Feb 14 2017 - 10:06 pm

CS:GO: Silly season winners and losers

lurppis takes a look at the silly season that just finished in Counter-Strike and evaluates the key roster moves.
Image via ESL
Contributing Writer

The past weeks have arguably seen the Counter-Strike scene go through the craziest silly season we have seen to-date in the game’s history. Roster changes always happen at the end of the year, and post-majors, but Valve’s roster lock system forced many teams to stick to their lineup past its expiration date. That, combined with many contracts running out on Jan. 1, led to the madness of the past two weeks. In fact, more than half of the teams from the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta that finished on Jan. 29, no longer field the same roster. This article sets out to rank what I deem as the most relevant of those roster moves.

North adds aizy to replace RUBINO, who left

In a very surprising move, the lone Norwegian of the former Dignitas team, RUBINO, chose to leave the squad following a disappointing top-eight finish at the ELEAGUE Major. On some level it made sense for North to go fully Danish, picking up the player who stood in for RUBINO at WESG’s European Finals last fall, though it does not even begin to explain RUBINO’s rationale for leaving a highly paid and successful team, where he was a contributing member – one who will be missed. There is little doubt aizy is a stronger player individually than RUBINO, and as long as MSL is leading the team, they will need all the incremental skill they can get. But RUBINO had his fair share of highlights, played the roles no one else on the team wanted, and was a solid player in clutch situations.

There is a universe out there where aizy’s North never becomes as successful as RUBINO’s Dignitas, though that would not obviously be entirely aizy’s fault. This move makes sense for North, and adds to their potential… But remains far from the slam dunk many are making it out to be. Still, Magisk and k0nfig will face less pressure, a factor that could help the latter rebound after a poor showing at ELEAGUE Atlanta. If you are North, it is probably a move you make in a vacuum, even if RUBINO does not insist on leaving, but it also carries risk, considering how reliant on tactics and team-play MSL’s most successful team has been. If you are a North fan, hope that aizy can plug all the holes, but the task will not be easy.

Liquid pick up stanislaw to replace Hiko

While it does not seem like there are in-game reasons good enough to warrant stanislaw's choice to leave OpTic, and Hiko is nowadays an underrated player given his roles in Liquid, there is no question he is exactly what the doctor ordered for EliGE’s team. Liquid has lacked leadership since… forever, and stanislaw should be able to bring in just that. With Valve’s coaching rule, zews cannot lead the team full-time, and it is entirely possible that stanislaw will be able to learn from the former SK coach to become an even better captain – though there is little visibility to the previous OpTic roster, and what kind of a leader he actually was, aside from doing well in the kills-column.

Unfortunately, Liquid seems like a ship with so many holes that stanislaw is unlikely to plug all of them at once. The Pimp Experiment™ has not been much of a success, nitr0’s level of play has been mediocre at best, and jdm64 has not been consistent since s1mple’s departure. In fact, the only bright spot in Liquid’s play has been their young star EliGE. But if you are Liquid, picking up stanislaw is a steal – also because it hurts your direct competition in all national qualifiers – and you want to do anything to make EliGE happy while trying to figure out how to make the Counter-Strike experiment into a good team in the post-s1mple era.

SK adds felps to fill their roster

One of the worst kept secrets in the scene, SK finally officially added former Immortals star felps into their roster after the major. Apparently, the plan is to allow felps to continue his aggressive style of play, with fer scaling up a bit to make room for the youngster on defense, while TACO may be taking on less entry duels in the future as a terrorist to let felps work his magic. In a way, this move is a lot like Astralis’s trade of cajunb for Kjaerbye – it might not make them better right away, but long-term, it is a great move that should definitely pay off in results – aside from the out-of-game issues that led to fnx being replaced so swiftly in the middle of the tournament season.

SK’s roster is so skilled and capable of making plays that it is hard to say anyone is favored against them going into the next events. But the reason this move is not ranked higher is that SK was so good even with fox, that they nearly made the grand final of ELEAGUE Atlanta. FalleN’s team is the definition of elite, and should be contending for all titles in 2017 once felps is on-boarded properly. The key question is, will the entire roster be happy, and successful, in their new roles? Similarly, how long will the process of getting everyone accustomed to felps being the main aggressor be? Will SK already win in Las Vegas or Katowice? In any case, the fact that those are the questions we should be focusing on says it all about how good this team is destined to be.

