The Dreamhack SteelSeries CS:GO Championship was the first major tournament for the latest incarnation of Counter-Strike and it certainly delivered in all respects. A whirlwind upset in the final, North American CS announcing its return to international significance, another chapter in the battle of the demigods that is the NiP vs. VeryGames rivalry, semi-unknown teams making playoff runs and established legends sent home early.
Sorting through all of the threads of context that criss-crossed and wove their way through the tournament, here are 10 storylines to consider in the wake of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's first World Championship caliber tournament.
1. The world wonders if fnatic is an elite team
It might seem strange to question whether the team who won the first would-be World Championship of CS:GO is a truly elite tier team, but one has to consider the wider context beyond a single event. As emuLate showed us in CS 1.6, when they won the 2007 WCG gold medal out of nowhere, and more recently Clan-Mystik highlighted, winning ESWC in a shocking upset over countrymen and world's best team VeryGames, one magical tournament does not a world class team necessarily make.
Coming into Dreamhack Winter fnatic were a difficult team to place in the world rankings. Once one got past VeryGames and NiP, the clear top two, next up was Astana Dragons, but then the drop was significant enough that positions four through to eight seemed like a jumble that could be put into a hat and picked out at random event-by-event.
Prior to their previous event they'd released MODDII, one of Sweden's finest but also a potentially dangerous influence on inexperienced players. Replacing him was pronax, a long-time 1.6 in-game leader, but also someone with a lot to prove on the top international stage. At ESWC fnatic had been ousted by VeryGames, winning only on a map (cache) which wouldn't be featured at Dreamhack. pronax came in for the MSI Beat it! 2013 Grand Finals, but their second place there could be misleading, only really representing a group stage win over SK and a beating at the hands of VeryGames.
The results leading up to the Dreamhack final didn't give too much reason to imagine fnatic an elite contender and threat for whichever of NiP and VeryGames cleared the other side of the bracket. In the group stage fnatic's wins over Na`Vi and Clan-Mystik seemed to say more about the troubles of the former and the fluke nature of the latter's ESWC win. Receiving the easiest quarter-final draw, against the one-man army of kennyS that was Recursive, they even faltered briefly on the same inferno that the French team had been surprising teams with on CT side. fnatic took the map, but then were shocked with a narrow loss on dust2. Against a team they shouldn't have had to face on a decider they did enough to secure a semi spot.
Rather than facing VeryGames or Astana Dragons in the semi-final, fnatic instead got another miracle draw, facing off against compLexity. With coL having played out of their minds the previous day, doing all the heavy lifting in beating VeryGames in the group and Astana Dragons in the quarter-finals, fnatic's convincing smack-down of the North American team seemed to spell less brilliant form for the Swedes and more that the North Americans had flamed out from their fiery but streaky form of 24 hours prior.
fnatic had reached the final without facing an elite level contender and now seemingly would be sacrificial lambs to the glory of NiP, who had bested their true rivals VeryGames in the semi-final in the series of the tournament. Nobody knew how good fnatic were, precisely because they hadn't faced the teams considered the best. Had they lost here some would, perhaps justifiably, have said they'd reached another soft second place, to go along with their MSI Beat it! 2013 Grand Finals finish. Instead, fnatic flipped the script and produced a miracle finals win to match any of the monster upsets in CS history.
Winning in the fashion they did, edging out dust2, mentally surviving a torrid thrashing on inferno and then powering through NiP's, seemingly unbeatable, train in the decider, fnatic not only earned $100,000 and the first place spot on the podium of CS:GO's first truly great event, they also earned the respect of all of the world's elite teams, not least NiP.
The upside to the event for fnatic, leaving aside the money and prestige, is obviously the series win over NiP, and yet that is not as set in stone as it may appear. The first map was very close to being NiP's, from their early domination to the 29th round which seemed certain to go their way. Had NiP taken dust2 it's difficult to argue against them seeping the series 2-0. Then, in the decider, if the order of who wins the first two maps is different then NiP gets to pick CT first on train.
Going beyond the direct match-up of the final, if coL's miracle gamble of sending the bomb A on inferno in the group stage against VeryGames hadn't worked then we likely would have seen VeryGames facing fnatic in the semi-final, a match-up the French would be heavily favoured for. Obviously none of these scenarios played out, and credit goes to fnatic for their incredible performance, but it's worth noting the possibilities, especially when they were more likely than what actually came to pass.
