The new rosters debuting in Malmö
As eight squads will debut their new rosters at DreamHack Masters Malmö, we decided to take a look at what has changed and how the teams will shape up at the tournament in Sweden.
Among the teams ready to play their first LAN event since making roster moves are some of Counter-Strike's biggest brands: fnatic, who brought back Robin "flusha" Rönnquist, NIP and Natus Vincere, who had vacant slots following the departures of Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko.
The French did not skip their chance to change things up either, with Richard "shox" Papillon crossing over to Vitality and G2 going international. Moves were made outside of Europe as well as FURIA picked up Henrique "HEN1" Teles while Grayhound recruited Joshua "INS" Potter and Envy brought in Ryan "ryann" Welsh.
All of the following teams will debut new rosters in Malmö:
Find details and our thoughts on the teams below.
While Natus Vincere made only one player change going into DreamHack Masters Malmö, the effect it will have on the CIS squad is immense. Bringing back GuardiaN in place of Zeus means that the Slovak will take over the main AWPing duties from Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, who will instead take the out-of-game leadership responsibilities as "captain". Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov will assume the in-game leader position, and, in addition to that, B1ad3 will make his return to the coaching role for the first time since departing Gambit, set to help out the young caller.
As a result of all of the changes, it is expected that some of the roles and positions Egor "flamie" Vasilyev and Denis "electronic" Sharipov used to play end up being shifted as well. More importantly, Natus Vincere's whole style might be overhauled, because replacing Zeus with GuardiaN also gives them a big firepower upgrade, allowing the team to play a simpler and more direct style of Counter-Strike.
It must be noted that GuardiaN has not had an amazing year so far, averaging just a 1.05 LAN rating. But judging by s1mple's recent interview, GuardiaN wasn't brought in to have the game built around him, but to get the easy kills and add experience. If he is able to do that while electronic and s1mple continue putting in star-level performances, Natus Vincere could be dangerous from the get-go, even though it will take some time before we can really assess this Boombl4-led Natus Vincere lineup.
All it took was one bad tournament for Vitality to press the button, but, in reality, not all had been well within the team, not even when they had been challenging for titles. After a disappointing campaign at the StarLadder Major, where Vitality blew hot and cold before crashing out in the quarter-finals, coach Rémy "XTQZZZ" Quoniam decided to remove NBK- from the line-up in an effort to stabilise a group that seemed to be quickly falling apart.
shox joined Vitality after three turbulent years with G2 in which he found success hard to come by. He has no interest in taking over as in-game leader on his new team and will only assist with mid-round calling, leaving fans delighted at the prospect of watching the 27-year-old slice through opponents once again - though his 1.05 Big Event rating this year should be a cause for concern.
Having signed shox for a hefty fee instead of Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey for nothing, Vitality are fully confident that the ex-G2 star is the right man for the job. It has been some time since we have seen a hyper-carry shox, but he will still represent an upgrade over NBK- in terms of firepower, joining a supporting cast that will need to step up to help Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut blossom after the young prodigy struggled at times during the Major to have an impact.
Expectations are surely going to go through the roof with the arrival of a high-profile player such as shox, but XTQZZZ alluded to deep-rooted issues that may not be easily fixed by merely replacing one player. If this project does not succeed, then Vitality will follow in G2's footsteps and look outside the French borders for talent.
A move that had been rumored to happen since the last days of the StarLadder Major has finally been completed as huNter- and nexa have joined G2 in place of shox and Lucky. Aside from this specific roster, the move is important because it marks G2's move away from their dependence on French talent.
Talking about the short-term and DreamHack Masters Malmö specifically, people shouldn't put big expectations on this team as their practice heading into their first official games will be severely limited. Playing a puggy-style of CS is what they will have to resort to and that is not strange to huNter- and the team's new IGL nexa; however, having three players switch from French to English will surely cause communication issues and hamper their effectiveness.
Firepower-wise, the two Serbians should be an upgrade over the Frenchmen departing the team, which will provide an interesting base G2 can build on if they manage to have effective communication and build up team chemistry. The latter can be an issue in squads which are split between two nationalities - with the Danish-American OpTic being a good example of what happens when things go wrong.
Neither of the incoming players are direct replacements for shox and Lucky, but there are enough similarities in their roles and positions that plugging the holes with the newcomers shouldn't be the biggest problem. However, even with everything going perfectly, G2 can't be expected to touch any of the established names and will instead be hoping to play as much as they can and gain valuable experience in Malmö.
Following up a bad run of results at tournaments such as ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Masters Dallas by failing at the Minor triggered the alarm at fnatic, who were set on overhauling their roster going into the last months of the year. Xizt and twist were placed on the bench, which many considered good moves, but the return of two former members, Golden and flusha, wasn't received as well.