FaZe adds NiKo from mousesports to fill aizy’s spot

Losing aizy should have been a hit to FaZe’s roster, but instead, they turned the Dane’s departure into a home run. NiKo has not been in the kind of form that warranted analysts calling him the best player in the world in early 2016 as of late, but that likely had a lot to do with the inadequate supporting cast that mousesports sent him to war with. This FaZe team is a wet dream for the player who has needed to do everything just to give his side a fighting chance. Do not believe it? Well, it took a gargantuan 42-28 K-D difference and 1.59 rating performance simply to drag the group of bodies mousesports fielded at IEM Katowice last year to overtime with Fnatic. On FaZe, NiKo will be next to the likes of rain and allu, with no denis or Spiidi in sight.

Almost directly after joining, FaZe’s in-game leader karrigan made the team better – no question about it. But now he faces a new challenge in fitting in a true superstar, someone who others must make room for in order to get the most out of his explosive potential. It is up to the former Astralis in-game leader to make sure NiKo fits in, and to get results out of the roster. FaZe has been steadily improving since the Dane took over the reins, and should not have too many issues fitting in NiKo. The Bosnian will not be playing for FaZe in Las Vegas, and cannot be prepared in time for IEM Katowice, but from that point on, other teams need to watch out – they would have had all rather kept NiKo locked in mousesports. Now, consider him unleashed.

shox and kennyS unite under G2 in another French shuffle

Finally, the most wanted French player combination has arrived – shox is playing together with kennyS in the latest version of the top French team. ScreaM and shox had a good run together on G2 as they won ECS Season 1 in London last June, whereas the EnVyUs team flat out flopped through the entire 2016 – safe to say kioShiMa was not the (only) problem. This roster finally combines the country’s two best players with star-role player NBK and best entry fragger apEX, with promising youngster bodyy rounding out the team. It has all the skill you could ask for – aside from ScreaM, who destroyed G2 by himself last week – but could find itself struggling when it comes to leadership.

With no Ex6TenZ or Happy in sight, G2 will have to rely on shox. The French superstar has proven he can lead a team to championships, and play like a star at the same time. But he has never had a prolonged period of success as the in-game leader of the team, prompting some questions as to how this team will deal with adversity, or make quick adjustments in the middle of what will be an incredibly packed tournament schedule in 2017. I would not count G2 or shox out, though – that would be ridiculous – but it is a factor to keep in mind before giving them their fair share of the titles, before any offline matches take place. The French scene has struggled to keep consistent rosters, even in the days of the large contracts, and it remains to be seen whether this iteration of G2 will be the next big thing, or simply another very good team.

Fnatic and GODSENT revert their swap to bring back Fnatic 2016

Before you go on, read stuchiu’s “the rise and fall of the Fnatic empire,” and only then resume here. The Fnatic roster broke up six months ago due to – only by their standards – weakening results, and some internal issues. In their last events, Fnatic placed top-four at ESL One Cologne, and second at ELEAGUE Season 1 – and that was with olofmeister seemingly still recovering from his injury. This Fnatic roster dominated the Counter-Strike world from the moment dennis joined in late 2015, winning six straight tournaments in a row until olofmeister’s injury saw him unable to play to his usual level – or anywhere near – at MLG Columbus. The Swede then took a lengthy break from the team, and they never recovered – again, per their standards. Just about any other team in the world would have killed to get the results they were getting.

The last six months were a reminder to the players of how fleeting success can be. Neither GODSENT with flusha and JW, nor Fnatic with the trio of olofmeister, dennis and KRiMZ, were able to score any meaningful results in their time apart. In fact, KRiMZ only lasted a short time in GODSENT before orchestrating a trade back to the black and orange. It should take some time for a new team to click, but the style of Fnatic could actually work from the get-go, without plenty of practice – and the early signs of online play are promising. This is a team that should scare everyone in the Counter-Strike scene, with potential to win any event they attend at any point. In an era of tactics regaining importance, look for Fnatic to try to shift the meta away. They boast the skill, the teamwork, and the experience – and could well become world champions.

Many of these rosters will have their debut in the coming days at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, though NiKo’s debut with FaZe will not take place until IEM Katowice in early March, and the new G2 roster failed to qualify for both events.


@lurppis_ on Twitter.

Image via ESL

Feb 21 2017 - 11:42 pm

Key takeaways from DreamHack Masters Las Vegas

lurppis takes a look at the key takeaways to be drawn from the DreamHack Masters event in Las Vegas.
Contributing Writer

While many players seem to still be stuck in Las Vegas due to issues with their flight, the dust is slowly settling down in the desert after an action-packed weekend at the MGM Grand and it is time to take a look at the key takeaways from the $450,000 DreamHack Masters tournament.


