The level of competition around the globe is rising. The individual skill ceiling is through the roof. Tactics have reached an unprecedented level of nuance, which makes the game more fun to watch and more complex than ever before. Thanks to leagues like Rank S or FPL, new faces come seemingly out of nowhere and establish themselves as top tier players – just think of a ropz or a REZ. The fan-base is huge and sells out stadiums on a monthly basis. What more can a Counter-Strike beating heart ask for?
Of course, not all is flowery in CS:GO land. Issues like the current roster-lock ruleset or the Minor system that awards CIS and Asia with as many qualifier spots for the Majors as NA and EU have come under scrutiny. But I’m positive Valve will address everything in 2018.
So without further ado, let us present to you 2017 in review!
The race at the top has never been tighter and never has it been more fun to argue over who’s best. But ultimately, coldzera will once again wear the crown, earning himself back-to-back player of the year titles. Looking at HLTV ratings across big events in 2017, coldzera stands at 1.24 and NiKo at 1.23. What separates coldzera from NiKo however, are trophies and head-to-head battles, where the Bosnian prodigy couldn’t beat the Brazilian terminator once throughout the entire year.
If he keeps up the pace, coldzera, who’s been absolutely tearing through the opposition these past two years, can enter the ranks of best Counter-Strike players of all time.
And NiKo, hot on his heels, could follow and even overtake him. The Bosnian arguably has the highest skill ceiling in CS:GO and delivers breathtaking plays on a game-to-game basis. Just recently, he has been the first player to reach 40 frags in a game that ended in regulation. The victims were Team Liquid (expected from NA) at the ECS finals in Cancun.
device has been far less impactful than cold and NiKo but he does have a Major title to his name. Some would value a Major title over individual performance.
Noteworthy mentions & players to look out for in 2018:
GuardiaN has dug himself out of the biggest slump of his career in the second half of 2017. Fuelled with new motivation after joining FaZe in the summer, GuardiaN immediately returned to being his old self and rocks an insane 1.14 HLTV rating for 2017. Good to see him back.
REZ has had difficulties adjusting to top-tier CS right after joining NiP. At one of his his first events with the Ninjas he got abused hard by G2 on de_cache, but he has found his groove now and is set to become one of NiP’s star players, even winning the MVP award at NiP’s IEM Oakland trophy run. Let’s see what the young gun can do in the upcoming year.
H0bbit broke through and established himself as a tier-one player in the past year. He’s a menace to face on the server and nearly always tops the scoreboard for Gambit.
Oskar from mousesports has emerged as an elite AWPer. He’s unreal with the “Big Green Gun” and rivals the best snipers out there. Only kennyS hovers slightly above the likes of FalleN, GuardiaN, device and oskar.
Finally some less known players to look out for in 2018: AmaNek and devoduvek from Misfits, woxic from HellRaisers, Calyx from SpaceSoldiers, CeRq from NRG. And surely some talent will rise we don’t even know exists yet…
- SK Gaming (felps version)
- FaZe Clan
This one is slightly more complicated due to all the roster changes, but in my book SK Gaming take the top spot. Though, I would have ranked FaZe above SK if it weren’t for their inability to beat the Brazilians.
SK won eight titles in 2017. Five came with felps, and three with boltz. It would be dishonest to count those two different line-ups as one. That’s why, in my opinion, the number one spot goes to the felp’s version of SK. They still had solid year for roughly nine months with five titles (cs_summit, IEM Sydney, DreamHack Summer, ECS Finals, ESL One Cologne) and several deep runs. Of course, all the hype surrounds the boltz version of the team right now, but three months are too little to evaluate the team, let alone consider them the number one team for an entire year.
Ever since the formation of the new FaZe Clan roster, olof & Co. have been on a run of utter dominance. Karrigan’s curse against FalleN continues, but beyond that, FaZe have thrashed fools left, right & center.
Nine tournaments played, six top four placings, three titles (ESL One NY, ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2017, ECS Season 4 Finals). Now that’s impressive.
It remains to be seen if karrigan figures out a way to beat FalleN, the only hurdle in his way to the apex of CS:GO. From an outsider’s perspective it almost seems as though NiKo & Co. get the jitters when joining a server with their Brazilian nemesis. But to be the best, you have to beat the best.
After finishing 2016 strong and clinching the trophy at ELEAGUE’S Major in January, all seemed set for an Astralis era, only it never came.
It’s difficult to assess what exactly caused the Dane’s dramatic drop in form after the Major. But two major factors are certainly that teams acquired a better understanding of how gla1ve likes to play, and that Kjaerbye wasn’t able to maintain his MVP level performance from the Major.
After the Major Astralis only managed to win a single tournament (IEM Katowice). Still, they had a couple top-two placings (ELEAGUE PREMIER, SL iLeague) and few top four finishes, which puts them well ahead of any other team that isn’t SK or FaZe.
Noteworthy mentions & teams to look out for in 2018:
HellRaisers have impressed me at the EPL Finals. They have an interesting mix of young and skilled players and I’m curious to see what they can bring in 2018.
NiP squeezed in an unbelievable gold medal run at IEM Oakland, which begs the question if they can consistently reproduce such results.