So the event is finished, the tournament area has been disassembled and the fnatic players are back in their homes, the time for celebration gradually fading into the background. The question remains, in spite of the events that unfolded in Jönköping: are fnatic an elite team? In my world it's pretty rare for there to be more than about five elite teams at any one time, and that's when CS is at its most competitive, usually the number is more around three teams.
fnatic's monster win is a huge stamp of accomplishment on their resumes, but a placing outside of the top three of the next event would quickly drag down their average, and their form coming into the event was not stellar enough to suggest they've always been at this level, but unnoticed due to bad bracket draws. No, for now fnatic still have something to prove, to prove they are truly world class the top three of the next handful of tournaments must, more often than not, be their final resting place, and likely they must take another event down.
For now this is still VeryGames and NiP's world, the top tier of the scene is their dominion. fnatic might have drawn within range of an Astana Dragons team which might not be long for this world, in its current incarnation at least, but the top two still remain out ahead, consistency being the road to catching them now, not simply beating them on occasion.
2. Did NiP turn the VeryGames rivalry back in their favour?
Before fnatic spoiled the party Dreamhack Winter was set to be the stage for the deciding chapter, for now, between NiP and VeryGames. Five times in the history of CS:GO these teams had battled it out in the final of an offline event to decide the better team. Collectively they'd won practically all of the offline titles in the game's history, at events they'd been in attendance at, and so it seemed as both were destined to meet in the last round of the tournament and fight for both the title of Dreamhack Winter champion and best in the world.
Instead NiP made it through their grueling series against the Frenchman and then ran unwittingly into a train powered by the fuel of fortuitous destiny called fnatic. Ignoring the results of the final we can examine the semi-final meeting of VeryGames and NiP to see its implications on their rivalry moving forwards into the post-Dreamhack world. The long-term history of the rivalry is obvious and well publicised: NiP won every single series 2-0 over the first eight meetings between the two, spanning an entire year of play.
Nothing seemed to work for VeryGames, even games in which they'd get to within striking distance would see them beaten 16:14 against a NiP team who seemingly could not lose to the formerly dominant French Source team. With NiP's final series win at Dreamhack Bucharest ending in a dominant 16:2 ploughing on inferno one could be forgiven for assuming, as your author certainly did, that VeryGames would always choke against NiP and always be made to settle for second best.
Instead it was the different directions the two's star players were headed in that sparked the crucial turning point in their rivalry. GeT_RiGhT had been the best player in CS:GO history, typically the best individual player at every event NiP attended, and yet over the span of the next three tournaments his form seemed to take a bizarrely uncharacteristic dip. Perhaps it was the new pressure of the reality tv cameras following his every move, perhaps the build-up to Dreamhack and the first real major hung heavy on the once king's shoulders. Whatever it was the game was not there for GeT_RiGhT in the following events.
As the famously consistent NiP man suddenly struggled to regain his level the newest man on VeryGames, shox, began to raise his performances to heights so close to the sun they were blistering in the heat of their brilliance. For the first time in CS:GO, at least the first time spanning more than a single event, GeT_RiGhT was not the best player in the world, VeryGames had that player!
Riding the wave of shox's superlative skill display, VeryGames defeat NiP 2-0 at StarSeries in the upper bracket en route to the title. Crucially a 16:14 game, on inferno, went their way this time. At the EMS One Fall offline final the same month one could be forgiven for thinking that result in Kiev had been an anomaly, as NiP won the first map of their next series 16:5 on nuke. VeryGames narrowly edged the second map 16:14 on cache, a map which wouldn't be played at Dreamhack, but then put a stamp of legitimacy on their win with a 16:6 pile-driver of an inferno decider.
It seemed almost a victory lap when, in the semi-final of ESWC, on home soil, VeryGames made it three series in a row by beating NiP 2-0. This time it was all close games, but now VeryGames were the team toying with their food in the clutch, before eating them nonetheless. VeryGames faltered in losing the ESWC final, failing to make it three tournament victories to go along with the three series wins over NiP, but their newly established reign still looked more solid than one could ever have conceived of. We had arrived at the post-NiP world of CS:GO, suddenly the race for titles not only featured a new contender, but NiP was no longer the front-runner.