Na`Vi have issues, but they could be fixable

While most interviews offer little content of interest, GuardiaN’s post-game interview after their thrashing of Renegades included great insight to Na`Vi’s issues. Spectators could see s1mple all-but giving up in their mousesports loss, and in a tweet after the loss that has since been deleted, the team’s in-game leader seized said “**** **** was a mistake”, which many interpreted as “kick Zeus was a mistake”. GuardiaN confirmed their issues, stating they sometimes fight like you do with relationships. I will not comment on that, but Na`Vi did bounce back from that, and they did not look too shaken even after the disappointing quarter-finals loss to SK that knocked them out of the tournament. They have all the skill in the world, GuardiaN seems to be returning to form, and seized continues improving as a leader. If they can get over their issues to get along as a team, Na`Vi can still reach the kind of success many expected for them after the ESL One New York championship in their second event together with s1mple.

 

UMP-45 needs nerfing

Prior to Las Vegas, HLTV’s article on ever-increasing UMP-45 use, which reached a new record at DreamHack Masters with 8% of kills scored with the SMG, highlighted the issue many have been talking about for a while – the UMP-45 needs nerfing. A weapon costing $1,200 and awarding $600 per kill is fine to have in force buys and against saving opponents, but it should not be a go-to choice for gun rounds. SK were smartly maximizing the utility derived from the weapon, often keeping five UMPs for the first weapon round and then playing aggressively to close out the distance advantage of an AK-47. Furthermore, in the quarter-final against Na`Vi, SK’s newcomer felps actually kept his UMP-45 at a 12-2 lead in the final round of the half, despite having over $6,000 in the bank. How many more signals can you possibly need that a change is needed?

 

fnatic are not ready to compete just yet

With the lineup featuring twist and disco doplan surprising at the ELEAGUE Atlanta Major, and fnatic quickly finding success online against a weak mousesports roster and the G2 team that even more obviously is not quite there yet, fans had high hopes for the legendary 2016 fnatic roster in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for them, Zeus’s Gambit rolled over them on inferno in the opener, and after the same team upset Virtus pro, the Poles lived up to the words of TaZ and beat fnatic, sending the core of olofmeister, KRiMZ, flusha and JW packing for the first time in the team’s history in the group stage, and only the fourth time before the semi-finals. However, I would not sell my fnatic stock just yet – they showed signs of the old days with olofmeister perking up, and could be back in contention sooner than you think.

 

16K MR3 is the superior overtime ruleset

For a while now there has been discussion online regarding the optimal overtime ruleset – mainly arguments between 10K and 16K starting money, with most tournaments nowadays agreeing on the use of max rounds three in overtime, i.e. needing four round wins for victory. When discussing this in July, JW of fnatic suggested as a fix to the possibility of teams abusing sniper buys for picks on the terrorist of dust2 that presumably eBot would lock players to one weapon purchase a round, effectively eliminating money. I think that is the superior solution, if we can only get it coded in. The economy should not play a factor in overtime, because 3 or 5 rounds is simply not enough to play the economy-game. As for arguments as to why the game is more entertaining that way, I leave you with the overtime VOD of SK versus Na`Vi on mirage from DreamHack Masters Las Vegas – which is also my closing statement for this.

 

New inferno is ready for competitive play

I agree the banana can likely be improved, and I do not doubt those who have played the maps in serious practice have more problems they would like to take up with Valve with regards to the new version of inferno. But the map was badly missed, and we saw good Counter-Strike on it once again in Las Vegas. No one would come out to call the map perfect, but if you think about it, would you give any other map that title? All the current maps are flawed to an extent and depending on who you speak about them, they would change different things. New inferno is in solid shape, and seems to play just fine. Give teams more time to practice it and figure out way to stop terrorists abusing banana, and they will. The entire point of meta-game is that it evolves, changing over time. Inferno is one of the all-time best Counter-Strike maps, and we should all be glad to have it back in the active rotation.

 

Consistency is greatness, and SK fit the bill

Since TACO and fnx joined then-Luminosity in November 2015, now-SK have attended 19 international offline tournaments. Their record stands at 4 wins – including two Majors – 7 second place finishes, 6 semi-finals exits, zero quarter-final exits, and two group stage exits. Of the latter, one is a 5-6th place finish at ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals, where they only lost to Na`Vi, and the other is the infamous DreamHack Masters Malmo event, which they should have never attended – or, at least avoided cache versus mousesports and TyLoo. Of all historical CS:GO cores, they are tied with that of fnatic with the most top-four finishes at big events, as determined by HLTV, at 15 each – followed by Virtus pro and Astralis at 13, NiP at 12 and Na`Vi at 10.

