After the post-Major break, things were supposed to return to normal in Counter-Strike. Gambit winning the Major was an incredible victory that will be remembered in the annals of CS:GO for years to come, but it was under serendipitous circumstances that required everything in Gambit’s power to pull off. With the second half of the season starting, many expected the favorites to reassert themselves. The typical giants like Astralis, SK Gaming, FaZe Clan and G2 Esports were supposed to fight it out for first place at DreamHack Malmö. Instead, we witnessed another tournament of surprises in the great Malmö tradition. Three of the big four teams were knocked out before the semifinals, and we ended up with North and G2 meeting in the finals of the first big tournament after the Major.
During the offseason, North made a much-needed swap by removing Emil “Magisk” Reif and adding Valdemar “valde” Bjorn. The move worked, as valde married the capacities of a star player with the generosity and self-sacrifice of a team player. The move coincided with Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen’s plan to bring more structure to the team. It worked wonders for North, which defeated Cloud9 and SK in best-of-threes in the group stage. The SK victory was particularly impressive as SK had dominated North dating back all the way back to the core of that lineup’s Dignitas days. Since the quarterfinals of ELEAGUE Season 2, North had lost every encounter against the Brazilians.
The playoffs were an easier path for North, which defeated Immortals and Gambit in convincing fashion. Both series had one closely contested map, but those were on North’s off maps and their opponents’ picks: Immortals’ Cache and Gambit’s Train. Despite that, North showed previously unseen class in defeating teams that normally upset North in the past.
In the finals, North met G2 in a rematch from the ESL Pro League Season 5 final. G2’s own run through the bracket was a little unexpected, given its mercurial changes in form from tournament to tournament. The group stage was easy enough as G2 defeated EnVyUs and Immortals to advance. After that, G2 faced SK in the quarterfinals. This has always, inexplicably, been a favorable matchup for G2, and it proved so once again as G2 won the series 2-1. Afterwards, G2 convincingly demolished NiP, even winning NiP’s home map of Cache (harhar) to take the series 2-0.
When they met in the finals, G2 already had a plan in place. The main objective was to shut down Kristian “k0nfig“ Wienecke. On Inferno, G2 managed to control him to some extent on North’s CT-side, but k0nfig still kept North afloat. On the T-side, North ran up a bunch of rounds with k0nfig’s firepower igniting a spark in his teammates. But the firepower wasn’t enough. G2 kept composure and showed a new side of its game. In the past, the French squad usually relied on force buys whenever it was up in rounds on CT-side to close out games early. This often backfired by losing the force buys and being dragged into close matches. It was different here as G2 took a lesson from the Henry “HenryG” Greer School of Economics: properly eco and get the good full buy later. G2 stifled North’s momentum with patience as it built a lead too large for North to overcome.
On Cobblestone, North started well on CT-side. North adjusted to and preempted many of G2’s moves early in the half. North stacked the right sites and built a sizable economy, but the pure firepower of G2 canceled out North’s intelligent approach. G2 was able to get a 7-8 half on T-side largely thanks to the individual skill of Kenny “kennyS” Schrub and Dan “apEX” Madesclaire. The second half was a clean sweep from G2, which shut down everything North wanted to try.
The first tournament of the new season goes to G2. Although it was a rematch finals from June, it was one that showed the winds of change are blowing. North has leveled up from perpetual disappointment to a legitimate threat. G2 has adopted Mirage with apEX calling on the map. Most surprising of all, G2 showed conservative, smart decision making with its CT-side economy when past games showcased a ramshackle attitude.
Perhaps G2’s loss at the PGL Kraków Major fundamentally changed the way this team looks at the game. When the French shuffle happened, the formation of this roster was for clear reasons: these five players were considered the best at their respective roles, and they believed that they were flexible enough as players to change with the times. At DreamHack Malmö, that potential was fulfilled and for at least one night, they reign above all others as champions.
Cover photo by Jennika Ojala/DreamHack