Top 10 teams of 2018
With 2018 coming to a close, we went through the numbers to find out which team organizations performed the best over the course of the year and produced our top-10 list based on their results.
The top-10 is based purely on the results of team organizations, more specifically on our Global Team Ranking and how many points (without the effects of point decay and lineup changes in place) they gathered per tournament attended on average, so as to remove the advantage of teams who attended more events.
Here is our list of the top 10 teams of 2018:
As mentioned above, for this list we are using the term "teams" for team organizations rather than the cores of lineups, which is why SK and MIBR were considered separately and also why Cloud9's and fnatic's entire year was included despite their cores having changed throughout 2018.
Astralis could not have started the year any worse, as they followed up a rather disappointing finish to 2017, when Nicolai "device" Reedtz was temporarily ruled out of the roster due to health issues, with an early exit at ELEAGUE Major Boston. While the team as a whole wished to work on their issues, primarily returning the AWPing duties to device, Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye saw things differently and made a move to North not long after the first tournament of the year.
Little did the Danes know at the time how rapidly things would turn back in their favor. Emil "Magisk" Reif entered the team at the beginning of February to help the squad make a couple of playoffs appeara nces before they hoisted their first trophy at DreamHack Masters Marseille in April after a very dominant run at the $250,000 tournament. The following Monday, Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander's team made No. 1 in the ranking for the first time in almost an entire year, and, as you now know, they would never give it up for the remainder of 2018.
Astralis went on to win two out of the next four events, ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals and ECS Season 5 Finals, with FaZe stopping them in the final of IEM Sydney, while at ESL One Cologne it was the improving Na`Vi who took them down in the semi-finals and began to endanger the Danish powerhouse's position. Astralis fended off that threat with a title-winning campaign at ELEAGUE Premier and went into the off-season with four big trophies to their name already, back in a comfortable lead as the best team in the world.
The beginnings after the off-season were rusty for device & co., who lost DreamHack Masters Stockholm to a shockingly strong North team, featuring their former teammate Kjaerbye, that had been struggling at a top level for months. Nonetheless, Astralis were quickly back to tournament-winning form just in time for the FACEIT Major, which kickstarted an even more dominant run.
On the back of their triumph in London, Astralis bested five out of their last six events to finish off 2018 with a streak of four wins for a total of 10, as well as with the completion of the first season of Intel Grand Slam, which netted them another million on top of over $2.5 million in prize money won.
With Denis "electronic" Sharipov being their latest addition from November 2017, Na`Vi are the only team on this list who did not change players the whole year, and that certainly paid off for the CIS-based side, who had lacked deep runs and big titles in the previous year. At the start of 2018, Natus Vincere were anything but inconsistent, kicking it off by making the semi-finals at the ELEAGUE Major and getting second places at StarSeries i-League Season 4 and DreamHack Masters Marseille, two tournaments where we ended up crowning Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev the MVP despite him playing on the losing side of both grand finals.
The first titles would soon come as well for Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko's squad, as while s1mple continued to garner MVP after MVP in the summer, Na`Vi gave Astralis a scare in the fight for No. 1 following a hattrick of titles at StarSeries i-League Season 5, CS:GO Asia Championships, and the most well-contested tournament of the trio, ESL One Cologne. Although the battle for the crown ended unsuccessfully after the Danish side outplaced Na`Vi at the last tournament before the break, ELEAGUE Premier, s1mple & co. had firmly established themselves the second-best team by that point.
The start to the new season did not go according to expectations, however, as Natus Vincere lost to the red-hot North at DreamHack Masters Stockholm, but, just like Astralis, they were unfazed by that as they headed into the FACEIT Major. In London, Zeus's side confirmed their status as the No. 2 team in the world after reaching the grand final and losing there to the best team in the world, just as expected.
The last three months of the year saw Na`Vi struggle with consistency, failing to reach the playoffs for the first time in 2018 at ESL One New York shortly after the Major, and placing last at IEM Chicago. Still, the team added another trophy to their cabinet at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen and two more runners-up finishes at EPICENTER and BLAST Pro Series Lisbon, which helped them retain the No. 2 spot with a healthy advantage over FaZe and Liquid overall.
FaZe just about outdid Liquid in third place after a year full of uncertainty. Like many other teams, the European side started it at the ELEAGUE Major, where they were regarded as the main favorites in most people's eyes, but ended up falling to Cloud9 at the last hurdle after a nail-biting grand final series in Boston. A title-less streak followed the upset loss as FaZe lost another tight final at IEM Katowice, this time to a strong-looking fnatic, and finished top four at StarSeries and V4.
