Paladin’s Rank Check: March 2021

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Introduction

              Welcome to Rank Check, my monthly perspective on the CS:GO scene where I rank and discuss the triumphs and setbacks of the top 10 teams in the world. These rankings will be based upon three factors: overarching form of the last month, roster moves, and the difficulty of each tournament the month had to offer. For example, although Gambit won IEM Katowice 2021, their ranking will not be in the highest end of the top ten as there are many other teams with better placings at more prestigious tournaments and therefore better form than the CIS squad. With all the pleasantries out of the way, I hope you enjoy my opinionated ranking of the world’s best!

#10: G2 – A European Roster Searching for Greatness

                On paper, the G2 squad has an exceptionally hard-hitting squad with a trio of superstar fraggers in NiKo, huNter, and kennyS. In practice, the team has had average outings at best and continue to fall short of great placings. In their BLAST Premier Spring Groups, G2 failed to make it to the finals as they were defeated by the likes of an Evil Geniuses roster that limped into qualification. Not only did the confidence of kennyS vanish, but the raw aim of huNter and nexa had diminished quickly. However, the reason I have placed G2 at number ten was their form at their most recent outing at IEM Katowice 2021. With this event having the utmost competition at hand, the European five found a way to make a surprisingly deep run for the playoffs. Falling short to semifinalists Team Spirit in three maps and eventual champions of Katowice in Gambit, the losses that they faced were acceptable. In fact, the team took revenge against Evil Geniuses and knocked out the German powerhouse of BIG comfortably. G2’s skill ceiling continues to show no bounds and has the potential to eclipse any of the world’s best. However, with the meager number of wins over top teams, G2 will remain hanging at the edge of the top ten.

#9: FURIA – Junior’s Debut Shows Promising Signs

              After a couple shortcomings in the last year, the Brazilian’s best made a shocking roster move to bring in the prodigal American AWP’er, junior, to replace the services of HEN1. Expecting shortcomings in their gameplay and rough communication, I expected an average performance at best from FURIA at Katowice and was humbled by the chemistry that junior has brought to the table this early on in the roster’s development. The Brazilians dismantled the Swedish NiP and even spoiled the return of karrigan with exceptional aim across the board from the team. The orchestrated chaos wielded effortlessly by arT and junior’s AWP’ing paired with the rock-solid consistency from the riflers of FURIA, the squad certainly has the potential to roar into the top five. With ESL Pro League Season 13 on the horizon, their first task will be to add consistency and depth to their results against the world’s best. Watch for the panthers to bottle raw aggression and unleash upon their foes as they look to stabilize in the upper echelons of the rankings.

#8: Team Liquid – North America’s Triumphant Return

              FALLEN helming Team Liquid has led to an immediate success at Katowice. Although the team fell to the eventual finalists of Virtus.Pro, Liquid found their well-earned place in the playoffs after defeating the world’s best in Natus Vincere, Vitality, and FaZe. Stewie2K showed flashes of his former self throughout the tournament with tempered maneuvers galore, EliGE and NAF continued their dominating consistency, and the new members of Grim and FALLEN showed grit under the limelight. Although the five fell short at BLAST Premier Spring, the impressive route the Americans showed at Katowice proves that the core of Team Liquid still has energy to make deep runs at the international stage. Whether the first outing of FALLEN’s calling is considered a honeymoon period or not, the answer remains to be shrouded. Despite this, the killer instinct of Liquid slowly continues to build back to the Grand Slam age and the brazen Stewie2K will stop at nothing to continue his rise back to the apex.

#7: Team Spirit – Destructive Katowice Run Propels the CIS Squad

              Team Spirit took a gamble on the prodigy degster going into the beginning of their 2021 season and it definitely seems to have paid off. Not only did the roster demolish the Tier 2 scene with their win at DreamHack Open January, but they carried that momentum through to the Katowice play-in dismantling Cloud9 and BIG with ease. The firepower of this team continued to impress with every player showing signs of absolute brilliance. The main event allowed the CIS five to reach a deafening crescendo with dominating wins against G2 and Heroic while also toppling the giants of Astralis. While their run was stopped by their compatriots of Gambit, their top form in both levels of the scene showed polished teamplay, gorgeous chemistry, and classic CIS aggression. The roster still has a lot to prove in regard to their consistency hanging with the world’s best, but there is no doubt that the dragons of Spirit have what it takes to seize their opportunities.

#6: Gambit – Champions of Katowice Revel in Victory

              After a subpar result at DreamHack January 2021, the pundits of the scene considered Gambit’s counterparts of Team Spirit would certainly be the CIS roster to keep an eye on for IEM Katowice this year. While the CIS region had quite the statement at the coveted event, Gambit rose to the top and stole the trophy away brazenly. The young team began their run with a stumble against Evil Geniuses and surged back with a massive lower bracket run to the playoffs over the likes of G2, Heroic, and mousesports. But the true reason Gambit has entered the top ten at such a high placement is because of the flamboyant chemistry and poise the team showed during their clean playoff run. Not only did the team destroy the favorites of the tournament, Natus Vincere, but they cruised through Spirit and Virtus.Pro without breaking a real sweat. The extra level that this team has unlocked is a true sight to behold. Sh1ro’s MVP performance with clutch after clutch and Ax1le’s brazen aim truly stood out to me and I believe the team can finally be admitted back among the stars among the CS:GO sky.