Las Vegas was felps’s first event in SK, and not only did he look like the integration is going well, but SK were instant contenders, taking out Na`Vi and North in best-of-three series before barely falling short in the grand final. FalleN has not yet returned to his fnx-era level individually, but he may not even need to. SK look poised to be competing for more titles this year – the only thing that matters to them – an arguably look like they have an even higher ceiling than before. Simply put, this team’s consistency is near-impossible to replicate in today’s competitive landscape in Counter-Strike.

 

Astralis are great, but it is too early to call it their era, yet

Losing a hard-fought semi-final to the Virtus.pro team that TaZ promised in the aftermath of the ELEAGUE Major grand final would destroy Astralis the next time they met is not the worst fate one could face. Astralis destroyed their group stage opponents – despite losing all four pistol rounds – and NiP in the quarter-finals, with a cumulative round score of 64-27. Their previous events include wins at the Major and ECS Season 2 Finals, and a grand final loss to OpTic at ELEAGUE Season 2. They remain the top dogs in the world for the time being, and if it were not for the strength showcased by the two finalists, would be heavy favorites to clean up the offered silverware in 2017. Astralis are still favored going forward, so incredible is the consistency of high level of play they bring, but this weekend they were ran over by the Plow™. It is not their era, yet, but it could turn into one. But only if they can stop both Virtus.pro and SK, and new-old challengers fnatic and G2, and do it all consistently. 2017 is going to be great fun to watch unfold.

 

Virtus.pro are the final bosses of Counter-Strike

Safe to say Virtus.pro lack no self-confidence. The Poles came into DreamHack Masters Las Vegas with TaZ promising they would take down Astralis first on Twitter, and later in the post-Misfits match interview. Following their win over mousesports, superstar Snax simply stated he thought “at the Major [they] threw the game like noobs, and [in the semi-final] they gonna smash [Astralis].“ That of course was only after he said they would win the tournament, a sentiment TaZ confirmed in his post-Astralis game interview. And, naturally, they followed through with all of their promises, knocking out fnatic, Astralis and finally SK – the latter with an unlikely comeback from an 8-12 score on the final map, thanks to NEO’s call and TaZ’s later clutch – en route to another big event win, their fourth in four years.

Having never made a roster change since adding the Snax and byali -duo in late 2013, Virtus.pro excels no matter what. First it was pasha ascending to becoming one of the top three players in the world in early 2014, followed by Snax – who has been ranked top five in each year since then by HLTV – becoming a superstar, and is now considered by “some” the best player in the world. Somewhere in-between TaZ raised his level of play back up, and NEO became a primary AWPer to pick up an MVP trophy at DreamHack Open Bucharest last fall. They never change personnel, but nothing else is off-limits, as perhaps best explained by Snax’s comment in his top players -article. Virtus.pro always find a way to win, and as stuchiu put it, are the rare side that thrive under pressure. They were the best last weekend, and are still capable of unleashing the Plow. They are the final bosses of Counter-Strike.


@lurppis_ on Twitter.

Photo credit: DreamHack

Today - 6:56 pm

Thorin's Top 20 Best CS:GO Players Never to Win a Major - Part 1 (20-11)

Thorin counts down the 20 best CS:GO players never to win a major
Courtesy of Dreamhack
Contributing Writer

With more than four years of competitive Counter-Strike and 10 majors having passed, there have been numerous great players and teams securing the ultimate prize and etching their names immortally into history. Not every great player has had his day though and in this two part list I will count down the 20 best to never finish atop the podium at the end of a major.

"Best player" is obviously a contentious term and I have applied it not simply to star players, but also those who were the best at less carry-orientated roles, such as in-game leader or support. The key criteria for this list is that the player was good enough to have potentially won a major during some peak period of their career, but never did, for whatever reasons.

Part 1: 20-11

Part 2: 10-1

20. Simon "twist" Eliasson - The lost Swede

Courtesy of EPICENTER

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (13th-16th) [Reason]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (3rd-4th) [LGB]

DreamHack Winter 2014 (9th-12th) [F3]

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (3rd-4th) [FNATIC]

twist is one of CS:GO's "what if" players primarily due to his bizarre reluctance to join up with any of the elite teams within the Swedish scene from the middle of 2014, after LGB's dissolution, onwards. After helping LGB come within a map of the EMS One Katowice final, twist decided to play with second and third tier Swedish teams for the span of the next seven majors. NiP came-a-knocking and the answer was always no. It wasn't until KRiMZ, JW and flusha essentially forced him onto FNATIC, due to displacing him in GODSENT, that the talented Swede again joined a team capable of a run at a major. That campaign with FNATIC saw him help push them to the second top four finish of his career.

twist has quietly been one of Sweden's best hybrid players and not only could have won a major with LGB at EMS One Katowice, but would have made a very solid semi-star for a team like FNATIC or NiP throughout the period he found himself playing with lesser players, fitting in as the cajunb of those teams - contrasted to cajun's time in TSM/Astralis and in relation to device and dupreeh. One can but dream of what would have been possible for twist had he played in a side like the NiP of late 2014 or early 2015.