Going into Dreamhack it was NiP who had something to prove. Their three series loss to the French side had seen them win a single map out of seven played. The rivalry had well and truly been stood on its head and now VeryGames were the team looking imperious. For VeryGames the problem had always been simple enough: get their star players playing on a level comparable to NiP's when the two teams met, they just hadn't been able to do that with anything approaching consistency. With a better tactical system in place, once the stars aligned for the French side it only makes sense they finally began to win against their Swedish rivals.
For NiP, now on the wrong side of the rivalry, it was difficult to figure out what the answer was to reasserting their control. NiP had the stars, and always had had, but their strategical approach had always been looser, less about pin-point precise tactics and timings. Now that they were losing did they go away from what had made them the best team in the game's history? As it turned out they did, the remedy for NiP's ills was found in a small dose of the poison VeryGames had been exposing them to.
Taking cues from VeryGames, Xizt added in some anti-stratting and suddenly NiP was again capable of defeating VeryGames, albeit on level ground now. NiP won the first map in close fashion, taking it 16:13. VeryGames struck back without hesitation, cleaning house 16:6 on inferno. The decider was nuke and now it really was just too hard to call. Since VeryGames are known for not playing train, and that is NiP's best map, that left nuke as not only the decider of the series, but also the best map for both teams. VeryGames boasted a stellar 86% win-rate on the map, an impressive mark only outshined by NiP's godly 94%.
Having lost the second map, NiP got to choose their side on the deciding map and, naturally, the Swedes chose the dominant CT side. In what many had dubbed the "true final" the world's best CT side (NiP) would attempt to shut down the tactical dominance of the world's best Terrorist side (VeryGames). The first half came to a close with NiP having posted a more than solid 11:4 CT side, but the scoreboard didn't tell the whole story of the battle that had unfolded.
Rather than being a lock-down CT side, killing terrorists before they could get into winning situations, NiP's CT side had seen VeryGames planting the bomb numerous times, but frequently losing the 1v1, 2v2 and 2v3 situations which arose from those plants. VeryGames won their CT pistol round and it looked to be game, as they hoped to rack up a monster string of rounds. Instead the anti-stratting of Xizt came into play, using one of VeryGames' own eco round approaches, coupled with a bizarre mistake from SmithzZ, to immediately turn the tide on VG and take the second round.
VeryGames weren't shaken, and eco'd correctly to go into a full buy round. Cleaning that up very efficiently they looked to be poised to now build a run. Instead technical issues left both teams frozen out of the game waiting to be able to resume, the momentum draining from VeryGames as the score sat in their opponents favour and they could do nothing about it until the admins told them the game was going live again. Whether that pause shook them or whether NiP just would not be stopped, the game resumed and NiP closed out the series in short order.
So what conclusions can we draw from this series, in the light of the two team's history? Well first of all the rivalry is now established as a true rivalry. While two teams vying for the same spot over and over certainly qualifies as a rivalry, it's not until you know both teams can beat each other that it really feels legitimate in terms of excitement or expectation levels. Rather than each convincingly beat each other, it now feels as if we can expect something akin to what we saw in Jönköping each time out when they face off now.
For those who might have jumped ahead of the rest of us, imagining this victory was NiP reasserting themselves as the dominant force over VeryGames in the rivalry, there are some factors to consider before such a claim can really be made. First of all is a cursory look at the map pool. Cache was not present, a map VeryGames have beaten NiP on the two times they have played. Then there is the presence of the valve maps, with the tweaks to mirage being enough that VeryGames chose not to play it against NiP, despite having a very solid 78% win-rate on the other version, making it their second best map of the five present at Dreamhack.
That VeryGames doesn't play train, and wouldn't against NiP anyway, couples with their reluctance to play mirage, as it left them having to play dust2 in the series. This may not seem like a factor of much significance to more casual fans, VeryGames are certainly capable of beating most teams on that map, but in this match-up it is. Firstly, VeryGames were only 63% on dust2, making it their weakest map of the five tournament maps, and, secondly, dust2 was a map VeryGames had never defeated NiP on. So rather than VeryGames going into this series three previous series up and knowing they simply had to repeat the formula, they came in needing to do something they had never done, and did not in this instance.
