Liquid have won ESL One Cologne. This is their fourth big LAN victory in 2019. They’ve also secured the IEM Grand Slam in a dominating fashion. They’ve won four of the five events they attended, their four victories coming back-to-back. Liquid are the best team in the world and so the next question we have to ask ourselves is: are we in the Liquid Era?
What Constitutes a CS:GO Era?
In CS:GO, an era is one of the greatest achievements any lineup can attain. It is one of the hardest feats to establish as there are no set guidelines for how a team goes about establishing an era. Everyone agrees that a team needs to have a period of dominance, but there are no other set criteria. To understand why, we will go back in time and survey the eras and almost-eras of the past. I will list each eras length of time and achievements to find the commonality of eras.
The Four eras: NiP, Fnatic, LG/SK, Astralis
NiP were the first. The legendary Swedish lineup of: Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, Richard “Xizt” Landstrom, Adam “friberg” Friberg, and Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson. They were the first and set the precedent for what an era is in CS:GO. I’ve listed the length of time, their achievements (ordered by the S/A/C-tier terminology that Liquipedia uses), and Major results during the era.
Length of time: Nov 4th, 2012-Oct/Nov 2013 (1 year)
1st: ESWC 2012, DH Winter 2012, EMS One Spring 2013, ESEA 13, DH Summer 2013, ESEA 14, DH Bucharest
Top 4: EMS Summer 2013,
1st: AMD Sapphire, Thor Open, Esports Heaven Vienna, Copenhagen Games 2013, StarLadder StarSeries VI, ESPORTSM 2012/2013
2nd: StarLadder StarSeries V
1st: Northcon, Fnatic FragOut
Majors: None during their era
The NiP era in CS:GO starts with their victory at ESWC 2012 and lasts for about a year. There is no set date for when the NiP era officially ends, but I have it ending in October. During that month, NiP lost StarLadder StarSeries VII to VeryGames and Astana Dragons. They then went to EMS Fall where they lost to VeryGames in the finals. VeryGames beat NiP twice and thus became the best team in the world as they had no other bad matchups. Thus NiP’s era of being #1 ends there (though NiP continue to be a top team for a long time after this).
All told, the NiP era lasts for one year. They won 7 S-Tier titles, 6 A-Tier titles, and had a smattering of other good results. What’s worth noting is that NiP don’t have a Major as the Major system wasn’t created until the tail end of their run.
The second era of CS:GO belongs to Fnatic. The lineup previously considered to be the greatest of all time. The lineup had: Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer, Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Robin “flusha” Ronnquist, Freddy “KRIMZ” Johgansson, and Markus “pronax” Wallsten.
Length of time: August 31, 2014-August 23, 2015 (one year)
1st: StarLadder StarSeries X, FACEIT Season 2, ESWC 2014, Fragbite S3, ESEA 17, DH Tours, Gfinity Spring Masters 2, DH Summer 2015, ESL ESEA S1 Finals
2nd: ESEA 18, PGL Kick-off, Fragbite S4
Top 4: DH Invitational 2, MLG X Games, FACEIT Stage 1 Finals, Faceit Stage 2 Finals
1st: Clutch Con 2014, IOS Pantamera
Top 4: Hitbox Arena 3
1st: ESL One Katowice 2015, ESL One Cologne 2015
Top 8: DreamHack Winter 2014
Fnatic’s era lasted for one year. During that period, they wracked up a huge amount of achievements. 2 Major victories, 9 titles at S-Tier LANs and a huge array of top finishes across that time period. What’s interesting to note about the Fnatic period is that they don’t establish their era quickly like NiP do. NiP had no challengers, whereas in 2014, Fnatic had LDLC. LDLC were right there with Fnatic during this period and we could have seen a Fnatic-LDLC era. Instead Fnatic pulled ahead in 2015 and we retroactively call this entire period the Fnatic era.
As for the starting and end points of the Fnatic, I have them starting their era with their first big LAN victory at StarLadder StarSeries X. While they had good results before then (notably getting to the finals of the ESL One Cologne Major), they hadn’t solidified their spot as number one yet. ESL One Cologne 2015 is where they end as they were no longer the best team in the world as multiple teams started to overtake them at the end and Fnatic never won another title with this five again.
The third era of CS:GO belongs to the Brazilians. The lineup was: Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Marcelo “coldzera” David, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, Epitacio “TACO” de Melo and Lincoln “fnx” Lau.
Length of era: April 3rd, 2016- July 10th, 2016 (four months)
1st: EPL 3 Finals
2nd: ECS S1 Finals
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9-12th: DreamHack Malmo
1st: DreamHack Austin
1st: MLG Columbus 2016, ESL One Cologne 2016
The shortest of the four eras, but also the most intriguing in terms of what it tells us about the nature of eras. In terms of raw results, the LG/SK era aren’t as comprehensive as the other teams, but they won back-to-back Majors in a short amount of time. The prestige and impact of the Majors ingrained 2016 as the year of LG/SK even though their period of dominance lasted for only four months.
Among the different eras, this one most clearly defines the time constraints. LG were a top three team from the end of 2014 to April 3rd, but no one sets the beginning of their era with their second place finishes. Additionally, I have the team’s era ending at ESL One Cologne, but they were still a contender for the rest of the year. While they didn’t win any tournaments for the rest of the year, no other team matched their consistency.
This period also differentiates an era from being the #1 team. LG/SK were easily the number one team if you take 2016 in totality, but their era was only for those four months as Fnatic/Na`Vi contested them in early 2016 and in late 2016 we had the uncertainty era where no team could get consistent victories.
The Danes are the latest to establish an era. Now the greatest of all time, the lineup includes: Nicolai “device” Reedtz, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, and Emil “Magisk” Reif.
