The first CS:GO Major in two years is almost upon us, and with it, a new chance to clarify the power rankings of the scene. Though the regional splits have inevitably led to some hiccups in the spot distributions (no one in their right minds would consider paiN to be one of the world’s 24 best CS:GO teams, for example), there’s nothing quite like these tournaments and the excitement that comes from trying to predict how it all will shake out.

Astralis: a chance for the last dance

What is there to say about the Danes that hasn’t been said yet? They’re the modern Major generals of CS:GO and Lucky seems like a decent downgrade for device so far. Is it enough to win, should one decide to strip away all the magic and the intangibles involved with this circuit? Most likely not. Could Astralis rely on their extraordinarily deep strat book to breeze past the opposition in the first round and make it to the playoffs? Most likely yes.

Prediction: New Champions Stage (3-0)

ENCE: from fan favorites to resurgent mix team

Back in Berlin, it was Aleksib’s last hurrah that carried the team to the quarterfinals and despite all the “allu is the impostor” stuff that’s gone down since then, they’re back on the big stage while OG missed out on the opportunity to do the same.

The Finnish identity of the squad is long gone and the current mix arrangement sort of came out of nowhere, but this anomalous nature of the squad should not disguise the fact that they’re capable of some very strong performances, and I see them as dark horse candidates for the playoffs here. It would make it three Majors in a row for the org, which would be an extraordinary accomplishment.

Prediction: New Champions Stage

BIG: the ultimate onliners?

The German squad was one of the big winners of the online era, literally and figuratively alike, but their stature had wobbled somewhat since those early days when they were among the first to adapt to the new environment.

They seem to be in a good place again after a set of roster adjustments, having done well at both RMR events, and it would be a shock if they didn’t make it past the first round in Stockholm, even if it might be a bit too much to ask to reach the playoffs.

Prediction: New Legends Stage

Movistar Riders: it’s the hope that kills you

The Spanish side has always been there or thereabouts and this is their biggest opportunity yet in the CS:GO circuit to prove their worth. It’s unfortunate that they’re going up against a historically strong field based on a single strong tournament finish, which, once you dig into the numbers, is less impressive than what Copenhagen Flames pulled off.

Two of their three wins of their 3-2 group result came from 16-14 wins and it was only on tiebreakers that they finished ahead of Heroic despite a head-to-head defeat. Though they did beat the Danes in a direct matchup to clinch fifth place, I feel that the larger sample size will be against them here in the end, with the introduction of the Buchholz seeding (which we have explained here) requiring results against stronger sides for progression.

Prediction: Elimination

Heroic: turbulent times continue

There have been compelling arguments that Heroic simply shouldn’t be at this Major at all in order to draw a clear line in the sand over the whole HUNDEN controversy as the continuous dripping of acid has distracted everyone, least of all them, from proper preparation for Stockholm.

They’re also relatively cold going into the Major, even once you factor in how irrelevant IEM Fall was for them in the end. With wobbles, strong online performances and off-server distractions, top 16 makes sense, but top 8 less so for this squad.

Prediction: New Legends Stage

mousesports, er, MOUZ: seriously wtf is up with this rebrand

Flashpoint 3 was a long, long time ago, and this team has not posted any notable results since, or at least positive ones. By now, dexter seems like a merely competent in-game leader on this level which is simply not enough to push a team to the top despite the impressive firepower they still have on display, mostly thanks to ropz’s heroics, who really should be saved from this crumbling roster.

The org themselves are no doubt looking to incorporate some of their academy talent as soon as possible based on their stellar results, making this feel like an even more temporary roster than before.

Also, as someone who has taken great pride in carefully lowercasing the team’s name for many years in accordance to their official branding, I hate this cubist wannabe Mickey Mouse paint.exe-job and I personally wish them nothing but the worst at this event. MOUZ NXT is next, dear God…

Prediction: New Legends Stage

paiN Gaming: stuck in NA with you

Much like Sharks Esports, paiN seem like one of those orgs that have been massively hampered and helped alike by the regional system brought along by the pandemic – it offered them spots and wins they would never have had a chance to grab otherwise but they also fell further behind the international competition along the way.

Their only showing against European sides as of late came at the BLAST
Premier Fall Showdown (for which they qualified by winning a regional event) where they were immediately eliminated by OG in a comfortable manner. There’s little reason to expect anything special from them in Stockholm.

Prediction: Elimination

Team Spirit: can’t forget the fairytale

Take a shot every time TI10 is mentioned when this team comes up, for that was a Cinderella run for the ages, arguably even more ridiculous than OG’s legendary TI8 performance itself. It’s doubtful to say the least that their CS:GO counterparts can achieve the same sort of glory, as there are simply too many strong teams around and VP still feels like a stronger team pound-for-pound with a similar profile.

Prediction: New Legends Stage

Check out our overview of the Contenders teams here and the Legends teams here!