The first four months of this year have been rather strange and somewhat disquieting in the South African Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene. It’s been a time of upheaval. Unusual results for teams that were heavily favored. Unexpected victories for underdog lineups. A lack of true strength versus strength competition in SA’s tournaments. What’s going on?
There has been the disbanding of Damage Control’s venerable and storied CS:GO lineup. Bravado Gaming moved to Phoenix, Arizona as part of Project Destiny. The lustre on Energy eSports’ African Championship title has slowly started to fade as we have only seen them play in ESEA and no other local competitions. Big 5 Esports who should have taken up the mantle as the next best team behind Energy after Bravado’s departure isn’t even playing in ESEA this season. Goliath Gaming has seemingly been the most consistent team, having played in all the online tournaments. In their case though, they’ve shown an alarming fragility against what should be considered lesser opposition at times. To be fair to them, they have at least secured an online title this season.
Who’s the boss?
It’s very hard to make a case for any team being the absolute best in South Africa right now due to a lack of match data to work off of. The teams that should be duking it out for the top spot aren’t all playing in the same tournaments. I think of Energy eSports, Big 5 Esports and Goliath Gaming as the teams that should by all rights be fighting for first place. They should be towering over all the pretenders to the throne. Those new usurpers that seek to steal their hard-earned place on the metaphorical podium of South African CS:GO.
Big 5 and Goliath are in VS Masters together, sans Energy. While Energy and Goliath were both competing in ESEA Open Season 27 without Big 5. There has been no local tournament outside of the WESG Qualifiers in January that included all three. WESG Qualifiers still included Bravado at the time as well as it was prior to their overseas relocation. We haven’t gotten to see these three teams play against each other consistently in the same league since ESL Africa Season Two more than half a year ago.
We’ve also seen a distinct lack of top-tier offline SA CS:GO tournaments in 2018, which is unfortunate. For the most part, it has been online competition only. Traditionally one should look at LAN events as the yardstick by which to measure the performance of players and teams alike. The dearth of offline events since rAge has caused me to reevaluate my view on this in a local context. With the vast majority of competitive CS:GO being played online in our country, we need to pay it far more mind when analysing SA teams’ overall performance. When there is no other match data to go off and no other demos to study, one can only use online play by which to measure teams.
The teams that are currently drawing attention to themselves through some big upset wins and consistent results are some of the newer lineups at the top level. They’re doing it online because it’s the only stage available. These teams are comprised of young and talented players that are making their mark against opponents like the big three mentioned earlier. While these teams are yet to win any championships, they have certainly made other MGOs and fans alike take notice.
Sinister 5 have had a superb season and find themselves in the final of ESEA Open South Africa Season 27 next week against Energy. They finished third in the regular season ahead of Goliath Gaming and also beat GG in the group stages. Skeletons Again looked rampant in ESEA to finish second on the log before falling in the playoffs to a new xTc Esports lineup that is looking revitalized. Online Kingdom managed to push Energy to their limits in ESEA before doing the same to Goliath in VS Masters. Finally, they overcome Goliath in group play in ESEA before also going out of the playoffs against SInister 5. I’ve seen a number of impressive players on these lineups that could be future stars on bigger name teams not too long from now.
While not necessarily younger players, Leetpro eSports and Aperture Gaming have shown some encouraging signs and look to be developing into strong rosters as well.
Clear and Present Danger
The next generation of SA CS:GO is looking rather healthier than I remember it being in the last couple of years. They are moving in to fill the power vacuum left by some of the departing old gods. They are also capable of usurping the big three in the future. As we await the announcements of the next large CS:GO tournament in SA, there are a number of younger teams to be excited about. The big three will need to watch their backs! It’s been an unusual start to 2018, but it’s certainly shaping up nicely at the top tier of SA CS.