A TI9 team guide for the CS:GO fan

Comparing TI9 teams to their Counter-Strike equivalents

Counter-Strike: GO's Icon Stephen Chiu · 13 Aug 2019

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Photo via Helena Kristiansson for ESL

Every year, Dota2 has one cross game event that everyone tunes in to watch. The International is one of the biggest events in esports as it boasts the biggest prize pool, excellent production, and is one of the most storied tournaments in the world. I’m one of the few people who watches both Dota2 and CS:GO in depth. Thus I’ve made a team guide for the CS:GO fan who tunes in for just The International. I will make historical comparisons of the Dota2 teams attending to Counter-Strike lineups through history so that you have a better idea of their stories and who you want to root for. 


Virtus.Pro


Lineup:

Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev

Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Valdimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan

Alexei “Solo” Berezin


The current Virtus.Pro squad is the best Dota2 lineup the CIS ever produced. It may also be the greatest lineup in Dota2 history. When they added RodjER at the beginning of 2018, they dominated the DPC circuit with three Major victories and multiple top placings. In the 2018-2019 DPC, they were ludicrously strong at the beginning of the DPC. They won the Kuala Lumpur Major and then got 2nd at the Chongqing Major and DreamLeague Season 11. What’s even more remarkable is that Virtus.Pro haven’t been going full throttle. After qualifying for TI9, they haven’t been going full throttle as they wanted to manage their burnout and peak towards TI9.  This strategy seems to be working as they placed 3rd at the last major of the year at EPICENTER.


In terms of storyline, the current Virtus.Pro squad is most similar to the Na`Vi CS 1.6 2010 lineup. The CEO of Na`Vi decided to create a CIS super team and had Sergey “starix” Ischuk get all of the best talents in the region to create a super team. The team then went on to become one of the best teams in CS 1.6 history. Virtus.Pro did a similar move in Dota2. The CIS region was filled with talented players, but lacked the leader that could put it all together. The CEO even went so far as to publicly out the CIS players for lacking the professional and winning attitude that was required to win.


In 2016, he found the leader that could bring that winning attitude. Solo built a core of players that became one of the best in the world. They have consistently been a top three team since that time and have accomplished nearly every feat. They had an era of dominance in 2018. They’ve won Majors and have had incredibly consistency and longevity. The only thing missing from the Virtus.Pro trophy case is a TI victory.


As for style of play, this team reminds me the most of the Virtus.Plow in their prime without the inconsistency. The Poles could be hot or cold on any given day, whereas with these players, they are almost always on. If the meta is skill based, this squad can easily close out games in minutes through sheer laning prowess.


Secret


Lineup:

Michal “Nisha” Jankowski

Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg

Tazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Clement “Puppey” Ivanov


Secret are the best team in the 2018-2019 DPC. They’ve won two Majors, got 2nd at Kuala Lumpur, got 4th at DreamLeague Season 11, and have had numerous other titles. This is another team that is in the conversation of best five-man lineup in Dota2 history. Secret reminds me most of the Astralis roster of 2018. The lineup that had: Nicolai ‘dev1ce” Reedtz, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, and Emil “Magisk” Reif.


Their level of dominance and team configuration is similar. Both teams are headed by leaders that will likely go down as the greatest leaders of their respective games: Puppey and gla1ve. Both teams made a critical roster change that took them from a good team to world beaters. Secret added zai and Nisha, while Astralis added Magisk. Both teams have a wide spread of firepower where any of the five can carry the game. Both teams are even similar strategically as both of them have the entire playbook of styles open to them. Secret can play aggressive, team-fight, split, or late-game. Astralis could emulate any style of play through all of history. The only difference between the two is role specialization.


Each of the Astralis players have a specialized role that they are masters of. In Secret, they are willing to swap up roles and lanes depending on the draft. Zai and YapzOr in particular often swap their roles in-game. While Secret went out in 9-12th at EPICENTER, they should still be one of the favorites to win TI9.


Vici Gaming


Lineup:

Zhang “Paparazi” Chengjun

Zeng “Ori” Kiaoyang

Zhou “Yang” Haiyang

Pan “Fade” Yi

Ding “Dy” Cong

Vici are the best Chinese team in the world. They have won two of the Majors this year: DreamLeague Season 11 and EPICENTER. This was a long time coming as the Vici project was focused around the two stars: Paparazi and Ori. Both showed incredible talent early on in their career and Vici picked them up in 2017. While the potential was incredible, there were growing pains as both of them consistently fell off in high pressure moments and tournaments. After years of experience, both of them are starting to show the potential on the highest stages in the world.


This squad is most similar to the TSM/Dignitas squad of 2014/2015. That Danish squad was focused around two star players: dev1ce and dupreeh. They were consistently good in international tournaments, but also consistently choked in the high pressure moments. The addition of Finn “karrigan” Andersen boosted them to the next level and in 2015, they became an elite team. Vici Gaming have a similar story as they recruited Yang, Fade, and Dy to fill out their roster. The analogy to Karrigan in this example is their coach Bai “rOtk” Fan. He does the drafts for the team and uses his experience to lead the team from the back.


