As the North American team dished out one of the most comprehensive beatings in a grand final in CS:GO history (especially in best-of-five series), giving up only nineteen rounds across three maps to a fellow top team, they’ve got me thinking about the dominant period of the post-pronax Fnatic lineup and its six-LAN winning streak. That side was not that strong on tactics but was incredible when it came to clicking on heads and keeping their poise under fire, making insane comeback after comeback. Their timeout stratcalls often were nothing more than telling olofmeister to get a few entry kills. It’d be quite reductionist to suggest that this is all Liquid have to offer, but the way they’ve styled on ENCE on an individual level meant that their Chicago win harkened back more to that historic Swedish side than any other all-time great CS:GO squad.
To think they were deemed chokers only half a year ago. Liquid are now the undisputable kings of Counter-Strike, winning every event left and right – including the Intel Grand Slam, a triumph so thorough it prompted a rule change by the powers that be for Season 3 of the competition –, climbing onto and beyond the ruins of a crumbled Astralis side. With so many other top ten sides still in flux, their dominance over Vitality (even if the overall record still favors the Frenchmen) and ENCE leaves them without any real challenger for now. Their newly found balance and mental fortitude netted them their tenth trophy in 2019 with this dominant win at IEM Chicago.
They’ve racked up enough wins to warrant a historic perspective – and one has to wonder how this Liquid side will be remembered in the future. What’s their defining characteristic, the element that made them greater than the sum of their parts and so clearly superior to their rivals? Unlike the previous era-defining Counter-Strike teams, they are perhaps the most amorphous of them all. Fnatic had that insane mental fortitude and the almost regular comebacks few would have thought possible off the back of individual prowess, FalleN’s org-skipping side had him transcending what an IGL was expected to do, combining brains and brawns as coldzera’s proto-s1mple antics carried the dynamic duo to greatness.
Astralis were arguably the first purely tactical top-tier side, a team so strong they’ve single-handedly reintroduced the concept of eras. For a period of time, it seemed like CS:GO grew too big to be comprehensively dominated as FaZe Clan almost managed to break the game but fell just short of greatness – but then the Danes showed that tactics are king as long as the individuals are playing on the same level. The way they fell off will be remembered as one of the most disappointing denouements possible for a CS:GO era (though arguably every other era was also ended by hubris in one form or another) – however, it had the benefit of “making way” for this Liquid side.
So what makes the North Americans special? It’s been such a long time since we’ve seen such a comprehensive domination of the aim duels in a high-stakes match between top teams as we did now in Chicago – and perhaps this is the most highlight-worthy aspect of Liquid’s recent ascent to greatness. So many of the auxiliary aspects of the game – utility usage, economy management, mid-round calls, map veto protocols – can be neutered or negated if you can simply shoot down the opponents on a consistent basis. In that sense, Liquid clearly raised the ceiling, at least where an entire team is concerned, even if they’re also no slouches in the tactics department either. Each player is capable of popping off at any given time, making it even more difficult to neutralize them than a s1mple or a ZywOo, monsters but mortals nonetheless, one of ten on the server at any given time. Just like how the low-fragging in-game leader was rendered extinct by the rise of Luminosity – clearly showcasing this is not an edge you can give to the top-tier sides –, maybe Liquid’s ultimate legacy will be them doing the same to the concept of low-impact supports.
In a way, this is just the pendulum swinging back once again: if seems like the top CS:GO teams keep alternating between insane individual skill like Fnatic or the brutal, cold tactical precision of gla1ve and co. Of course, this just makes it all the sadder that we’ve never got to see this Liquid going up against that Astralis. We’ve missed out on some monumental games.