Be sure to check out the first part of the list here.
The five best teams of 2016 are showcased in this piece. Their story-line, their issues, and their greatness. These are the very best.
5. Ninjas in Pyjamas (f0rest, GeT_RiGHT, Xizt, friberg, pyth)
DreamHack Masters Malmö (1st)
ESL Pro League Season 3 (3rd-4th)
ELEAGUE Season 1 (5-8th)
DreamHack Summer (2nd)
IEM Oakland (1st)
NiP weren't a big threat in 2015. The core of the lineup were at a point where they haven't won a big tournament in over a year. Many thought their time has passed and that NiP wouldn't have anything to show us. Their time with allu was disappointing so the Swedes made a change and added Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi to play and Björn "THREAT" Pers to coach. The change was apparent in NiP's new way of approaching the game and despite sad times in 2016, they made quite the comeback and it shocked many.
Because of an inactive beginning of the year, NiP's first LAN event was IEM Katowice where they showed nothing impressive. They fell in the round robin group stage after losses to Na'Vi, Fnatic, and Mouz. Due to visa issues pyth wasn't able to attend MLG Columbus, the first major of the year, so THREAT had to stand-in. but they still managed to at least retain their "Legends" status after advancing to the quarterfinals over FlipSid3 and Mouz.
Malmö was a turning point for the Ninjas. A big loss to Dignitas in the opening match lowered expectations, but they made a massive run from the losers' match to the final. Taking down some considerable opponents on the way like Astralis and Virtus.pro. They faced the full lineup of Na'Vi in the grand final and unexpectedly took home a 2-0 to come out victorious.
Unfortunately, the next couple of months weren't as glorious for NiP. They fell to LG in the semis of ESL Pro League, lost to Immortals in the finals of DreamHack Summer, and finished last place at ECS. However, none of that was as bad as the new rock bottom they hit at ESL Cologne. In result of losing to Na'Vi, NiP was sent to the deciders match against FlipSid3. It looked like a piece of cake for the Swedes, but after a 16-2 loss on Cache, the tone changed and things looked eerie for NiP. They weren't able to hold off Blad3's squad on Mirage and for the first time, the NiP org wasn't a "Legends" team.
After a quarterfinal loss at ELEAGUE, pyth announced he had to take a break due to a wrist injury. Mikail "Maikelele" Bill was to be his stand-in. Surprisingly, NiP had a decent time with him. They came first at StarSeries, a top four at Pro League, and they advanced from the group stage of ELEAGUE. Considering Maikelele was a stand-in, he did great.
Pyth's return wasn't short of great for NiP. They made a great run at IEM Oakland to take down SK Gaming in the grand final. They continued to ELEAGUE, but failed to carry over the momentum and lost to Astralis in the quarters. The last stop for the Ninjas was the ELEAGUE Major Qualifiers. They were clear favorites to advance, but their end of 2016 was heartbreaking after they were eliminated by Vega Squadron.
NiP's return can be accredited to the addition of THREAT, mostly. However, it could be said that he was both a good and bad thing. Good because he implemented a system for the players to play around in and he was able to gain the respect of Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg so he can have them buy into that system. Bad because his in-game leading became very predictable and it was why NiP had a decline in the summer and caused them to lose their "Legends" spot. After Valve's coach ruling, Richard "Xizt" Landström went back to the IGL role and the team started to improve. When it comes to player performance though, f0rest was the best, putting up usual star performances. Pyth was consistent throughout his time on the roster and Adam "friberg" Friberg had improvements towards the second half of the year. Unfortunately for legendary player, GTR, he had his up-and-downs at tournaments for individual performance, but still props to him for changing his lurking style to better fit the new meta which is more important.
Very few organizations have a legacy like NiP's. A legendary name in the CS world where any player could recognize who they are due to their infamy. 2015 was a very dull year for these legendary players, but 2016 took a turn for the best. They added three big titles to their names which is three more than most pro players in the space. Despite having a sad end to their year after failing to qualify for the upcoming major, they still impressed and shocked many with a completely different style of play.
