Place yourself in this position: You’re the general manager of an esports organisation and you want to make a big splash into the world of CS:GO. The best way to do this, you think, is to cherry-pick the five best performing players in the world and place them all on one roster.
So-called “superstar teams” are well established ideas in the world of CS:GO. You need not look further to Reddit threads or the HLTV.org forums to see fans constantly thinking up potential mixtures.
Unfortunately for them, the nuances of the game are much more than “press ‘w’ and shoot heads.” The game requires players to be held in a number of roles, each important in their own way. A team traditionally has one star, but then has a number of players in supportive roles and, crucially, an experienced in-game-leader.
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The most notable example: FaZe
With it being the most successful international team of stars, FaZe’s current roster is the team most synonymous with the phrase “super team.” The team has its roots in 2015, when Kinguin established a team made up of a number of talented, veteran European players that hadn’t fit into regional teams, featuring former NiP AWPer Mikail “Maikelele” Bill and veteran Belgian Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom.
FaZe and Real Madrid's "galacticos" policy of the early 2000s are an apt comparison.
The team went through many iterations and organisations, bringing in talent and big names before heading to FaZe. The names that joined FaZe before 2018 include Major winner Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey, former NiP AWP’er Aleksi “allu” Jalli and IGL Finn “karrigan” Andersen.
The biggest names, however, joined in 2017. The first was Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, oft touted as “the next best thing” who had been looking to return to just focusing on his play, and not being forced to be the IGL as he was there. This proved instantly successful for FaZe, finishing in the grand final of three events in a row, winning one. Until the PGL Krakow Major, where they were eliminated in the Group Stage.
Then there was Lasislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs. The Slovakian AWPer is just out of Na`Vi after a month on the bench, after his place had been taken on the team by Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. Then the biggest name joined - two-time Major winner, and 2015 best player in the world, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer entered the team after leaving Fnatic. These changes saw the team pick up three tournament wins, then finishing in the Grand Finals of five tournaments.
FaZe and the "galacticos" comparison
A number of people offer a rather apt comparison between FaZe and the Real Madrid “galacticos” policy of the 2000s. For those unaware, it was a period of time where at least once a season, the Spanish soccer club would sign one of the world’s greatest players and place them into their team.
It was a structure that garnered them great success… until it didn’t. For the majority of the time they focused on signing top attacking talent, like Figo, Zidane or Beckham, but never focused on the defensive aspect of soccer. This meant after three years of tournament success, the team fell into disarray and forced a rebuild.
We’re yet to have a proper superstar roster work long-term. The ones that come closest usually rotate in utility players.
This can be quite easily seen at the start of 2018 when the team started to fall off. After the team finished second at the ELEAGUE Boston Major, being a mere one round away from claiming a Major trophy, something appeared to shift in the team.
Three tournaments followed where they were only in the final once, and then olofmeister took time off through injury. The team first went to a well-known name in the form of Major winning NiP IGL Richard “Xizt” Landström for a month. This started a small bit of rocky form, but they still managed to win IEM Sydney during this three event period.
The team changed tact and signed little-known Norwegian Jørgen “cromen” Robertsen for the next three events of the spell. A similar story came here, with FaZe winning ESL One Belo Horizonte and finishing top four at ECS Season 5 and ESL One Cologne.
Both signings had a similar vein, as neither player were the sort of flashy star that FaZe were used to with olofmeister. The stark nature of the difference could be seen as soon as he returned, where FaZe were eliminated from the ELEAGUE Premier in last place. Their next two tournaments, including the Major, saw them eliminated at the playoffs.
FaZe would have only one tournament win before 2019 began, at EPICENTER 2018. The latter portion of that year saw NiKo take up the mantle of IGL on FaZe and eventually dropping karrigan. 2019 continued poorly as a mix of ego and inaction from the organisation meant they couldn’t secure a fifth player, rotating a true “who’s who” of former stars, including Major winner and 1.6 legend Filip “NEO” Kubski, Major winner Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev for various stints in the team.
The first signs of stability were set to hit FaZe, but even they come with a catch. After the Berlin Major, where the team finished 12-14th, GuardiaN left to re-join Na`Vi. In his place came two-time Major winner Marcelo “coldzera” David, who had benched himself on MIBR. GuardiaN leaving meant they had another player to replace, with young, unknown Helvijs “broky” Saukants also joining the team.
With the Latvian certainly not a superstar, merely just a good player playing in utility positions, it could be the first sign that the team are stepping away from their desire in 2019 to be completely star-filled. Then again, NiKo continues to hold the IGL position and having finished in last place in their first event, ESL One New York, it could be a rocky road back.
Other superstar teams and their troubles
FaZe aren’t the only superstar team that we’ve seen in CS:GO. MIBR attempted a squad mixing the best of the Brazilian team and two of Cloud9’s Major-winning roster in the second half of 2018. After a number of poor tournament results, winning only one second-tier tournament and finishing second merely twice, the project was aborted in favour of returning to an all-Brazilian team.
Astralis have built their team with tactics in mind, not star power.
mousesports are working on their own kind of superstar team. Having rebuilt after failing at the FACEIT Major, their European mixture retains a number of younger and previously untested talent. They’re players a team like FaZe wouldn’t necessarily go for. While this works for them now, slowly building up results, their previous experiment collapsed horrendously at the FACEIT Major.
So far in CS:GO, we’re yet to have a proper superstar roster work long-term. The ones that come closest either rotate in utility players or collapse after a shooting star period.
The anti-FaZe: Astralis
If you want an example of a team that has succeeded by going in the opposite direction, you need only look at Astralis. The Danish giants have won both the most amount of Majors in the CS:GO era and are the only team to have won three in a row. They are, objectively, the best team in the world.
Astralis have built their team with tactics in mind, not star power. Bringing in new IGL Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and younger talent Emil “Magisk” Reif who fit their system. Instead of opting for proven star power and big names, the team kept heading in one direction. And it’s one that’s offered them unparalleled success, having won eight events in 2018, and the last three Major events that have taken place.
So if you’re wanting to make your dream CS:GO team, keep it balanced and focus on tactics instead of raw power.