Esports News

Luci Kelemen
Written By: Luci Kelemen

Telling tales of esports, one word at a time, six years and counting

March 4th, 2021

Identifying the best team is for pussies. Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to guess who’s going to be heartbroken at the end of it all, barely missing out on the playoffs and the glory? Right. The top three advances from each six-team group – so let’s look at who’s going to come fourth!

Group A: The Onliners

Five of the six teams in this group have done very well in the online era, with radically different trajectories coming into 2021. Four of them ended up making roster changes with varying success, leaving us with a lot of unknowns to consider for the group.

  • BIG, the first big (tee hee) winners of the online era;
  • Heroic, who did so well when HUNDEN was around and fell so far since that they made a double roster change;
  • Complexity, who perhaps finally filled the oBo-shaped hole in their soul;
  • OG, the heart attack-inducing team with the latest top ten anime betrayal;
  • FPX, who actually got away with kicking their in-game leader;

oh, and there’s also

  • Renegades, recently decapitated by mousesports, they themselves decapitated by FaZe Clan.

None of the teams here had a particularly good time in Katowice (hell, two of them didn’t even make it there), which means we have to go a bit further back for meaningful signs of life. Now BIG and Complexity are the clear standouts here due to impressive recent showings at BLAST Premier, winning their respective groups. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s tough to imagine a Renegades side with its -100 dexterity penalty making waves, which leaves us with just three contenders to consider for fourth place.

Each of them have a recent roster move to chew through: FPX brought in suNny for chrisJ who they couldn’t come to an agreement despite a string of strong performances, OG pulled a Vitality and benched NBK-, while Heroic went for double trouble by bringing in refresh and sjuush for niko and b0RUP. In this case, perhaps it’s a good rule of thumb to consider how tactical each team is – the more they rely on brains rather than brawn, it’s likely the longer it takes to integrate new talent. With this, OG in fourth place seems like a decent shot, especially considering they still haven’t confirmed their fifth player a few days out: just the usual sort of what-could-have-been result for the squad.

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Group B: The Monster Players

This bunch features some of the nuttiest individuals ever to wield a virtual rifle, promising explosive matches throughout the group. Just consider the talents of

  • Vitality’s ZywOo, the most insane rookie we’ve seen to date in CS:GO;
  • G2’s NiKo who may suck as an IGL but is probably the best not-AWPer in the game;
  • ropz on mousesports who is surely destined for greater things than to pull a budget NiKo on a budget mouz squad;
  • coldzera on FaZe, who was monstrously good back when he had a top tier IGL to guide him so there’s every chance he’ll go nuclear again;
  • ztr on NiP, who may not be the same caliber as the folks listed above but was nevertheless one of the brightest spots at Katowice;

and let’s not forget

  • allu on ENCE who is unparalleled at permanent TKs in the professional Counter-Strike scene

So many of these squads are a work in progress that it’s tough to establish a hierarchy going into the event. Working from the bottom up, ENCE and mouz clearly seem a class below the rest, and though my head says NiP lack the firepower to compete with the top three even though ztr was revelation at his debut event, I’ll choose my heart and say G2 will come fourth just because it would be absolutely hilarious.

Group C: The Suddenly Interesting Group

This is exactly the sort of group which would have elicited little more than a yawn a year ago, but now it’s a lot more exciting to drink the mixture of

  • Na’Vi, who are always fun to watch because of s1mple;
  • FURIA, who are always fun to watch because of arT;
  • Gambit, who just won one of the biggest tournaments on the calendar;
  • Cloud9, whose clown-car-slash-colossus project guarantees a fun time regardless of the result;
  • MIBR, who finally moved on from the desiccated husk of the old Luminosity core;

and the other team emerging from the catacombs of ESEA S35,

  • Team One, who could at least make the Brazilian infighting a bit more interesting.

So who’s coming fourth here? Na’Vi, Gambit and FURIA are clearly a cut above the rest, and with two of the remaining three a completely unproven roster at this stage, Cloud9 seem like the perfect fit for another entertaining elimination.

karrigan mousesports
So how should we rate karrigan’s time on mouz?
Remembering North’s only S-tier tournament win EVER

Group D: The Group of Death

If you’re going to consider the groups based on team prestige, this is the one to watch. It features five teams you could reasonably expect to be a playoff contender at a different event, which makes it a nasty bracket to play in. You’ve got

  • Astralis, you know, the guys who won almost everything for three years running;
  •, you know, the guys who had that 20-match streak last year;
  • Team Liquid, you know, the guys who hold the any% world record for an Intel Grand Slam speedrun;
  • EG, you know, the guys who won those two events in 2019 and looked good for a while;
  • Fnatic, you know, the guys who had the first era in CS:GO and are still good for a blowout sometimes;

…and... hang on… *checks notes*

  • right, Endpoint. You know, those guys.

Funnily enough, the fact that two out of the three CIS squads are stuck over in Group C may actually make it easier for some of these sides to make it to the playoffs on their current form. It’s tough to envision Astralis and VP missing out on the top spots and Endpoint are the obvious candidates for the bottom, so what about the other three? Again, they’re all nursing recent wounds from roster changes that clearly haven’t healed yet, but if you squint hard enough, Fnatic seem like the ones who could almost make it off the back of a nutty win which they ultimately waste away by failing to convert gimmies elsewhere. Beat Astralis, lose to Endpoint? Sounds about right to me.

The way the Pro League schedule works means we’ll have to wait three weeks to see whether these incredibly precise and scientific forecasts will work out, but even if I go 0/6 on this one, I’m much more confident in predicting this: based on the group compositions, there are going to be tons of interesting storylines coming out of this stage.

Photo credit: HLTV