4. Virtus.pro (pashaBiceps, byali, Snax, TaZ, NEO)
Counter Pit Season 2 (3rd-4th)
MLG Columbus (5th-8th)
Gfinity Season 9 (3rd-4th)
StarLadder Invitational #1 (1st)
ELEAGUE Season 1 (1st)
ESL Cologne (3rd-4th)
DreamHack Bucharest (1st)
ESL One New York (2nd)
EPICENTER: Moscow (2nd)
Many people would say that Virtus.pro was in slump at the start of 2016, but most of those bad performances came in online play. LAN performances were still decent. They never failed to advance from group stages which is impressive enough to say that a slump is nonexistent. That's not to say that they were a top competitor at that time though because they were far from it. However, they became a bigger force as the year went on.
Virtus.pro in CSGO has always been a team that is close to the top of competition, but not quite there yet. Even back when they won the Katowice major in 2014, it was difficult to say that they had an extended period as a dominating force. In the first quarter of 2016, they were their usual selves. They were worthy opponents, but nothing really special. They started with a top four finish at Counter Pit and were the only team to take a map off of Luminosity at MLG Columbus. They advanced from the group stage at Malmö. The first event they won was the StarLadder Invitational which notably only had second tier EU/CIS teams and Na'Vi.
After a close loss to SK Gaming in the semifinals of ESL Cologne and winning the first season of ELEAGUE, Virtus.pro looked like a real threat. Their form was spectacular for the following months. They triumphed at DreamHack Bucharest, took down SK in two consecutive tournaments, and made appearances at the grand finals of two premier competitions. However, VP failed to qualify for the Pro League LAN finals and ECS finals. They declined the invitation to IEM Oakland and failed to advance from the quarterfinals of the second season of ELEAGUE.
The revival of Virtus.pro's "plow mode" was due to many different things. Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski's had constant exceptional superstar performances. Jaroslaw "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski came back and started to improve individually. With Filip "NEO" Kubski taking on the role of in-game leading, VP started to have a more slow and methodical style of play. They started to really grind you out on their offensive side and their counter-terrorist side could be impenetrable on most maps. With a map pool as wide as they have, especially since they were the first top team to pick up Nuke, they could play almost everyone on anything.
Virtus.pro had a slow start to the year. They weren't really anything special in anyone's eyes until ESL Cologne or ELEAGUE Season 1, but they were amazing after that. The lack of tournaments attended in the last 3 months cost Virtus.pro a higher ranking on the list. They had a chance to attend IEM Oakland at which they could've been favorites, but instead they ended their year with a quarterfinal finish at ELEAGUE Season 2.
3. Natus Vincere (GuardiaN, flamie, Edward, seized, Zeus)
StarSeries 14 Finals (2nd)
DreamHack Leipzig (1st)
IEM Katowice (3rd-4th)
Counter Pit Season 2 (1st)
MLG Columbus (2nd)
DreamHack Masters Malmö (2nd)
StarLadder Invitational #1 (2nd)
ELEAGUE Season 1 (3rd-4th)
ESL Cologne (5-8th)
This Na'Vi roster has been great since the latter part of 2015. In the shadows of the brilliance that was Fnatic and EnVyUs, the CIS team lurked looking for the right time to prove themselves as the best. Their best chance was when they reached the final of Cluj-Napoca, but they lost to EnVyUs. Fnatic then rose up to overshadow them once again at the start of 2016 and Na'Vi were always second to them. They did develop a rivalry with Luminosity since the Swedes were undeniably the best.
Na'Vi was looking hot coming into 2016. With the amazing AWPing of Ladislav "GuardiaN' Kovács and the tactical mind of Sergey "starix" Ischuk they were the top candidates to topple the imminent Fnatic empire. Luminosity then came knocking and the two teams started to have an interesting rivalry. A rivalry that wasn't for the top spot, but for the spot under it. A fight for second place, if you can call it that. After Katowice, it was Luminosity who came out on top with a 2-1 score in head to head history.