Away from a tournament structure which enforces Valve maps and removes cache, one can imagine the map pool evens out a lot more, even perhaps shifting to VeryGames' favour. The Frenchman will be able to test that theory in their next match-up. For now it's far from the final chapter of this rivalry, these remain the two best teams in the world and now it's well and truly game on between them. Both will be hungry for titles, having missed out on the biggest, and they both know, truly and with conviction, that they can both beat the other and be beaten by them.
This rivalry is far from over or decided!
3. Have VeryGames dropped the title of World's Finest?
As Dreamhack began there was little doubt in your author's mind that VeryGames sat atop the throne of the CS:GO world. The warmth from NiP's bodies may have still been felt, unseated less than two whole months prior, but three series wins and a very convincing six map wins out of the last seven played should have had even the most ruthless Francophobe forced to tip his hat in VeryGames' direction.
The men who ruled Source may not have captured the elusive major title on offer at Dreamhack Winter, nor made the final they seemed a lock for, but it's too soon to consider their top spot in the world necessarily snatched. Had NiP followed up their win over VG with taking the event title then I could see edging VeryGames down a spot and NiP back up to the top. Being as that didn't happen, and NiP faltered following the semi-final, it feels as though one series win, hardly in dominant fashion, is not enough to boost the Swedes over the French.
Likewise, fnatic's win was miraculous but is not enough to send them leapfrogging everyone to the top of the pile. So we're left with a scenario where out of the last five events VeryGames has played they have won three, placed second at one and placed top four at the other. If we take out the MSI Beat it! 2013 Grand Finals, which didn't feature NiP or Astana, then that's still two firsts, a second and a top four.
Nobody else can boast anything comparable over the same time frame, NiP is second best and their record, for context, is two seconds, a third and a top four. Using this method it's easy to see that VeryGames also retain the top spot, for now. It'll take more than this event to unseat VeryGames, in spite of the prestige and magnitude it possessed, and all eyes will once more turn to the battle for supremacy between them and NiP at future events.
4. Copenhagen Wolves show potential but still come up lacking
Copenhagen Wolves have long been a team with potential, as their history of frequently making it to the quarter-finals of tournaments and playing close maps with the elite teams can attest to. Their problem has always been a mixture of a seemingly ever-rotating line-up of players and an inability to output any kind of legitimately world class play on a map they can rely on, building the basis for actually winning series off the bigger teams. In Jönköping we again saw the seeds of a potential step up in competition for Denmark's finest.
Wolves showcased Danish superiority on inferno, practically a tradition now, by dispatching the experimental MODDII line-up of SK Gaming in the opener. In the winner's match they should have faced a tall order in Astana Dragons, often considered third best team in the world, but in fact cruised to a very simple 16:7 victory. That did not come without controversy though, as Astana's decision to let nuke be selected as the map played came under suspicion.
With Astana knowing VeryGames had already lost to coL and finished second in the other group, the Eastern Europeans would face VeryGames in the quarter-final if they beat Wolves. If they lost to Wolves then they fed the Danes to VeryGames and ensured a path on the side other side of the bracket, free from the threat of NiP or VeryGames until the final. In light of second place being worth $50,000 this factor weighed heavily on the minds of those watching this nuke beat-down, as it seemed too convenient that Astana would suddenly choose to let nuke, a map they rarely played, be selected.
Nevertheless Wolves had beaten Astana, and it would turn out via other means that perhaps Astana did now play nuke, so some legitimacy was returned to the win. That win though did mean a quarter-final date with the world's best team: VeryGames. The opener had VeryGames very quickly assert themselves, winning 16:6 on dust2. Map two was inferno and Wolves were able to finally begin to show some of the consistent high level single map play I referenced earlier, beating VeryGames handily, 16:5, on the French team's worst map of those left in the pool. The decider was mirage and despite some tense moments VeryGames came out on top.
For Wolves there were mixed messages in this performance. Winning so comfortably on inferno against a top team (VeryGames) and a team who were considered an outside shot at being a dark horse (SK Gaming) was a good foundation to build off. Integrating former Western Wolves star AWPer Nico went seamlessly, as did the return of device. The power play of Nico just highlighted some of the weakness elsewhere in the team though. In that deciding mirage against VeryGames Nico would frequently be in position to play 2vX situations, getting a kill but having a team-mate unable to deliver the other frag needed to take the round.