Best chance:

EMS One Katowice 2014 (3rd-4th) [LGB]

LGB were a power CS team and running into Virtus.pro in the semi-final of the second CS:GO major was perhaps the appropriate counter to their style, as the Poles were undeniable and at peak levels. Had LGB gotten to the final or faced NiP on the other side of the bracket, their chances would have been better. The previous LGB core had competed well with the Ninjas on a number of occasion and twist's own SK had battled well with him showing star performances.

19. Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen - Making the best of bad hands

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznadjer

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (9th-12th) [Reason]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (9th-12th) [3DMAX]

DreamHack Winter 2014 (13th-16th) [myXMG]

DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (13th-16th) [Dig]

ESL One Cologne 2016 (9th-12th) [Dig]

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (5th-8th) [North]

Had there been majors back in early 2013 then MSL would have had a chance to have won as a Support player in Copenhagen Wolves, but his inclusion in this list comes, perhaps unsurprisingly, thanks to his aptitude as an in-game leader. Ever since taking over the reigns of Dignitas in 2015 the Dane has improved rapidly and consistently shown an ability to take pieces which had not worked elsewhere and shape them into both quality players in his system and thus elevate his teams to competing with the best in the world.

Prior to getting Magiskb0Y in late 2016, MSL never had a line-up which was truly capable of winning a major, but now he is in a position where the possibility is not longer ridiculous enough to be ignored. They were but a few round away from besting eventual finalists Virtus.pro and moving into the semi-finals at the ELEAGUE Major last month.

A knock on MSL is that despite his teams frequently competing closely with elite level sides and becoming unusually good on specific maps, such as cbblestone and the rework of nuke, they have often performed poorly at majors, including failing to qualify for a number. Even so, MSL has been one of CS:GO's best in-game leaders for around a year and a half and given the kind of talent his fellow Danes karrigan and gla1ve have now inherited in Astralis it's not difficult to have seen MSL with a chance to go all the way.

Unlike many of the names on this list, MSL is one of the active players very much capable of removing himself from the list by virtue of winning still.

Best chance:

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (5th-8th) [North]

As creaky as North's performance was in the Swiss system, they came into their series against Virtus.pro and beat the Poles on their own pick - the little played cache which MSL famously despises. The deciding cbblestone saw the Danes go up 12:3 on the CT half to open the game, behind a monster performance from Magisk, and look all but into the semi-final. Had they closed out said game, one could certainly have seen them matching up well with an SK which was shuffling around spots on maps to accomodate stand-in fox and which did not themselves like cache, thus allowing MSL to ban train and force strong maps for his own team.

Even with all of that said, it's pretty unlikely North would have won that major.

18. Sean "seangares" Gares - Deep thinking but lacking the fire-power

Courtesy of ESL and Patrick Strack

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (3rd-4th) [coL]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (5th-8th) [coL]

ESL One Cologne 2014 (5th-8th) [C9]

DreamHack Winter 2014 (9th-12th) [C9]

EMS One Katowice 2015 (9th-12th) [C9]

ESL One Cologne 2015 (9th-12th) [C9]

DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (9th-12th) [C9]

sgares was one of the best North American IGLs for a couple of years and had a couple of occasions upon which he could well have seen his team go all the way. Known for designing effective anti-strats and letting his stars do what they want, sgares was able to have his teams in place to compete with Europe's best on numerous occasions. Poor roster decisions and a lack of authoritarian presence on his teams perhaps prevented them from upgrading players at the right time and getting the wrong influences out of line-ups early enough on.

Best chance:

ESL One Cologne 2014 (5th-8th) [C9]

sgares's best ever major placing, at Dreamhack Winter 2013 - the first major, was interestingly not the best opportunity to take the crown, as any of the three semi-finalists there would have dusted off his coL line-up. Rather, C9's run to top eight at ESL One Cologne 2014 stands as the obvious candidate for a potential sgares major victory. The NA side were unlucky enough to see the randomiser choose cbblestone as the decider against NiP and were the first victim of some NiP magic on the map, as the Ninjas had not even won on it in the group stage. On practically any other map NiP were there for the taking, with the team in the worst slump of their careers and looking vulnerable across the board.

