Top 10 teams of 2020
In keeping up with the tradition from the last two years, we close out 2020 with our Top 10 teams of the year list.
We have crunched our World Ranking numbers from this unique year full of surprises to determine who the best teams were, based on how many points they earned throughout the last 12 months, both in total and on average per tournament attended, unaffected by the decay over time and lineup changes.
While it may sound like a cliché that is thrown around every year, 2020 was undoubtedly one of the most competitive years in the history of CS:GO. With titles spread across an unusually large number of teams, a single tournament result separated the three main candidates for the No. 1 spot, and many of the placings below were even closer than that, with three teams missing out on a spot in the top 10 by a very narrow margin, for example.
Without further ado, here is our list of the top ten teams of the year:
We begin the countdown with the first of a very close group of four teams: FaZe, who finished this year just shy of a repeat ninth placing from 2019. After giving up the title of the best international team last year to mousesports, this year they finished ahead of the Finn "karrigan" Andersen-led squad, as well as OG and Evil Geniuses, by a hair's breadth.
The multinational squad had a few different looks in 2020. In the first five months, the core trio of Håvard "rain" Nygaard, Marcelo "coldzera" David, and Helvijs "broky" Saukants were still playing with Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer and Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and posed a threat to the top teams, even though they were never quite able to take the final step and grab some titles. FaZe looked dominant in their group at the BLAST Premier Spring Series and went on to finish just outside of the playoffs at IEM Katowice, losing only to the tournament's champions, Natus Vincere, before the start of the online era saw them grab a couple of deep finishes in ESL Pro League and Road to Rio.
That's when olofmeister stepped down and FaZe submerged into chaos similar to when the Swede had taken a break in 2018. First, the team tried out Aurimas "Bymas" Pipiras after the FPL route with the broky signing had paid off for them in 2019, and they started out well with two consecutive third places in DreamHack Masters Spring and BLAST Premier Spring. But despite the promising results, the Lithuanian did not seem to fit in in the Swede's roles, so FaZe looked elsewhere.
They found their permanent replacement in Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye during the summer break, but the much more experienced Dane seemed a far cry from an ideal solution as he struggled for form and FaZe went out in the group stage in two consecutive tournaments. Only in IEM New York was the team able to find its groove after changing up some roles as they secured their only title of the year, which seemed to bode well for them as the newest addition was in great shape, but by then NiKo already had one foot out of the door as he was about to join G2.
When that move was finalized a month later, FaZe turned to olofmeister, who returned for the last four tournaments of the year, with little success. Apart from a playoff finish in IEM Beijing-Haidan, the European side had three more group stage exits, which ultimately cost them the chance to get a few places closer to the top five.
2019's fifth-best team, fnatic, clinches ninth place in 2020 as they came out on top of an extremely close race with FaZe following a similarly up-and-down year. As one of very few teams who did not change players at any point during the year, fnatic lacked the peaks to finish higher, but a great start to the year and a couple of playoff runs throughout ensured them a place among the best.
The first four months were undoubtedly the most successful period for fnatic, who picked up where they left off in 2019 after a runner-up finish at the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals in December, reaching the semi-finals of IEM Katowice as the only team to beat the dominant Natus Vincere at the year's biggest event. After the pandemic struck and the scene transitioned to a purely online environment, Maikil "Golden" Selim's charges still belonged to the elite, and they proved that with a title-winning campaign in ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe, which helped them reach the No. 1 spot in the ranking for a week at the end of April.
But as the online era progressed, fnatic started to drop off and couldn't contend for trophies anymore, while teams like BIG and Vitality began to surpass them. Towards the end of the first part of the season, their best results were a top-eight finish in DreamHack Masters Spring and a sixth place in the second Regional Major Ranking event, cs_summit 6, and they didn't improve after the break, either.
The second part of the season looked especially tough for the Golden-led team as they started off their campaign with a couple of group stage exits in ESL One Cologne and ESL Pro League Season 12. Before the end of 2020, they were able to add two more deep runs in the somewhat least competitive of the four tournaments they attended, IEM New York and Flashpoint 2, while also picking up some more important RMR points in DreamHack Open Fall.
