On Sunday, Jun. 10, Astralis reinstated their superiority as the No. 1 CS:GO roster in the world by securing the ECS Season 5 Finals trophy in London. The Danish quintet beat Team Liquid 2-0, seeing to a 16-14 Mirage victory, followed shortly by a 16-11 Dust 2 scoreline, yielding them the flaming trophy.
While it is exciting to see such a dominant team in the scene, it was to no one's surprise that the Danes achieved first place. The top tier of competition present at the event in G2 Esports and FaZe Clan were on their back foot. G2 fielded a brand new roster that saw the addition of Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans and Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux, while FaZe were missing one of their star players, Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, currently on indefinite personal leave and replaced by Jørgen "cromen" Robertsen. Team Liquid were also prime contenders for the title but, as we subsequently learned, the Danes proved to be too voracious and seasoned an opponent to overcome. A grand final placement was a great achievement for the North American roster, even though the outcome of the grand final was foreseen by many, despite relatively close series.
Instead, a story that caught the eye of many was that of NRG Esports. This is the North American roster's second back-to-back playoffs spot, previously securing a grand final exit at the StarSeries Season 5 Finals, where they lost against a fired up Natus Vincere G2A, spearheaded by none other than the best in the world — Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostylev.
To contextualise how impressive the team's recent form was, prior to StarLadder and ECS, NRG participated at two international LAN finals: IEM Sydney and the EPL Season 7 Finals. In both events they bombed out in groups, falling to the likes of G2 Esports and mousesports in best-of-3 series. Forward to ECS Season 5, the team went on to secure revenge against G2 Esports, knocking the Frenchmen into the lower bracket after a 16-4 win on Mirage, followed by a 16-8 winners' match victory against FaZe, automatically securing the team a spot in the semifinals of what can only be described as one of the most important LAN events of the year.
Some would argue that this result from NRG should be interpreted with the roster issues that were outlined beforehand, and, as a factor, it played its role in easing their passage to the semis. That being said, we forget about the compositions of the individual rosters NRG were playing against.
G2 Esport are composed of the most seasoned French players the scene has to offer, and while still developing their stead as a five, have individual players that are able to impact the outcome of a round single-handedly. Over the course of ECS, we saw the return of what many described as a vintage Kenny "kennyS" Schrub. Having given up the in-game leader title for the event, Richard "shox" Papillon stepped up on several occasions, landing clutches left, right, and centre over the duration of the tournament.
FaZe Clan have a similar story, where the roster is composed of world-class players, including the likes of former No. 1 in the world, Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, former best AWP in the world, Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, and arguably one the most consistent riflers in the game, Håvard "rain" Nygaard. All of this raw talent is directed by in-game leader Finn "karrigan" Andersen, who has had various things said about his capabilities both as a fragger and captain, neither of which ultimately stopped him from obtaining countless trophies with his current teammates.
Looking at NRG's performance at ECS, both the team as a whole and its individuals have demonstrated great raw potential. The first individual that comes to mind is Bulgarian AWPer, Tsevetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov, who demonstrated in both group stage best-of-1's that he is indeed capable of single-handedly deciding the outcome of a map. In fact, his impact was so vast, that his comparative underperformance in the semifinals of the event tangibly affected the outcome of the series. Demonstrating a massive presence alongside his teammate was rifler Ethan "NahtE" Arnold, who, much like CeRq, had an outstanding individual performance during the group stage, followed by a comparatively lacklustre semifinals series. Concluding the impactful trio for ECS Season 5 is Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte, the only player from NRG to emerge from the team's semifinal series against Team Liquid with a positive map performance rating, as well as outstanding showings the group stage. Largely in thanks to the aforementioned trio's firepower did NRG propel themselves to a consecutive playoffs placement.
As for the remaining two members in the in-game leader, Damian "daps" Steele and support rifler, Jacob "FugLy" Medina, neither had an outstanding performance per se. In daps' situation we saw somewhat of an anomaly, as, in the past, he was quite consistent in delivering impact for the team, despite diverting his attention to the strategic aspect of the game. FugLy, outside of the opening match against G2 Esports, struggled immensely to put up numbers, and this was exaggerated in the semi-finals, a theme that seems to be common for the roster. As of late, the rifler has experienced inconsistencies in performances on LAN, the cause of which is unknown. Medina has been part of the NRG starting roster the longest of all his teammates, and is one of the most seasoned members of the team, having participated at two Major tournaments in the past.
Essentially the outline above is to say that NRG are demonstrating more than just a sign of life. The team very well may continue in an upward trajectory, given they consistently apply themselves and develop on their comparatively limited LAN experience. If they're producing aforementioned results with what they have at hand, an appropriate question to ask would be what the team capable of after ridding their players of doubt and LAN jitters. Further, the team recently secured the services of Chet "ImAPet" Singh, who has proven to be a massive contribution in previous organisations, aiding both the former iterations of Counter Logic Gaming and OpTic Gaming in qualifying for international LAN events through provision of in-depth analysis on opposing teams. If StarLadder and ECS are anything to go by, we'll be seeing a whole lot more of NRG Esports in the near future.