After the Hungarian tournament, it was announced that Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer would take a leave of absence to deal with personal issues, and no-one, teammates included, knew when he'd be back. Finn "karrigan" Andersen & co. ended up using Richard "Xizt" Landström, who had been benched in NiP in February, for the next three tournaments, and that period yielded them their first title of the year, at IEM Sydney, where FaZe beat Astralis in a final much closer than the 3-0 scoreline suggests.
In late May, olofmeister announced his return while Xizt was transferred to fnatic, but the former Swede ended up extending the break, having realized that he was not yet ready to come back. That put FaZe into a situation where they had no fifth once again, and this time it was Jorgen "cromen" Robertsen to whom the squad turned for another trio of tournaments. Yet again, they beat the odds and grabbed another trophy at ESL One Belo Horizonte, while placing third-fourth at the other two events, ECS Season 5 Finals and ESL One Cologne.
It was then that the prodigal son returned, for certain that time around, ahead of ELEAGUE Premier. In spite of the 26-year-old looking in great shape after the four-month long hiatus, FaZe suffered their first group stage exit in Atlanta and went into the off-season dejected. When the second part of 2018 began, Nikola "NiKo" Kovač's side made the playoffs at DreamHack Masters Stockholm and the FACEIT Major, but looked far from a title contender and there appeared to be turmoil within the squad as the Bosnian took over in-game leadership halfway through the British event.
Only days later, FaZe played their worst tournament of the year at ESL One New York, losing to G2 and NRG to go home in last place. From the outside, it seemed like lineup changes were on the horizon and that the team's former in-game leader was the one on the chopping block, but a surprisingly convincing run to the title at EPICENTER saw karrigan extend his stay. But not for long, because, after the last three tournaments, at which FaZe's best result was a semi-final finish at IEM Chicago, the Dane would be removed from the active roster.
Liquid stepped into 2018 in frustration, as they had to play the ELEAGUE Major without their full roster, with Wilton "zews" Prado standing in due to their most recent addition, Lucas "steel" Lopes, not being allowed to play after his stint with Immortals. The North American side made it past the New Challengers Stage, though just barely and thanks to 100Thieves dropping out of the tournament, and were quickly eliminated in the next.
Afterward, Josh "jdm64" Marzano's time with the squad came to an end, and Liquid welcomed Renegades' Keith "NAF" Markovic, who immediately made his impact known with an MVP medal from the organization's first LAN victory at cs_summit 2 in February. Despite the lineup's immediate success with the added firepower from the Canadian and deep finishes at StarSeries and IEM Katowice, after which Liquid skyrocketed to fourth place in the ranking, steel departed the roster and Epitacio "TACO" de Melo came in after leaving SK.
It did not take long for the new roster to click into place and start rising back up the ranks on the back of two Big Event grand final appearances at both of the main online leagues' finals, and soon came a third at ELEAGUE Premier in July despite a setback in Cologne earlier that month. Although big titles continued to elude Liquid in spite of several deep runs, as they kept running into Astralis every time they came close to a trophy, the North Americans hopped over FaZe during the off-season and went on to stay in the top-three for the remainder of the year.
Having skipped DreamHack Masters Stockholm to focus on the Major, Liquid looked to break the one-sided rivalry with the Danes and managed to take them down in the groups in London, but they could not do so in a series, falling to them in the semi-finals of one of the two biggest tournaments of 2018. A similar story would repeat itself a few more times before the end of the year, as Liquid continued to go far at almost every tournament they went to — with just one crumble at ECS Season 6 Finals — only to fall to mousesports in one grand final of ESL One New York and to the Danish heavyweights in two other events, while claiming another small title at SuperNova CS:GO Malta.
mousesports round off the top five after what was easily the best year in CS:GO for the German organization, kickstarted by claiming Legends status for the first time at the ELEAGUE Major in January. With the respectable top-eight finish in the bag, Chris "chrisJ" de Jong's team proceeded to clinch the first trophies at StarSeries Season 4 and V4 Future Sports Festival, which put the team at No. 2, their peak placement in the ranking, where they stayed for the next three weeks.
Although they kept making the playoffs each time, the European mixture did not manage to add any more titles to their name in the next months, while everyone listed here above them did. Their best attempt came at ESL One Belo Horizonte, where Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert stood in for Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný, but there it was FaZe who stopped them in the best-of-five grand final.