FURIA make their first entry in the top-ten list after debuting in the top 20 last year in 14th place. Despite being region-locked for most of 2020, the Brazilian side outdid FaZe and fnatic by a small margin, and just missed out on the seventh spot by an even tinier edge as one of the two most successful teams in North America.
The opening couple of months of the year were somewhat uneventful for FURIA as they only attended DreamHack Open Anaheim before everything closed down, and they finished runners-up from the tier-two LAN tournament after losing the grand final to Gen.G. They didn't play at any of the big events, most importantly missing IEM Katowice, and only got to face off against the best teams in their region when the online era kicked off in late March.
At first, the Brazilians lagged behind some of their rivals, with one title going Liquid's way and another Gen.G's in the first two months, but by mid-season, FURIA had trophies from DreamHack Masters Spring and DreamHack Open Summer after they had caught up and started challenging all the great North American teams on a consistent basis. That successful period continued in September and October, with the Andrei "arT" Piovezan-led side clinching two more titles before they traveled to Europe for the end of the year showdown.
While staying in Serbia, FURIA struggled to compete just as consistently, apart from a solid campaign in DreamHack Masters Winter, ending the year with a group stage exit in IEM Global Challenge after crashing out of the BLAST Premier Fall Finals in 5th-6th place.
2019's runners-up come in seventh place as the defacto best and the most consistent North American team, who went through several phases over the course of 2020, both competitively and from a roster point of view. The North American squad enjoyed their best period at the beginning of the year but had plenty of deep runs later on as well, as well as a highlight showing all the way at the end of their trip to Europe.
Liquid pulled away from the rest of the North American teams early on before they ever knew they would remain in their region for most of the year, securing a top-two finish in their group at BLAST Premier Spring Series and making it to the playoffs at IEM Katowice. They also continued to pick up good results after travelling back home.
Their online run began with a title-winning campaign in ESL Pro League Season 11 North America, which went a long way towards extending their advantage. Even though some of the other rivals beat them to the following tournament victories, Liquid were almost always up there contending for trophies as they secured two second places and two more top-four finishes before the season reached its midway point.
In the break, Liquid appointed Jason "moses" O'Toole as their new coach and picked up Michael "Grim" Wince to replace the VALORANT-bound Nick "nitr0" Cannella. The now Jake "Stewie2K" Yip-led squad went on to clinch another silver medal in ESL One Cologne in their debut with the new player, but the rest of their stint in North America ended with placings outside of the finals as the likes of FURIA and Evil Geniuses outperformed them in ESL Pro League Season 12 and in the final RMR tournament, IEM New York.
Like FURIA, Liquid then also traveled to Europe without much success, but what eventually set them apart from the Brazilians was a last hurrah with Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken in IEM Global Challenge, in which a second-placed finish rounded out the year — and their stint with the Canadian player — on a positive note.
Heroic come in a group of teams who reached new heights this year and were considered part of the elite class in the latter half of the year after making a massive jump from the second tier to the very top.
At the beginning of the year, the Danes were hovering around 15th place in the rankings and, after being unable to qualify for IEM Katowice, only played in some of the smaller tournaments, like DreamHack Open Leipzig and ICE Challenge. It wasn't until much later in the year, after their transfer to FunPlus Phoenix had fallen through and Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen and René "TeSeS" Madsen had taken Patrick "es3tag" Hansen and Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer's spots on the team, that Heroic began to truly compete against the best.
A foreshadowing of what was to come, their first notable achievement was a top-four finish in the second RMR event, cs_summit 6, in July. When competition returned after the summer break, Heroic were among the first to start preparing and warmed up with a second-placed finish in DreamHack Open Summer ahead of ESL One Cologne, in which they clinched their first big title of the year after beating teams like fnatic, G2, and Vitality.
It soon became clear that the Cologne success had not been just a fluke, as Heroic triumphed in DreamHack Open Fall less than two months later and reached the No. 1 spot in the ranking for a few weeks. As far as deep runs went, the victory in the RMR event was the Danish team's last, but Casper "cadiaN" Møller & co. still remained competitive against the best as they made it to the playoffs in IEM Beijing-Haidan and DreamHack Masters Winter.
