The second half of the year was one of roster moves, declining dynasties and a glut of tournaments. CS:GO has had a bumper year, and the most exciting period was summer onwards.
The start of the month featured a tournament in Cologne, this was the first event with the Brazilians under the SK Gaming Banner.
ESL One was a tournament filled with surprises. With former major champions not managing to make it out of the groups stage, Ninjas in Pyjamas lost their “Legend” status for the first time. G2 Esports suffered the same fate, as they were unable to capitalise on their win at ECS. Team Dignitas also failed to leave their group, which was won by Gambit Gaming. Upsets were left, right and centre at this tournament. Just before the play-offs Astralis, who already had a stand-in thanks to roster rules, lost Dupreeh due to health problems. This meant that their coach, zonic, took to the stage to play.
Their match-up against Virtus.pro didn’t suffer because of this. They had two very close maps but lost them both in overtime. Outside of that, it was the tournament for Team Liquid. They played their final event with s1mple. After the American line-up bested Na`Vi in the Quarters, they took fnatic in a heavy handed semi-final match to join SK Gaming in the final. This, unfortunately, saw a heavily one-sided game which left SK to win two Major Championships in a row.
Only one other major tournament happened in July with most teams taking the time off to look at rosters or recover from the Major. This left ELEAGUE to conclude its inaugural season. The Last-Chance bracket for the final two teams taking part started the agenda with Virtus.pro and mousesports making it to the tournament finals. Another one for upsets, mousesports took Astralis out in the quarter-finals. The rest of the tournament was plain sailing for fnatic and Virtus.pro with the Polish side taking the first season’s crown.
The month after the Major is one destined for a break, with just the fourth season of the online ESL Pro League starting for the top of the scene. Of course, there is another thing that August is notable for. The Swedish Shuffle.
August saw the end of the most dominant roster in CS:GO as the players swapped out of teams. GODSENT and Fnatic started swapping around players with three going each way. Put down to internal disputes, JW, KRiMZ and flusha moved over to GODSENT, with fnatic being sent twist and Lekr0. The squad also kept wenton on full-time, who was originally acting as a stand-in for olofmeister. This saw two very different Swedish teams, that if worked right could’ve performed exceptionally well. FaZe also used the time to make changes, bringing in former-NiP AWP’er allu to replace fox. Over the Atlantic, Cloud9 made changes too, replacing Slemmy for TSM’s autimatic.
The former Danish squad of SK Gaming, who had been competing as Team X, formed their own organisation titled Heroic. This became the third player-owned organisation this year, after Astralis and GODSENT took the field.
After reports of the next Major not set to take place until January 2017, events started flooding the calendar as organisers attempted to create the one that replaced them all in the next few months.
September was when the new rosters competed together properly for the first time. This gave some indication as to who the top teams at the end of the year would be. Northern Arena was first, with the tournament featuring predominantly North American based teams. It saw Immortals, the second best team from Brazil, taking the tournament over Cloud9 in a fairly close final. Next up was the StarLadder i-League Season 2 finals, with the tournament featuring teams from all its leagues – North America, Europe and China. The Asian teams were unable to produce any real results, although TyLoo and VG.Cyberzen managed to defeat Na`Vi and Virtus.pro respectively in groups. The tournament saw NiP crowned champions.
DreamHack Bucharest came next with Virtus.pro besting Cloud9 in the final after a fairly uneventful tournament. Gfinity then hosted a CS:GO Invitational at EGX in Birmingham, which had a slumping EnVyUs surprisingly taking the win over a rising mousesports. The end of the month saw the start of ESL One New York, which was organised in a Swiss format. The tournament saw a strong performance from Liquid, as they were getting used to their new roster without S1mple. It was also a strong tournament for s1mple, as he joined the CIS-based team after ESL One Cologne. This left Na`Vi facing long time rivals Virtus.pro in the final with the CIS team winning the tournament.
The year started to wind down in October. EPICENTER was first up, as the tournament hosted in Moscow showed off a lot of flair, with probably one of the best productions seen at a CS:GO event.
Outside of the many criticisms the tournament endured, including the Best of Two round-robin groups with deciders based on the rounds, it saw a great success from a rising Dignitas line-up. Finishing third in their group the Danes managed to grind through the play-offs to take the tournament against Virtus.pro where, outside of the first map, it was heavily one sided.