Unsatisfied with just making the playoffs, mousesports turned to lineup changes and cut Martin "STYKO" Styk to make room for Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski, with hopes of adding some more firepower to the dynamic mix ahead of ESL One Cologne. But things did not work out as intended, as the team suffered their first group stage exit at the German event, and, despite looking improved at ELEAGUE Premier and DreamHack Masters Stockholm, placed dead last at the FACEIT Major, which set the squad back into the Minor system for the next cycle.
Much like what happened with FaZe towards the end of the year, mouz temporarily avoided lineup changes when they triumphed at ESL One New York, which shared dates with BLAST Pro Series Istanbul and thus was missing some of the very best teams, over Liquid. However, with their next foray going awry at StarSeries i-League Season 6, where mousesports were by far the biggest name but left the competition in the Swiss stage, the team hit the reset button and brought back STYKO. With the Slovakian again on the roster, they made the playoffs at two of their last three events, but a lack of form from some of the team's stars kept them from contending for any more trophies.
It might come as a surprise to see fnatic place this high given their ranking progression over the course of the year, but, as you can see in the graphic above, that was very much a result of a lot of lineup changes, including a core change compared to the start of the year, when the Swedish team featured Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson, Jesper "JW" Wecksell, Robin "flusha" Rönnquist, Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson, and Maikil "Golden" Selim.
That version of the team lasted the longest, for five months and a total of six tournaments, starting with the ELEAGUE Major, where the organization retained their perfect playoff streak at Majors. Though a complete breakdown at StarSeries Season 4 followed, Golden's team turned it around with a huge win at IEM Katowice, where they beat FaZe twice, including a best-of-three and a best-of-five series, and another at the rather less competitive WESG. These two wins are the reason for fnatic being the second-highest earning team of 2018, as they add up to a total of $1,050,000 alone.
At the hands of four of the best teams in the world, fnatic then placed third-fourth at DreamHack Masters Marseille and fifth-sixth at IEM Sydney before the first changes came, as Xizt replaced Lekr0 and became the new in-game leader. That version would only last a single tournament, with William "draken" Sundin soon being added in lieu of the extra IGL, Golden. The next four tournaments saw fnatic perhaps at their lowest point, as they only made playoffs at ESL One Cologne before going out in groups three times in a row, including the FACEIT Major, where the organization lost the aforementioned streak. Internal turmoil resulted in flusha leaving, and the Swedes went to ESL One New York with Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom, to finish last in the Big Apple.
Not long after that, the squad raided Red Reserve to bring back Simon "twist" Eliasson and add 16-year-old Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin, saying goodbye to the inconsistent draken and, as it turned out, to the streak of early eliminations as well. Their first tournaments, and the last two of 2018, saw fnatic surprise with a deep run at IEM Chicago, where they beat Liquid on the way to the semi-finals, and take their third title of the year at the smaller-sized PLG Grand Slam.
MIBR's journey begins in July at ESL One Cologne, the Brazilians' first event under the new banner. At the time, the team still featured Ricardo "boltz" Prass, but it was right after the German tournament, where MIBR went out in the top eight, when Tarik "tarik" Celik was reunited with his former Cloud9 teammate Jake "Stewie2K" Yip under the Immortals-owned tag.
After a short adjustment period, the new roster won their one and only event at ZOTAC Cup Masters at the end of August and went on to make the playoffs at DreamHack Masters Stockholm and a top-four at the FACEIT Major, where they fell to both finalists, Astralis and Natus Vincere, and TYLOO. Results continued to improve at BLAST Pro Series Istanbul, with MIBR making it to the grand final and taking Astralis to a close series there.
However, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo & co. couldn't keep the consistency up and fell on their face at the next BLAST event in Copenhagen, placing last with zero wins in five matches, before also getting eliminated in the groups at the next big tournament, IEM Chicago. Even though MIBR then added a couple of more respectable runs to their resumé, including a runner-up finish at ECS Season 6 Finals, where the Brazilian-American side beat Astralis in the groups and almost repeated that performance in the final, it wasn't enough to keep the lineup alive. After the last tournament of the year, BLAST Pro Series Lisbon, Stewie2K left to Liquid in a trade for TACO and zews, with tarik also looking set to depart as the rest of the team plans to return to their roots.
