The competitive scene of Counter Strike has always had one team at a time reigning as champions. Specific time periods had dominating lineups that would have the spotlight for themselves as they won multiple premier tournaments consecutively. Looking back in the past of CSGO you can think of the NiP era, Fnatic era, LDLC era. There was never an extended period where the field was so competitive that tournaments had a different winner at each. That changed this year where the narrative changed from a not so dominant SK era to a time of parity.

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Explaining the SK Era

Before the start of 2016, it was always clear which team was the best because of the streak of tournament wins they'd have. EnVyUs looked like it would take the crown and claim themselves as the first kings this year since they had a dominant end in 2015, but after the team had a huge dip in performance they lost their spot at the top and gave it up to the previous champions, Fnatic.

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Fnatic were flawless in their first few tournaments of 2016. They were the team to beat in the first quarter of the year, but that changed when Luminosity Gaming were the champions at the first Valve major of the year.  It was then when LG/SK Gaming took the lead and started to assert themselves as the rightful kings. They won the most tournaments after the aforementioned major and triumphed at the next major to make themselves a legendary team. This achievement made this time period their era, but it wasn't an era as strong as previous periods in CSGO's time.

Premier Tournament Winner Runner-up
StarLadder i-League StarSeries XIV Finals Fnatic Na’Vi
Global eSports Cup Season 1 EnVyUs Dignitas
IEM Katowice Fnatic LG/SK
MLG Columbus LG/SK Na’Vi
DreamHack Masters Malmӧ NiP Na’Vi
ESL Pro League Finals Season 3 SK G2
ECS Season 1 G2 SK
ESL Cologne SK Liquid
ELEAGUE Season 1 VP Fnatic

The table shown, showcases the first and second place team of the biggest tournaments based on prize money, but it doesn't show the whole picture. First off, Fnatic had four more wins besides the ones shown which, obviously, has a better ring to it than just two. Also, EnVyUs' win at the "eSports Cup" was pretty weak since the only other top team attending was Astralis.

By first glance it may look as if there was no dominating team and that might be true to an extent. However, in the time between MLG Columbus and ESL Cologne it was SK/ Luminosity Gaming who were known as the best team. As I mentioned before, it wasn't the most assertive way to take the crown, but after only failing to get in the finals at Malmö, it was clear they were best. Getting in the finals multiple times gets you points and winning two majors in a row makes the run even better. After SK's win at Cologne, Virtus.pro secured first place at ELEAGUE Season 1 in a dominating fashion, but the Brazilians were not there due to a disqualification. Thus, this win from VP only spiced up the rivalry they were starting to have with SK Gaming.

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The Parity Era

After the unofficial off-season in August, it was unclear if SK would continue to win more tournaments with all the roster changes we saw. It wasn't that the Brazilians would lose their touch and under-perform, but that other teams were ready to take the throne for themselves and bring a quick end to the SK era. It was the firepower of one team that knocked SK off the top, but it was the power of many that came to claim the crown.

Premier Tournament Winner Runner-up
StarLadder StarSeries Season 2 Finals NiP w/ Maikelele G2
ESL One New York Na’Vi VP
EPICENTER: Moscow Dignitas VP
ESL Pro League Finals Season 4 C9 SK
IEM Oakland NiP SK
ELEAGUE Season 2 OpTic Astralis
ECS Season 2 Astralis OpTic

Although many could argue that SK was still the best team, they failed to boast any tournament wins after ESL Cologne. However, they did manage to never fail before the semifinals which is amazing in an era where many other teams sprung out and won in unexpected fashions.

Virtus.pro became the team who brought the end to the SK era. VP knocked SK out of EPICENTER and ESL One New York in the semifinals. One has to wonder why it wasn't VP who made the dominant run and the reason for that was their absence in multiple tournaments. They could've won at ESL Pro League if they qualified. IEM Oakland would've been more competitive if they attended. They could've been favorites at ECS Finals. Unfortunately VP decided to decline their invite to Oakland and failed to qualify for the Pro League and ECS Finals.

This time of parity, shows how competitive the scene was for the last few months of 2016. In ten tournaments there were nine different champions. NiP was the only two-time winner, but one of the championships was with Maikelele as a stand-in. It's an incredible thing to witness, different winners at every event, but it's completely different from what the CSGO scene is used to.

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The alternating winners at consecutive tournaments was the true spectacle of 2016, but one has to wonder if it will carry into 2017.

Information source: liquidpedia

Photo Credit: HLTV.org, Helena Kristiansson - Twitter


by Twiz, on 2017-01-04, in #Article
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