Team of the Year 2015
With 2015 drawing to a close, HLTV.org has been compiling and creating an end-of-year top organisations and lineups article powered by EGB.com.
2015 was an undeniable breakout year for CS:GO, with increased viewing numbers, increased prize-pools, the return of numerous legendary players and the debut of relative neophytes, and an overall improvement to the infrastructure of competitive Counter-Strike.
It was a year of never-ending lineup changes, intermittent dramatic meltdowns, and various tweaks to the meta of CS:GO, including novelties such as a much improved coaching role.
fnatic are 2015's top organisation and top lineup
There was also a degree of remarkable consistency to the trajectory of team placings at events this year with a core elite of five-to-six teams generally finishing in the top four of the largest tournaments.
Therefore, underdog runs such as Cloud9's second place finishes in the middle of the summer or Luminosity's streak at the FACEIT Stage3 Finals at DreamHack Winter stand out all the more.
It is perhaps indicative of such consistency that creating a top teams list for 2015 was imperative. The work was carried out as always by our rankings scientist Julien "topeiko" Hottias. However, there are certain issues that have determined the format which we have decided to use for our ranking.
Our original idea was to create a nameplate top 20 list based off of three-man cores, however dramatic lineup changes undertaken by Luminosity and Titan this year meant that a more stable option was to rate organisations via the same metrics.
We therefore begin with a list of the top organisations in 2015 based off of achievements and placings at the numerous tournaments that transpired this year. Flags before the organisation's name do not reflect where the organisation is based but are rather representative of each organisation's most successful lineup.
Top Organisations of 2015 Powered By EGB.com
However, without an actual and accompanying list of the top CS:GO lineups in 2015, the above list would be quickly derided as inane and fall prey to the same issues which plagued other organisation's attempts to rank CS:GO teams earlier this year.
We will thus delve into the actual top 20 lineups of 2015, with appropriate write-ups for those that merit attention.
Top 20 Lineups of 2015 Powered By EGB.com
1. JW, olofmeister, KRIMZ, flusha, pronax (fnatic) 795
Despite a rough start at MLG X Games Aspen at the beginning of the year, this lineup went on to place first at ClutchCon, Inferno Online Pantamera, ESL One Katowice, DreamHack Open Tours, Gfinity Spring Masters II, ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 finals, and ESL One Cologne.
Hidden in the impressive panoply of first place finishes are two major wins, which were back-to-back victories for fnatic, a feat no other CS:GO outfit has accomplished to date (EnVyUs are potential challengers if they win MLG Columbus in 2016).
The undeniable kings of Counter-Strike (in 2015)
Although a drop-off in form was undeniable for this team as the year went on, leading to pronax's ousting after a paltry performance at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, it was this Swedish lineup which showed the world how dominance in CS:GO could be achieved.
Mixing raw firepower combined with braggadocio in the form of Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer in addition to gimmicky and swift play via Jesper "JW" Wecksell and the stability provided by Robin "flusha" Rönnquist and Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson, this fnatic outfit unveiled a new zenith for competitive Counter-Strike in 2015.
2. karrigan, cajunb, Xyp9x, dupreeh, device (?/TSM/dignitas) 712
It's worthwhile to note that this lineup has maintained its five for the entire span of 2015, and aside from some late-year organisational issues, these five Danes have continued grinding out high level placings at events time and time again.
It should also be mentioned that this lineup competed at MLG X Games Aspen under the dignitas organisation's banner and as ? at the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals at the end of the year.
Finn "karrigan" Andersen and his wily band first broke the curse of being unable to advance from semifinals back in April with a stunning best-of-three win over their fnatic rivals to win the CCS Kick-off Season finals.
This period was something of a halcyon spring for the Danes as they went on to win FACEIT Stage 1 finals in London and Fragbite Masters Season 4 before cooling off somewhat during the summer.
"Ave, karrigan, morituri te salutant"
The ascendance of TSM did not halt then however, as the team were still able to snatch first place finishes at FACEIT Stage 2 finals in Valencia and PGL Season 1 finals before the year was up. The team also have a string of multiple second place finishes this year (such as at ESL ESEA Dubai and IEM San Jose), all of which suggests a strong portfolio for 2015.
Much like the next team in this list, it is a feat in and of itself that ex-TSM (or "?" as the team is now called) have racked up so many points by virtue of the same lineup.
3. TaZ, NEO, pashaBiceps, byali, Snax (Virtus.pro) 680
A team of Poles who frustratingly belie all attempts at categorisation and consistency: that is who Virtus.pro are.