Length of era: April 22nd, 2018-April 3rd, 2019 (one year)
1st: DH Marseille, EPL 7 Finals, ECS 5, IEM Chicago, EPL 8 Finals, ECS 6
2nd: IEM Sydney, DreamHack Stockholm
1st: BLAST Istanbul, BLAST Lisbon
2nd: IBP Masters IV*
3rd: BLAST Copenhagen
1st: FACEIT Major, Katowice Major 2019
*Worth noting that this LAN had multiple issues and deserves an asterisk next to it.
The Astralis era was unlike anything that had come before it. They broke all of the records. Astralis never lost two LANs in a row. They consistently 2-0’d the opponent and often stopped them from getting to double digits. By the end of it they won 2 Majors, 6 S-Tier LANs, and top placings in a bunch of other tournaments. While they didn’t go to as many tournaments as either Fnatic or NiP, they were absolute perfection when they did attend.
The almost Eras
Now that we’ve established a template for what an era looks like, we also need examples of when a team were on the cusp of establishing an era, but failed. This has happened multiples times throughout CS:GO history, but the two most prominent examples that come to my mind are Fnatic 2015-2016 and SK in 2017.
In late 2015, Fnatic replaced pronax with Dennis “dennis” Edman. The team then went on an undefeated streak as they won FACEIT 2015 Stage 3 Finals, fragbite Masters Season 5, ESL ESEA S2 Finals, Starladder i-League StarSeries XIV, ESL Expo Barcelona, and IEM Katowice. The length of the period lasted from Nov. 29 2015-March 5th, 2016.
So why didn’t this qualify as an era? I’d argue the length of time was too short and impact were too small. Three months wasn’t long enough, especially as none of the tournaments that Fnatic won were Majors like LG/SK. In addition, the tournaments they won weren’t of the highest quality. ESL Barcelona was a showmatch event with a gimmicky format. Every event outside of IEM Katowice was an eight-team tournament. For Fnatic to estbalish an era, they needed a huge impactful win (like a Major) that solidified their spot as the de-facto best in the world. It wasn’t meant to be though as Astralis eliminated them from MLG Columbus 2016.
The other era to look at is SK in mid 2017. The Brazilians replaced fnx with Joao “felps” Vasconcellos. They then went on a run in mid 2017 that lasted for three months from April 23rd to July 9th, 2017. During this period, SK won: CS_Summit 1, IEM Sydney, DreamHack Summer 2017, ECS Season 3 Finals, and ESL One Cologne 2017. They also got a top four at EPL 5 Finals.
SK had established themselves as a top team in the world along with FaZe and Astralis. The slew of wins they got in that summer put them ahead of their competition. However like Fnatic, the tournaments didn’t have the largest impact. CS_Summit 1 was a smaller event. Many of their victories were from 8 team tournaments outside of ESL One Cologne. SK needed a major victory if they wanted to be in the discussion for an era during this period, but Astralis (different lineup, but same core) eliminated them at PGL Krakow 2017.
Commonalities of the four eras
Now that I’ve listed the four different eras and the two almost eras, it’s time to list the commonalities to see what the criterion is for an era. NiP, Fnatic, and Astralis had a period of one year. LG/SK had it for four months. Neither Fnatic 2015-2016 or SK 2017 got an era with three months of dominant play. So I’d argue that you need at least four months of being the number one best team to create an era, but it requires the team to win the most prestigious tournaments of their day.
The second thing to consider is whether Majors are a requirement. While they are important, I’d argue they aren’t necessary. We’ll exclude NiP from this discussion as majors didn’t exist during their era. If you imagine the Fnatic or Astralis eras without the Major victories, they’d still be eras. They wouldn’t be nearly as cool, as pristine, or as epic, but both teams were still the best teams of their time periods even if they hadn’t won those Majors.
The final thing to consider is strength relative to the field. NiP’s era ended after VeryGames took their number one spot. SK in 2017 couldn’t establish an era as both FaZe and Astralis were right there behind them. In late 2014, LDLC prevented Fnatic from creating an era earlier as they were in contention during that time frame.
Liquid are on the verge of an Era
After winning the IEM Grand Slam, Liquid are on the verge of establishing an era. Look at the criterion. Liquid have been the best team for the last two months. They need two more months of being number one to match the four month minimum.
In terms of results, they have a multiple quality victoires: IEM Sydney, EPL 9 Finals, DH Dallas, and ESL One Cologne. This is a fantastic resume to start an era with, especially if you compare it to the Fnatic 2015-2016 or the SK 2017 lineups. Those squads had multiple tournaments victories come from 8 team tournaments. All four of Liquid’s victories in the grand slam had 16 teams in attendance. ESL One Cologne in particular had all of the best teams in the world except for G2 and North (both of which they’ve beaten previously).
In terms of dominance relative to the strength of their peers, Liquid are a step ahead of the pack. They have better results in the last three months than ENCE, Vitality, or Astralis. They are favored in every matchup and don’t have a potential rival that can equal them in results like Fnatic had with LDLC in 2014.
In the next two months there are three events: BLAST Los Angeles, IEM Chicago, and the Berlin Major. BLAST won’t have too much impact regardless of what happens either way. IEM Chicago has good teams, but is a smaller eight team event, so no one can gain significant ground on Liquid. The Berlin Major will be the event where Liquid can establish an era. By then, they will have passed the time limit and will have likely accrued additional results. Winning the Major will instantly establish 2019 as Liquid’s era. Even if Liquid don’t win the Major, they can still establish an era by consistently dominating all of the tournaments outside of it. Liquid are on the verge of an era and we are witnessing the prime of one of the greatest lineups in CS:GO history.