Had C9 gotten past NiP then Happy's LDLC awaited in the semi-final and were certainly beatable and a good match-up for sgares's boys. The finalists were FNATIC, who were attending only their second offline tournament with KRiMZ and olofm in the line-up and who went on to lose the major to NiP in the real final. Victory was far from assured, but C9 had a surprisingly solid shot at taking down that major. In the group stage they had already taken down elite European sides Dignitas and Titan.

17. Spencer "Hiko" Martin - NA's most clutch

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Robert Paul

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (3rd-4th) [coL]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (5th-8th) [coL]

ESL One Cologne 2014 (5th-8th) [C9]

DreamHack Winter 2014 (9th-12th) [C9]

DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (13th-16th) [TL]

MLG Columbus 2016 (3rd-4th) [TL]

ESL One Cologne 2016 (2nd) [TL]

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (9th-11th) [TL]

Newer spectators of CS:GO may not realise that in 2013 Hiko was one of the best players in the world, not merely one of the best NA stars. Through to 2014 he remained a solid player until late on the year, helping C9 to their almost deep run at ESL One Cologne 2014. Certainly, he could have won the major at that time. Since then he has placed top four at two additional majors, going to the final with TL - as far as any North American has ever made it. Still, those latter results were not as a star element of those line-ups.

At his peak, Hiko was one of the world's best clutch players and his lurking style anchored coL and C9's approach to the game and ensured that along with swag or Shroud he formed a solid partnership of fire-power for the NA line-ups he was a part of. Those teams argued lacked for a third legitimate source of fire-power, which held them back from more concrete contendership at more majors.

Best chance:

MLG Columbus 2016 (3rd-4th) [TL]

As a star, Hiko's best chance to win the major came at ESL One Cologne 2014, but his best chance overall arguably came with TL's inspired and unlikely MLG Columbus run to the semi-finals. There they faced eventual champions SK Gaming and got to map point on both of the first two maps, only to lose in overtime on both occasions. It's hardly outrageous to suggest TL were close to edging that match out and at the very least getting a crack at a decider.

Had the s1mple-fueled NA side made the final, then it turned out Na`Vi were far from the monsters they had been earlier in the year. GuardiaN's injury was at its very worst, as evidenced by him using four times his normal sensitivity in the final, and had been carried as far largely by an unlikely performance from Edward and a patented Astralis choke. Na`Vi would still be favoured, but not by as much as some may suggest. Na`Vi banning cache would have given TL trouble, so a decider on a map like train could have been troublesome, but TL could have picked a map like dust2 and then prayed for cbblestone as the decider.

16. Håvard "rain" Nygaard - Norway's secret weapon

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznadjer

Results at the majors:

ESL One Cologne 2014 (13th-16th) [CW]

ESL One Katowice 2015 (9th-12th) [LGB]

ESL One Cologne 2015 (5th-8th) [Kinguin]

DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (3rd-4th) [G2]

MLG Columbus 2016 (9th-12th) [FaZe]

ESL One Cologne 2016 (9th-12th) [FaZe]

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (5th-8th) [FaZe]

rain once looked doomed to play out his career wondering "what if" the Norwegian scene had ever produced enough talent or been gifted good enough opportunities sponsorship-wise. Instead, he climbed out of that pit via the freak-show spectacle of Kinguin, which began as seemingly an exhibition team boasting well known names from different countries and eventually evolved, through roster moves, into a legitimately good side. rain was arguably the star player of the team in the middle of 2015 and has shown period of strong performance through to their time as FaZe in 2016.

Due to his style of play being so calculated and smooth, he is often thought of as a consistent player, but I've always seen him as a very up and down player who, if his decision-making and skills are dialed in, dominates or, when those criteria are not met, can go missing. Even putting aside his obvious opportunity to win G2, rain could have been a deadly addition to teams like NiP, Astralis or FNATIC in late 2015 or early 2016.

Best chance:

DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (3rd-4th) [G2]

As unlikely as it was, taking down a strong VP in the quarter-finals no less, G2's run to top four at Cluj-Napoca saw them a single round from reaching the final. With NiP upsetting Astralis on the other side of the bracket and Na`Vi then benefitting from that win to move to a final they were perhaps not quite ready for, G2 would have had a real shot at taking the major crown. Na`Vi would have banned out their cache, but inferno was always a chance to beat Na`Vi and stood as one of G2's best maps.

15. Braxton "swag" Pierce - The banned game-sense star

Courtesy of ESL and Kelly Kline

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (3rd-4th) [coL]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (5th-8th) [coL]

ESL One Cologne 2014 (9th-12th) [iBP]

Dreamhack Winter 2014 (9th-12th) [iBP]

With Skadoodle still lacking in communication for the first years of CS:GO, it was swag who stood as the next great player for the early portion of the game. His game sense was strong on an intuitive level, his skills were consistent and he played with his brain more than most skilled NA players. His coL teams were a little hamstrung for fire-power early on, his iBP teams never performed at the majors and he was banned by the team the other NA talent came through. Given the team around, though, swag could have been a key piece in a championships side in 2014.