China’s hopes to win TI9 this year largely reside on Vici Gaming.


Evil Geniuses


Lineup:

Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan

Gustav “s4” Magnusson

Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Tal “Fly” Aizik


Last year I compared this team to NoA of CS 1.6 fame. Like NoA, they combined the raw firepower of NA’s best stars with the teamplay and leadership of the EU players. However after watching them play the DPC 2018-2019, their history is far closer to the karrigan-led all-star FaZe lineup of 2017-2018.


Like FaZe, they have the players and lineup that should be winning titles. Like FaZe, they consistently underwhelm at the biggest tournaments. However unlike FaZe, they have worse results. FaZe won big international events whereas EG consistently place 2nd or 3rd. In terms of playstyle, they are similar to FaZe as they rely on their star players to win games more so than their strategy.


Team Liquid


Lineup:

Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi

Aliwi “w33” Omar

Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov

Maroun “GH” Merhej

Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi


Liquid was one of the harder teams to pin down as they remind me of two different CS:GO teams. On the one hand, almost their entire run through the 2018-2019 DPC was a mirror of Virtus.Pro Cs:GO lineup. Like Virtus.Pro, Liquid wanted to play with the exact same five man roster forever. Virtus.Pro’s lineup lasted four years, whereas this Liquid lineup lasted two and a half. In a way, then you could call this the alternate timeline where Virtus.Pro decided to stick with Filip “NEO” Kubski and Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas instead of Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski.


That comparison isn’t quite right as KuroKy is one of the greatest leaders in Dota2 history. In that sense, this lineup is more similar to the SK lineups that Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo led from 2016-2017. Like FalleN, KuroKy made a hard choice of cutting a player at the end of the year. Liquid kicked out Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen after the team got knocked out in 7-8th place at ESL One Birmingham. This was a surprising move to the community as the squad had just gotten 2nd at the MDL Major Paris.


In the context of what it took to get those respective results, it made sense. The MDL Major run required everything from Liquid. They needed to play at their absolute best and have the perfect teamplay, coordination, and execution to get that far. The team realized they had hit their limit and made a change. The change was similar to SK’s decision to remove Lincoln “fnx” Lau for Joao “felps” Casconcellos. 


In terms of playstyle, the Liquid squad reminds is similar in execution to that particular SK squad. They have great teamplay and they have a similar star setup. In SK, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga was the aggressive opener while Marcelo “coldzera” David was the closer. In Liquid, w33 is the aggressive playmaker while Miracle- is the hard carry. The difference between Liquid and SK though is that there isn’t a role clash between two aggressive stars as MinD_ContRoL doesn’t require them to be a great offlaner.


PSG.LGD


Roster:

Wang “Ame” Chunyu

Lu “Maybe” Yao

Yang “Chalice” Shenyi

Xu “fy” Linsen

Yap “xNova” Jian Wei


In terms of raw firepower, PSG.LGD may be the most skilled lineup in the entire world. They have two of the greatest Chinese players to ever touch the game: Maybe and fy. Chalice is a great sacrificial offlaner that gives the other resources without dying too often. XNova has been a great five position, who consistently gets good flanks and vision. Ame was heralded as the next great carry player of China.


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In mid 2018, everything was going perfectly for this squad, but they feel at the last hurdle against OG’s miracle run at TI8. Since then, this team has been a shade of itself. Thus I have to compare them to the G2 all-star lineup of 2017. At the time, G2 had recruited all of the best players from France: Richard “shox” Papillon, Kenny “kennyS” Schrub, Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, and Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro.


The lineup was fantastic on paper, but outside of a few instances, never realized that potential. PSG.LGD is in a similar position. On paper, the potential is fantastic, but they have never replicated the level they were at in their honeymoon phase. While not favorites, they will always have a chance. Especially as fy is the best support in the world.


Fnatic


Lineup:

Anuncha “Jabz” Jirawong

Abed “Abed” Azel Yusop

Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang

Djardel “DJ” Mampusti

Kim “Dubu” Doo-young


The current Fnatic squad is one of the most talented lineups SEA has produced. Abed, iceiceice, and DJ are all world class players at their respective roles Iceiceice may be the greatest offlaner in the game, while both Abed and DJ are elite players. Despite that skill, Fnatic haven’t gotten the results you’d expect. Their best results comes from early 2019 where they got fourth at ESL One Katowice and 3rd at DreamLeague Season 11. In those months, they had good meta and drafting that took advantage of their hero pools. After that they bombed out of both Majors at the end of the year. The fundamental problem seems to be a lack of leadership, a problem that has consistently plagued SEA teams since the beginning of Dota2. Even with their recent issues, the team has enough skill that if they get the right meta, they could still make a deep run. 


In many ways, Fnatic remind me of Fnatic. Fnatic’s current CS:GO squad has: Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson, Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Richard “Xizt” Landstrom, Simon “Twist” Eliasson, and Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin. In terms of raw firepower, the team has everything it needs to be a top five to ten team. However they lack consistency and this comes from a lack of consistent system or leadership. Fnatic in CS:GO has bipolar results. They can get to the finals of big LANs, but lose out in early qualifier stages of the Major.


