With the CS:GO year wrapping up, it’s an appropriate time to look back and see what were the best and worst roster moves of the year. Generally speaking, roster moves are made because something isn’t working within the team, so by their very nature they should be positive. In theory, then, there is a much longer list of good roster moves than bad ones. But for brevity’s sake, I’ve kept the list to a handful in each section.
6. Tarik “tarik” Celik joining OpTic
OpTic was already one of the better North American teams that had some upset potential as they progressed through the summer. But they lacked firepower, a problem tarik solved when he joined the team in August. He was then the catalyst for multiple moves within the team — both good and bad — that would see the team quickly propel itself to the top of the region (and among the world’s best) by the end of the year. The addition of tarik also forced Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz’s to take the role of leader, and the team as a whole has improved significantly. While OpTic’s rise has been among the highest, tarik only gets fifth on this list because the improvement from his teammates seems almost incidental rather than something that happened simply because he joined the team.
5. Emil “Magiskb0Y” Reif joining Dignitas
Magsikb0y was the inconsistent star player of the old SK lineup before it was bought out in favor of the Brazilian squad. Before joining Dignitas, he had a serious problem performing on LAN and getting his frags consistently. Once he joined Dignitas, Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen’s system slotted him into much more fixed positions, and the routine brought out superstar levels of play from the young Danish star. His addition along with the previous addition of René “cajunb” Borg would see the team raised to the highest echelons of CS:GO competition in two months.
4. Finn “karrigan” Andersen joining FaZe
By the time Karrigan joined FaZe, the entire team was in shambles and desperate for a leader. This was a team of star players that kept failing time and time again with no structure. Karrigan’s task should have been much harder than it was, but it only took him two days to get the team its best result in 2016 by beating Cloud9 and Immortals at ELEAGUE. The team has since found even more success as time has progressed despite having very little practice time at home.
3. Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev joins Liquid
S1mple joining either Liquid or Natus Vincere could have made this list, but I decided to stick with the Liquid pickup because s1mple hadn’t yet proven himself on the highest stage of competition at the Majors, but his level of rage was still well known. So the Liquid pickup took precedence as this one had a known downside and the upside was only potential. S1mple proved that potential as he became the superstar of the team and took Liquid to the semifinals of the MLG Columbus Major and then to the finals of the ESL One Cologne Major. Sadly, the results weren’t enough to keep the team together and they split. S1mple joined Na’Vi, breaking the hearts of all the fans of the s1mple-Hiko alliance.
2. Jake “Stewie2k” Yip joins Cloud9
This is the single most fortuitous pickup for anyone this year. Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert revealed on stream that it only happened because everyone else Cloud9 sought was already on contract or the buyout was too high. So they signed Stewie2k, an FPL player who was expected to be a good, if limited, player. Instead, he turned into a superstar, became C9’s in-game leader and then recruited another superstar in Timothy “autimatic” Ta. The change eventually led to Cloud9 winning the ESL Pro League Season 4 LAN Finals.
1. Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander
The best pickup of the year goes to Astralis for picking up gla1ve. When Karrigan had left Astralis, the team was in shambles. They had picked up Kjaerbye to fortify their fire power, but were never able to integrate him into the system and everyone but dev1ce fell off. This culminated in multiple group exits. The one shining moment was when gla1ve stood in for the team at the Cologne Major securing them their legend status. This was a premonition for things to come as gla1ve was showing himself to be a skilled player on Heroic and Astralis bit the bullet. They benched Karrigan and took on gla1ve. The move worked out as Astralis rose like a phoenix from ash and ended up getting second at ELEAGUE and winning ECS. gla1ve got the number one spot because the gap between the before and after was the largest. Astralis had went from a sub top 10 team to arguably the best in the world.
5. Aleksandar “kassad” Trifunović removed from mousesports
This one is a bit iffier because we don’t know the entire story of how he impacted the game or team, as his tenure was only at ELEAGUE Season 1. What we can say is that mousesports never looked as good as it did when he was the coach and he seemed to have a positive effect on the team. That apparently didn’t matter, as he was removed as coach and the team spiralled out of control before regrouping at the Major Qualifiers.
4. Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný benched on mousesports
Oskar was supposed to be the answer to mousesports’ problems. Hell, he might still be the answer, but we’ll never know because he was benched. He was the star AWPer on HellRaisers and had shown great consistency. With him and Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, the raw firepower should have been enough to take Mouz to the next level. Instead they went to one event and then benched oskar indefinitely for personal issues.
3. Echo Fox’s inaction
Echo Fox came into the scene with much fanfare and bluster as an esports team started by a former NBA player. They started with some of the better remaining parts that were floating in the NA scene and tried to upgrade the team piece by piece. Then they stopped doing anything altogether. When the Tier 2 NA teams had their mini-shuffle this fall, EchoFox stayed out. The roster’s greatest success was letting Georgi “WorldEdit” Yaskin break a record and letting Filip “NEO” Kubski say the legendary line, “They tried.”
2. CLG does nothing
At least with Echo Fox they had an excuse because their owner was new to the space. On top of that, the base they started out with wasn’t that strong. CLG didn’t have those excuses. They have a League of Legends team and started off with a strong CS:GO team that was at times the best North American team. The scene was much easier to navigate, and they could have made themselves a competitive international team. Instead, they stuck with the same five that slowly bled off player after player until being whittled down to its current desolate state.
1. Fnatic-Godsent split
Unlike the other four roster moves on this list, the organizations had no responsibility in these moves. It was all the players. Fnatic had won six LAN events in a row with multiple top finishes, but that wasn’t enough. The team broke apart from internal issues, role clashes and general antipathy. If they weren’t winning anymore, what was the point? So one of the best teams in the world collapsed into two much weaker teams and helped ascend NiP to the best Swedish team by default (though, ironically, the only one of the three that won’t be in next month’s Major).
Cover photo by Adela Sznajder/DreamHack