With news of MSL and aizy’s departure shortly after North’s CEO opted to step down, it is clearly the end of a chapter for Denmark’s eternal underachievers. Though neither the backing nor the names ever amounted to much for the side, it’s worth revisiting their one glorious exception in Stockholm in September 2018 as they shocked the world en route to their only S-Tier LAN victory to date, if only to wonder what could have been.
It’s tough to pinpoint exactly when and how North turned into a punchline in the CS:GO community but it’s safe to say that they are one of the highest-profile losers in the game. Unlike an org like Titan which crashed and burned or Luminosity who cashed out on their one good team only to fade back into irrelevance, North kept at it for years, wasting money and stacking Danish talent every which way, never to find the right combination. They completely failed to made an impact on the big leagues, let alone challenge Astralis for domestic and global dominance.
It seems patience has run out in more ways than one and a new approach is in order. Most CS fans will focus on the roster changes, with MSL and aizy reaching a mutual agreement to get the hell out dodge, but from a birds-eye business perspective, CEO Christopher Håkonsson’s decision to step down and leave after just a year in charge should be the bigger warning sign. The interim replacement, Alexander Pedersen, was responsible for the org’s much-ridiculed rebrand as marketing and brand vice president in his previous role. He’s gone on record stating that the organization is looking for additional investment – a sign of how much esports have changed in recent years. At its founding in January 2017, North as the joint venture of FC Copenhagen and Nordisk film promised to be one of the financial juggernauts in the scene. It wasn’t supposed to go like this – but for one glorious week in Sweden, it seemed like North might finally live up to its promise.
Remember when DreamHack events still had a bit of luster? The Masters ones, that is, often featuring notable enough lineups to match of even surpass some of their ESL One-branded counterparts. Stockholm 2018 was certainly such a tournament, featuring Astralis, pre-freefall versions of FaZe Clan and MIBR alongside Na’Vi and mousesports with other top ten teams also in attendance.
North were the eighth team confirmed for the tournament, fresh off of their top four finishes at DreamHack Open Summer and StarSeries i-League Season 5, results which propelled them to a top ten spot for the first time since they introduced Kjaerbye and mertz to their roster. For this event, they’ve agreed to a swap loan deal with Heroic, which meant that their lineup featured niko and valde alongside MSL, aizy and Kjaerbye.
A decent team on paper, one with a nice string of recent results behind them, but not one you would expect to go all the way at such a top tier tournament.
Getting out of group A seemed like a straightforward enough proposition, even with Astralis present, but taking the top seed was not part of the script. A comfortable 16-7 win on Inferno over BnTeT and co. set up the big encounter as gla1ve’s men took down Grayhound Gaming in dominant fashion.
By this point, Astralis were already looking unstoppable, with wins of DreamHack Masters Marseille, ESL Pro League Season 7, the ECS Season 5 Finals and ELEAGUE Premier in dominant fashion a harbinger of things to come, and yet they became unstuck by their domestic rivals in a three-map series in the winners’ bracket, who managed to come back from a heavy defeat on Nuke thanks to a comfortable 16-10 victory on Inferno and an overtime squeaker on Mirage.
Their reward for a job well done was a meeting with Na’Vi in the quarterfinals as the CIS side unexpectedly lost their opening game to steel’s Ghost Gaming side and the top seed with it. Perhaps that defeat was a sign that s1mple and co. weren’t firing on all cylinders, but it’s safe to say no one predicted the massacre to come: 16-3 on Train off the back of a dominant CT side and a 16-9 win on Inferno, despite Na’Vi racing to a 6-2 lead early on. Not even s1mple could end such a series with a positive K/D on the losing side.
If it was the firepower that impressed against Na’Vi, it was the resilience that showed against mousesports. Coming back from an 0-16 loss on Dust 2 takes toughness, especially on LAN amidst the crowd’s jeers. Once again, it was their pristine Inferno play that led to the series victory, taking a 4-0 lead on the CT side and racing to a 9-1 scoreline. Though mouz rallied back to a 10-5 scoreline and almost managed to take the map to overtime, North closed it out in regulation 16-14. Mirage was the decider and also a fairly close affair, but after securing a crucial win at 12-12, forcing out a save with limited resources of their own, they took control of the game and punched their ticket to the finals with four straight rounds.
It was time to meet Astralis again, who immediately banned out Inferno for the series. After North’s Cache ban, they leapt on the opportunity to play Dust 2 against them. In one of the biggest surprises of an event full of shocks, MSL’s men secured a dominant victory on the map, winning 16-1 just a day after losing 16-0 in the semis. Though gla1ve and co. scored a comfortable win on Train to push the series to Overpass, and looked good value to win the series off the back of an 8-3 lead on the deciding map, North ended the half with six rounds and played a blinder on their own T side, winning the first six in a row and eventually winning 16-11 to secure the trophy off the back of a blistering B rush.
Beating Na’Vi and Astralis, the latter in two different best-of-three series, no less, plus a monster comeback against mousesports? Sounds like the perfect preparation for the FACEIT Major. Indeed, North were even considered dark horse candidates after this string of results.
Seven days later, they were eliminated in the first stage of the event by Vega Squadron. Two weeks later, the org benched MSL and he was picked up by Rogue late in October. He would return in January 2020 – but it looks like he’s ready to depart again. North have not made the final of an S-Tier event since.
Photo credit: HLTV