With each major tournament crowning a new victor, the final months of 2016 came to be known as the Parity era. Whether it be Cloud 9, Optic Gaming, Na’vi, North, or Astralis, no team could win back to back tournaments in the second half of 2016. While this was certainly exciting, the lack of consistency from any top team, as well as an overall disappoint with a lackluster level of play, left us with a familiar sense that "something was missing".
Similar to SK’s first major victory, the Parity era didn't feel so much like an era of greatness, but rather era of weakness. It was a situation in which the winner was just "not doing worse" than their opponents on that day. To all the teams’ credit, it may seem this way simply because in the last two years, Counter-Strike fans have been spoiled by the heroics of fnatic, the brute skill of EnVyUS, and the systematic excellence of SK Gaming. Nevertheless, it was a disappointing period in Counter-Strike history.
Yet, as we move onward into 2017, this spring promises to be one of the most exciting times in CS:GO history. Looking at rosters, it is difficult to imagine 10 better teams in any other era. Here is a preview at some of the world-class rosters:
1: SK Gaming:In an article written before the addition of Felps, I wrote that FalleN should have chosen previous teammate Boltz over the prospective Immortals superstar. With the aggression of both FalleN and Fer, it was challenging to imagine a world in which they could allocate sufficient space for all three to thrive in any given map. However, to SK’s credit, they seem to have made it work so far. Though FalleN has taken a massive step back in total frags, he chalks it up to under performance on the AWP, and his fragging has been replaced and nearly surpassed by Felps, who has been truly amazing since his addition. Moreover, Fer seems to be going berserk, something we assumed he had let go of when Coldzera first joined the team. SK Gaming is firing all cylinders, and it is difficult to imagine a world in which their combination of skill and tactical brilliance do not earn them at least one title. And that is a conservative estimate.
2: G2 Esports:Another French Shuffle, another dream team. It must be said, this one was long overdue. It's been ages since witnessed such a long period of time in Counter-Strike without a dominant French team. Luckily, it seems that two leviathans have finally joined forces and are ready to challenge any who oppose them. KennyS and Shox are finally together, and the timing couldn't be more perfect. Despite both French rosters playing at a somewhat mediocre level, both Shox and KennyS have been surging back to the level of excellence we have come to expect from them. In addition, French teams are known to enter with a bang, and when their team is rolling, this duo has the potential to be one of the most deadly in Counter-Strike. While many seem to rate G2’s stock low relative to other top teams, the French have taught us a lesson: Never underestimate greatness with an AWP in hand.
3: Astralis:Coming off their third victory in the span of four tournaments, Astralis is over the moon. They have cemented their legacy, and earned their number one spot. Kjaerbye has found his groove, Dupreeh has returned to form, Dev1ce keeps on keeping on, Glaive is in the possession of brass balls, and Xyp9x, usually considered to fulfill a support role, as grown into one of the most intelligent clutch players in the game. Still, the future remains uncertain for Astralis, and their number one position is very fragile. They have had their issues against teams like Virtus Pro, and have not yet faced the likes of SK. Moreover, Dev1ce has performed below his superstar standard in recent finals, and this will need to change if Astralis wants to consistently win tournaments.
4. Virtus.Pro:There is little to be said about Virtus.Pro that has not already been said. Snax is a god, and Pasha seems to be returning to form. Though notoriously inconsistent, if Virtus Pro can support Snax with the help of Pasha or Neo, they will be a threat in any tournament they enter. In addition, if Byali can perform at his highest level, then Virtus.Pro has the potential to be biggest threat in any tournament. The fan favourites struggle with consistency, but have shown time and time again that they can wrestle with the best of them.
5. North:When Kjaerbye was taken from Dignitas and placed onto Astralis, many would have guessed that it would be the end of MSL’s time with an elite team. Yet, through a surge in performance from K0nfig and the ascent of Magiskb0y into a full-blown superstar, MSL has been able to bring his team to new heights. Despite the peculiar addition of Aizy, North continue to have one of the most star-studded teams in the world, and Magisk has the potential to become the best player in the world under the leadership of MSL. They may not seem like favourites to win tournaments, but the skill and the strategic backbone of North cements their spot as an elite dark horse in any game, on any map.
6. FaZe:With the recent addition of NiKo, Karrigan now has an abundance of skill on his team. At IEM Katowice, FaZe proved that NiKo could dominate within their system, something that was uncertain and must continue if they want to win tournaments. NiKo, in my opinion, is the best player in the world. Though Snax is fantastic, Dev1ce is consistent, and Coldzera is a frag-machine, it seems that no player currently has the sheer impact on the game that NiKo has. Another surprise from Katowice was Allu, who finally unleashed his potential in a tournament setting. Impressively, Allu was able to comprehensively out-AWP Dev1ce, and proved himself as another star for FaZe. If Allu can maintain this level of play, this may be a team strong enough to support NiKo to his first tournament victory.
The Era of ExcellenceIf the last era was one of parity, this one will be that of greatness. Never in CS:GO have we seen so many star-studded rosters that all look like genuine contenders. Many of these teams have much to prove, and there is much work to be done by all parties if this is truly to be the most competitive era in Global Offensive, but with the rosters as they stand, the stage is set for this to be the Era of Excellence.
Image credit: csgo-news