In the organization's return to the top of the pile, G2 continue their progress from 2018's 14th place and 2019's 12th as they round out the top five in 2020, in large part thanks to an impressive first half of the year and a few highlight showings in the latter.
G2 stepped into 2020 with great success with the still quite new French-Balkan composition as they won their group in BLAST Premier Spring Series and went on an incredible run at the year's most prestigious tournament, IEM Katowice, reaching the grand final with wins over then highly-regarded mousesports, Liquid, and fnatic, before ultimately losing a one-sided title decider to the scary Natus Vincere squad.
Over the following few months, G2's form fluctuated as they either exited events early in the group stage or managed to make deep playoff runs. Nemanja "nexa" Isaković's team picked up two more grand final appearances on the way, in ESL One: Road to Rio and DreamHack Masters Spring, and briefly appeared at the top of the rankings in the middle of June while the scene was in flux.
The latter half of the season left much to be desired for the most part as G2 dropped off and their results took a big hit ahead of the signing of NiKo from FaZe. With the Bosnian, the team used the following three events to test the waters with Audric "JaCkz" Jug and François "AmaNEk" Delaunay, making a deep run only in IEM Beijing-Haidian, in which they finished 3rd-4th.
If we were to compare this season to a typical Formula 1 year, then BIG would have the right to call themselves the "best of the rest". Though far outside of contention for the title of the top team of the year, the Germans ended 2020 in a very respectable fourth place, a position few people would have predicted at the beginning of the year, when the Berlin-based team were fighting on the outskirts of the top 30.
January provided some indication that the team would improve on that position after a flawless run at DreamHack Open Leipzig, where they beat the likes of Virtus.pro, Renegades, and Heroic en route to the title. Not much else went their way over the following four months, apart from a few titles picked up in small tournaments like the Home Sweet Home Cups, as we didn't get to see the real face of Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz's side until the middle of the year.
That was when BIG emerged out of nowhere to take the scene by storm in DreamHack Masters Spring and cs_summit 6, winning back-to-back titles to become the best team in the world for over a month and a half, with the DreamHack Open Summer title also going their way straight after the break.
The German team weren't nearly as successful for the the rest of the year as Heroic, Vitality, and Astralis won the brunt of the remaining trophies, but aside from a last-place disaster in ESL One Cologne, BIG still contended for some deep runs as they rounded out the year with a third place in the BLAST Premier Fall Finals and a top-four finish in IEM Global Challenge to retain their place among the elite teams.
Finishing the year in third place for the second time in a row, Vitality bring up the rear of the main trio of candidates for the title of the team of 2020, a race in which the Frenchmen had had a chance to catch up until the very last event of the year thanks to a highly successful stretch from June to December. Ultimately, however, they missed out on the top title because of their underwhelming results in the first five months, at a time when Natus Vincere and Astralis were already making their case.
With Alex "ALEX" McMeekin still at the helm of the team, Vitality entered 2020 looking rough around the edges as they finished third of their group at the BLAST Premier Spring Series and then 9th-12th at IEM Katowice. In March, the British in-game leader stepped down just before the start of the pandemic, and the French side made Dan "apEX" Madesclaire the captain and brought in the inexperienced Kévin "misutaaa" Rabier, with whom they continued to struggle as the first online events rolled around.
The lineup finally began to click in the summer, making consecutive grand final appearances in the BLAST Premier Spring Finals and cs_summit 6 Europe, losing both titles to underdogs, Complexity and BIG, respectively. Always the groomsman and never the groom, Vitality picked up two more second places after the off-season, in ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Open Fall, this time to the improved Heroic team, and had to wait until late November for their first titles.
The highest honor finally came when Vitality signed Nabil "Nivera" Benrlitom and paved the way for a new approach with extended rosters, becoming the first team to swap players in between maps. They looked destined for another silver medal before they reverse-swept Natus Vincere in the IEM Beijing-Haidan best-of-five final, and just two weeks later they also beat Astralis to the title in the BLAST Premier Fall Finals to earn their two trophies of 2020.