Mousesports played close finals against FaZe at the ECS Finals. Can they finally break through the barrier and enter tier-one territory? The question surrounds mouz seemingly forever already and disappointment is what fans of the org have had to endure so far. But hope dies last.
Can VP bounce back or is the end near for the Polish legends? Talks of a roster move have been circulating, maybe the Major is the last chance to save them?
How will the Misfits evolve after their strong showing at the EPL Finals? Seang@res has built a strong team and it’d be nice to see him back at the top of NA.
Roster Moves: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
- Ugly: The Immortals
- Bad: Na’Vi
- Good: SK & FaZe
Let’s start with ugly first, as there is an unrivalled number one. The dramatic rise and fall of the Immortals CS:GO roster. KNg, HEN1, LUCAS1, boltz and steel formed a team full of talent, individual skill and tactical prowess coming out of Brazilian’s (or simply FalleN’s) Counter-Strike school.
Their amazing run into the finals of PGL’S Major in Krakow was followed by an even more impressive run of decay right after. It all started with the famous kNg and FNS at DreamHack Montreal, and from there snowballed completely out of control, resulting in kNg, HEN1, and LUCAS1 leaving the team, boltz returning to SK Gaming and steel joining Liquid – a tragedy that at the same time promises exciting times. Boltz has revived SK to a certain degree. How steel integrates into Liquid will be exciting to watch, and CS:GO finally has a new team of villains “100 Thieves” consisting of fnx, HEN1, LUCAS1, Bit & kNg.
Almost making the ugly category as well, but barely staying in “bad” territory has to be Na’Vi. Bringing Zeus back in and trading seized for electronic has done absolutely nothing for the Ukrainian org. Hopefully they sort out their issues in the upcoming year, as no one likes to see so much potential wasted.
The two winners in this category, again, are SK and FaZe. The latter thrive since bringing in olofmeister and GuardiaN, whereas the former seem unstoppable after bringing boltz back in.
Noteworthy mentions & roster moves that could prove interesting in 2018:
Right before ESL One Cologne 2017 the news that shocked the CS:GO scene – friberg leaves NiP, to be replaced by REZ. In the end, it probably was a good thing for all parties involved, but still, it just hurts when legends split.
Friberg joined OpTic, another interesting team that formed in the aftermath of the NiP move. The European mix right away performed above expectations in the North American Pro League. However, their strong showings in EPL didn’t translate to most LANs OpTic attended – disappointment in H3CZ’s camp ensued. Let’s see what their plans for 2018 are.
As already mentioned, REZ to NiP could prove a significant improvement. k0nfig to North seemed like a killer move at first, but the initial hype has receded, and pretty mediocre performances are the result.
Of course we cannot forget about G2. It is difficult to put them into any category due to their wild inconsistencies. Though, the bad days seems seem to outnumber the good ones. Maybe another roster move is impending if the French cannot tackle their struggles.
Steel to Liquid is another move I’m excited to watch unfold. Maybe a bit of samba is all Liquid needed to take the next step. We’ll see.
No top three list in this category, as there were simply to many great events deserving of recognition.
The Majors are by default the most exciting events in the CS:GO year. And this year too, they didn’t disappoint.
ELEAGUE’s Major in January had one of the best finals in store for us in Major history. Astralis and Virtus.Pro went head-to-head in an epic battle, displaying an unreal level of Counter-Strike. On de_train, the third and final map, it looked as if VP were going to become the third two-time Major winning team after they were ahead 13-7. Then Astralis regrouped and showed unbelievable mental fortitude to complete a ridiculous comeback and snatch that trophy away from the Poles.
In Krakow at PGL’s Major we witnessed two underdogs making their way through the bracket all the way into the finals, Gambit and Immortals. A tense three map series eventually saw the Kazakh’s lift the trophy and Zeus fulfil his destiny. When he proclaimed that he won't stop until he’d win a Major, many were laughing. No one’s laughing now.
IEM Sydney saw ESL bring a premier CS:GO event to Australia for the first time and it was a huge success. Many players chose Sydney as their favorite event of 2017 even above the Majors. The crowd was awesome, we will never forget the Aussies flipping off HenryG and Sadokist, and can’t wait for ESL to return to Down Under.
The event also kicked off what would become the most anticipated match-up of 2017 and surely the next year too, as SK Gaming and FaZe Clan met in the finals.
What IEM Sydney started, the Pro League Season 6 Finals in Odense ended. Another meeting of 2017’s top two squads, another Brazilian victory. But the BO5 finals delivered on four maps. Watching these two giants play is simply satisfying to any Counter-Strike lover, regardless of who you’re cheering for.
ESL One Cologne was once again mind-blowing. The atmosphere in Counter-Strike’s temple with 15.000 fans always astounds. ESL One New York was great too and saw FaZe lift their first trophy with the current line-up.
As always ELEAGUE’s Premier tournament and EPICENTER were top notch events with great Counter-Strike. BLAST Pro Series entered the event cycle for the first time with a new concept that also proved successful. We got ESG in Mykonos and the ECS Finals in Cancun, two more laid back but not less amazing CS adventures.
All in all, 2017 has been a blast and it sets us up for an even more amazing year to come. ESL certainly will do its best to further improve the fan experience and to deliver unforgettable events. Because that’s what it’s all about.
So long, happy holidays & a happy new year!