This probably wasn't the lineup fnatic was hoping for either. Before any players were signed, the team's new coach, Samuelsson, said in an AMA that they want "at least one young player", and that they would "not take in two old players" because they were thinking long-term. The 26-year-old flusha and the 25-year-old Golden — who is on loan from Cloud9 until the end of the year —, are surely no youngsters, with Tim "nawwk" Jonasson, GamerLegion's AWPer, most likely the player fnatic was thinking about, but couldn't secure in the end. Instead, fnatic have decided to almost completely rebuild their early-2018 lineup, a move that has historically never brought much success.
Upon his return, "Senor VAC" stated that he believes that everyone has "matured and become more professional" since his and Golden's departures last year. Even if the team gels well this time around, there are still many reasons for skepticism.
Jesper "JW" Wecksell, who was playing his best CS of late as an aggressive rifler, will most likely go back to AWPing, which can both affect his form negatively and leave a hole which will be hard to fill with anyone on fnatic's current roster. Golden being confirmed as fnatic's in-game leader going gives some optimism for fans thinking back to the WESG and IEM Katowice victories, but the critics don't have to look further than the caller's terrible track record at Cloud9 to find reasons for concerns. fnatic still have some of the most decorated players in the history of the game among their ranks, but finding the right balance and roles for everyone seems like a tough task.
Grayhound's roster change wasn't a result of the team looking to add something new, but visa issues that stopped erkaSt from staying in Australia and playing CS any longer. After their last ride with the Mongolian at the StarLadder Major, Grayhound turned to the 21-year-old rifler INS, who has been a standout performer for multiple Australian teams in the past.
INS first came into the spotlight at IEM Sydney 2017, when he was outstanding in Chiefs' wins over Renegades (2.03 rating) and North (1.55 rating). That showing put him on Renegades' shortlist, but the move never came to fruition. Instead, INS went on to represent Oceania-based Tainted Minds and ORDER, and only managed to attend one more Big event, ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals in December of 2018.
The youngster has been touted as the best Oceanic player outside of Renegades and Grayhound for some time and he has been living up to that tag since his switch, averaging a 1.29 rating in his new team's ESEA MDL and DreamHack Masters Malmö qualifying matches. Those numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, however, as the teams Grayhound will be facing in Sweden are going to be much tougher than their domestic opposition.
Grayhound have had limited time to adapt to potential role changes as the change was done less than a month ago, with another hinderance being losing their coach NeiL_M after the Major. However, the Aussies will be hoping their short European bootcamp will be enough to get accustomed to INS and see them pick up a scalp or two in the very stacked tournament.
After nearly a year with an untouched roster, FURIA ringed the changes and replaced ableJ, their most recent recruit and by far their least impactful player, with former Immortals and Luminosity member HEN1, who had been out of action since the end of August.
Replacing a rifler with a dedicated AWP player will create an interesting domino effect on FURIA as the change will impact the dynamic of the entire team and the space occupied by in-game leader Andrei "arT" Piovezan, who had been the primary sniper since Guilherme "spacca" Spacca’s departure. The Brazilian in-game leader has admitted that his team are still in a testing phase and that they will treat DreamHack Masters Malmö as an opportunity to experiment with a few new things, which could be interpreted as a sign that he is at least entertaining the possibility of playing a more standard style of CS after his side had apparently been figured out.
It will be very interesting to see what sort of impact HEN1 will have on FURIA as a unit. His energy will certainly lift a team who have seen better days, but it may take some time before we see him in peak form. DreamHack Masters Malmö will be only his second Big Event in the last two years and he has had little more than a week to acclimate to his new surroundings.
DreamHack Masters Malmö will mark the beginning of a new chapter for NIP as they adapt to life without GeT_RiGhT, who had been a team member since the organisation’s return in 2012. The Swedish veteran and two-time player of the year had been living on borrowed time since June, when the Ninjas announced that they were looking for a long-term replacement, resulting in an almost unbearable situation for everyone involved that proved costly as the team crashed out of the StarLadder Major’s New Legends Stage with a 0-3 record and will have to re-enter the Major cycle through the Minors.
In comes twist, a player who had long been on NIP’s wish-list. After previously rejecting the Ninjas on numerous occasions, he finally accepted an offer, but it is impossible not to feel that the move came a few years too late. The 24-year-old has been far away from his prime and has averaged a 1.03 rating on LAN this year, producing only the occasional burst of brilliance without ever being as consistent as his team needed him to be.
twist’s arrival will free Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg and Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson of AWPing duties and will hopefully let the 31-year-old shine again. The event in Malmö may come a little bit soon for the team, but at least the Ninjas have a direction now after spending the last three months adrift at sea.
Envy went through a long process of selecting their new fifth after parting ways with Sonic, a move that had been reported on over a month ago. After trialing multiple players, Envy decided to pick up ryann, formerly of Singularity, to replace the South African talent.
During his trial period, ryann helped Envy qualify for DreamHack Masters Malmö, averaging a 1.03 rating over 10 maps played, making the event in Sweden only his LAN debut for the North American side. Going into the $250,000+ tournament, Noah "Nifty" Francis and co. had a bootcamp at their headquarters in Dallas, but coming in ranked as #40, only have an outside chance to do damage in Malmö.