NiP


Lineup:

Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Adrian “Fata” Trinks

Neta “33” Shapira

Martin “Saksa” Sazdov

Peter “ppd” Dager


NiP are one of the dark horses of TI9. They don’t have similar firepower to the top teams like Liquid, EG, Virtus.Pro, or Vici. While they lack skill, the core players are unique. Ace specializes in late-game carries like Arc Warden. Fata plays a sacrificial role-playing mid. 33 is one of the best offlaners in the world and he utilizes it well. This amalgamation of strange talents is brought together by the mind and leadership of ppd. 


This team reminds me of the Titan lineup with Kenny “kennyS” Schrub and Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans. That French roster didn’t have great firepower outside of kennyS and made up for it with their tactics and structure. This NiP lineup is similar as they don’t have world class players outside of 33 and make up for it with ppd’s leadership and drafting. While they may not have the skill to go head-to-head, the squad is more than the sum of its parts and has the potential to upset the best teams at TI9.


TNC Gaming


Lineup:

Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte

Armel “Armel” Paul Tabios

Timothy “Tims” Randrup

Carlo “Kuku” Palad

Nico “eyyou” Barcelon


Coach: Lee “Heen” Seung Gon


TNC have been the most surprising team in this seasons DPC. The first eight months were largely mediocre. They could qualify for the Major and maybe pull off an upset, but were largely irrelevant against the contenders. Then had some roster changes that were alright, but didn’t fundamentally change anything. Then they got coach Lee “Heen” Seung Gon. Heen was Liquid’s coach from 2017-2018 and was part of their TI7 victory. Since joining the squad, the team has looked completely different. The drafting and the teamplay have leveled up significantly and within the last three tournaments, they’ve established themselves as right below the elite echelon of teams.


This team is similar to Renegades from late 2018 to early 2019. Renegades made roster changes in late 2018 and also rehired ALeksandar “kassad” Trifunovic as their coach. These roster choices elevated the team into a top five spot at the beginning of 2019. TNC are on a similar trajectory as that Renegades squad. The difference though is that the TNC players have a lot more raw firepower and that makes them a more dangerous prospect at TI9.


OG


Lineup:

Anathan “ana” Pham

Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen

Sebastien “7ckngMad” Debs

Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka

Johan “N0tail” Sundstein


OG are the miracle men of Dota2, perhaps all of esports. Their run at TI8 was the most ludicrous I’ve seen in all my years of watching esports games. They are an eclectic group of individuals who have unique hero pools. This makes them hard to analyze or even figure out, even more so as their best results often come from emotional circumstances in their lives. When Fly betrayed them right before TI8, they used that as fuel to push them to the aegis. When n0tail was injured and they had to use a stand-in, they used that to fuel them to a top 8 finish and upset Secret in the lower bracket.


No story or style is remotely similar to them. However, if I had to describe the essence of what makes an OG match, it’s clutch and grit. At their best, OG is impossible to put away and they can force comebacks in the most dire of situations. In that sense, the best analogy to them is the SK lineup of late 2018 with Ricardo “boltz” Prass. That SK lineup consistently pulled out impossible clutch plays in high pressure moments to win tournaments, similar to this OG.


[A]lliance and Keen Gaming


Lineup:

Michael “miCKe” Vu

Maximilian “qojqva” Brocker

Samuel “Boxi” Svahn

Tommy “Taiga” Le

Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi


[A]lliance had both the great fortune and misfortune of playing in the EU qualifiers this year. It was good for them in that they got to play some of the best teams in the world: Secret, Liquid, NiP, and OG. It was bad for them as slots were limited so it was hard for them to qualify for LANs. At the end of the season, they were just able to push through and get 5-6th at EPICENTER to qualify for their spot at TI9.




This team reminds me of current Heroic. Like Heroic, both squads are filled with young talents that we will likely see in the future. Both squads are tier 2 teams, but have shown dangerous upset potential. Both have similar compositions of four younger talents and a veteran. [A]lliance have qojqva and Heroic have Adam “Friberg” Friberg. While [A]lliance have done well to get here, it’s hard to believe they can do much damage as no one knows how the pressure of The International will affect rookie performances. 


Keen Gaming


Lineup:

Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong

Zhai “--” Jingkai

Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei

Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi

Song “dark” Runxi


Keen were the [A]lliance of China. While the Chinese region doesn’t have as many contenders, in terms of midfield teams, they are the second most competitive region in the world. They have Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD, Aster, EHOME, and Royal Never Give Up. Like [A]lliance, Keen relied on a single top 6 result at DreamLeague 11 (where they beat EG) to make it to TI9. 


The team reminds me a bit of NiP. They have a mix of young and old players that seems to work. There is good talent here, but like NiP it feels like it’s a bit underutilized. The biggest problem for Keen Gaming going into TI9 is that they seem to have harder matchups against the other Chinese teams, so how far they go could depend on their draw. 


*I’ve skipped out on comparing the qualified teams as they’ve all had recent roster changes and a lack of history to make fitting comparisons to any CS:GO lineup.


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