After MLG Major Championship: Columbus and a short time after ESL One Cologne was done, the Brazilian SK Gaming were the undisputed kings of CS:GO, with everyone trailing behind. Unfortunately, internal problems and injury of an essential player caused the team to fall on some hard times. Nowadays, the top spot at the peak of the pyramid of the best CS:GO teams is much more shaky. Let’s see what it looks like now.
The polish juggernauts, Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas, Filip “NEO” Kubski, Jarosław “pashaBICEPS” Jarząbkowski, Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski, and Paweł “byali” Bieliński have been playing together on Virtus.pro since January 25th, 2014. That is… amazing in a scene where players occasionally change teams every six months or so. Of course, that probably doesn’t mean that it’s all unicorns and rainbows in the Virtus.pro camp. Even if an argument arose and Virtus.pro wanted to make a roster change, the chance of finding a Polish player, who wouldn’t be a downgrade in raw skill is slim to none. So, stuck with each other, the Polish have to actually deal with problems.
Gameplay-wise, everyone always knew that you should never discount Virtus.pro, however, only somewhat recently, coupled with the decline of SK Gaming, did Virtus.pro arose as the superpower of the CS:GO Tournament Circuit, after reaching at least the Semifinals at ESL One Cologne, ELEAGUE, DreamHack Bucharest, ESL One New York, WESG 2016 European Finals, and EPICENTER 2016. The most prestigious thing about Virtus.pro is their ability to consistently beat the former king, SK Gaming, over the last several months.
2nd: Team Dignitas
Having often played second fiddle to the other big organisation from Denmark, Astralis, Team Dignitas recently made some great roster changes, which elevated them to a new level. On May 19th, DIG got René “cajunb” Borg for Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye, but that was not the big change they needed to reach for the top. No, everything changed when the team replaced Jesper “tenzki” Mikalski with Emil “Magiskb0Y” Reif on July 15th.
Since this roster change was made, Team Dignitas started with a couple of Semifinal finishes at StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 2 and DreamHack Bucharest 2016. Then, they followed it up with a win at WESG 2016 European Finals and, more importantly, victory over Virtus.pro at EPICENTER 2016. Some might say that this should put Team Dignitas above Virtus.pro in the rankings, however, it’s only been around a month since their winning streak started. More tournaments should be played before we start hailing DIG as the best team in the world. Especially when you consider their unfortunate fail at ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals. There were extenuating circumstances with Magiskb0Y having stomach problems, but still… too early.
3rd: Natus Vincere
When Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev left Team Liquid following the org’s 2nd place finish at ESL One Cologne and then joined Natus Vincere, the Ukrainian team, which was already in the Top 5 among the best in the world, became even stronger. While the team didn’t play in many events since the hyped roster change, the Na’Vi guys played well in the tournaments they DID go to, once the growing pains period was over.
With the added firepower from s1mple, Na’Vi won ESL One New York and reached the Semifinals of EPICENTER, which was ultimately won by Team Dignitas. The number of tournaments they competed in since the famed roster change isn’t big, but the potential of the new Natus Vincere lineup can’t be denied. If the team does well in the following months, they should easily move to 2nd or even 1st place in the ranking. Even if they disappoint, we will have a hard time placing them lower than 5th.
4th: SK Gaming
After MLG Columbus and ESL One Cologne, SK Gaming players were the gods of CS:GO. Unfortunately, there seems to be trouble in paradise, because the Brazilians seem to be underperforming. Their trouble is especially apparent when they play against Virtus.pro, which defeated them numerous times in the months following the Cologne Major. Attributed to internal problems and dipping performance, the FalleN troop started falling in their results and ranking as well.
Even though they are dipping, SK Gaming are by no means out of contention for titles. In fact, they reached the Semifinals of ESL One New York and EPICENTER and fought in the Final of ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals against Cloud9. Normally, you would expect SK Gaming to wipe the floor with the Americans in front of a Brazilian crowd, however, that’s not what happened this time. Cloud9 won the series 2-1. It looks like SK Gaming need to make some hard decisions to stop the downwards spiral they are in. Of course, what is a downwards spiral for SK Gaming would be dream come true for a team like mousesports. Perspective is a good thing.
In memescape, if not reality, NA is a bit of a joke in Counter-Strike. In fact, no NA team has won a big tournament in over a decade. Team Liquid came close in Cologne, but they were stopped by SK. Following some decent performances, Cloud9 finally broke the streak. That affords them the place in the top 5. Unfortunately, they aren’t likely to move higher. Virtus.pro, Team Dignitas (don’t google the single word “Dignitas”, ever), Natus Vincere, and SK Gaming are objectively stronger teams. Yes, C9 can outperform them in an odd tournament or two, however, over a longer period of time, things should fall into their proper places.
On the results front, Cloud9 has been doing well since the beginning of September. They started out by placing 2nd at Northern Arena 2016 – Toronto. A week later, at StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season two, they placed 3rd-4th after getting swept by Ninjas in Pyjamas. Then, C9 lost in the Finals of DreamHack Bucharest against Virtus.pro, and finally won ESL Pro Season 4 Finals against SK Gaming just days ago.