2016, like any year in Counter-Strike, had its best team, consistent forces, and roller-coaster performances. Although it is clear who the top three lineups might have been, many may not know about the rest that proved to be worthy competitors. These are the finest teams of 2016 and their story through it.
10. Team Liquid (jdm64/adreN, nitr0, EliGE, Hiko, s1mple)
MLG Columbus (3rd-4th)
ESL One Cologne (2nd)
These iterations of Team Liquid are the two that surprised at the majors this year. The two lineups combined only attended four LANs together in 2016. It'd be crazy to really call them much of a team though because of that, but with major roster locks they couldn't help it. Despite that they were a pleasant surprise for NA fans.
Liquid added Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev to their roster in January and he was pivotal in anything the organization accomplished this year. Before MLG Columbus, Liquid was only participating in online qualifiers to attend IEM Katowice and DreamHack Masters so it could be said they were a bit inactive. There was a roster change before the major that replaced Eric "adreN" Hoag with Kenneth "Koosta" Suen, but Liquid still had to play with the former player since Koosta participated in the minor with Enemy.
Many people didn't think that Liquid would do so well at the major, considering they narrowly qualified and adreN was still very underwhelming as a player and in-game leader. However, after defeating Fnatic in their group's winners' match, many started to think differently. They moved on to the semifinals and faced Luminosity. This was the series everyone remembered where Liquid threw away countless match points. Despite such a painful loss, Liquid put up a performance no one expected thanks to the firepower from s1mple and Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski.
After a disappointing result at Malmö, s1mple went back home and he decided to step down from the Liquid starting roster due to being homesick and internal conflicts within the team. Koosta was brought into Liquid to AWP, but s1mple thought that he was the better AWPer and it caused problems. AdreN was brought back into the lineup in place of s1mple. CLG and Liquid agreed on a player trade and brought in Josh "jdm64" Marzano to replace koosta. S1mple then agreed to come back to Liquid temporarily for ECS Season 1 Finals and ESL Cologne.
ECS was an underwhelming return for s1mple, but ESL Cologne was a different story. With the help from the young Ukrainian, Liquid overcame Na'Vi and Fnatic in the playoffs to be the first North American team in the final of a major. However, the grand final at Cologne was incredibly one sided for SK Gaming and Liquid didn't achieve the impossible of winning the tournament. After the event, s1mple departed and Jacob "Pimp" Winnecke was to join the roster. Unfortunately they haven't accomplished anything since.
Liquid's success came mainly because of s1mple, unsurprisingly. EliGE also hit a new level in his individual game and because of that he unlocked Nick "nitr0" Cannella. AdreN just had a good tournament at a good time at Columbus and jdm came into the lineup due to his consistent AWPing. Spencer "Hiko" Martin did well at Columbus, but he dropped off at Cologne. Liquid was a team that worked due to the skill they had. They weren't any crazy tactics involved. Even when Luis "Peacemaker" Tadeu was the coach, there wasn't anything that was significantly different besides some order on the terrorist side.
This Liquid lineup barely qualifies for this list because of the lack of tournaments they had together. S1mple only played at two other events under the organization besides the majors so there isn't much to show. However I think their major runs are worthy of some recognition. It's a shame for Liquid fans that s1mple decided to leave the team, but maybe it's for the better. Better for s1mple that is.
9. EnVyUs (Happy, kennyS, apEX, NBK, DEVIL)
DreamHack Masters Malmö (3rd-4th)
ELEAGUE Season 1 (5-8th)
DreamHack Bucharest (3rd-4th)
Gfinity Invitational (1st)
I chose to talk about this EnVyUs lineup because they were the main team in 2016. EnVyUs was nothing special throughout the year, but they were known for being "gatekeepers" of the top competition. Throughout the time this lineup was together they never fell out of the top ten and floated at the bottom end of it. However, they went from a team that won a major to a team that wasn't so competitive.
Timothée "DEVIL" Démolon was brought into the lineup to replace Fabien "kioshima" Fiey due to internal conflicts. At first, it seemed like a good idea to get rid of kio, but people weren't sure about adding in DEVIL, former LDLC player. The beginning was rough with last place finishes at Counter Pit and MLG Columbus, but nV brought it back with a top four finish at Malmö, admittedly only beating weak opponents and got dismantled when they faced Na'Vi. Which is what the story for EnVyUs became..
They impressed by winning their group at ELEAGUE thanks to performances from Kenny "kennyS" Schrub and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire, but quickly fell in the playoffs to Fnatic. ESL Cologne ended up being their second major in a row where they ended in last place. The roster ended with a top four finish at DreamHack Bucharest and a win at the Gfinity Invitational. DEVIL was replaced by Christophe "SIXER" Xia in the weeks after.
EnVyUs' decline was mostly attributed to the inconsistencies in their team. It felt as if kennyS' AWPing is what kept the team relevant early on. Many people criticized Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer's lurking saying that it was ineffective and outdated. EnVyUs became predictable and so their style was easily countered by the top teams, but bottom tier teams were often defeated by the skill alone. EnVyUs never really won against any of the other top teams unless kenny or apEX put up stellar numbers.
EnVyUs had a very dull year if you compare it to 2015, but at least they weren't in the trash can. They weren't as competitive as you'd expect them to so that does cost them some points. However you don't need much to be this far up on the list. They were consistent in keeping their ranking above the tenth spot so you could give them at least that. In hindsight, DEVIL wasn't a great pickup, but people make him out to be worse than he actually was.
