Sweden, once the undisputed center of Counter-Strike in Europe, is no longer the main game in town.
With the Fnatic/GODSENT split still stinging in people’s minds and Ninjas in Pyjamas falling to hitherto unthinkable lows by failing to qualify for the ELEAGUE Major, the Swedes now face severe competition from a very unlikely source: Denmark.
During 2016, Denmark slowly surpassed the other European countries in terms of representation and success on the international stage. Denmark has perhaps the deepest field of top players of any country in the world, not to mention the fact that 12 Danish players will attend the ELEAGUE Major. By the end, I expect one of them to be lifting the trophy. Even if they fail here, it seems inevitable that Danish talent will one day win a Major and solidify Denmark’s spot as one of the strongest CS:GO countries in the world.
The presumptive favorites of the Major based on past results, Astralis had incredible results ever since adding Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander as in-game leader. Astralis took top four at IEM Oakland, second at ELEAGUE Season 2 and won ECS. Its map pool is pretty large, and Train seems to be the team’s home map. Previous results are strong, but they mean less for this Major. There was a long break between the last tournaments of 2016 and this one, so everyone will be coming much more prepared. We won’t figure out Astralis’ form relative to the scene until the group stage.
What Astralis does have is a strong firepower trio in Nicolai “dev1ce“ Reedtz, Peter “dupreeh” Rothmann and Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye. Dev1ce is still the best player in Denmark and has consistent high impact kills in nearly every game he plays. Dupreeh has found his rhythm again under gla1ve’s much stricter leadership structure. The same can be said for Kjaerbye, who looks closer to the star player he was back under Dignitas. This is all backed up by Andreas “Xyp9x“ Højsleth as support, who has shown a return to form. With so many of their players peaking and gla1ve himself being a skilled player, Astralis looks to be the Danes with the highest chance of winning ELEAGUE.
The second most likely is North (ex-Dignitas), which assembled in the middle of 2016. Dignitas traded Kjaerbye for René “cajunb” Borg and, after failing at the Cologne Major, dropped Jesper “tenzki“ Mikalski for Emil “Magiskb0Y“ Reif. North already had a strong aggressive fragger in Kristian “k0nfig“ Wienecke and good support player in Ruben “RUBINO“ Villarroel Brødreskift (who is Norwegian). In the end, any success came down to leader and mastermind Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen. His mechanical skill is lower than other top players but makes up for it through tactics, reads and leadership. To do that, he needed to find a way to integrate cajunb and Magsikb0y into the lineup. After having some brief clashes with cajunb, they eventually found cajunb’s role in the team. At the same time, MSL was able to turn Magsikb0y from an inconsistent fragger to one of the most consistent in the scene. Simultaneously, this shifted k0nfig and RUBINO to more fitting roles. k0nfig could go even more aggressive than before while RUBINO was relieved of the pressure of being the third star.
Most importantly, North’s ascent to the top was so fast that no one could pick up any of its players during the interim period. Within two months of formation, the team became one of the premier in Europe. It culminated in a top four finish at Starladder, top four at DreamHack Bucharest and a surprise victory at EPICENTER. The players traveled so much at the end of the year, they started suffering from a lack of proper practice.
With the long break before the Major, look for North to be a potential championship contender.
FaZe is an international team but boasts two prominent Danish stars: Philip “aizy” Aistrup and Finn “karrigan” Andersen. Aizy used to play for Dignitas before being lured away, but his results quickly floundered. After joining FaZe, he lost MSL’s guidance and was unable to reproduce the form that had him pegged as one of the best players in the world.
He seems to have found it again, and that comes largely due to Karrigan. Once the in-game leader of Astralis, he eventually lost the team’s trust and was subsequently removed. He was still a good in-game leader, though, and proved it upon joining FaZe, a team that had a bunch of strong aimers but was dysfunctional. The whole was less than the sum of the parts. Within days of joining, Karrigan helped Faze to its best placing of 2016 and continued that streak through the end of the year.
The team itself is surprisingly deep. The main trio is aizy, Håvard “rain” Nygaard and Aleksi “allu” Jalli. Fabien “kioShiMa“ Fiey and Karrigan play support roles, but both have maps where they can take over the game. FaZe is a potential dark horse pick, especially since it spent all of its time on the road at the end of 2016.
Liquid is a North American team with one Danish player in Jacob “Pimp” Winneche. Pimp’s story is especially interesting as he started off CS:GO as a star player. He played under gla1ve and learned a lot about the game from him. He then bounced around teams and eventually found himself on Dignitas. It was a strong team but fell apart due to multiple factors.
Pimp has since found himself on the outskirts of the best Danish teams, but the competitive fire still burns in him. So he took the choice of joining Liquid and now plays a support role. Although he isn’t a star player anymore, he still has some stellar games and rounds. He is the rare breed of player who will never give up, no matter the odds.
Cover photo courtesy of DreamHack/Slingshot Illustration