Looking back at 2015
As 2015 is in its final days, it's time for us to look back at the most memorable moments of the year, which had a significant effect on the remainder.
2015 brought us countless tournaments, milions of dollars given out in prizemoney, numerous significant lineup changes, meta-changing updates and much much more.
We would like to look back at some of the most important and memorable moments that we saw unravel, be it live or from the comfort of our homes, and put them together before we get to see what the new year brings upon us.
Most of what we've gathered is certainly positive, although there are a few unfortunate events I'm sure many would rather not see happen again.
ESL One Katowice - the first major to feature offline qualifiers (January 23rd)
While Valve refused to increase prizemoney and change the format of majors themselves, a very welcome change came with the announcement of ESL One Katowice, which was revealed to be the first major of the year.
For the first time offline qualifiers led up to a major, something many professionals and experts considered to be one of the most important changes Valve needed to make in the majors.
We now know that all three majors, ESL One Katowice, ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, featured 16-team offline qualifiers, but Katowice was the first and surely belongs on this list.
iBUYPOWER receive indefinite bans from Valve (January 26th)
And, understandably, not only from Valve.
iBUYPLANETICKETS was not the worst nickname the North American team received during their existence. Four players of the iBUYPOWER lineup, who were once considered the hope of the region, received indefinite bans from all Valve-affiliated tournaments, and soon afterwards from pretty much everywhere else.
When iBUYPOWER lost a match against NetcodeGuides.com back in August 2014 in which they were highly favored, rumors started spreading around about them being involved in match-fixing. Richard Lewis, who was writing for The Daily Dot at the time, broke a story about it and Valve confirmed that was the case shortly afterwards.
Former iBUYPOWER are still waiting for a more specific verdict
Four players of the lineup, Sam "DaZeD" Marine, Braxton "swag" Pierce, Keven "AZK" Lariviere and Joshua "steel" Nissan, and three others were found to be involved in the scandal. Recently the issue has been raised again, since "indefinite" is not a very exact term, although no further comments on the matter have been made by Valve.
Later that month, after being relieved of his duties in Epsilon, Robin "GMX" Stahmer revealed another match-fixing case, in which he and his former teammates—Kevin "Uzzziii" Vernel, Joey "fxy0" Schlosser and Morgan "B1GGY" Madour—were involved, and received similar bans for the offense.
Cobblestone undergoes a major revamp (February 5th)
While Valve gave us quite a lot of room for criticism, this particular update was one of the best throughout the year. Up until then, Cobblestone had been quite heavily CT sided and generally way too big and hard to rotate around, which was an issue many pointed out.
Not only did Valve cut off certain areas of the map, especially for Counter-Terrorists, they also removed a few walls and added the connector area to allow for faster Terrorist rotations.
This was surely one of the reasons why Cobblestone became quite popular this year at LAN tournaments, as it helped the overall balance of the sides. It actually became the most balanced map this year, both online and on LAN, with an almost exact 50% distribution of won rounds for each side.
Cobblestone became more popular than Overpass in 2015 (LAN only)
fnatic, the first team to have won two majors (March 15th)
ESL One Katowice had an interesting storyline to it, which was "Who is going to become a two-time major champion?" Up until the first major of 2015, fnatic, Virtus.pro, NiP and EnVyUs (LDLC when they won DreamHack Winter 2014), each had a major title under their belts.
The question was, which one of these four (as they were the main favourites at the time) would go on to win their second one? In the end it was fnatic, with Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer stepping up to the challenge and carrying his team to their second major victory (his and Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson's first) in the grand final against NiP.
Interestingly enough, all four previous major winners ended up in the top four at ESL One Katowice, although as mentioned above, it wasn't such a surprise after all.
flamie joins Na`Vi (March 17th)
After a month-long trial period, which included Na`Vi's 5th-6th placing at StarSeries XII Finals, Egor "flamie" Vasilyev signed a long-term deal with Natus Vincere shortly before the ESL Pro League Winter 2014/15 Finals. He and his team went on to win that event, beating both EnVyUs and Titan on the way to their first title of the year.
After the change, Na`Vi improved steadily during the year, they got a few first places here and there in the summer, namely at StarSeries Finals XIII and ESWC 2015, the second of which flamie was a big part.
flamie's impressive LAN event history with Na`Vi
They finished the year on a high note with a second place at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, a first place at IEM San Jose, and a second again at the last big event of 2015, ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals.
Train replaces Nuke in Active Duty map pool (April 1st)
While it may have felt like an April Fool's joke to some, it was not. de_train was removed from the Active Duty map pool in early 2014, and it was completely re-made in December of the same year.
