2022 brought Counter-Strike: Global Offensive back to the live stage, bringing teams from all across the world together to compete at some of the most exciting tournaments we’ve seen to date. These tournaments have made the argument for having best-of-five final matches at big events even stronger, by generating some of the closest and most thrilling finals ever viewed. With the level of competition getting closer, it’s expected that 2023 will be another year with fantastic finals.
A lot happened in 2022 in relation to CS:GO. Academy players are on the rise, the Counter-Terrorist side has been made an unstoppable force due to the M4A1-S changes, and many regional rosters have struggled to find a footing in the 2022 calendar.
There has been so much more happening than we will cover in this article, but we wanted to highlight some points that we think have had a significant impact across the entire CS:GO esports landscape. Many of these topics, we believe, will have an impact in 2023 as well.
In September 2021, Valve released Operation Riptide and along with it came various gun changes. One of these was the M4A1-S gaining increased body damage, something that added even more worth to a gun with one of the easiest spray patterns in the game.
As a result of this change, CT-side win percentages have risen by 2% or more compared to 2021, for top-20 teams. This stat becomes even larger when looking across CS:GO as a whole, seeming to have a much larger impact on the lower-tier competitive scenes.
The immediate effects brought increases as large as 5% to CT-side win rates. Valve responded with a nerf for the weapon in June 2022, which reduced the ammo count from 25 to 20. Although this has reduced a player’s ability to wildly shoot all their bullets into a smoke grenade whilst praying that they’ll kill someone with a lucky bullet, it is still a major concern. 2022 has been one of the most dominant years for the CT side, across the board, since we had Train and the old version of Nuke in the map pool.
A change was required in order for the CT side to become favourable again as the way the game was being played developed. One of the biggest changes in 2022 was team dominance. FaZe Clan dominated early in 2022, but towards the middle of the year the competition became a lot closer, with no teams looking miles ahead of the competition. Even now, as 2022 ends, the level of competition is closer than it’s been in quite some time.
This is down to the amount of support all of the top organisations provide to a team in the form of coaches and analysts. It’s become a meta where Terrorist sides have become so difficult to defend against because the supporting staff can work on everything a team is doing.
Although the change created a more competitive end to the year, Valve have once again nerfed the M4A1-S. In November 2022, the M4A1-S had its damage reduced at longer distances. This is a change that has already had an impact, with many players switching to the louder M4A4. This is a change that could significantly impact the win rates for each of the sides. We don’t think the T side will become dominant by any means, but it could bring the percentages closer.
An international roster is defined as a team where most players are from different countries. This is something that is extremely common in traditional sports, for example, Premier League soccer teams are made up of players from many countries. CS:GO didn’t initially adopt this idea, as many of the early teams were national rosters, such as Virtus.pro, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Fnatic, and Team EnVyUs. This is great from a storyline perspective, but it doesn’t always offer availability to have the best of the best in a particular role.
In recent years, international rosters have been on the rise. FaZe Clan, ENCE, Team Vitality, MOUZ, G2 Esports, OG Esports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Fnatic are just some of the modern-day adopters of the international set-up. It’s been a fantastic year for organisations with international teams, seeing them win five S-tier events in 2022. It must be noted, though, that FaZe Clan claimed four of those five wins. Even when they haven’t gone on to win an event, international rosters have made the playoffs and finished in the runners-up spots.
FaZe Clan have demonstrated how dominant an international roster can be, winning IEM Katowice, ESL Pro League Season 15, PGL Major Antwerp 2022, and IEM Cologne 2022. This is an impressive run of form which leaves them only one win away from the Intel Grand Slam. Vitality are another international roster on the rise after having won ESL Pro League Season 16.
National rosters haven’t performed poorly across 2022, but we feel it’s worth highlighting the sheer number of teams that have become international this year and are beginning to find success. Ninjas in Pyjamas are one of the most recent teams to become international, bringing together Swedish, Danish, and now also Finnish talent (with the recent signing of Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen). This is certainly a team with a lot of talent, and they’ll be an interesting case study to see if the international model is a viable one for success.
Brazil had been waiting to host a major championship ever since Luminosity Gaming/SK Gaming burst onto the scene in 2016, proving that Brazilian players can compete with European ones. Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo led his squad to win back-to-back major championships, inspiring a whole host of youngsters. Many other teams have emerged from Brazil since then, with FURIA being one of the most notable Brazilian teams to have achieved success. The team is home to some of Brazil’s best talent, such as Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato and Yuri "yuurih" Boian.
It was first announced that a major championship would come to Rio de Janeiro, in the form of ESL One: Rio 2020; however, COVID restrictions caused this event to be cancelled. This wasn’t just a hit to Brazilian fans, but also to Counter-Strike as a whole. 2020 was the first year since 2013 to only feature one major championship, and 2021 would follow the same. Luckily, 2022 brought back LAN events and we were gifted with two major championships, with the second of the year being given to ESL to host in Rio de Janeiro.