ELEAGUE kicked off its second season, this time with a more traditional tournament format. With Group A kicking off towards the end of October, the Turner league began in full force. After swapping oskar out for the Spanish player loWel, mousesports had two strong performances in their group, taking top spot over FaZe and Cloud9. Immortals had a disappointing group. They finished in dead last place.
FaZe managed to overcome their earlier loss and finish second over Cloud9 to qualify for the finals at the start of December. Just before this tournament, FaZe replaced kioshima with karrigan, who was replaced on Astralis by gla1ve.
The final big event of October was the ESL Pro League finals in Sao Paolo. Controversial due to the conditions some players had to play in, the event started off poorly too, as fnatic dropped out due to player issues. Outside of that the tournament went well. Cloud9 got through a fairly difficult group to a fairly simple play-offs run in order to beat SK Gaming on home soil.
The first Minor Championship for the ELEAGUE Major took place in October too, as the Asian teams battled for spots in the Qualifier in December. The tournament saw TyLoo and Renegades making the grade for the qualifier.
The final month of big tournaments. Kicking off with Northern Arena Montreal, it was one of the big breakout performances for OpTic Gaming. The North American squad face up against the European teams placed before them and took the tournament win for themselves over G2 Esports in the final.
IEM came to Oakland with CS:GO at the top, which started off looking like a strong event for FaZe. The team now being led by a strong IGL, the European mixture took the top of their group winning every game. They couldn’t keep this up however and were beaten down by eventual winners NiP, who defeated SK Gaming in a close final.
DreamHack Winter was next up. This was an event many favoured OpTic to win. This didn’t happen, as they were thrown out of their group leading many to take the opinion that their Northern Arena win was a fluke. The tournament was won by Gambit Gaming.
ELEAGUE finished its group stage in November. The league saw Virtus.pro, NiP, Astralis, SK Gaming, Team Dignitas and OpTic Gaming qualifying for the play-offs. November also had two of the Minor Championships taking place, with Godsent and HellRaisers qualifying out of Europe and Vega Squadron and Team Spirit coming from the CIS qualifier.
The final days of ELEAGUE Season 2 took place at the start of December.
In a shocking play-off run, OpTic ploughed through mousesports and FaZe to qualify for the final. Astralis on the other hand managed it by defeating NiP and SK Gaming. This led to a final which everyone expected to go to the Danes but it didn’t quite pan out this way. OpTic came back from their first map loss to take the final two maps and win their first $250k+ tournament.
ECS had its second season finish in December, being the last proper tournament of the year. This went more to the script than many tournaments in 2016 although Dignitas suffered a group upset at the hands of EnVyUs. Astralis and OpTic were in the same group here with the Danes coming out on top.
The final Minor Championship also ran in December as the Americas Minor saw Immortals and Cloud9 getting spots at the Major Qualifier. The Major Qualifier was one of shocks and expectations. GODSENT and FaZe were the first two teams to get to the Major.
The Swiss-based system made it ripe for upsets and there were many. Dignitas were denied a swift 3-0 win to the Major by GODSENT, who were alongside FaZe in the shocks, as the Europeans beat Immortals. The Brazilians went from 2-0 up to bowing out 2-3 thereby continuing their curse of never qualifying for a Major.
There was also the big shock. NiP were pummelled in their final game with Vega Squadron, and in doing so earned the undesirable record of becoming the first previous Major winners not to make it through to the next. This was a huge loss for that team. The full list of qualified teams was: GODSENT, FaZe, mousesports, OpTic, Team Dignitas, Team EnVyUs, HellRaisers and G2 Esports.
Roster moves increased as contracts ended and the year came to a close. TSM signed a duo in ShaZam and [email protected], before the latter was removed controversially over the PEA dispute.
Former FaZe and NiP player Maikelele formed “qwerty”, a roster of usually forgotten Swedish players alongside former coach pita. The Team Dignitas players announced that they were to leave the organisation at the end of the year, with them heavily rumoured to be moving to FC Copenhagen’s new esports division. NRG allowed their three German players to leave the organisation for them to be able to form a new North American team.
2016 was a whirlwind year in CS:GO. 2017 is set to take place in similar fashion with a lot more tournaments already slated to be taking place.
From what we’ve seen already, more investment will be entering to the scene in the coming 12 months and many other organisations are on a knife edge over what is to be done next.