Astralis, Virtus.pro and SK Gaming are the clear-cut top 3 in CSGO

The Parity Age of Counter-Strike ended with Astralis’ victory at the ELEAGUE Major. After that, multiple teams swapped rosters to perfect their pre-existing lineups in order to bring Astralis down.

Including the teams that already had “super rosters” on paper, we are now in an era with eight potential championship contending teams: Astralis, Virtus.pro, Natus Vincere, G2, Fnatic, North, SK and — most recently — FaZe. But the nature of competition is that even among this group, there will be a divide between the best and the rest. After the ELEAGUE Major and Dreamhack Vegas, we now have a clear concept of the top frontrunners: Astralis, VP and SK.

Astralis

Roster:

Andreas Xyp9x Højsleth

Nicolai dev1ce Reedtz

Peter “dupreeh” Rothmann

Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye

Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander

Recent Results:

2nd, ELEAGUE Season 2

1st, ECS Season 2

1st, ELEAGUE Major

Top 4, DreamHack Vegas

Astralis is the reigning king of Counter-Strike: the best team in the world by virtue of being the most complete team. Think about all of the various ways we can analyze and dissect a team and you’ll realize Astralis has it all. In pure firepower, this lineup can match any in the world: there’s a superstar player and AWPer (dev1ce), backed up by players who can go off at any time. In terms of leadership, gla1ve provides one of the best T-sides in the world. As a team, Astralis has proven consistency across multiple tournaments against the best competition. At the ELEAGUE Major finals, the Danes proved they can excel in high pressure situations. Kjaerbye in particular has proven his clutch under pressure. Astralis’ map pool is the deepest in the world, and they can beat other top teams on their worse maps. This lineup has no weaknesses, only strengths.

In fact, the only problem with this lineup is the era in which it’s been placed. This could very well become one of the most competitive eras in CS:GO history, meaning all those positives might not translate into dominance. Virtus.pro has already taken out Astralis at DreamHack Las Vegas, and the competition will only get more fierce as the year continues. But if Astralis could dominate this era of killers, it could achieve immortality.

Virtus.pro

Roster:

Wiktor TaZ Wojtas

Filip NEO Kubski

Jarosław pashaBiceps Jarząbkowski

Janusz Snax Pogorzelski

Paweł byali Bieliński

Recent Results:

Top 8, ELEAGUE Season 2

3rd, WESG

2nd, ELEAGUE Major

1st, DreamHack Vegas

Virtus.pro is clearly the second best team in the world and close to surpassing Astralis. As a team, it has almost everything. VP has a superstar player in Snax. Behind him is firepower with pashaBiceps, and any of byali, NEO or TaZ can step up in any game. In terms of tactics, VP’s unique aggressive style is one of the most difficult to play against in the world. Its map pool is strong enough to contest any team in a best-of-three.

The only weakness is consistency. No one understands what causes the Virtus.plow to rise up or what causes it to fall down. Virtus.pro has been on a great heater, taking second at the Major and winning in Vegas. But go back two weeks before the Major, and Virtus.pro lost to Kinguin at WESG. Consistency is the only reason I can’t favor Virtus.pro over Astralis every time. Having said that, in terms of pure mental toughness I think Virtus.pro is currently the strongest in the world.

SK Gaming

Roster:

Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo

Fernando fer Alvarenga

Marcelo “coldzera” David

Epitácio TACO de Melo

João felps Vasconcellos

Recent Results:

Top 4, ELEAGUE Season 2

Top 4, ECS Season 2 Finals

Top 4, ELEAGUE Major

2nd, DreamHack Vegas

The Brazilian squad is a bit more complicated to analyze, as the current lineup has only one LAN under its belt, and it was with minimal time to practice as a team. In terms of firepower, SK can’t match either Astralis or Virtus.pro, but the three main stars can outmatch the three stars of any team on any given day. Fer has proven himself to be one of the best players in the world. His efforts got SK to the semifinals of the Major, and he was SK’s best player all the way until the DreamHack finals. Coldzera remains coldzera, one of the best players in the world with a consistency only be matched by dev1ce. Felps is a great playmaker and has already found his place on certain maps or sides (Train CT-side and Mirage T-side come to mind).

In terms of tactics, FalleN is still one of the best leaders in the game. In pure mental fortitude, SK has proven multiple times that it will never relinquish a lead. At the Major and DreamHack Vegas, teams had to elevate their own play to defeat SK. Their map pool is quickly forming as they’re trying to retake Mirage and Train as their home maps. At the same time, SK showed it could beat Viruts.Pro on Cobble, and its Overpass looks especially dangerous.

The only discernible weakness is that Fallen’s performance is nowhere close to the days when he was considered the world’s best AWPer. There could be multiple reasons for his drop. He might be investing more time integrating Felps into the system and getting the team on the same page. Or it could be that using Ricardo “fox” Pacheco as a stand-in has dulled his edge. After the Major, it’s likely he is prioritizing SK’s cohesiveness first. Finally, it could just be time running its course. Most players have a peak form that can’t last forever. It’s unreasonable to expect him to be the same FalleN that made Virtus.pro run away from him on Overpass while trying to teach Felps how to play SK’s unique brand of Counter-Strike.

The fact that such a blatant fault hasn’t hindered SK’s consistency is why I’m sold on them as a top three team. Let’s take the most pessimistic scenario: FalleN never regains a modicum of his previous form, while Fer cools down and returns to the mean he displayed before the roster change. Even under these dreadful conditions, the trio of Fer/Coldzera/Felps can still challenge any top-tier team in firepower. Additionally, Fer and Felps could take over the role of opening the game on T-side instead of Fallen. Additionally, SK has room to improve once Felps develops his teamwork and is better integrated into the team.

While I still favor both Astralis and Virtus.pro over SK, given enough chances and time to practice I can’t imagine a world where SK doesn’t win a tournament. These three teams are the frontrunners of this era of super teams.

Slingshot senior columnist. StarCraft and CS:GO expert who pushes narratives over numbers. You can reach him at Stephen@Slingshotesports.com

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