It feels as though Wolves are one more solid map in their arsenal and one player change from being a legitimate contender for top four finishes at these events. With a different bracket draw, such as coL not beating VeryGames, they very well might have made top four in Sweden, but to make it without bracket help they are still lacking something. With plenty of Danish players out there, making up teams like n!faculty, Reason and Xapso, it seems inevitable Wolves will try a roster change once more in the coming months. Whether that will be an attempt to bring in former Western Wolves mastermind IGL gla1ve or the return of similarly WW tenured p1mp, no one can yet say.
5. Astana Dragons face a tough decision
When the Astana Dragons line-up was initially announced it was easy to predict a potential world beater had arrived. Taking the two 1.6 stars of Na`Vi and coupling them with some of the best players in Virtus.Pro seemed like a mad scientist's devious approach to ensuring the defeat of NiP. The two Virtus.Pro line-ups had beaten NiP in real series, a rare feat back then, and Na`Vi had taken maps from the Ninjas in a StarSeries final. With VeryGames at the time unable to beat NiP, many eyes were on this ex-CIS all-star team.
Events were shaky for the new team, they were able to beat NiP at the next StarSeries, but then fell to VeryGames. In general they would show strong performances or weak performances, there was no middle ground to be found. In particular they were front-runners, unable to climb back into games in which their aim deserted them, hardly a surprise considering their collection of skill-based players. Their form often meant a semi-final finish but no more. At ESWC they seemed assured a finals spot vs. VeryGames, but were upset by the unlikely opponents of Clan-Mystik.
After that result the team removed Edward, bringing in former Virtus.Pro team-mate kucher. That didn't seem to help out in Sweden though, as that player in particular struggled mightily. In the group stage their nuke gambit had them lose the winner's match, as some speculated they had done on purpose to get a more favourable bracket draw, but then barely hang on to win the decider against Reason on the same map. They had survived the group stage and a new theory was thrown out there: Astana had known they'd get out of their group, so they'd used nuke to ensure none of the better teams saw their strategies on the other maps. If it were true then it sounded like a devious yet inspired ploy, certainly not a ridiculous gamble to take with a potential $100,000 first prize up for grabs.
That plot and the notion of Astana throwing vs. Wolves was called into question in the quarter-final against compLexity though. In the opener Astana let nuke be played, winning it 16:9. The second map was dust2 and they were far from competitive, losing 7:16 to the North Americans. The decider would be inferno and despite making a valiant comeback late, the Eastern European super-team fell to a shit-talking North American side who were riding high on the wave of their win over VeryGames earlier in the day.
Just like that Astana were out in 5th-8th in the biggest tournament of the year, and having had a potentially easy bracket run to seemingly certain $50,000. Knowing the fiery temperaments of the members of the team, the big expectations of the moneybags funding their project and the chop-and-change nature of Russian CS, it would not surprise me to see a roster change within the next two events from this team. Clearly Edward's removal was not the cure to whatever ails them.
6. LGB should lock up their windows, hide their kids and hide their wives, cos they're about to be pillaged
It's been a common topic on the [POD]Cast I co-host with cArn and lurppis that with so many decent Swedish teams it seems only a matter of time before those players not in NiP put together the right five man unit to challenge the domestic giants. Previously we would have been referring to Lemondogs (now SK), fnatic and the old n!faculty.
With fnatic the champions of Dreamhack it seems unlikely they will be changing players any time soon, but LGB's performance means they are a new pool of talent to be perused by teams looking for an upgrade. Stocked with players who had been stuck on the outskirts of the semi-pro scene of Swedish CS during 1.6, this team's run surprised many and will have these players on the radars of SK Gaming in light of the latter's struggles.
LGB should, on paper, have been the weakest team in Group A, yet emerged from the group in second place. They started out with a narrow loss to Clan-Mystik 14:16. In the loser's match they survived Na`Vi 16:13 to earn a rematch with the Frenchmen of Mystik. In the decider they ravaged apEX and company 16:2 on inferno. That set-up a scary quarter-final draw against NiP.