By that point, Vitality had busted the race to the No. 1 spot wide open on the back of the two successful campaigns. They looked to complete the year with the third consecutive title to match their Danish rivals' trophy count, but their hopes of crossing the finish line first were shattered in the group stage of the last event of the year, IEM Global Challenge, in which Astralis eliminated them in the all-important decider stage.
2. Natus Vincere
Improving from the eighth spot in 2019 and returning to their placing from 2018, Natus Vincere secure the title of 2020's second-best team following a remarkably consistent year and an especially dominant, albeit short, LAN period in the first two months of the year.
For the CIS giants, who brought in Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy as Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács's replacement as the year kicked off, it all began with a run to second place at the ICE Challenge at the beginning of February, followed by a group victory at the BLAST Premier Spring Series over Astralis, Vitality, and Complexity. The most important of all, however, was the team's dominant campaign at the mega-stacked IEM Katowice, the only big LAN of 2020, where Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev & co. pulled far ahead of everyone else to lead the opening stretches of the race by a mile.
When the pandemic made everything move online, NAVI began to show some weaknesses but still remained in the discussion for more titles as they reached the late stages of several events over the course of the first four months of the online era, but by the end of the first part of the season, they had only added one regional trophy to their cabinet from the second RMR event, WePlay! Clutch Island.
After returning from the break, Natus Vincere flopped in ESL One Cologne but quickly made up for their second of only two group stage exits of 2020 with a runner-up placing in the month-long ESL Pro League Season 12. Like earlier in the year, the CIS giants weren't in their best shape when it came to regional competition, but there was no doubt they were still an elite team internationally as they finished the year with three more deep runs, including another silver medal in IEM Beijing-Haidan.
Just like Vitality, Natus Vincere were very much in the running for the No. 1 spot until the ultimate showdown in IEM Global Challenge, in which a loss to Astralis in the semi-finals made all the difference as the Danes went on to win the event and pulled ahead in the race.
Astralis end 2020 as the best team for the third consecutive year. Although their case in this unusual and unpredictable era may be the least convincing since 2018, the Danes deservedly finished ahead of everyone else after winning four big-event trophies — two more than their closest rivals, Natus Vincere and Vitality — and making four more deep runs over the course of the year, including one at by far the most important event of 2020, IEM Katowice.
The top-four finish at the Polish staple event went a long way towards setting them apart from Vitality early in the year when the Frenchmen struggled for good results and underwent the leadership change. A couple of months later, Astralis also began to close the massive gap on the dominant Natus Vincere with another deep run in ESL Pro League Season 11 and the first win in ESL One: Road to Rio, at a time when Vitality were still lagging far behind with just one top-four finish in four tournaments.
The only blotch on an otherwise impressive resumé was the short period immediately after the Major-winning quintet split up for a few months in May. When Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander took time off and Jakob "JUGi" Hansen was brought in as the sixth man, Astralis suffered a tough group stage exit in DreamHack Masters Spring, and after Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth followed the in-game leader into inactivity shortly afterwards, the impaired squad went out early in the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown with Snappi standing in.
After gla1ve returned following the off-season, things quickly started to fall back into place. With es3tag slotting in for Xyp9x this time, Astralis made it to the ESL One Cologne playoffs and clinched their second title in ESL Pro League Season 12 Europe over NAVI, before ending their stint with the former Heroic member with a third place in DreamHack Open Fall.
That marked the end of Xyp9x's time on the sidelines, as the 'Clutch Minister' returned to action for the last two months of the year to help round out the year on a high note. Astralis lost just two elimination series in the last four tournaments of 2020 — one to each of their two big rivals — as they picked up a runner-up finish in the BLAST Premier Fall Finals and two more trophies, in DreamHack Masters Winter and IEM Global Challenge, all the while attempting to make use of their sixth man in December, with Lucas "Bubzkji" Andersen stepping in for Xyp9x in Nuke games.
To see just how close this year's race for the No. 1 spot was and how the rest of the teams fared, check out the graphic below, which depicts the full top-20 standings:
(Disclaimer: HLTV.org and the Astralis Group)