It says a lot about gla1ve and his team that them finishing second at DreamHack Stockholm counted as a disappointment, almost an aberration. Once again, that age-old debate about eras reared its ugly head again, but this really feels like one of those cases where moving the goalposts is a desirable part of the conversation. Yes, Astralis can’t match NiP and Fnatic in the sense that it’s no longer possible to completely shut out every rival from all tournaments; however, all that means is that we have to re-evaluate our metrics when we try to decide whether a roster belongs to the pantheon of Counter-Strike.Fazed, jaded or a little both?
Ever since Fnatic went on their infamous LAN tear after pronax’ departure, all top dogs seemed to have left some sort of a gap in their wake, so much so that some of the more fickle members of the community openly questioned their status as the best team in the world. Be it SK Gaming (FalleN’s team now competing under the MiBR banner), FaZe Clan or now Astralis, it really just wasn’t the same. Too many rivals were stuck in transition or lost in translation, and the abundance of events made it all the less feasible to win every single event on the calendar.
The inescapable fact is that the growth and “democratic” nature of the CS:GO scene makes it infinitely more difficult for an individual team to dominate the way a NiP did in the early days of the game or a Fnatic once the money began to trickle in, with multiple LANs offering six-figure prize pools at the same time (sometimes up to four at the same time as we’ve experienced a few months ago).
Does this mean it is no longer possible for a single team to rise above and beyond their rivals? Of course it doesn’t - but we need to change the parameters of a discussion. Individual players like s1mple and coldzera can only take you so far in our current landscape and the open nature of the CS:GO circuit means that there will invariably be other winners beside you at some other, also quite prestigious event.
What else can we look towards if we accept that eras can no longer be measured by gold medals and trophies alone? The quality of play still remains an important barometer. Similarly, the matchup spreads against the other contenders also tells a lot of the story. No disrespect to North and their incredible run in Stockholm, but losing to them doesn’t elevate a direct contender in the current storyline where we still seem to be figuring out whether there’s a giant red star looming over the scene or not.
Distance and detail
It may seem like a long-gone time—a historic oddity even, but keep in mind that Astralis went to Boston as the title holders, which is what made their early elimination even more unexpected. Were they to win in London, it would give them two major wins out of three – not that anyone would mark the beginning of their era from Krakow, of course.
So what is the time period that you would have to dominate in order to stake a claim for an era of your own – and what is the deciding factor exactly? In FalleN’s case, it was his leadership and the recognizable core of the team despite the roster moves and the org-hopping he’s been involved with at the time. For Fnatic, it was more about the different line-ups making it back to the top again and again, reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s antics in the Premier League over his monstrous 27-year tenure. Which will be more important in terms of storylines in the future? Classic sports often consider the club and perhaps the manager as the forefront of these discussion: so far it seems like esports are gravitating towards a focus on the players.
Maybe it’s the timeframe that needs to be expanded: being able to stay at the top in landscape where it is comparatively easier to carve a spot out for yourself. Then again, this is where the major would come in normally, and a win in London would certainly silence even the most ardent critics of Astralis. However, the current upset-ridden format and the relative rarity of the events have greatly eroded the majors’ standing as the best and biggest event in the circuit, leaving us with even fewer signposts.
The Intel Grand Slam set a goal of four wins out of ten; if that really is enough to mark an era in the current environment, expect eons of uncertainty down the stretch.
The author is a high-rated Hearthstone player & streamer. Follow him at @Luci_kelemen for more Hearthstone and CS:GO content on Twitter.