SK Gaming now has one top four, one small win at DreamHack Austin, one big win at ESL Pro League, four second places and are two-time defending major champions. They are the No. 1 team in the world. And in many ways, they are the big bang of the offseason. Their incredible success came by destroying the dreams of their competition. And in their wake, teams have shattered and reformed.
In essence, SK’s dominance was the cause of the entire roster shuffle. The offseason is over, and this weekend’s ESL One New York will be the second big international tournament since Starseries, and we will see many top teams in the competition.
And all of them should have one goal in mind: Defeat SK.
The first is Fnatic. Before SK had come to be the best team, Fnatic had been running 2016 by winning six consecutive LAN events. Their run ended after Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer was injured, and though he came back, the team was never the same. They placed well in multiple tournaments, but they were a team that believed in winning, and they had a good head-to-head record before olofmeister took his break in April.
But the chance to reclaim its throne never came to be, as Fnatic continually dropped out before ever getting to meet SK. And now they never will. The continued losses were too much, and the roster eventually broke apart. And now Fnatic have rebuilt the team and will once again climb back to the top in attempt to challenge SK for their throne.
The second team that wishes to topple SK is Natus Vincere. The two of them had the best matches in 2016 as they continually met each other and fought over and over again. Eventually, Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács also had injuries, so he had to take a step back. Although he recovered faster than olofmeister, he was never the same godlike AWPer, but rather one among many top-tier players.
Na`Vi’s losses in the finals of various tournaments and a disappointing quarterfinal exit at the Cologne Major forced them to change, as they brought in superstar Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and are now waiting for another shot at SK.
The third team is G2, which, unlike Na’Vi or Fnatic, didn’t undergo any roster changes (though the rumor is that it’s just a matter of waiting for contracts to run out before making a switch). Among all the teams here, G2 has the best chance of beating SK, as they’ve beaten them at Esports Championship Series Finals and barely lost 3-2 in the finals of the ESL Pro League Season 3. A lof of G2’s chances will boil down to how strong their form is on the given day.
The final team that is set to try to topple SK are Virtus.Pro. After a bad start to the year, VP has ground its way out of a slump and back to top tier Virtus.Pro status. Which is to say among the top-tier teams they could bottom out at their worst and beat anyone at their best. They have had the longest running rivalry with SK, as they’ve met SK in both majors. Both times Virtus.Pro was the closest to stopping SK in its tracks from winning the Major.
As for SK, they are just coming out of the offseason with Fernando “fer” Alvarenga returning after having surgery. For SK, every event matters. SK is no ordinary team. With two Majors won, two other LAN victories, four second places and another top four finish, they are a rare lineup. One that is on the path to potentially becoming the best there ever was in CS:GO. And now they live in an era where every team is painting a target on their backs and now, if SK wishes to carve out its legacy as the greatest ever, it will need to defeat all challengers.
This is what is at stake for SK. From now until the end of the lineup, it is SK vs. The World. And if SK wins, it attains eternal glory.
Cover photo: Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com