So despite first place finishes this year at the ESEA Season 18 Global Finals, CEVO-P Season 7, ESL ESEA Dubai, and CEVO-P Season 8, it takes a deeper look at other tournaments and at the longevity of this lineup to understand how it is this year's third most successful.
When all things are considered, blowouts such as VP's 0-16 loss to Kinguin at the FACEIT Stage 2 finals in Valencia which sent the team out in the group stages (or Virtus' first stage loss to Liquid at IEM San Jose) are relative outliers and Virtus.pro have otherwise kept up a solid pattern of top four finishes that continue to deliver points for the team.
NEO and company kept it cool and inconsistently consistent this year
While a major win is ever elusive since EMS Katowice 2014, Virtus.pro made semifinals at two majors this year in Katowice and Cologne and only began to disappoint from Cluj-Napoca onward, losing the quarter-finals to G2 there.
A recovery win at CEVO Season 8 and a semifinals run at the FACEIT Stage 3 Finals before losing a close series to fnatic definitely helped the Poles regain some grace and close off the year with a commanding third place position.
4. Edward, Zeus, GuardiaN, seized, flamie (Na`Vi) 524
The great Egor "flamie" Vasilyev acquisition of 2015 has reaped numerous dividends for the previously embattled CIS-region squad that is Natus Vincere, and a steady flow of first and second placings grows this lineup's impressive portfolio.
Na`Vi's win at the ESL Pro League Winter 2014/15 Finals shortly afterwards cemented flamie's place in the team as a fragcentric player, and the lineup has managed to tie together a few more notable wins this year after that moment: StarSeries Finals XIII, ESWC 2015, and a first place win at IEM San Jose in addition to two big-name runs at DreamHack Cluj-Napoca and EEPL Season 2 Finals, finishing second at both.
A rare picture of Na`Vi not wanting to kill each other
Said lineup has not been without its turbulent moments, with Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko's notorious surly nature notwithstanding; rumours flew of a roster change after a disastrous run at ESL ESEA Dubai, for example.
Regardless, with Sergey "starix" Ischuk calling the shots from the back and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács delivering the mythological performances as necessitated of him up front and center, Na`Vi continued to electrify and defy in 2015.
5. f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt, friberg, allu (NiP) 449
NiP manage to enter the top five lineups in 2015 precisely due to the fact that EnVyUs' roster shuffle so neatly splits the core team's achievements down the middle.
However, we should not discount this particular Ninjas in Pyjamas roster's achievements ever since Finn Aleksi "allu" Jalli signed for the team in late February. That allu has also recently left the team is all the more reason to look back on NiP's 2015 and examine where the team succeeded and where they did not.
"No gold medals for NiP" is the name of the game in 2015 (at least since allu joined since NiP did win ASUS ROG Winter in January with Mikail "Maikelele" Bill) and yet the Swedish-Finnish brand name displayed strings of solid finishes throughout the year that have allowed them to farm points in an effective manner.
NiP with allu was as enigmatic as social conventions in Finnish culture
The great Finnish lineup change of February swept in second place finishes at ESL One Katowice, Gfinity Spring Masters I, StarSeries XII, and FACEIT Stage 1 Finals. It was only after this period, beginning with a 5-10th place finish at Gfinity Spring Masters II, that this iteration of the team began to truly slump.
All roads led to Montreal where NiP were embarrassed by a FlipSid3 team using Spencer "Hiko" Martin as a stand-in in the quarter-finals. Your correspondent personally witnessed the NiP players at the event appearing rather despondent after the match and for the rest of the weekend, and it's no surprise that roster change rumours began then.
The team finished 5-8th at ESL One Cologne and as a result removed coach Joona "natu" Leppänen in the days afterward. Whether it was the lack of a coach's structure, or the knowledge of imminent roster implosion, or perhaps the ongoing (and then as yet unknown) troubles the player's had with the organisation's management, NiP strangely began to play better and in a devil-may-care manner towards the end of the year.
In Dubai, a YOLO-style NiP nearly made the finals after taking TSM to the wire in the semifinals (and taking down EnVyUs 2-0 in the decider). Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund & co. took fnatic to the wire in the Gfinity Champion of Champions event as well, and the icing on the cake was a semifinals finish at the Cluj major that included stumping event favourites TSM.
All in all, the NiP of most of 2015 was a shadow of its former glory, despite the unlikelihood of such runs happening again with a much more level playing field.
