrassing 16-0 defeats elsewhere may be the price to pay for the privilege, one which Fnatic weren't willing to do after dropping off the Major in its entirety.
Total winnings: $545 013
The first to retire from the original star-studded NiP lineup (and the only one to do so to date), the 31-year-old hung up his boots shortly after the Ninjas finally managed to clinch a major victory at ESL One Cologne 2014. His truly record at the event – -72 K/D across twelve maps – instantly turned him into meme status, and a similar performance at Fragbite Masters Season 3 pretty much marked the end of his adventure as a Ninja. That said, his articulate and knowledgeable nature made him a good fit for an analyst role, and he’s been on the desk of various top-tier events throughout the years. Currently holding a job at Twitch and a relationship with Smix, it seems like he’s also got things sorted out for himself.
Total winnings: $124 472
Spending five years on NiP, experiencing all parts of the roller-coaster that was the Ninjas’ CS:GO tenure, he was eventually replaced with REZ in the summer of 2017. He joined OpTic Gaming soon thereafter, only to see the team disband the next February. His stand-in role with Heroic in May last year quickly turned into a permanent position, one which he ended on his own volition in August this year. He did the occasional analyst work between his playing roles, most notably at ESL One Cologne 2017.
Total winnings: $400 635
The mastermind behind three different major wins and many other tournament wins with multiple Fnatic lineups, Pronax unexpectedly stepped down from the side soon after their greatest triumph at ESL One Cologne 2015. Fnatic would not even make a major final appearance from that point on – though they did have that six-LAN win streak, of course. Pronax himself would return under the Team Ancient banner shortly thereafter before founding the GODSENT project, which never really got off the ground, even with the incestuous shuffle incident in 2017. Enyoy, Digital Chaos and the Team Ancient mix team once again: odd new chapters for someone once atop the CS:GO world, a legend who definitely went out with a whimper instead of a bang. Currently, he's leading the CS:GO division of the recently re-formed GODSENT.
Total winnings: $235 071
The only person no longer to play CS:GO in an active capacity from the winners’ side, Devilwalk was an enigmatic support player of Fnatic with an odd on-again-off-again playing career after their upset major victory: he took up a coaching position with the team after the arrival of KRIMZ and olofmeister before making a return as a player with many different journeyman prospects, eventually teaming up with pronax and znajder once more, only to retire shortly thereafter, becoming a full-time coach. We still got to see him on the servers in 2017 as a stand-in on Epsilon eSports, which prompted him to make another attempt at returning as a player. In 2018, he returned as a coach once again for the Chaos roster before moving to NoChance in the same capacity this February. With that roster ending up at GODSENT, it's a homecoming of sorts for Devilwalk.
Total winnings: $37 422
Using the “schneider” alias back then, his departure from Fnatic mid-2014 began a downward spiral starting with two ill-fated stints on FlipSid3 Tactics before eventually reuniting with pronax on GODSENT in 2016, only to be released once again. They’re back together on Team Ancient, and we can only hope that his incredibly tough personal struggles are mostly behind him now.
Total winnings: $82 307
Still a Fnatic stalwart, though no longer the pure AWPer he once seemed to be, the explosive JW has also had quite the resurgence as of late after a long downturn in form. Three major wins and countless other titles, but perhaps not a strictly elite player anymore – it remains to be seen how effectively he’ll be able to reinvent himself.
Total winnings: $807 510
You can rewatch the entire final in its glory below and marvel how far we’ve all come since then:
Check out the schedule and our predictions for the semis of the ECS Season 8 Finals here
Photo credit: HLTV