8. G2 (shox, ScreaM, SmithZz, RpK, bodyy)
ESL Pro League Season 3 (2nd)
ECS Season 1 (1st)
StarSeries Season 2 (2nd)
Northern Arena - Montreal (2nd)
IEM Oakland (5-6th)
This French lineup wasn't much better than the aforementioned EnVyUs lineup, but they did get more attention since they had great performances during the summer. Overall, however, they were similar to nV despite having better results. After StarSeries, G2 didn't have anymore top finishes and their end-of-year wasn't as exciting.
Legendary in-game leader, Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans, was replaced by Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro following the MLG Columbus major. At the time it was a bit of a surprise to see the change considering Ex6tenZ was improving individually and bodyy was still an unproven player. An expected last place finish at Malmö was the lineup's debut.
After a month of pure online play, G2 qualified for the Pro League finals where they had a clean group stage and took out Fnatic in the semifinals to face Luminosity in an exciting BO5 grand final. They fell short, but they took revenge on the Brazilians by winning ECS Season 1 a couple weeks later. After two great performances, many people thought that G2 would do great at ESL Cologne and they were a clear dark horse. Unfortunately they were in the group of death so they ended in last place.
In the second half of the year G2 didn't have many big performances besides a runner-up finish at StarSeries. They got last place at ESL One New York, lost to OpTic in the Northern Arena grand final, and fell in the group stage of ELEAGUE Season 2. However they did manage to get out of the groups for EPICENTER and IEM Oakland.
The best player for G2 was the obvious suspect, Richard "shox" Papillon. His star performances put G2 over the line and made them a team you could believe in, but he didn't do it 100% of the time so they disappointed often times. Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom also helped the team when he peaked during the summer, but he fell off a bit and only had average performances after that. Cédrik "Rpk" Guipouy is a player that looked good as well back in summer, often being called the "rock" for the team, but he had underwhelming showings in late 2016. Bodyy proved to be a decent addition for the team in the long run.
G2 had a great period during the summer, but in the latter part of 2016, they only boasted nothing more than average results and performances. There was a lot of potential for this lineup and many thought they'd rise following the Cologne major, but it never really happened. They did stay consistent in the same way that EnVyUs did so that's why they have a spot in this ranking.
7. dignitas (MSL, cajunb, k0nfig, Magiskb0Y, RUBINO)
StarSeries Season 2 Finals (3rd-4th)
DreamHack Bucharest (3rd-4th)
EPICENTER: Moscow (1st)
ELEAGUE Season 2 (5-8th)
I often thought that dignitas was a bit overrated after winning at EPICENTER, but looking back they did great. Hesitant to say that they were on the same level as SK or Virtus.pro at any time. However they did manage to have a strong second half in 2016 thanks to the addition of Emil "Magiskb0Y" Reif.
Following a disappointing group stage exit at ESL Cologne, Magiskb0Y was brought in to replace Jesper "tenzki" Mikalski. The first event attended together was StarSeries where the young Dane started to really prove his worth. After a loss to G2 in the semifinals, Dignitas moved onto to DreamHack Bucharest where they gave Virtus.pro a run for their money, but they fell at another semifinal.
Dignitas triumphed at a local Danish tournament and followed it up with a huge win at EPICENTER: Moscow. Their run included wins against VP and Na'Vi which was very impressive. The hype for the Danes died quickly as they fell short at the Pro League Finals without even advancing from the group stage. They then finished the year off with quarterfinal finishes at ELEAGUE and ECS.
Credit is usually given to Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen for his leadership on Dignitas, but when this roster's success came to fruition it was all about Magisk and Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke. Consistent AWPing from René "cajunb" Borg assisted the duo to have a proficient amount of firepower. Finish it off with Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel's support role and you have a standard CS lineup with some talented players.
Dignitas impressed many with their win at EPICENTER, but they never had any follow-up brilliance to really put themselves over the top. However, there is no denying that the potential is there with players like Magisk and k0nfig. Unfortunately, potential doesn't give you anything but hope. I expect this team to only go up from here.
6. Astralis (karrigan, device, cajunb, Xyp9x, dupreeh)
DreamHack Leipzig (3rd-4th)
Global eSports Cup (3rd)
ESL Barcelona (2nd)
IEM Katowice (3rd-4th)
Counter Pit Season 2 (2nd)
MLG Columbus (3rd-4th)
Due to countless top four finishes, Astralis' first lineup was known for their choking in deep runs at big tournaments. From the beginning of 2016, to their last event played before cajunb was replaced by Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye, the Danish team never had any first place finishes despite being an elite team.
This team started their year with a last place finish at Starladder before creating the Astralis organization. They went on to not lose before the semifinals in six straight tournaments. Top four finishes at DreamHack Leipzig and IEM Katowice most likely gave them a reputation, along with the second place finishes at ESL Barcelona and Counter Pit. With MLG Columbus coming up, Astralis was no favorite to win it all.
MLG Columbus was both a high and low point for the players on Astralis. They managed to break the curse of losing to Fnatic, but they were heartbroken after losing to Na'Vi in the semifinals. They had to brush off the disappointing loss and move on to play at Malmö where they lost in the group stage. It was a difficult time for the guys on Astralis and they felt something was wrong. Not being comfortable with third or fourth place, the Danes made a change.
What really made the Danish lineup worked was the incredible duo of Nicolai "device" Reedtz and Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen. Great performances from the two made Astralis an elite team and it's what made them one of the best. Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth supported his team with his role playing and clutch abilities. Finn "karrigan" Andersen was nothing special for an in-game leader, but he was good at preparing before competition and a good leader. Cajunb was the third best player on the team before he started to fall off and got replaced.
Without any tournament wins, it's difficult for this Astralis lineup to break through to the top five of my list. They were still an extraordinary team and it was sad to see them break off one of the longest lineups in CSGO, but they were tired of not winning. Unfortunately, losing when first place was within reach is the more hard pill to swallow.
The second part of this list will be released tomorrow.