It is worth noting that he crippled his last chance at a major by instigating the removal of DaZeD and steel prior to Dreamhack Winter. It's quite unlikely the team would have taken the title, but their performances against elite European competition at FACEIT Season 2 Finals had shown they were a solid team and had a good shot at upsetting European teams.

Best chance:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (3rd-4th) [coL]

While this stands as the closest swag got to a major, it was not a legitimate chance to win the title. Instead, that would have come had a combination of coL and iBP players been assembled in the middle of 2014, when he was at his peak individually and other players were developing internationally. Of course, given more years in his career he may well have moved further up this list or eventually gotten that title.

14. Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham - The game's best turret

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznadjer

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (13th-16th) [iBP]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (13th-16th) [iBP]

ESL One Cologne 2014 (9th-12th) [iBP]

Dreamhack Winter 2014 (9th-12th) [iBP]

ESL One Cologne 2015 (9th-12th) [C9]

Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca 2015 (9th-12th) [C9]

MLG Columbus 2016 (13th-16th) [C9]

As the star of iBUYPOWER, Skadoodle quickly emerged as one of NA's brightest talents, even if he and his team infamously fell apart in the group stage of the first three majors. Joining C9 in 2015, Skadoodle became the best NA player and was legitimately contending with GuardiaN for the title of best AWPer in the world. C9's three straight international finals appearances showed his consistent ability to deliver on the big stages. Alas, C9 inexplicably were unable to showcase such performances at the majors and Skadoodle's own form has since continued to dip to the extent he has become irrelevant.

It's also worth noting that Skadoodle is one of the more hypothetical names on this list, in as much as he has never moved beyond the group stage of a major he has participated in, given seven chances.

Best chance:

ESL One Cologne 2015 (9th-12th) [C9]

What happened to Cloud9 at this tournament remains a mystery. The bizarre redraw system for the groups can't have helped, with sgares famous for his research of opponents and design of anti-strats, but the collapse cannot solely be blamed upon the format of the tournament. C9 came in after their three finals and a top four finish at CEVO-P S7. Theoretically, they should have been a team capable of a deep run and Skadoodle should have been a candidate for MVP of the tournament, standing as one of the world's highest impact star players.

13. Denis "seized" Kostin - Masterful Support

Courtesy of ELEAGUE

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (13th-16th) [Na`Vi]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (13th-16th) [Na`Vi]

ESL One Cologne 2014 (5th-8th) [Na`Vi]

DreamHack Winter 2014 (3rd-4th) [Na`Vi]

ESL One Katowice 2015 (5th-8th) [Na`Vi]

ESL One Cologne 2015 (5th-8th) [Na`Vi]

Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca 2015 (2nd) [Na`Vi]

MLG Columbus 2016 (2nd) [Na`Vi]

ESL One Cologne (5th-8th) [Na`Vi]

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (5th-8th) [Na`Vi]

seized has shown great versatility throughout his long and storied CS:GO career. Starting out as the team's star player, replacing the departed markeloff and Edward, he showed potential but was not able to hit the heights required to make Na`Vi champions. With GuardiaN's addition he continued to output strong performances in a team which largely lived and died by the Slovakian's strengths. When flamie finally got there, seized settled in as a Support player and when starix finally took over as IGL seized's value in that role became apparent, as by mid 2016 he was one of the world's best in that role.

Na`Vi have suffered many sorrows across the years, but their run at the end of 2015 and into early 2016 saw them strong enough to take big titles yet so often denied by what have since become all-time great sides. seized is a player who was strong enough at his role that not much needed to be changed in his teams for them to have taken that major title.

Best chance:

MLG Columbus 2016 (2nd) [Na`Vi]

The run at Cluj-Napoca was thanks in large part to TSM's failure to meet Na`Vi in the semi-final, with a series win over nV not a likely outcome in the final. MLG was the true missed opportunity for seized and company. Had GuardiaN's hand not destroyed his game, the opponent and the maps were there for the taking. Luminosity had yet to ever win a big tournament, the map draw was the best Na`Vi could have hoped for and they had the style and talent to match LG across the board.