After Fnatic was crushed by Astralis at MLG Columbus, Na'Vi took out the Danish team to advance to the, yet again, another grand final of a major. They faced their Brazilian rivals for the major title and it was their time to make the score even, but they failed and were in the second place spot once more. After the major, it was discovered that GuardiaN was having wrist issues and it was what hindered his performance at Columbus. He made a quick return at Malmö, but many would say that he no longer was the superstar he was before.
After Columbus, Na'Vi's performance was in decline. They fell to NiP in the finals of Malmö and lost to Virtus.pro in the finals of the StarLadder Invitational. They failed to qualify for the LAN portion of ESL Pro League and didn't participate in the first season of ECS. Na'Vi weren't the biggest favorites going into Cologne, but it wouldn't have surprised anyone if they did pull out the win. However they fell to Team Liquid in the quarterfinals. ELEAGUE was their last event to play together and they fell to Fnatic in the semifinals. The CIS team then dropped their leader, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko , and replaced him with the player that eliminated them at Cologne, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev.
The slow paced tactical game that Na'Vi played was innovative and it brought a new meta to Counter Strike. They often waited until the last twenty to thirty seconds in a round to attack a site because then the counter-terrorists would lack much utility. Often time, Na'Vi would have the upper-hand in these situations due to GuardiaN's ability to pick off enemies. To top off this tactical aspect, Na'Vi had consistent performances from Denis "seized" Kostin and Egor "flamie" Vasilyev.
This roster never knew what it was like to consecutively win tournaments, but they knew what it was like to be the top challenger. The reason I put them so high up on my list is for that reason. Na'Vi disbanded in a time similarly like this year's Fnatic. They were no longer the team they were before so they felt a change was needed. Unlike Fnatic though, the change was probably for the better since the CIS roster was in decline.
2. fnatic (olofmeister, flusha, KRIMZ, JW, dennis)
StarSeries 14 Finals (1st)
ESL Barcelona (1st)
IEM Katowice (1st)
MLG Columbus (5-8th)
ELEAGUE Season 1 (2nd)
ECS Season 1 (3rd-4th)
ESL Cologne (3rd-4th)
Early in the year, this Swedish powerhouse had a dominant start. The first six tournaments this Fnatic lineup attended were won by them, three of them being in 2016. It was clear that they were the best team and few could challenge them at the time. The only names that came close to defeating the titans were Na'Vi, Luminosity, and EnVyUs.
After consecutive tournament wins, Fnatic was the clear favorite team to take home the MLG Columbus trophy, but they disappointed by failing in the quarterfinals against Astralis. It was found after the major that Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer was struggling with a wrist injury so he took a break from competition. The rest of Fnatic had problems adapting to the absence of their best player in online leagues, but they managed to qualify for the LAN portions regardless. ESL Pro League Finals wasn't a complete disaster, but all the players looked weak and only Robin "flusha" Rönnquist showed some extraordinary play.
Olofmeister returned for the first season for ELEAGUE and Fnatic looked great once again in their group stage. It was a different story at the ECS Finals though when they fell in the semifinals after a loss to G2, who went to win in the grand final against Luminosity. Following ECS, Fnatic got through the "group of death" at ESL Cologne and reached the semifinals, but again fell short, this time to Team Liquid. It was clear that the Swedes were still great, but they were no longer dominant.
After being dismantled by Virtus.pro in the grand final of ELEAGUE Season 1, the lineup disbanded and players swapped with GODSENT to play with former Fnatic in-game leader, Markus "pronax" Wallsten. Originally it was only olofmeister and Dennis "dennis" Edman who stayed under the orange and black banner, but Freddy "KRiMZ" Johansson later returned. They were together for only nine months, but they were still amazing in that time.