This time Valve waited for the map to prove itself first, as much as it can in match-making at least, before re-adding it to the map pool four months later, which was more than enough time before ESL One Cologne came along.
Statistics from the past three months, LAN and online combined
de_nuke was thrown out instead, which was by far the most imbalanced map in the Active Duty map pool (63% / 37% distribution favoring CT's in 2014's online and LAN tournaments).
Looking at the last three months, the map didn't exactly become popular within the scene, as it's currently the least played map along with de_overpass (in both online and offline events).
TSM break the curse at CCS Finals (April 26th)
Up until CCS Kick-off Season Finals, TSM (now known as Question Mark) had a curse hanging over their head, as they failed to make a final time and time again due to dropping off in high-pressure situations.
The Danish powerhouse finally broke that curse in Bucharest, where they overcame fnatic in the final and went on to become a bane of the Swedish team, in turn—at least for a couple of months.
During the year Nicolai "device" Reedtz's potential also started shining through, and at a point in time he was widely considered to be the best player in the world. His team finished the year with five titles, five second places and twelve top four finishes. The only achievement that still eludes them is a major title—and a major final, for that matter.
Kinguin begin the legacy of international teams (May 5th)
Kinguin, now known as G2, are the pioneers of international lineups in modern CS. It took them a few changes for it to work well, but they proved that international teams can and likely will be the future of CS:GO.
They had to overcome quite a lot of obstacles, mainly in the communication department, seeing as none of the players are native English speakers, but they found their way to being a solid top 10 team in the world.
International lineups have their place in CS:GO
The only title G2 got a hold of in the latter half of the year was at Gaming Paradise, which kind of needs an asterisk next to it, but their main achievement came at the last major of the year.
G2 were very very close to making it to a major final and upsetting the favourites, EnVyUs, after taking down Virtus.pro in the quarter-finals, which was a feat in its own right. G2 started the trend, we'll just have to wait and see how many hop on.
Cloud9 live the American summer dream (July 18th)
One of the most impressive runs of 2015 was Cloud9's summer dream, when the North American lineup stepped out of their shadow and made three grand finals in as many weeks.
It's important to note what preceeded that: Cloud9 finished within the top four only once out of five truly international tournaments during the first half of the year.
Suddenly, starting with ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals in Cologne, an entirely different Cloud9 showed up in July, both individually and team-wise. Their form didn't drop off one bit that month, as they made two more grand finals of important events afterwards, at ESWC 2015 and FACEIT Stage 2 Finals at DreamHack Valencia.
Some could argue that the other teams didn't have enough time to adapt to this new Cloud9, especially since their form didn't last more than those three weekends, and they'd be right. Still, considering the history of the team, the sudden jump was very impressive.
EnVyUs come out on top of another French shuffle (July 20th)
While the way this whole event came about was a little dramatic, there is no denying the statement above is true. EnVyUs (then-LDLC) came out on top of another shuffle within France, and they won by a mile.
EnVyUs were in disarray at ESWC in Canada and had been for some time, judging from Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt's VLOG, which is why they decided to swap Richard "shox" Papillon and Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux for Titan's Kenny "kennyS" Schrub and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire.
EnVyUs have had the upper hand over Titan for the entire year
The new EnVyUs lineup went on to win IEM Gamescom in Cologne right afterwards at TSM's expense with little to no trouble, despite having about a week's worth of practice beforehand. Only a couple of weeks afterwards, they fell short to fnatic in the final of ESL One Cologne.
Later on this year Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer's lineup snatched three more titles, including a major one at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, while Titan continued to struggle and even dropped out in the group stage of both aforementioned majors.
While nV seem to be in another bad period currently, they are still way ahead of Titan, who had to bring back Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom due to Mathieu "Maniac" Quiquerez's struggles with his new role upon shox's arrival.
fnatic, the first team to have won two back-to-back majors. (August 23rd)
Another trophy in fnatic's cabinet came at ESL One Cologne, the second major of 2015. There the Swedish powerhouse secured their third major title and second in a row.
Another memorable moment of 2015
It is worth noting that the event is also the current viewership record holder, as the final racked up 1.3 million concurrent viewers. The tournament also gave away about $4.2 million in prizemoney and stickers combined, despite only featuring the usual $250,000 in prizemoney.
Huge update reanimates models, nerfs M4A1-S (September 16th)
Another one of Valve's hugely important updates brought mixed feelings amongst pro players and the community. On the one hand, it fixed a lot of issues the models have had from the start, such as the ladder and jumping hitbox bugs, and people generally agreed the hitboxes were much more accurate than before.
