Soon, we will learn which teams will make it to the final CS:GO Major in Paris under the auspices of BLAST. Though the European juggernauts are on the forefront of everyone’s mind – will the French players make it there, can FaZe cap the GO era off with yet another bang, will Outsiders, erm, VP, show up in a proper way? – there’s also the long and narrow shadow of American Counter-Strike and how it’s regressed even from the traces of potential we’ve seen over the past couple of months.
Five teams are guaranteed to make it to the Accor Arena: what can we glean from what we’ve seen so far?
In terms of firepower and skills, there’s no question that Liquid deserve a spot reserved for Paris. As wonky and volatile the HLTV rankings can be, there’s a reason why they’re number five as of March 27. With daps behind them in a coaching capacity, long known for strong talent scouting and teambuilding abilities, if limited potential in the fragging department, this team should be more than the sum of its parts.
And there are legitimate signs of greatness when things do come together. An impressive run in Katowice and last year’s World final were not nothing, and going back further, there’s that runner-up finish in the sixteenth season of the ESL Pro League. The the team even made it to the playoffs in Cologne before the player break, at the expense of regional rivals, no less – and sandwiched between the two was a comfortable 3-0 qualification for the Rio Major.
This RMR promises to be a much more challenging affair. The Brazilians of paiN proved to be quite the pain in the butt in recent encounters, and they aren’t the only ones with the potential to upset you in a best-of-one match. Deciding Major spots with best-of-one CS:GO matches involved in 2023 is ridiculous, even if at least the elimination and the advancement matches are best-of-three. With just one Legend and one Challenger spot on the line alongside the three Contenders, a single successful anti-strat on a mediocre map will force you to play an entire extra Major stage.
With a team clearly so low on confidence and capable of self-destructing from massive leads, this is going to be a minefield for them to navigate. With five spots in total on the line, it’s tough to imagine such a catastrophe that would see them miss out on a Paris spot in its entirely – but they are clearly already inside their own heads, and they could fulfill their own twisted dark fantasy for a terrible closure of the CS:GO chapter of Counter-Strike.
Of course, they’re not the only ones with an interesting story to tell.
Imperial’s done quite alright for themselves in the latest BLAST Showdown, and on form, they’re heading into the RMR with a strong chance to make it to the last CS:GO Major. For FalleN and co., it may very well be the last Major – and it’s a testament to his accomplishment that the team rosters for the RMR read like a who’s who of Señor Toledo’s alumni. The inspiration to the FURIA boys, his time on Team Liquid, meyern on BESTIA, Grimon Complexity, felps on Fluxo, MIBR as a whole, trk on Team One… there are many disciples of the Godfather of Brazilian CS.
Much like how the TaZ-led VP lineup was often mistakenly called the Golden Five, FalleN’s Imperial squad has nothing to do with the idea of the Bulls’ “Last Dance”, especially not now. However, the term has never felt more appropriate than it does now, as it’s tough to imagine the legendary Brazilians making it past the great divide to CS2, with all the grinding and adaptation it will require.
I’m conflicted about Evil Geniuses. It’s a prestigious organization in an esport context, with the same sort of shady deals across the years as you find everywhere else. There’s nothing special about them per se, and their commitment to revitalizing North American Counter-Strike is admirable by itself.
But then there’s everything else. The bloated triple squadron of players with limited potential. The part where they took Graham-Potter-at-Chelsea levels of time to move on squadmates clearly past their best. The ever-memed overconfidence on social media and the simultaneous lack of a thick skin that would get you to complain about ESL skits.
Perhaps it would all be a lot less irritating if they earned their spots in competitions on merit rather than via partnership deals. At least the RMR spots and Major invitations can’t be bought (well, they can be for orgs if a roster is available, but that’s a different story), and it was no surprise that EG’s main roster bombed out of the qualifiers and the rules barred them from running their extra squads.
However, fate (meaning passport and health issues) intervened, giving them another shot at the expense of Detonate’s squad. It’s always heartbreaking to see this happen at high-profile CS events as players miss out on their opportunity at the big-time for bureaucratic issues, but perhaps especially so when such an undeserving, non-stop losing squad serves as their replacement.
Thankfully, the talent pipeline is blocked by raw sewage, and unlike in the case of Liquid, there are fifteen superior teams to compete for the Major spots.