It’s time. Even with teams like G2 and Astralis missing, this Major promises to be the biggest of them all, and potentially the end of an era in more ways than one. Many legendary players and rosters are likely looking at their last chance at the big time, in an environment that will bring more hype to the games than we’ve ever seen before.
The tension between players and orgs has never been clearer than with the trials and tribulations of Astralis, whose legendary all-conquering squad cracked in 2019 as internal issues and forced long-term absences led to the eventual burnout and disintegration of the roster.
It was mismanagement of the highest order and both the players and the org are still suffering from the far-reaching consequences. We’re seeing a similar story play out with G2, who had a reported disagreement in vision between the in-game leader and the coach before the player break, and now ended up replacing both, missing out on their ticket to Rio in the process.
At least Astralis fans have the return of device to look forward to, but what is there to hope for G2’s followers? That NiKo still won’t grab the IGL reins, that they will find yet another elite-level coach willing to try to mold these unruly raw fraggers into a stronger unit?
The Danish org was clearly cycling through temporary solutions over the past year, even if blameF’s departure was clearly unplanned. G2’s gameplan with this squad should have already come to fruition: instead, the rot is setting in. Their absence in Rio is as big a storyline as the presence of others: that’s just how big and relevant these orgs are to our scene.
We still haven’t charted the long tail of esports athlete lifespans, but it’s clear that veterans like karrigan and FalleN are nearing the end of their time in elite-level CS:GO matches. With FalleN looking to hang up his mouse in the near future, this Major homecoming will likely serve as his biggest tournament in the remainder of his career. Regardless of whether he makes it to the next showpiece Valve event, it won’t be in Rio, in front of an adoring home crowd.
Imperial rode their luck a bit to the top 16 in the previous Major in Antwerp, and they haven’t had an easy ride to Rio either, so there’s nothing apart from the magic to suggest that they will make a deep run here. Regardless of how it goes, the added beauty of a crowd watching even the first stage of the Major makes this a special occasion for players and fans alike.
Then there are the title defenders. Realistically, the 32-year-old Dane won’t be able to catch up to gla1ve’s total of Major wins, no matter how things will go in Rio. However, two Major titles alongside all the other accolades he’s earned with his wide variety of rosters will make this a realistic conversation. It would be all the more tantalizing had FaZe Clan got things done back in Boston instead of running into Stewie.
As is, even a back-to-back title win would put karrigan and co. in hallowed company, and even though FaZe have not been as pristine as they’ve been before the player break, they are still the favorites going into the event. How does one evaluate this FaZe squad should they fall short here and stop racking up titles? With most other top teams in disarray (and displaying a lower ceiling than pre-player break FaZe), it would have to go down as a huge missed opportunity.
The s1mple-shaped elephant in the room is one of the main reasons why that is the case. Could this be the last look at NAVI as we know them? It seems quite likely that the team will go all-Ukrainian in the near future, and if electronic and Perfecto need to go, the team will have to deal with a significant downgrade and a new IGL issue. It’s also quite clear that sdy hasn’t meshed well with the existing protocols, as his fragging output has been quite lackluster so far on NAVI. He only scored a positive K/D in his inaugural event at the BLAST Premier Spring Final, which was also only good enough for a 1.02 rating on HLTV. That’s as good as he’s got so far, which is not enough for a title challenge.
With NIP, Liquid, Vitality and Cloud9 all looking good, there are many teams looking to take advantage of any slip-up from the established elite. The Rio Major promises to be an incredible affair.
Photo credit: HLTV