The next CS:GO Major looms over the horizon as 24 teams wait patiently. They're all ready to give their all to lift the trophy and cement their names in Counter-Strike history. There are many questions surrounding the current landscape of professional Counter-Strike, and StarLadder Berlin should give us some insight as to where many teams stand.
Can Team Liquid be the Greatest of All Time?
A lot of our focus is placed on Team Liquid, the firepower-stacked squad from North America who recently took over as the best team in the world. Liquid’s reign of terror follows former best Astralis’s own tenure as the world’s best team. Astralis had quickly made a name for themselves as the best CS:GO roster of all time, and quite possibly the best team in all of Counter-Strike history. The Danish roster won 12 out of 17 LAN events they attended during their era of dominance. This included two back-to-back Major wins at FACEIT London and IEM Katowice. Matthew “Sadokist” Trivett memorably named them as the “best of all f***ing time” after their Intel Grand Slam win at the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals. Astralis looked like their era would never be topped - that is until Team Liquid found their form.
Early showings featuring new teammate Jake “Stewie2K” Yip weren’t what Liquid fans had hoped for. Despite their victory over Astralis at the iBuyPower Masters in January of 2019, the team seemed to flounder a bit with the new addition as they famously fell 0-2 to ENCE in the quarter-finals of IEM Katowice. Though, it wasn’t long before the North Americans hit their stride. They went into IEM Sydney as a clear favorite. Here, they won the tournament after a five-map Grand Final series versus Fnatic. This win seemed to break their long-fabled curse of always falling at the Grand Final hurdle, no matter who they faced.
Liquid then went on a run of insane form. Right now on a record-breaking streak of five premier-level tournaments won in a row. The squad took home the Intel Grand Slam in record time, winning four consecutive Grand Slam eligible tournaments to secure themselves the $1 million bonus. For comparison, it took Astralis seven eligible events to get the four wins they needed. Liquid hasn’t lost a best-of-three series since May. Their first Berlin Major appearance will come on August 28th, where they look to prove themselves as worthy of the GOAT title. With the rate they’re moving right now, that title might not be too far off.
Can Astralis Get Back on Their Feet?
The Danish superstars of Astralis reached an unprecedented level of dominance in 2018 and looked ready to bring it into 2019. Their victory at IEM Katowice seemed to be the beginning of their second straight year on top. Regardless of any controversy surrounding Astralis and their affiliations with BLAST Pro Series, the team’s decision to skip out on events like IEM Sydney and DreamHack Masters Dallas looks to be having detrimental effects on their legacy. As the reigning Major champions, they have a lot to prove in Berlin. They will have a chance to either defend their throne or lose it to the new kings of Counter-Strike.
Astralis currently sits as the third-best team in the world, behind Liquid and Vitality. The numbers tell a different story, though. Astralis, who once held the maximum 1000 points on the HLTV.org rankings, now stand with only 370 points. A drop that significant serves as a testament to how their current form differs from last year’s peak performances. We haven’t seen Astralis since their semi-final exit from ESL One Cologne. Unfortunately for them, they were eliminated at the hands of Vitality there. This time off has given them plenty of time to prepare for the Major. This Major is where we will truly find out if they still have it in them to be the best. Astralis’ first showing in Berlin will come during the group stage on August 28th.
Is French CS Truly Back?
One of the biggest surprises of the 2019 competitive season has been the resurgence of French Counter-Strike. Teams like G2 and, more prominently, Vitality have made an indisputable splash in the professional scene. G2 recently made the Grand Final of the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals. Veterans Richard “shox” Papillon and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub put up vintage performances throughout the event to propel them to success. Vitality, a rag-tag team of G2’s rejects, soared up the rankings in 2019. They took over the top-two spot after winning both cs_summit 4 and the ECS Season 7 Finals before making a run to the Grand Final of ESL One Cologne.
A lot of Vitality’s success comes off the back of Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut’s consistent form. They're a team system that mimics that of Natus Vincere in 2018. The 18-year-old star holds a 1.28 rating for big events in 2019, placing him second only to world’s best Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. There is plenty of talk surrounding Herbaut’s skill, with many calling him the second-best player in the world. Kostyliev himself stated that Herbaut was “closer to [his] level than any other pro.” The French sniper made his Major debut earlier this year at IEM Katowice, a run that ended with a group-stage exit. This Major, however, looks to be a different story for the squad. They're coming prepared to make a case for the return of French Counter-Strike. Both G2 and Vitality’s first appearances in Berlin will come on August 23rd during the Main Qualifier.
Images via ESL and Dreamhack.