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IEM Oakland and the teams in flux

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a seasonal esport that in a sense revolves around the Major. So for teams, the deadline is Jan. 22. That’s when the next one starts.

The Majors are the largest tournaments in the scene and therefore the ones teams want to win the most. So everything accelerates approaching the Major as teams practice and participate in more tournaments to get back into shape. After the Major, teams take a break. The offseason starts as teams tweak rosters preparation for the next cycle.

IEM Oakland is the third large event in the run up to the Major. The other two being ELEAGUE Season 2 and Esports Championship Series Finals 2. These tournaments are important for two reasons. They are arenas to prove who is the best team in the world and they are crucibles for teams to test their mettle and figure out what is necessary to get to the next step.

With the Major three months away, time is running out. Three months might be just enough time to do a roster swap and get new players integrated into a system. That’s why IEM Oakland is important. It isn’t so close to the major that drastic changes can’t be made and if any team does make the change, they can test it out in other tournaments in the run up to the Major or Major qualifier.

Most importantly, many of the teams here are in flux and have yet to find the form they want. Besides Virtus.Pro and Dignitas, there are no other teams that have such an excellent balance of firepower, tactics, teamwork and map pool. All other team has issues or problems that need to be addressed within this three month period.

SK Gaming

Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo has cited that there were massive internal issues with the team. The team no longer had the focus it had in the past and lost their greatest strength: their ability to learn from their mistakes and become even stronger. They’ve also had their map pool deteriorate with the increased prominence of nuke. Other teams have surpassed them on nuke, Cache is still a permaban, Cobblestone has become weaker and Mirage is no longer a home map.

Their two strong maps are Train and Overpass. On Train they are still quite possibly the best team in the world. Overpass is much more iffy, as their T-side hasn’t been as impressive and the wins or near-wins have come from superheroic performances from FalleN on CT side. Dust 2 is looking up, as they’ve fixed their CT setups by swapping Fernando “fer” Alvarenga and Marcelo “coldzera” David’s positions on the map. By placing coldzera on long and fer on B to mid, they emphasize fer’s aggressive play style and coldzera’s passive play style.

Some of the issues seem to have fixed themselves a bit as they made it out of their ELEAGUE group with a best-of-one and best-of-three victory against Natus Vincere. In the coming months, SK needs to shore up the map pool if they want to challenge for their third Major title.



In pure potential, I don’t believe there is a team in the world that can match up to Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, Egor “flamie” Vasilyev and Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. There is also no other trio in the world that can match up to the amount of team turmoil s1mple alone can bring without bringing in GuardiaN or flamie into the picture.

GuardiaN called s1mple a wild beast, a player that could not only be the best in the world but possibly the most talented player in CS:GO history. The analogy is fitting. S1mple is a warhorse; there is no other player that can carry you farther or fight longer. There is also no other horse more likely to throw you off and stomp your head in. S1mple will give you the highest highs, but only if you can control him. Liquid was able to manage this twice at the MLG Columbus Major and the Cologne Major, but it caused breakdowns of the entire team.

Na`Vi should, in theory, have an easier time as these are all players s1mple already respected. But the Valve coaching rule hit Na`Vi the hardest as they lost Sergey ‘starix’ Ischuk’s calling in the game. He was the mastermind and the one who gave Na`Vi it’s incredible structure and team play that got them deep into tournaments despite a lack of amazing form from their star players.

This version of Na`Vi lost all of that and must live or die off of their stars. The problem is that is isn’t a consistent way of winning or going deep. If the team performs badly, the entire team could explode, especially with personalities like s1mple and flamie. In the next three months, Na`Vi will have to figure out how to implement the old structured style in a world where starix can’t lead.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi or Mikail “Maikelele” Bill? That is the question. When pyth got injured, Maikelele was used as a sub for the team. It worked better than anyone could have expected as they won Starseries, dropped out last in EPICENTER (which wasn’t as bad as it looks as they got the same map score as everyone else in the group) and top four at ESL Pro League Season 4.

The problem with NiP is that neither pyth or Maikelele is the problem. Pyth was one of their better players before his injury. Maikelele isn’t their best player, but his playmaking ability and dedicated AWP have given NiP a new dimension. To muddy the waters even further, the Valve coaching rule has probably helped the NiP team.

After bringing on Björn “THREAT” Pers, NiP found immediate success. But his extreme, structured style became too predictable and teams figured out how to counter. At the same time, his style chained down Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund and his form dropped. Now that Richard “Xizt” Landström is calling again, they have the strengths of both ideals. They get THREAT’s mind, his strats and executes as well as having a freewheel style that allows GeT_RiGhT to make his own plays and be a better player.

This new structure means it is harder to evaluate how much pyth affected NiP’s losses before the coaching rule and makes it impossible to know how well he’ll fit in going forward. Pyth or Maikelele is the question, but I don’t know if there is a correct answer.

G2 and Cloud 9

Both teams have similar problems. They are both based around two star players. For G2 it is Richard “shox” Papillon and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom. For Cloud 9 it is Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Timothy “autimatic” Ta. Both of their leaders are their star players (shox and Stewie2k, respectively). Both have a stable third/fourth player who supports or tries to contribute to the team. Both teams have an AWPer that has been incredibly inconsistent. Both teams have problems with tactics once their initial plans fail. Both recently lost in the finals of a tournament: G2 to OpTic and Cloud 9 to Immortals. Although in the case of Cloud 9, that’s an asterisk as there was little to play for (only $5,000) and because they were set to play a much bigger tournament the next week.

There are some differences between the two teams. In G2’s case, they haven’t made a switch because they are waiting for contracts to run out. For Cloud9, they don’t believe there is a problem with their current squad right now. Also their recent forms have G2 sliding down while Cloud 9 is rising up. Both still have upset potential against the best teams in the world.

Photos be Helena Kristiansson/ESL,


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