6. Happy, kioShiMa, NBK-, kennyS, apEX (EnVyUs) 398
Both nV lineups neatly split the points up that this organisation has accrued in 2015 (with only five points diffrence), as both team cores were winners of multiple events this year. If both lineups' points were tallied, then EnVyUs would be in second place as a lineup behind fnatic by only four points.
It is the EnVyUs of the latter half of 2015 however, with Kenny "kennyS" Schrub on the keyboard as lead AWPer and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire as bass guitarist in the form of entryfragging, that slightly edges out the earlier nV lineup that so spectacularly imploded after ESWC 2015.
apEX entryfragging both in-game and in-line
Despite a few noteworthy blowouts, such as at ESL ESEA Dubai or at FACEIT Stage 3 Finals, this talent-packed team kicked off its formation with a win at IEM Gamescom, then went the full mile at ESL One Cologne and made the final (where the team then disintegrated), and then a further set of wins at DreamHack Open London, Gfinity Champion of Champions, and a final major win at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca capped the autumn off.
Although the team has had a fall-off of late, such as losing to Na`Vi in the semifinals of EEPL Season 2, Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer's current team is poised for even greater success in 2016.
7. Happy, kioShiMa, NBK-, shox, SmithZz (EnVyUs/LDLC) 393
The EnVyUs lineup which won DreamHack Winter 2014 and featured Richard "shox" Papillon and Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux, who are currently on Titan, won numerous events in early 2015 before eventually dropping off and breaking apart at ESWC under ugly circumstances.
The team won MLG X Games Aspen as LDLC and then clinched titles at Gfinity Spring Masters I, StarSeries XII, and Gfinity Summer Masters I; and yet, larger wins eluded this outfit such as at ESL One Katowice or the CCS Kick-Off finals.
Je suis sadboy
It would be safe to say that this nV roster, despite the hype of its major win in 2014 and a few tournament wins in the spring and early summer, fizzled out under the pressure of internal disagreements and a lack of dynamic flexibility against more disciplined rivals in fnatic and TSM.
8. n0thing, seang@res, freakazoid, Skadoodle, shroud (Cloud9) 271
The Cloud9 who were shocked by Nihilum at the ESEA S18 Global Finals and took part in an earthshaking North American shuffle in the late spring emerged with a revamped roster that featured AWPer Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham and entryfragger Ryan "freakazoid" Abadir.
After an early roster hiccup at Gfinity Summer Masters I, the team settled into place and led by the crisp anti-strat calls of Sean "seang@res" Gares, Cloud9 gave hope to North American fans in the summer by making the finals of three consecutive events: at ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1, ESWC 2015, and FACEIT Stage 2 Finals at DreamHack Valencia.
Cloud9 had a blockbuster run in the summer
However, starting with CEVO Season 7, and exacerbating in scope and intensity as the months wore on, Cloud9 began a slump that nearly took away all the accolades the team had gathered during their summer run.
It was only in a domestic setting, and already while toying with the idea of a roster change and using stand-ins such as Braxton "swag" Pierce, that Cloud9 won two more events to close out the year: iBUYPOWER Cup and RGN Pro Series. This lineup will no longer be gathering points as leader seang@res has stepped down and the team is searching for a new fifth.
9. JW, olofmeister, KRIMZ, flusha, dennis (fnatic) 205
Dennis "dennis" Edman, formerly of G2 and then formerly of retirement and even more formerly of LGB, may be a recent addition to 2015's strongest organisation but he has already reaped a bountiful harvest for the team following pronax's departure.
Three events attended—FACEIT Stage 3 Finals at DreamHack Winter, Fragbite Masters Season 5, and the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals—and three events won with two of those events offering $100,000 payouts for a first place finish.
dennis has earned a meal at Denny's from his teammates
With flusha in the driver's seat, and four superbly rounded players able to play a confident Swedish game of Counter-Strike, this new fnatic lineup will likely not only overtake many others in the next year, but also continue to ensure that fnatic reigns supreme in 2016.
10. kennyS, apEX, RpK, Ex6TenZ, Maniac (Titan) 201
The tenth best lineup of 2015 was carried by kennyS for all intents and purposes.
The French-Belgian-Swiss team had a few notable moments when they made the finals of an event, such as at ASUS ROG Winter, Inferno Online Pantamera, and ESL Pro League Winter 2014/2015 Finals. The team even swept aside domestic competition and the Bulgarians of GPlay (now E-frag.net) by winning Gamers Assembly 2015.
Glory days for "that other French team"
However this Titan lineup continued to fall-off as the year dragged on (partially due to kennyS's degraded performance), eventually meshing with two EnVyUs players and emerging arguably in a once again weaker position from this French shuffle.
