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Purgatory is over for Cloud9, OpTic, Natus Vincere and ex-iBP

Natus Vincere, Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming are out of CS:GO purgatory
Natus Vincere is one of four teams with new outlooks on their CS:GO lives. Photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL.

The roster shuffle season of CS:GO has ended and with it, a number of teams have been released from purgatory. Up until now a select few teams were trapped in Limbo, locked in a perpetual loop where they were doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Locked in a mad stasis field where they could neither move forward or back, these teams were Natus Vincere, OpTic Gaming, Cloud9 and ex-IBP. Now they are finally free.

It is difficult to remember now but when Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev was acquired back in 2016, Na’Vi was poised to make the leap from CIS powerhouse to international super team. Booting Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko was a calculated decision, made under the assumption coaches would continue to function as in-game leaders for the foreseeable future. Instead, Na’Vi was forced to use Denis “seized” Kostin as the in-game leader because Sergey “starix” Ischuk was silenced by Valve’s intervention. The next year was a run alternating between disappointment and frustration. Players like seized and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács inexplicably slumped, and the team’s T-side deteriorated into a faint shadow of its former self. Na’Vi always garnered enough results where management thought given more time, the roster could live up to its original expectations. It never did.

Finally, nearly one year later, Na’Vi has a real in-game leader everyone will respect. Zeus has returned to the roster as the in-game leader — and as a much better player than when he left. He made Gambit, regarded as a moderate threat at best, into a strong team and Major champion. This time, he has the biggest weapon in the CIS region with s1mple as his superstar. Serious questions still remain for the Na’Vi roster. Seized is suffering through the worst slump of his career and Egor “flamie” Vasilyev has become more and more inconsistent the further away he gets from starix’s light. But the change has given this team some much-needed direction.

The second team to get out of purgatory is OpTic, which had the core of a strong team. But after Peter “stanislaw” Jargoz elected to join Team Liquid, the roster was left bewildered and demoralized. The skill was still there, but OpTic never found a fifth player who could restore the team’s confidence and provide solid leadership. After waiting around for months, the team finally broke up, and OpTic reformed with an all-EU lineup — except it still lacks an in-game leader. At least this time, the five-player roster is set, so OpTic can go all-in on the team aspect right from the start.

The third team is Cloud9, a conundrum that fell prey to the siren song of equilibrium. Cloud9 had three immortals on the team: Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Michael “shroud” Grzesiek. No matter how much their individual performances fell or how little motivation they summoned, none of these players was ever placed into a position where they could be kicked. C9 itself was never in danger of losing its spot as one of NA’s premier teams, yet the roster didn’t show the prerequisite hunger and ambition to make drastic changes in the lineup. Instead, Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Timothy “Autimatic” Ta believed they could still unlock some potential in their three comrades, whether it was by assuming IGL responsibilities or playing the more stressful roles. That promise only bloomed once at ESL One Cologne and C9 was still soundly defeated by SK Gaming in the finals.

After one and a half years, Stewie2k finally made the call to make a roster change. Shroud stepped down before he was asked, as his interest in competitive CS had waned and he wanted to try other things during his break. N0thing was benched for the time being and in their place, C9 recruited Tarik “tarik” Celik and Will “RUSH” Wierzba from OpTic. The team still lacks a dedicated in-game leader, but it’s the best in NA right now in terms of firepower, and this should elevate C9 past being a mere group stage obstacle for international competition.

The final players to have been released from purgatory is the ex-IBP players. After the match-fixing scandal, Keven “AZK” Lariviere, Braxton “Swag” Pierce, Sam “DaZeD” Marine and Josh “steel” Nissan were given indefinite bans from Valve. After serving their time, they have been finally been given a lease on life — somewhat. ESL has decided to lift their bans so that they can now play in ESL events. While the rest of the tournament organizers have decided to keep the ban in place, this is still some life for the old players who still dream of competition, and we will finally see some of the potential of what could have been with these players all that time ago.

The roster shuffle season is over and for these teams, the clock has begun ticking again. Na’Vi now has a leader instead of a heap of unorganized talent. OpTic has a full lineup and Cloud9 has finally taken the plunge to improve its chances of winning. The ex-IBP players can finally compete once again. Purgatory has ended, and it is now time to play Counter-Strike.

Cover photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com

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