It's well understood, by now, that domestic match-ups will often yield closer play than those crossing international borders, by virtue of familiarity in terms of play and the lesser teams studying the better teams. That seemed to be in effect in this quarter-final, with LGB pressuring NiP down to the wire, winning 16:14 on the opening dust2. NiP bounced back to win 16:9 on train, including an emphatic 10:0 close out CT half. The decider was inferno and by now the LGB boys were dejected and sensing the fairy tale was coming to an end, losing by an unconvincing 7:16 in the decider.
LGB had tested NiP, maybe even had them in trouble for a little while, but a combination of NiP's best map and enough time to fully recover, pacing themselves across the series, meant NiP were more than up to the task of dispatching their would-be slayers. Still, players like olofm and dennis did show CS:GO potential that I could see being snatched up, at least for a trial period, by other Swedish teams.
7. Clan Mystik's ESWC victory was a fluke
Clan-Mystik appeared out of nowhere to win ESWC, shocking a world expecting VeryGames to cruise to a third straight LAN title. The event had begun with Mystik clearing their group, tying up the North Americans of coL along the way. Their quarter-final was seen as an easy draw, beating fm.toxic 2-0. In the semi-final they faced the winner of Wolves and Astana Dragons. When Dragons won that match-up all imagined Astana would book a finals spot and face VeryGames for the title.
Instead, Mystik pulled off the upset, winning 2-1 and only losing nuke narrowly. Still, the final was a match-up with VeryGames, slayers of NiP and best team in the world, so they were certain to lose. Again the Frenchmen denied conventional wisdom, this time going further even than their Astana win, sweeping the home soil final 2-0 over their fellow Frenchmen. The second map was a 16:12 win on mirage which saw apEX's men go 13:0 on the second half CT side, closing the tournament out emphatically. It would later emerge that they had not practiced the map, making the win on a strong VeryGames map even more miraculous.
Since the French team contained HaRts and ioRek, two players for the emuLate 1.6 team who famously fluked victory at the 2007 WCG, it was easy for people to imagine a similar scenario in CS:GO. Naturally the circumstances were different, line-up-wise things were very different. In that emuLate team it had taken one of the all-time great individual performances from star player mSx to bring home that win. This time around the stars were KQLY and KIOSHIMA. Even apEX, who had impressed in the Nostalgie mix at Prague Challenge, was put into the shadow of those players.
Dreamhack was put up or shut up time for the French team. If they delivered a solid performance there then fans and fellow players alike would have to grant some sense of legitimacy to their surprising ESWC win. If they fell early then it would be hard for the jeers of "fluke" not to be heard, even if only behind their backs. Narrowly beating LGB 16:14 the French team were into the winner's match against fnatic, a chance to quickly reach the quarter-finals and begin establishing a solid run.
A heavy 6:16 loss to fnatic saw them once more paired up with LGB, this time on inferno. It was not close this time, and it was the other side taking home the win! Winning only two rounds of the 18 played was a humiliating end to the tournament for Mystik and put their ESWC win once more in jeopardy of derision. They had been brilliant in Paris, but that Mystik seemed nowhere to be seen.
With kennyS' Recursive side making a deeper run in Sweden, one wonders if roster changes between the two teams won't be a possibility in the coming events. VeryGames have the top end of the French scene locked up, but there's certainly room for another good French side, now it's just a matter of deciding which that will be!
8. US and Na`Vi left stumped
Universal Soldiers and Na`Vi both came into this event with reasons to be hopeful about their chances of reaching the playoffs. US had beaten Na`Vi and Astana Dragons at Techlabs two weeks prior. At the very same event Na`Vi had also beaten Astana. Universal Soliders had beaten Na`Vi at the RaidCall EMS One Fall Finals to get out of the group stage. Further back, Na`Vi had finished top four at Dreamhack Bucharest. Both would struggle mightily in Sweden.
Na`Vi were first up, losing 9:16 to fnatic, then being eliminated outright in a close 13:16 loss to LGB eSports. The Poles at least got off to a good start, beating up confident Americans iBUYPOWER 16:9. In the winner's match any hopes of a renewal of the rivalry between the f0rest-GeT_RiGhT and TaZ-NEO combos, and the close matches those always yielded, were dashed as NiP ran over US 16:4 on inferno. The decider for the group was another inferno game, this time against Recursive.
kennyS helped slay TaZ and NEO, the men he'd collaborated with to win the Prague Challenge, as the Nostalgie mix team, with an epic second half comeback on inferno as CT. The Poles won their CT half 12:3 and the Frenchmen outdid that with a 13:1 run to win 16:13. NEO and TaZ might have thought they'd solved some of the problems ESC had faced with an outdated roster of kuben and loord, yet they found some problems still lingered on beyond those players.
