If you squint hard enough, you could say that Poland’s Counter-Strike scene is still doing fine for itself. Perhaps barring Germany, none of their neighbors were able to muster an all-five side that was capable of challenging the very best of the game, nor could they match the depth of their talent pool. Even with the recent regression of Polish sides, the country’s impressive LAN foothold remains as strong as ever, hosting the most recent CS:GO major in Katowice. And yet, with the twin news of byali stepping down and the disintegration of the devils.one org, the recent headlines and HLTV rankings are fairly negative in the “post-VP” era. There’s a good argument to be made that the Poles’ recent struggles have a lot to do with their inability to blood in new talent while Virtus.pro was still strong, and their struggles can be fairly instructive for the CIS region for a similar reason.
The story of the original Virtus.pro side is well-documented, a true CS:GO epic from their meteoric rise on home soil to their disappointing collapse. Without a doubt, they were a mainstay in the scene, and their complete and utter downfall since then – they’re currently ranked 80th in the world per HLTV – betrays absolute incompetence by an organization that had such a strong lineup available to them all those years (and can boast fairly good results in DOTA 2 as well).
So why does this matter from a big-picture perspective? The financial muscle available to VP means that every time another Polish team manages a few decent showings, they swoop in for their best and brightest, resetting the clock on the scene because they’ll go on to waste their talent alongside washed-up ex-stars. MICHU likely regrets passing on the Kinguin project for VP – meanwhile, snatching up snatchie pretty much shut down the AGO project after their impressive performance at StarSeries Season 5, especially when TOAO followed suit in December only to be discarded by Match. Picking up Vegi from PACT after a set of wins and runner-up finishes in low-caliber online events is pretty much the dictionary definition of scraping the bottom of the barrel, and an embarrassment for an org with so many riches. Not only are Virtus.pro failing to turn their own fortunes around, they keep kneecapping their domestic competitors, even when they’re no longer even atop the Polish rankings.
Of course, the lack of experience on these players has a lot to do with VP’s inflexibility in the golden days, sticking with their original lineup for so long instead of injecting new blood into the system. In some ways, this is akin to Na’Vi’s insistence on their old guard, capping the growth potential of other talent in the region – a decision which only ensures that they won’t have battle-hardened people to look for when they eventually do have to find a replacement.
So what’s next for Polish Counter-Strike? As Machiavellian as it may sound, they’d likely be better off if Virtus.pro were to return to their CIS origins, creating a more balanced, if smaller ecosystem of orgs in the country. It’s not like VP were even dominating domestically anymore, any they’ve proven essentially incapable of creating an effective lineup once their original CS:GO roster but quite consistent in poaching the top talent from whichever side was on the up-and-up. They themselves would be able to make better use of their resources if they were willing to cast a wider net when searching for talent. Meanwhile, one can only hope that the now-orgless devils.one side can stick together and build on their impressive recent results, avoiding the siren songs of VP and their myriad recent failures.
The past of Polish CS:GO is bright, even if its present is anything but. And yet, the occasional flashes of light from AGO and devils.one suggest that there’s light at the end of the tunnel – at least as long as the VP train gets out of the way…