12. Finn "karrigan" Andersen - The cursed leader

Courtesy of ELEAGUE

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (9th-12th) [n!]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (9th-12th) [Reason]

ESL One Cologne 2014 (9th-12th) [CW]

ESL One Katowice 2015 (5th-8th) [TSM]

ESL One Cologne 2015 (3rd-4th) [TSM]

DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (5th-8th) [TSM]

MLG Columbus 2016 (3rd-4th) [Ast]

ESL One Cologne 2016 (5th-8th) [Ast]

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (5th-8th) [FaZe]

karrigan will unfortunately be unfairly labelled as one of the primary problems in Astralis and thus considered a bad IGL, but it was less his leadership and more the lack of confidence from his team, with whom he had been playing for more than a year and a half, that caused his relationship with that core to dissolve. Make no mistake, when karrigan was fully activated as a leader, throughout the body of 2015, he was one of the game's best IGLs and his team looked set to shoot up the all-time great line-up list close to the top.

All the pieces were there, but they famously fell apart in the play-off stage of majors, a problem not solely stemming from karrigan in any respect. When one considers that device, karrigan's central piece, suffered from performance anxiety during the best times of the team, one can hardly blame karrigan solely for his team's failures.

Best chance:

DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 (5th-8th) [TSM]

It speaks to the tragedy of Astralis that they legitimately had three opportunities from which they might have won the major, but their best stands as their lowest major placing with karrigan. At Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca, TSM came into the competition in fantastic form. They were getting wins against everyone but nV, slaying elite level teams like FNATIC and Virtus.pro in the run-up to the tournament. device looked like the world's most consistent star player, dupreeh was winning clutches every game, Xyp9x was a monster at Support and cajunb had his own map - dust2 - where he could take over at will.

The bracket opened up for TSM, with the three other elite teams (nV, Virtus.pro and FNATIC) all drawn into the other half. All the Danes had to do was beat NiP, a team they had dominated on a number of occasions and who were far from major winning level by then, and then take out the winner of Na`Vi, a good but not yet great side, and Luminosity, who had never won a Bo3 over a top 10 ranked opponent. TSM fell at the first hurdle, failing to turn up at all to the quarter-final and getting completely destroyed by NiP in one of the most ludicrous chokes of all-time. When one throws in that nV themselves were almost upset in the semi-final, the way could have been open to have beaten NiP, Na`vi and G2 to win a major.

11. Philip "aizy" Aistrup - The missing Danish great

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Robert Paul

Results at the majors:

DreamHack Winter 2013 (13th-16th) [Xapso]

EMS One Katowice 2014 (9th-12th) [3DMAX]

ESL One Cologne 2014 (3rd-4th) [Dig]

DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015 (13th-16th) [Dig]

MLG Columbus 2016 (9th-12th) [FaZe]

ESL One Cologne 2016 (9th-12th) [FaZe]

ELEAGUE Major 2017 (5th-8th) [FaZe]

aizy is a player who has seemingly taken the wrong route along his career path again and again, yet only in hindsight and from scenarios one could not reasonably have blamed him for. As an up and coming talent in 2014 he took the opportunity to join Dignitas - Denmark's best team - as any Danish player would, only to find his skills wasted by FeTiSh and a team which already had their pieces set in place, leaving him to struggle in an off-role.

When a later Dignitas team, based around an entirely different core, saw his skills activated by IGL MSL, he jumped ship to go and rake in big bucks at G2, later to become FaZe. Again, one can hardly blame him, as despite some success in Dignitas the team had outright failed in the group stage of Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca - the seventh major - and he had been exceptional over the past few months. Added to that, G2 had just been a round from the very same major final, so G2 looked to be an upgrade. Little could he have known that Dignitas would accomplish more the following year and he would end up in a FaZe team which only recently began to look truly dangerous, in a title-winning sense.

At his peak, in the latter half of 2015, aizy was one of the world's most skilled and dangerous rifle players. Put into an Astralis in a starring role or perhaps playing in Dignitas the following year, he was certainly good enough to have been the star of a major winning side. Much like MSL and karrigan, the sun has not necessarily set on the young Dane's chances.

Best chance:

ESL One Cologne 2014 (3rd-4th) [Dig]

The closest aizy came to major victory was Dignitas' run to the semi-final of ESL One Cologne 2014. With the other side of the bracket being a mess, thanks to NiP upsetting C9 and LDLC, it's not ridiculous to suggest Dignitas could have won the title. With that said, their failure in the semi-final was yet another classic break-down for a talented core and they were infamous for being mentally broken by NiP in big series, as would continue the following year at key points.

In reality, aizy's best chance for a major would have been a strong team built around him during the Autumn of the year. At Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca he played monster CS, yet found himself nowhere close to a play-off run, thanks to Dig's failure around him.

The top 10 players will be revealed in part two of this list tomorrow.