9. compLexity finish anti-climactically
Coming into Dreamhack it was iBUYPOWER and not compLexity that everyone looked to as potential breakouts from North America. The new look ex-Curse.NA had boasted that they'd had scrim results along the lines of 25-0 while boot-camping in Europe. coL had also been boot-camping, but instead admitted to losses to a number of top European teams.
While iBUYPOWER floundered and struggled to make any kind of impact at the tournament, coL raced past n!faculty to reach the winner's match. Facing VeryGames there one could well think them massively outmatched, but the map was inferno, one of the French team's weaker playgrounds. The map went back and forth between the two teams, a true slug-fest of the group stage, and after 28 rounds the game was locked at 14:14. n0thing had shown the kind of form he'd only occasionally be able to unleash in 1.6, matching himself with the skills of VeryGames ace and world's best player shox.
After winning the key 29th round, thanks to nice 1v2 clutch play from n0thing, the North American side were faced with a map point to win outright and prevent going into overtime. Again heading to B with all of their men they got in and smoked everything off. Instead of planting they send a player back down banana and off into A. VeryGames' team-play approach worked against the French side, waiting so long to group up outside of B that by the time they had entered and cleared the site, realising the bomb wasn't there, it was far too late to make it over to A and defuse. The game had gone to coL by virtue of a brilliantly cunning gamble, but a gamble nonetheless.
That win allowed coL to reach the quarter-finals as a first seed, but Astana's second place finish later that day meant they'd still be underdogs in their opening playoff series. Astana won the first map, but coL knotted the series. The third map was coL again surprising with their tactical approach, frustrating and neutralising the Eastern Europeans. After winning a close game on inferno in the decider, coL were euphoric, having reached the semi-finals of CS:GO's first major.
With fnatic the opponent in the semi-final, it seemed like a legitimate possibility that a good series from coL could grant them access to the final. That was not to be, by any stretch of the imagination, as the coL that showed up the next day was unrecognisable from the one that had played the previous day. fnatic gave them nothing and took from them everything, rolling through both games and eliminating coL at that stage of the tournament.
The very nature of the end of coL's run left all of the hype and excitement they'd built from their upset wins earlier in the tournament completely dissipated. As high as they had been before, now they've reached a low to even that out. In the end they finished up somewhere around a level where one might have imagined them at the beginning of the tournament. An impressive run, one of the more surprising of the tournament, but consistency did not prove to be there when it mattered.
fnatic winning the entire event did help lend to credibility to losing to the Swedes, but the nature of those losses simply wasn't close enough to suggest coL could have hung with VeryGames or NiP, had the brackets been a little different. In the end coL did raise their ranking a little, solidly securing a spot in the top eight, but they couldn't prove themselves legitimate contenders for the title.
10. Is CS set to return as a major esports game?
With the Dreamhack SteelSeries CS:GO Championship boasting a prize purse ($250k) worthy of a true CS major of yesteryear, and backed by Valve, all eyes were on the Swedish event to deliver something that resembled a real major in a game which had yet to have anything close to one. They had the teams, the venue and the money, would the public show up on streams and in GOTV to justify all of the aforementioned?
Dreamhack Boss Robert Ohlén admitted, in an interview with OnGamers, that his expectations for the event were viewing numbers around 70,000-80,000. That the event would eventually peak closer to 150,000 was not just miraculous to all involved, but signified that under these kind of circumstances Counter-Strike: Global Offensive may have a legitimate place at the major tournaments of esports around the world, with numbers to back-up its inclusion.
The question of such a future now lies again with Valve. If the company who own the Counter-Strike franchise can again put together the funds, sourced from user purchases of keys, then the numbers suggest they should hold another major tournament. If they decide to do that then fans of the franchise will really find out if Dreamhack was a one off or if CS is headed back near the top of the esports ecosystem.
Photo Credits: fragbite, Helena Kristiansson and Dreamhack.