#5: BIG – The Top Dogs Continue to Lose Footing

              BIG’s form continues to be one with many ups and downs. The team did well in their BLAST Premier Spring groups with wins over Astralis, NiP, and OG in swift fashion. All cylinders firing, the team were heavy favorites going into the Katowice play-ins and were quickly humbled by the dragons of Team Spirit. Bouncing back against MIBR, BIG still looked like a contender going into the main event. But after shockingly bowing out in last place against both Heroic and G2, the team continues to drop in my rankings. XANTARES and k1to have shown themselves to be unreliable win conditions the Germans rely too much upon as even after heroics from both tabseN and syrsoN resulted in no placements up to the roster’s caliber this month. While the signs of greatness have been littered throughout 2020, BIG certainly has the pieces to rise back to the top again…they just need the heavy hitting riflers to come online once more.

#4: Team Vitality – Worrying Showings From the French

              ZywOo tore up 2020 and was awarded the number one player of the calendar year; The last couple of showings from the Frenchman, however, have been very lackluster. Granted the team seemingly went through a fair amount of turbulence during their horrendous BLAST Premier Spring Group Stage, but that simply cannot discount the underwhelming performance at Katowice this year. Made apparent by their losses to both Team Liquid and Virtus.Pro, it seems the main issues lie in the lacking amounts of firepower the roster was so easily pumping out at every event. The French have shown startling amounts of tenacity throughout the last year and there is obviously a possibility that the abysmal placings could simply just be a flash in the pan. However, with the consistency of the French superstar ZywOo seemingly diminished, the six-man roster has got to find more solutions among their outstanding aimers in misutaaa, Nivera, and shox. Hungry to bounce back from these losses, the team surely will challenge easily at ESL Pro League in the coming weeks.

#3: Virtus.Pro – The Rise to the Top Realized

              Virtus.Pro have been on an absolute tear in the last three months of play. After winning Flashpoint 2, DreamHack Open December, and cs_summit 7, the team has shown consistency in dominance throughout their respective runs. IEM Katowice was no exception. In fact, now the whole world would see the spectacle the polar bears showcased in full effect. Known for their mental fortitude and gritty lower bracket runs, the squad battled through once more after defeating the dark horse in NiP, favorites in Vitality, and red-hot FURIA to receive a playoff berth. Digging into the series, YEKINDAR brilliantly stole away the game from Astralis and dispatched the greats in 3 maps. The young Latvian continued his incredible form alongside Jame to completely manhandle Team Liquid in the semifinals. While the team looked a step below Gambit during the finals of Katowice, I still see the dominance in placings Virtus.Pro has left in the last couple of months. The consistency of Jame becoming undeniable, YEKINDAR’s potential being realized, buster and qikert’s continued entry brilliance, and SANJI’s ever-faithful playstyle, leave the CIS squad to be an outstanding meeting of five men who truly can continue this dominance through trained fortitude.

#2: Astralis – Danish Superstars Dip in Form

              The form of Astralis has consistently shown the mentality of a team that deserves to be called the greatest. With nine finals appearances and four titles in the last year, they remain a world-class roster that showcases synergy, utility, and confidence to the highest degree. 2021 has begun with a dip in that form as they failed to make it out of their BLAST Premier Spring Groups and the team did not qualify for the top four this year at Katowice. Losing to a resurgent NiP and the ever-threatening BIG, the relegation to the Showdown is understandable but worrying for the squad’s season under the BLAST banner. Katowice’s losses also seem to have uncovered a dip in the team’s aim as Virtus.Pro and Spirit simply dominated through sheer explosiveness and crisp shooting. The CIS region had quite the dominant appearance at Katowice and it definitely shone past the stars of Astralis. While the team remains the force of nature the CS:GO scene gives all the plaudits to, the Danes will have to bounce back in their coming outings.

#1: Natus Vincere – The Rocky Summit of the World

              A shaky dominance from Na’Vi continues to show through the beginnings of 2021. Incredible sequences from s1mple and electronic lifted the roster to their win at the Global Finals and a Spring Finals berth as well. However, the downside of the squad also reared its ugly head at Katowice. After capitulating against Team Liquid in the final sectors and failing to put away their CIS compatriots in Gambit, the team disappointed with a 5-8th result. The Na’Vi that did not defend their title from the year prior shows the underperformances from flamie and Boombl4. However, when those players hold their own and play collective Counter-Strike, the team is absolutely unstoppable and have the capabilities of holding their own era over the scene. With that incredible skill ceiling coming to fruition in bits and pieces throughout the end of 2020 and beginnings of 2021, the best team of my Rank Check this month will still undeniably be Natus Vincere.

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