On the other hand, the M4A1-S received a nerf that to many, seemed a bit too harsh because it affected all three factors of its effectiveness: rate of fire, spread, and armor penetration.
As usual, the backlash went a little overboard, as after a few weeks some pros reverted back to the silenced version, although the ratio still seems to favor the M4A4 quite significantly as of now, at least among pro players.
EnVyUs take their second major victory (November 1st)
It has to be said that it seemingly meant so much more to the new duo, especially kennyS, who had a poor showing in the final of ESL One Cologne, and more than made up for it in the final against Natus Vincere in Romania.
To touch on the event in other areas as well, the level of production and show overall set the bar pretty high. The API Valve coded in cooperation with PGL and DreamHack is still in its early days of course, but DH Open Cluj-Napoca definitely delivered something very unique, and who doesn't like flames?
The event was also the first major to provide noise-cancelling booths, something that we've previously only seen at Gfinity and at select MLG events, which is certainly a step in the right direction.
pronax leaves fnatic (November 12th)
He was a part of fnatic for exactly two years. He stayed in both the good times and in the bad—no, these aren't the wedding vows—, and became a player of the most successful lineup in CS:GO history.
Since then we haven't heard anything official from the Swede, although his former teammates have mentioned he had wanted to create a team filled with young talent.
It's also interesting how things came full circle when Dennis "dennis" Edman rejoined his two LGB teammates after a year and a half and went on to win three consecutive events at the end of the year.
Luminosity make the biggest upset run in CS:GO (November 29th)
Not only that, some could even argue Luminosity's FACEIT Stage 3 Finals run being one of the greatest upset runs of all time in the lengthy history of Counter-Strike, which is well into its second decade.
I don't think anyone could have expected Luminosity to even have a fighting chance against EnVyUs in the group's elimination match, after the Brazilians kicked the event off with a 0-16 blowout against fnatic. Now that was fairly understandable, as LG had just swapped two players, Ricardo "boltz" Prass and Lucas "steel" Lopes for Epitacio "TACO" de Melo and Lincoln "fnx" Lau, and had literally zero practice beforehand.
FalleN led Luminosity to one of the greatest runs in CS history
Not only did the new lineup exceed all expectations by taking EnVyUs by storm, they didn't stop at NiP in the decider and advanced out of their group from second place. Many assumed TSM would finally stop the plow in the semi-finals. Luminosity even lost map one, de_mirage, by a big margin, but they blew the Danes out of the water on de_overpass (arguably TSM's best map) and survived overtime on de_inferno.
All that was already worth writing a book about, something along the lines of Cinderella, but it wasn't over yet, as the Brazilians had a grand final full of Swedes ahead of them. That match was much more competitive than their first encounter. Luminosity even kicked it off by winning de_train, but that was all she wrote and we didn't get the "happy" ending. It was an insane and unique feat nonetheless.
allu departs from NiP after a rough year (December 7th)
NiP had a very successful start after Aleksi "allu" Jalli replaced Mikail "Maikelele" Bill on NiP, getting all the way to another major grand final at ESL One Katowice, in which the Finn put in a great display by the way.
During the first two months, NiP developed a curse of their own, as they got to the grand final of four out of six events, but failed to push themselves over the top. From there on things only got worse, starting with a FlipSid3 loss (who used Spencer "Hiko" Martin as a stand-in) at ESWC in the quarter-finals.
allu says goodbye after a titleless year
That loss kick-started a streak of three shared fifth places, including one at ESL One Cologne which was the first time NiP didn't get to a major final. Even though NiP's form got somewhat better towards the end of the year, their 2015 run was still unsatisfying at best.
It all resulted in allu leaving the roster in early December after getting zero gold medals throughout his tenure in NiP. Many expected the Swedes to make more changes afterwards, but it now seems the Finn is the only one replaced on the roster.
Valve retract parts of major update (December 16th)
Even though the initial R8 Revolver / rifles update was definitely a failure, the developers have to be commended on their improved decision-making and communication over time. Understanding that a mistake has been made is one thing, acknowledging it and fixing it is another.
Valve did a good job at that, and hopefully this means they will be more careful with game-changing updates in the future. There are ways to deal with the situation so that it happens as little as possible as we go forward, some of which was pondered over in an article called "No more rollbacks, Valve."
What were your most memorable moments of 2015? Let us know which parts of the year you remember the most in the comments below.
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