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Stuchiu’s “Buy or Sell” for May: The time is now for SK Gaming

SK Gaming leads the way for Stephen Chiu's "Buy or Sell" for Counter-Strike teams in May.
SK Gaming leads the way for Stephen Chiu's "Buy or Sell" for Counter-Strike teams in May.

Another month of Counter-Strike has continued to shape the way we view the top teams in the world. As many are rising and falling, here’s the latest edition of my personal feelings on who’s surging and who might be in trouble.

The idea is simple. The “buy” list contains teams that haven’t fulfilled their entire potential, whereas “sell” teams are ones that have hit their current lineup’s ceiling. To make it interesting, I’ve considered only top 20 ranked teams (via HLTV) and their recent LAN results. Additionally, I’ll avoid discussing the same picks I had on the list last time. I’ll also evaluate my Buy and Sells from the last edition.


SK Gaming

Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo
Marcelo “coldzera” David,
Joao “felps” Vasconcellos
Fernando “fer” Alvarenga
Epitacio “TACO de Melo

Recent Results:
IEM Sydney: First
CS Summit: First
StarLadder Kiev: Eliminated in group stage

At IEM Sydney, SK announced its return to championship form with a convincing victory against FaZe Clan in the finals. All of the doubts I had for this team with the new roster have been answered. SK figured out a new cohesive identity built around coldzera and fer; felps has been properly integrated into the lineup and his role has helped stabilize FalleN as a force on the AWP once again. SK also figured out its map pool for the foreseeable future. Now it has become a three way race between SK, FaZe and Astralis to see who will take the spot as best in the world.

The scariest thing of all is that I consider coldzera and fer two of the top five players in the world, and their antithetical styles complement each other perfectly. Fer’s unrelenting aggression opens up the map and ambushes the enemy at the most inopportune times. Simultaneously, coldzera’s clear, cold calculation closes the round. On top of that, SK will attend all three upcoming LANs and the Major, giving it the most chances to claim the spot as the world’s best team.


Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer
Robin “flusha” Ronnquist
Jesper “JW” Wecksell”
Dennis “Denis” Edman
Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson

Recent Results:
StarLadder Kiev: Quarterfinals

Among all of the super teams, this is the only one that remains an unknown quantity. Astralis, FaZe and SK are vying among themselves for the top spot. G2 faces some problems but is steadily rising (and ought to join the previous three in the next few months). Natus Vincere and North are in flames, and Virtus.Pro will always be Virtus.Pro. Then we have Fnatic.

Everything I saw from Fnatic at StarLadder Kiev makes me think this is a new kind of Fnatic. The team is still powered by the ambition to win above all else, but the players have been humbled enough to realize they could no longer do the crazy bullshit things they did back in early 2016. They changed up spots and are rebuilding the teamwork that made them a legendary team. I don’t think they have what it takes to break into the top three, but they should contest for fourth/fifth with G2.


Filip “NEO” Kubski
Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas
Paweł “byali” Bieliński
Jarosław “pasha” Jarząbkowski
Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski

Recent Results:
StarLadder Kiev: Eliminated in group stage

You must think I’m mad. Ever since winning DreamHack Las Vegas and TaZ getting his Mercedes, Virtus.Pro has bombed out everywhere. The Polish powerhouse went out of groups at every LAN since then and has continued to bomb online a la its reputation. But that’s exactly the point. VP is at the lowest selling point of the players’ careers, so the payoff will be massive when they get back to the top.

As for why I think they’ll get back there, I can’t articulate a concise argument. I could point to historical precedent, but the past tells us that they change everything (maps, roles, leaders, star players, whatever it takes) in what feels like indiscriminate fashion. The players themselves don’t know what it takes to rediscover their prowess, but it always feels like they will always find a way back.

It’s noble and laudable to talk about retaining a five-person lineup, but this is the price you pay for doing it. When you hit the slump, and you inevitably will, you can only look inward for solutions. At this point in time, Virtus.Pro has proven to me that it can recover unlike every other team. So buy now before they skyrocket.



Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz
Lukas Gla1ve” Rossander
Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerbye
Peter “dupreeh” Rothmann
Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth

Recent Results:
IEM Sydney: Semifinals
StarLadder Kiev: Second

I think Astralis is still the best team in the world. I also think it will likely have the most consistent results among all of the best teams. So why do I have them on the sell list?

The last time I did Buy/Sell, I had Astralis on the buy list because I thought they were primed to create the “Astralis era.” They came incredibly close and if they had won Starladder Kiev, I think we would be calling this the Astralis era. Instead, FaZe beat them and SK took Sydney.

This means that unless I think Astralis are clear favorites to win the Major, there is no profit left to be had on this team. They are at the highest possible point. While I think they can win the Major (I have them at about a 30 percent chance), that isn’t enough to convince me they will go higher. Furthermore, they won’t attend ESL Pro League finals or ESL One Cologne, leaving little rate of return until the Major. The only major event left is the ECS Season 3 finals, if they make it.


Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen
Rene “cajunb” Borg
Emil “Magisk” Reif
Philip “Aizy” Aistrup
Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke

Recent Results:
IEM Sydney: 6-7th
StarLadder Kiev: Quarterfinals

It is time to go to rehab. Originally I billed North as one of the super teams, yet all they’ve done is underwhelm ever since aizy replaced Ruben “RUBINO” Villarroel. North’s faltering form has led to three consecutive upsets at IEM Katowice, Starladder Kiev and now IEM Sydney. Danish Counter-Strike might be a hell of a drug, but North seems to be a bad batch.

MSL said he believes this team can still be the best in the world. I understand what he means: if they can solve their issues on CT side, North could be stable enough to contest for championships. But I’ve given them enough chances to prove their supposed championship mettle, so I’m finally off this wild ride.


Henrique “HEN1” Teles
Lucas “LUCAS” Teles
Ricardo “boltz” Pras
Lucas “steel” Lopes

Recent Results:
DreamHack Austin: Second
StarLadder Kiev: Eliminated in group stage

The obvious choice to sell was actually Na’Vi. But I sold them last time and it’s pointless to reiterate a stance that hasn’t changed.

After booting Lincoln “fnx” Lau from the roster, Immortals is no longer a team with high potential in my books. Fnx was one of the team’s most consistent skilled players in this team alongside Boltz. He was a storied veteran who didn’t have problems with dealing with pressure. In the wake of his removal, no Brazilian players possess that combination of skill and veteran experience.

While it is possible that a new Brazilian player could have the skill to compete at this level and the mentality to deliver on LAN, that is still a gamble. More pertinently, it doesn’t address the initial issue Immortals had prior to felps leaving: the inability to do well at the Major qualifiers. I have no reason to believe they have conquered their emotional instability and gained the nerves to hold up under pressure. I don’t think there is any pickup they can make that will get them ready for that scenario again.


In this section, I’ll evaluate my last buy and sells.

Buy: Astralis, FaZe, G2

Sell: OpTic, Renegades, Na`Vi

Astralis was an unfortunate dud. They didn’t lose me much but there was no gain either as expectations were so high, I would’ve only gained something if they dominated the era. FaZe gave the most profit as they shot up beyond my expectations. G2 was a bit under the mark for where I thought they would be, but they were still a good buy as the roster can still improve.

As for sell, I was spot on with all three. The only problem was Na’Vi. At Starladder Kiev they were able to briefly convince me they could turn it all around. It was a false flag in the end as at DreamHack Tours they returned to the infuriating performances I’ve come to expect.


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