Cloud9 kicked off 2018 with a bang, giving North America its first-ever Major win at the ELEAGUE Major following a comeback from a 0-2 start to the New Legends Stage and a big upset in the grand final against FaZe, where they pulled off another turnaround from a deficit on the deciding map, Inferno.
The massive triumph set just as big standards for the North American team, who weren't able to live up to them, taking second place at cs_summit 2 before going out in the groups at StarSeries i-League S4. At IEM Katowice, they were back in the playoffs with another close battle to FaZe this time going against them. But it was soon clear that Cloud9 would not get back to their level of January as they went out to TeamOne at WESG World Finals.
With hopes of reaching bigger heights elsewhere, Stewie2K left for SK and that set off a landslide of changes that would plague Cloud9 until the end of 2018. They attempted to make things work with Pujan "FNS" Mehta as the new leader, but after getting eliminated early at three out of four big events, he was benched and STYKO arrived on a trial basis. After another group stage exit, this time at ESL One Cologne, tarik joined Stewie2K in MIBR, with another European, Golden, making his way on to the American organization ahead of the off-season.
The STYKO trial turned to ash after two more early eliminations at ELEAGUE Premier and the FACEIT Major, and flusha was given the chance to rejoin his former in-game leader, Golden, across the pond. Cloud9 could not catch a break, as Skadoodle stepped down — for the second time in 2018, after doing so for two weeks in March before returning to the team following Stewie2K's departure — and the squad used Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey as a stand-in at BLAST Copenhagen.
At the same tournament, Soham "valens" Chowdhury had to stand-in for Golden, who was dealing with sudden health issues on the first day before competing again on the second. That turned out to be a long-term problem, as the in-game leader sat out the rest of the year while Cloud9 signed the Frenchman permanently and used the coach and ex-Fragsters member Ismail "refrezh" Ali at the last two events, ECS Season 6 Finals and BLAST Pro Series Lisbon, finishing last at the former tournament and third at the latter.
NiP belong to one of the teams who changed lineups shortly after the Major, even though the Swedes did not attend it and only went to cs_summit 2 in February, where a dead-last placing resulted in one of the core members, Xizt, getting cut. In his stead, Dennis "dennis" Edman arrived and took over in-game leadership, with the team making playoffs at three out of the next four Big Events.
At that point, Lekr0 became available after he was removed from fnatic, and NiP used that chance to make another switch at the expense of draken, who was put on the transfer list. The beginnings with the 25-year-old were slow, as NiP went out to Na`Vi and TYLOO at CS:GO Asia Championships in fifth-sixth place, and to Cloud9 and ENCE in last place at ESL One Cologne.
However, they then switched leadership from dennis to Lekr0 and made it back to the LAN portion of the Major cycle, winning the Europe Minor before going on a break in August. At the end of the month, the Swedes made their first top four at a Big Event at DreamHack Masters Stockholm before going to the Major itself. There, they advanced to the New Legends Stage with a 3-0 record, beating Astralis on the way, before eventually falling in the fifth round of that stage to MIBR.
BLAST Pro Series Istanbul followed, and NiP only missed out on a place in the grand final following a tie with MIBR, but they soon made up for it with a final appearance at the next BLAST tournament in Copenhagen. To cap off 2018, Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund & co. made another top four at ECS Season 6, but also bombed out of BLAST Pro Series Lisbon after losing to everyone but FaZe, ending the year on a low note despite many favoring the Swedish side to make another grand final appearance in the Portuguese capital.
SK round off our top-10 list after narrowly making it over North and NRG, with an up-and-down first half of 2018. The Brazilian side used João "felps" Vasconcellos at the ELEAGUE Major after bringing in boltz late last year, who, like his former Immortals teammate steel, was not allowed to play for another team at the first tournament of the year.
They still made top four, just as they had last time this situation occurred, when they had to field Ricardo "fox" Pacheco at the same event in 2017. But SK could not compete for titles anymore with their main lineup from that point on, placing third at cs_summit and top-eight at StarSeries S4 and Katowice, before eventually hitting rock bottom at WESG World Finals, which caused TACO to leave.
Instead of going with a Brazilian replacement, SK took a gamble on creating an international lineup with Stewie2K, and that made the team struggle with communication and go out early two more times, at DreamHack Masters Marseille and IEM Sydney. Eventually, they started making playoffs appearances again at their last Big Events under the German organization, while also winning a couple of small ones, Adrenaline Cyber League and Moche XL Esports, before making the switch over to the aforementioned MIBR.