The ELEAGUE major didn’t go as planned for any of the North American teams in attendance, with Team Liquid and OpTic Gaming seemingly carrying the weight of NA’s dreams. Surprisingly, it was Liquid that placed the highest, finishing 9th with OpTic in 12th – far from the triumph many fans had been hoping for.
Team Liquid had been on a sharp decline since their stellar 2nd and 4th place finishes at ESL One: Cologne and MLG Columbus in 2016. The team has fallen apart since the departure of Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev to Na’Vi, leaving most analysts predicting Team Liquid to go 0-3 at the major.
By contrast, OpTic Gaming were one of the favourites heading into the tournament after their late run in 2016, winning Northern Arena: Montreal and ELEAGUE Season 2 before gearing up for the major. Admittedly, OpTic were dealt an unfortunate hand by the major’s swiss system and drew Virtus.Pro as the teams first match.
It didn’t get any easier in their second match as OpTic drew Astralis for a quickly tallied 0-2 record; Astralis and Virtus.Pro were the teams that appeared in the grand finals with Astralis ultimately winning the major. It would have been easy to write off the draw as the cause for the team’s bad performance, but OpTic have gone forward with changes to their roster regardless.
OpTic have dropped Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz, the in-game leader for the team. Stanislaw was one of the CS:GO “outcasts” before joining OpTic and was an influential member in creating the dominant roster. Just hours after the initial announcement, Team Liquid released a statement welcoming stanislaw to the team. Now with six people on the roster, Liquid will need to cut a member of their lineup to join, with Spencer “Hiko” Martin looking like the most likely candidate. Hiko is one of the best NA players in CS:GO history and has quite the reputation, even filling in for Flipsid3 Tactics for a stint in 2015.
Once the best player in NA, Hiko’s role within Team Liquid has become ambiguous in recent months and his performance has been decreasing since the MLG Columbus major. It’s hard to believe that Hiko will get cut from Liquid, but they are in desperate need of an in-game leader rather than a lurker. It’s inconclusive whether or not this move will make Liquid the best NA team once more, but it will certainly help structure to the team with Wilton “zews” Prado as coach.
If speculation is to be believed, Hiko will be joining OpTic Gaming shortly as their 5th, replacing stanislaw. On paper this team looks like a clear favourite to be the best team in the North American CS:GO scene, but losing an in-game leader will lead to a level of uncertainty around the roster.
OpTic will have the most firepower out of any NA team and will play similarly to the old Fnatic roster with fluid structure and raw skill. DreamHack Las Vegas 2017 is on the horizon and the OpTic Gaming roster will need to be officially announced before February 15th. This will be the first test for the speculated roster, with some of the toughest competition from NA and Europe appearing at the tournament.