And the rest:
11. reltuC, jdm64, hazed, tarik, FNS (CLG) 125
CLG are a North American team who shone through with moments of potential and who have also managed to win a few domestic events such as WinOut Championship and Northern Arena.
The team had a huge breakout performance after signing Josh "jdm64" Marzano in the early summer, with a best-of-one upset of fnatic at the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 finals (anti-stratting the Swedes on their homeground of de_mirage) and an overall semifinals finish at the event.
With Tarik "tarik" Celik and jdm64 sometimes showing up in decider matches at majors such as ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Cluj, and Stephen "reltuC" Cutler providing solid leadership, CLG always gave the impression of being able to upset European teams.
12. Hiko, adreN, nitr0, FugLy, EliGE (Liquid) 118
Liquid are another North American team who showed moments of promise, and it is a mark of relative accomplishment that a lineup that only fully formed in September with Hiko joining up made twelfth on this list.
A few strong showings abroad and at home (such as at DreamHack Open Stockholm and IEM San Jose) move this team up the list, however the assumed departure of Jacob "FugLy" Medina has also doomed any chance for this particular lineup to rack up points in 2016.
13. FalleN, fer, coldzera, steel, boltz (Luminosity) 102
Despite the hype of the "#newLuminosity" team, it was this Brazilian version (there have been technically three separate lineups this year) which did the most longterm damage, including making it into the quarter-finals of two majors in 2015, in Cologne and Cluj-Napoca.
The Brazilian dream was real
The Luminosity featuring Lucas "steel" Lopes and Ricardo "boltz" Prass may have always lacked an underlying degree of firepower, but the Brazilian squad managed to display more consistent, emotionally mature, and disciplined play than their North American neighbours from Marcelo "coldzera" David's addition in July to the departure of steel and boltz in late November.
14. denis, Spiidi, gob b, nex, chrisJ (mousesports) 93
Achievements include a strong showing at Gfinity Summer Masters I, beating Virtus.pro twice in two best-of-three games, in the month following mousesports' decision to sign three of PENTA's best.
Other results managed to include a second place finish at Acer Predator Masters (only losing a best-of-seven slugfest to HellRaisers at the end), a defeat of a red-hot Cloud9 at CEVO Season 7 (which may have begun that team's downfall), and a decent showing at IEM Gamescom before losing to FlipSid3 in a closely contested elimination match at ESL One Cologne.
15. Pimp, Kjaerbye, Nico, aizy, MSL (dignitas) 81
This lineup of dignitas which featured Nicolaj "Nico" Jensen (a lineup that lasted until the Dane's removal in September and which then ultimately triggered a whole host of changes for the dignitas organisation) has as its most impressive finishes in 2015 a few bullet points: third place at Copenhagen Games, 5-8th place at ESL Pro League Winter 2014/2015, 3-4th place at DreamHack Open Tours, and finally 3-4th place at Gfinity Spring Masters I.
In reality, this lineup perfectly played the role of a team that fights to stay in the top ten global rankings, with occasional potential to make a semifinal run or pull off a group stage upset.
aizy got to stunt 101 in 2015 dignitas
And perhaps the most important contribution which this dignitas squad effected in the longrun was functioning as a crucible for the talent that is Philip "aizy" Aistrup to showcase himself before that player was ultimately signed by G2.
While never being a contender for first place in Denmark against the likes of ex-TSM, this dignitas roster proved that some degree of stability was possible for a time in that notorious volatile national scene.
And the rest of the rest:
16. f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt, friberg, Maikelele (NiP) 76
17. jkaem, rain, Maikelele, dennis, fox (G2) 75
18. rain, Maikelele, dennis, fox, ScreaM (G2/Kinguin) 74
19. FalleN, fer, coldzera, TACO, fnx (Luminosity) 71
20. jks, AZR, yam, Havoc, SPUNJ (Renegades/Vox Eminor) 71
These were the twenty best lineups of 2015. When the scores of each potential lineup's achievements were tallied, it then became possible to compile a list of the best organisations of 2015.
The new year will likely shake up much of this hierarchy, and while it may be possible to assume that the elite core of teams (here taken to assume fnatic, ?/ex-TSM, Virtus.pro, Na`Vi, and EnVyUs for the time being) will continue to score highly in 2016, it is possible for both a flurry of upsets to occur or for a new heavyweight to step up to the plate.
All things considered, 2016 promises to be another year of explosive growth and action for CS:GO.
stich writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter