Dom’s Top 10 Teams of 2018

Astralis lifted the ESL Pro League S8 trophy this December, and topped it off by simultaneously securing the inaugural Intel Grand Slam. This was one of the many spectacular moments which has built the Astralis Era. See where they place in my top ten, though it is pretty obvious where.

Other people tend to sort their rankings around the flash of big wins, but I will do it differently. It is possible for any team to complete a fluke; Cloud9 at ELEAGUE Major 2018 and mousesports at ESL One New York 2018 stick out to me. Those teams will not find themselves high, or even present, on my rankings. Teams need to prove that they are able to consistently perform against the best, and not embarrass themselves against fellow members of the top 10. Thus, I will be basing my rankings with that at the front of my mind and it will be what differentiates my rankings from the rest.

1. Astralis | gla1ve, Xyp9x, dupreeh, device, Magisk (Kjaerbye)

There was only ever going to be one name as the top dog. The Danish superteam that is Astralis, the cohesive and skilled roster have enjoyed a spectacular year. The year began with a poor ELEAGUE Major, but after adding Emil “Magisk” Reif they established an iron grip on the CS:GO scene. This year the Danes picked up 9 premier tournament wins and also the second Major win for the organization at the FACEIT Major in September; this has firmly established the Astralis Era.

2. Liquid | nitr0, EliGE, Twistzz, NAF (jdm64), Stewie2K (TACO, steel)

Impressing many in 2018 was the North American Liquid, who battled to many grand finals in premier LANs. They could not beat Astralis when it really mattered, being eliminated by them in six premier LANs this year, and this has meant they are a long way from being the top dogs. Liquid’s rise up from last year has been interesting, with players such as Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken showing their best game on the big stages. The potential-filled lineup has fallen short at the final hurdle many times this year, but consistent placings within the top-four place them firmly at second, and solid results against NaVi reinforce this.

3. NaVi | Zeus, electronic, s1mple, Edward, flamie

The CIS powerhouse that is NaVi have enjoyed a solid 2018, firmly re-establishing themselves as an elite team after a brief slump in 2017. The best player playing Counter-Strike, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, has defied all odds with sublime individual performances this year, the likes of which have never been seen before. The team has won ESL One Cologne, StarSeries i-League S6, and BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen in 2018, marking an impressive year for themselves.

4. FaZe | karrigan, NiKo, olofmeister (Xizt, cromen), GuardiaN, rain

FaZe have had a mixed year. The absence of Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer for the first half of 2018 greatly hurt the squad. Despite this, they won IEM Sydney with Richard “Xizt” Landstrom and ESL One Belo Horizonte with Jorgen “cromen” Robertson in olofmeister’s place. The recent announcement of ex-captain Finn “karrigan” Andersen’s benching puts FaZe’s future into question. Can they improve on a disappointing second half of 2018, or will they fall even further?

5. MIBR (SK Gaming) | FalleN, coldzera, fer, tarik (boltz), TACO (Stewie2K, TACO)

MIBR have let many fans down over this past year, but towards the end of 2018 had seen a slight resurgence. Last January the team managed a semi-final run at the ELEAGUE Major, but as the original Brazilian roster fell apart results declined. After this downturn, the team reorganised under the guidance of analyst-turned-coach Janko “YNk” Paunovic and managed to snag some solid tournament placings. Their main claims to fame are decent showings against Astralis, this largely stems from their permaban being Nuke, which is Astralis’ home map. With a return to a Brazilian roster in the pipeline, MIBR could well be returning to the top three in 2019 as they make a power play to dethrone the Danes.

6. mousesports | chrisJ, STYKO (Snax), ropz, suNny, oskar

The European mix that is Mouz started 2018 with high hopes. The team won StarSeries i-League S4 early on in the year and solidified themselves as a top three or four team, but after plateauing decided to cut support player Martin “STYKO” Styk for Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski. This move worsened the team, who apart from a shock victory over Liquid to win ESL One New York 2018 looked lost without the Slovakian. The team added him back, and have since improved and stabilised. It is with a wave of optimism that Mouz will look to push on in 2019.

7. NiP | dennis (Xizt), GeT_RiGhT, f0rest, REZ, Lekr0 (draken)

The Swedish fan favourites rank at the seventh position. After years of struggling, a couple of key changes such as the addition of Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson, who finds himself in-game leading, and the return to form of Fredrik “REZ” Sterner, have propelled the Ninjas forward . They attended the Major for the first time since 2016, in London at the FACEIT Major, where they narrowly fell to MIBR in the deciding match for a playoffs spot. They have had some good top-four placings, and despite not winning a tournament have looked much improved.

8. North | cadiaN (MSL), aizy, Kjaerbye (k0nfig), gade (cajunb, mertz), valde

The Danish team that is North have gone through a difficult year. Roster changes have troubled the lineup, with in-game leader Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen being shockingly kicked as the prime example. His MVP award at the victory at DreamHack Masters Malmo, which was his last showing for the team, showed the roughness of North’s year. They have had a few decent placings and won some DreamHack Open events, but overall disappointing performances mean they cannot be placed any higher.

9. fnatic | Xizt (Lekr0), twist (Golden, draken), Brollan (flusha),  JW, KRIMZ

With just two of fnatic’s legendary 2015 core remaining, the team is a shadow of its former self. The year did not begin that way though; there was a sensational win at IEM Katowice, masterminded by Maikil “Golden” Selim. His removal along with the removals of William “draken” Sundin and Robin “flusha” Ronnquist have birthed a downgraded fnatic roster, but one with a higher ceiling. Under the leadership of Xizt, the team has worsened from it’s strong start to the year, but with such a young and skilled lineup they could be set for a promising 2019.

10. NRG | daps, FugLy, Brehze, CeRq, nahtE (AnJ)

The North American underdogs that are NRG will be pleased with their 2018. After adding young star Ethan “nahtE” Arnold in January, the team has won some lower-tier tournaments and impressed online. Offline performances have been respectable, reaching at least the quarter-finals in a third of the premier LANs they attended. The youthful team, guided by Damian “daps” Steele, will be proud of their year and will push on going into 2019.


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