Many great things occurred at this major. Not only was the crowd’s excitement and noise a constant, but it was also wide open for a winner with many teams not in form. FaZe Clan and NAVI were still the favourites, but on home soil, the likes of FURIA, Imperial Esports, and 00 Nation were scary contenders. Unfortunately, “FalleN” and Marcelo "coldzera" David were not able to lead their teams past the Challengers stage. FURIA provided the home crowd in Brazil with a team to support in the Jeunesse Arena, a stage that would erupt at their 3rd-4th-place result.
The IEM Rio Major 2022 also brought great upset. Unexpectedly, FaZe Clan and Ninjas in Pyjamas placed last in the Legends stage. As favourites to win the entire tournament, no one would have expected FaZe Clan to perform so poorly. Outsiders and Heroic were two teams that didn’t disappoint, though, with both pushing all the way to the final. Dzhami "Jame" Ali took his second shot at winning a major final (the other coming when he played for AVANGAR in 2019) and he did it with ease, with Outsiders securing a 2-0 victory over Heroic. Not only did he lead his team whilst playing the AWPer role, but he also secured the Rio Major MVP award. We are sure that many more tournaments will be held in Brazil after the success of this event.
Heroic saving Denmark
Astralis haven’t won an S-tier tournament since 2020 and have repeatedly struggled since returning from the online era. Poor results and uncertainty around the reliability of players caused the departure of Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, Emil "Magisk" Reif, and Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen. Astralis were once the leading force, not only in Danish Counter-Strike, but in Counter-Strike as a whole. Without them being a top competitor, it has made way for a new group of dominant Danes to lead the way.
2022 has been the year for Heroic, led by AWPer and In-game Leader Casper "cadiaN" Møller. They made a name for themselves as serious contenders during the online era, winning ESL One: Cologne 2020 and ESL Pro League Season 13 but have continued their rise in 2022, winning the Pinnacle Cup Championship and BLAST Premier: Fall Finals, and earning a semi-final spot at the IEM Rio Major. Many were aware of the individual talent this squad contained, they just required an opportunity to emerge from the shadow of Astralis.
Denmark has always been a region packed full of skilled players with strategic mindsets, having produced the likes of Finn "karrigan" Andersen. However, it was a Swede – former Major winner Richard "Xizt" Landström – that helped elevate the Heroic squad. Having joined the team in March this year, he seems to have added the level of experience required at higher stages of competition.
Given the amount of talented Danish teams popping up, like Sprout and Copenhagen Flames, it’s no doubt that a Danish team can be on top. Even FaZe had a Danish IGL to thank for their success in 2022. Even when Astralis fail, there will be a team to keep Denmark strong. As of December 12, 2022, Heroic look as if they will finish 2022 ranked as the number-one team in the world.
Academy players and prospects
A great development to happen in 2022 is that academy players and young prospects are being given a chance to perform with tier-1 teams. We’ve seen lots of success from the likes of Copenhagen Flames, MOUZ, and BIG – teams that have performed well even with their lack of experience.
These teams have provided opportunities for their players to move on to tier-1 teams or advance from their academy rosters. Copenhagen Flames were one of these teams, surprising everyone with their good runs at major championships and when they disbanded, they gave opportunities to their players to join teams like G2 Esports, Sprout, Heroic, and Fnatic.
2022 has been a great year for young and upcoming talent
Not only have these players, so early in their careers, been given such a big opportunity, but they’ve also thrived. Fnatic made a deep run at the IEM Rio Major with Nico "nicoodoz" Tamjidi and Fredrik "roeJ" Jørgensen; Heroic were semi-finalists at the IEM Rio Major with Jakob "Jabbi" Nygaard; and Rasmus "Zyphon" Nordfoss was one of the highest-rated players at the IEM Rio Major.
MOUZ and BIG are two teams that have an academy team, and they tend to perform well in each season of the Academy leagues. MOUZ are famous for removing many of their former stars and players with major-winning reputations, in order to promote their academy players. Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás, Jon "JDC" de Castro, and Dorian "xertioN" Berman are three of the players promoted from the MOUZ NXT roster who have given incredible performances across the year, shocking teams with their deep runs at ESL Pro League Season 16 and the IEM Rio Major. Having organisations that develop strong youth talent is vital for the development of the CS:GO scene as it allows the challenge between raw talent and experience.
A player who has demonstrated the effects of gaining experience is Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov. He has been exceptional in 2022, after being given an opportunity to join G2 Esports. Across 2022, he has boasted a 1.15 rating against top-20 teams, a statistic that becomes even crazier when you consider he is only 17 years old. A large organisation like G2 Esports can be daunting to many young players, but “m0NESY” has shown incredible professionalism for a player of such a young age.
It's been a great year for young talent, and it gives us hope that the scene will continue to grow with new names that fans will be able to get behind. It’s exciting to have so many talented players on the scene.