Photo: By Kelly Kline for ESL
The presumptive favorites of the IEM Katowice 2019 Major is Astralis. No one else can compare. The lineup of: Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, and Emil “Magisk” Reif have reshaped the CS:GO scene into their own image. They have constructed an era in CS:GO that has lasted from April of 2018 with their first victory at DreamHack Marseille to now. While they have rivals, no one comes close to knocking them off the pedestal as the clear best in the world. At this point, Astralis are competing for the highest stakes possible, historical greatness. In that sense, the IEM Katowice 2019 Major is an important event for Astralis to win, both as a team and as individual players. In all of history, there have only been two lineups that have ever won the Majors, and only a few players to have ever won three.
The Lineups with Two Majors
When we speak of all-time great lineups, there are multiple criteria that go into that effort. There is: consistency, longevity, style, competitive era of play, total results, and the context of the scene. Among all of the different results though, the Majors are the foremost achievement that every CS:GO player wants to have in their trophy case. They are the most prestigious titles to have as they are the tournaments with the largest audience, with the most historical significance attached to their titles.
In all of CS:GO history there have only been two lineups that have ever won the Major twice. The first is Fnatic. Once the de-facto “Greatest of All Time” lineup before the current Astralis Era. This is the lineup that had: Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson, Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Robin “flusha” Ronnquist, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Markus “pronax” Wallsten. Their era lasted from 2014 to 2015 and a large part of what solidified their spot as the GOATs in 2015 was in large part due to their second Major victory.
At ESL One Cologne, they were in the twilight period of their era. They were no longer the dominant superpower of the era as teams like TSM, EnVyUs, and Virtus.Pro had all come into Championship contender form during that period and each looked to destroy the Fnatic hegemony. At that Major though, Fnatic showed a strength of spirit unmatched as they stopped the Virtus.Plow in its tracks and killed EnVyUs in the finals to take that second Major victory home and secure their title as the best team to ever do it, at least until the end of 2015.
The second lineup to have won two Majors are the Brazilians. The LG/SK lineup that consisted of: Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, Marcelo “coldzera” David, Lincoln “fnx” Lau, and Epitacio “TACO” de Melo. They won back-to-back Majors in 2016. By winning these two titles, they were able to solidify the LG/SK era and became the number one team of 2016.
When we retroactively look back at history now, that particular lineup was the most successful lineup that the Brazilian core ever assembled. While the later SK lineup with Joao “felps” Vasconcellos had a better skill ceiling and the Ricardo “boltz” Prass lineup had the most ridiculous clutch factor, that particular lineup is in many ways the distillation of what made the FalleN style of Counter-Strike so potent. A tactical role based squad that veered between a structured or loose style, a heavy emphasis on the basics of Counter-Strike, and awe-inspiring teamplay. In many ways, that lineup defined the meta of CS:GO from 2016-2017 and it’s influences can still be felt today.
NiP and EnVyUs, The Lineups that Almost Got Two Majors
Beyond Fnatic and the LG/SK lineup, two other teams that were close to winning two Majors: NiP and EnVyUs. NiP were in the first three Major finals at: DreamHack Winter 2013, EMS Katowice 2014, and ESL One Cologne 2014. This was the lineup that had: Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, Richard “Xizt” Landstrom, Adam “Friberg” Friberg, and Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson. They were the first dynasty in CS:GO and they were once the greatest team in CS:GO history until Fnatic’s 2014-2015 run.
Unfortunately for NiP, the Major system came into effect as their dominance on the scene was coming into the end. At the first Major of DreamHack Winter 2013, they were one of the top two contenders to win it all. At the time, VeryGames were the slight favorites as they were the best team in the world, but NiP were able to pull an upset on them in the semifinals. At that point in the tournament, they looked ready to secure the title, but were blindsided by Fnatic’s magical run, largely predicated on pronax’s mid-round calling. Their second outing had them run into the Virtus.Plow in all of its glory at IEM Katowice 2014.
Their singular Major victory came at ESL One Cologne in a finals where they played against the Fnatic squad that would eventually usurp them as the greatest lineup of all time. It was a fitting finals as it served as a duel in the sunset and sunrise of two different eras. NiP was slowly falling down from their perch as one of the best, while Fnatic was to rise up as the best team in the world soon after.
The other lineup to have almost won two Majors was the EnVyUs lineup in 2015. The iteration that had: Vincent “Happy” Cervoni, Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, and Kenny “KennyS” Schrub. Funnily enough, this was the less successful of the good EnVyUs squads (the iteration that had Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux and Richard “shox” Papillon had achieved more).
Nevertheless, this particular lineup was incredible during its prime for a variety of reasons. First, Happy’s style of leadership was still relevant and it’s paradigm hadn’t become rote yet. The firepower on the squad was immense with: Happy, NBK, apEX, and kennyS (kioShiMa was starting to fall off in this particular lineup, though he was the best in the dying gasps of the shox-SmithZz lineup). This team even had Fnatic on the ropes in the finals of the ESL One Cologne Finals in map one where they were up 15-10. Fnatic were too strong in the clutch as they made the comeback and subsequently broke kennyS mentally in that finals. The squad then went on to win the following Major at DreamHack Cluj-Napoca where they got revenge on that Fnatic squad and beat Na`Vi in the finals.
Players with Three Major Victories
The other historical aspect to look at is the individual accolades of players in the Majors. In all of CS:GO history, there are only three players to have ever won three Majors: JW, Flusha, and pronax. The three of them pulled an underdog victory at the first Major along with Andreas “znajder” Lindberg and Jonatan “Devilwalk” Lundberg where they beat NiP in shocking fashion in the finals.
Beyond that, no other players to have won three Majors. As that’s the case, I’ll instead name the players that have won two Majors. The players that have won two include:
While Majors are important events, they aren’t the end all, be all for CS:GO achievements. The player that best exemplifies this is Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs. While he has won no Majors, he was in the finals of three of them: DreamHack Cluj-Napoca, MLG Columbus, and ELeague Boston. He was the best player on his team in two of the three runs (in the third at Columbus, he was injured). He played fantastically in losing efforts in the finals, and was my MVP for Cluj-Napoca and ELeague Boston.
What’s at Stake for Astralis
The FACEIT Major London victory was a coronation for Astralis. By winning that Major, Astralis solidified their era with a Major victory and then extended their dominance by winning even more tournaments afterward. By the end of 2018 the community has already recognized them as one of the all-time greatest teams with the most dominant year in CS:GO history.
I believe they are either the best or second best team to have ever played in CS:GO depending on where you rank the Fnatic squad of 2014-2015. By winning this Major they will join Fnatic and LG/SK as one of the few lineups to have ever won two Majors with the same lineup. At the same time, it puts the core of the Astralis players at three Major victories: Dev1ce, Dupreeh, Xyp9x, and gla1ve. This could be the final trophy they need to push the argument over the edge and become the undisputed greatest team of all time in CS:GO history.