This iteration of Fnatic was special because of how they managed to do well. They didn't have a tactical system to play around in, yet they played off each other very well. Many would say that the synergy they showcased was almost too natural and the skill of each player combined with the very loose calling in a way that made them unstoppable. One thing that was remarkable was how they never said "die." The score could be 6-15, but you wouldn't count them out. They found a way to get in your head and came back to give you a haunting loss.
Olofmeister was the best player in the world before his injury and with his partner in crime, KRiMZ, he would grind down the opposition. Dennis was a reliable player and is known to have the best pistol skills in the game. Jesper "JW" Wecksell's style of play was very random and kept the enemy team wary of his capabilities. Flusha is someone I've seen as the backup firepower. He didn't always show spectacular numbers, but not because he couldn't do it, because it was Olof who did that for them.
The time this lineup spent together was short considering how high up they are on the list, but they were still spectacular. Their form through 2016 is very similar to SK's. Had a small dominant era then they slightly fell off, but they still were great. They never fell out of tournaments in the group stage and only once did they fail before the semifinals. We could only imagine what would've happened without the GODSENT switch, but my best guess is that they could've improved.
1. Luminosity/SK Gaming (FalleN, coldzera, fer, fnx, TACO)
StarSeries 14 Finals (3rd-4th)
DreamHack Leipzig (2nd)
IEM Katowice (2nd)
MLG Columbus (1st)
DreamHack Austin (1st)
ESL Pro League Season 3 (1st)
ECS Season 1 (2nd)
ESL Cologne (1st)
ESL One New York (3rd-4th)
EPICENTER: Moscow (3rd-4th)
ESL Pro League Season 4 (2nd)
IEM Oakland (2nd)
ELEAGUE Season 2 (3rd-4th)
There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this Brazilian squad earned this spot in the rankings. Their amazing performances throughout the whole year puts them over anyone else that caused them trouble in 2016. Although not always stellar, they were outstandingly consistent and were always the bigger threat to any other top team.
Luminosity/SK were top three in HLTV's rankings for eight months straight and held the number one spot for six of those months. Due to being a newer team at the very beginning of the year, Luminosity wasn't exactly at the top of the rankings just yet, but they did rise very quickly after reaching two finals, one being a huge international event. Luminosity then triumphed at MLG Columbus, thus proved to be one of the elite.
Luminosity kept their place at the top after winning a domestic tournament and reaching the finals of two international events, one where they won, before attending the next major, ESL Cologne. Now under the SK banner, they retained their championship by winning two majors in a row and secured themselves their rightful throne.
After an official off-season towards the end of summer, the Brazilians started to look like they were in trouble. They were knocked out in the semifinals of two premier tournaments by the same team, Virtus.pro and it looked as if the end of the SK era came about. Despite that though, SK Gaming was still playing very well and ended the year without finishing below 3rd-4th at any event after Cologne. That is what's called consistency.
The success for the Brazilians came from the star power and versatility from Marcelo "coldzera" David and the explosive, but organized in-game leading of Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo. With the support from FalleN's sniping skills, Fernando "fer" Alvarenga's nonstop aggressiveness, and Lincoln "fnx" Lau's dependable role playing, SK looked nothing less than great. To top it off you had Epitácio "TACO" de Melo's gradual improvement within his new team in the entry fragging role. This lineup was very well rounded and it was hard to really find a weakness. Beating them has been a challenge for anyone who has faced them and it was a test for even the greatest.
Luminosity/SK Gaming were not always the best team throughout the year, but unlike all the others they were still very good after their dominant time. The aforementioned Fnatic lineup was great in the first half of the year, but they disbanded after the GODSENT swap and both resulting teams were nothing but disappointing. Virtus.pro were in what many called a slump in the first half of the year and reemerged for three months before failing to qualify for league finals at the end of the year. The lack of events attended in the last two months cost them. It was SK Gaming that went through the whole year without falling apart and it's why we call 2016 their year.
Photo Credit: theMAKKU - Twitter