In a year that might be remembered most of all for the dominance of Astralis, there was still plenty of exciting Counter-Strike to watch.
With the CS:GO competition at a higher level than we have ever seen, 2018 left us with some of the most memorable series in the game’s history.
These series were ranked by how much I enjoyed watching them, and how memorable I thought they were. So if your list is in a different order, leave a comment below!
5 FaZe Clan vs Astralis - IEM Sydney
IEM Sydney was one of the most memorable events of 2018. Not only did it have one of the best crowds of the year, but it also gave us one of the best finals of 2018.
FaZe came into this tournament without huge expectations. With Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer taking a break because of personal issues, the team had to play with a stand-in in the form of Richard “Xizt” Landström. Even in the group stage of the tournament, they struggled, losing a series to Renegades, and losing a map to the Australian underdogs Grayhound. After two disappointing finals losses in a row at ELEAGUE Boston and IEM Katowice, FaZe came into this final as the underdogs.
Meanwhile, Astralis was on the cusp of starting their own era. A month prior at DreamHack Masters Marseille, they defeated FaZe in the quarterfinals on their way to taking home the trophy. Because of Astralis victory in Marseille and FaZe struggling going in, this was supposed to be a relatively easy win for the Danes.
Instead, we had what was perhaps the closest 3-0 of all time, with FaZe coming out on top. Astralis proved that they were indeed very hard to beat, but all the deciding rounds seemed to go the way of FaZe. Both Cache and Overpass went to overtime while Train was a 16-14 victory for FaZe. The performance from Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs was a particular highlight, as he was a key player for FaZe on all three maps.
4 Fnatic vs FaZe Clan - IEM Katowice World Championship
Speaking of FaZe in the finals, that is going to be a general theme throughout this list. Coming into IEM Katowice they were the #1 ranked team in the world, and thus the favorites to win the trophy.
Their opponent in the final was Fnatic. The Swedish team were on the rise, putting in some solid playoff performances ever since adding in-game leader Maikil “Golden” Selim to the lineup. Despite previous losses to FaZe, they defeated them in the group stage with relative ease, before the two teams faced off once again in the grand final.
Even though Fnatic beat FaZe in the group stage, most people took that result with a grain of salt, and FaZe were still the favorites to take home the trophy. But what made this final memorable was the performance of one particular player.
Robin “flusha” Rönnquist was the star of the show in the final. He put up good performances in Fnatic’s victories on Inferno and Overpass, but he was absolutely outstanding on Train, the final map in the series. Flusha winded back the clock and dropped no less than 38 kills on Train. This included multiple ace clutches, including one to secure a 15-15 scoreline for Fnatic. This ensured overtime for Fnatic where they came out on top.
FaZe lost to an underdog opponent in the final once again, and would soon have to play with several stand-ins due to the absence of olofmeister. Fnatic went on to win WESG a few weeks later before ultimately deciding to make roster moves.
3 Astralis vs MIBR - ECS Season 6 Finals
ECS Season 6 Finals was supposed to be yet another trophy in the Astralis collection. FaZe and Natus Vincere who had been some of the biggest rivals to Astralis in the past were not in attendance, leaving Team Liquid to be their most likely opponent in the finals.
Surprisingly, their biggest challenger ended up being MIBR, a team that had been very up and down in the months prior. The two teams faced off in the group stage with MIBR coming out on top after a very close series. But the two teams would face off again in the grand final in a series that was even more exciting.
Both teams decided to change up their picks for the final. Astralis picked Inferno despite losing it to MIBR in the group stage, while MIBR themselves threw a completely new map into the series in the form of Overpass.
Inferno started us off with two very close halves. While all the members of Astralis had their time to shine, the key for MIBR was a vintage performance from Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo. Especially on the CT side, the Brazilian captain kept his team in the game getting several key frags with his signature weapon the AWP. Unfortunately for him, the Danes proved themselves to be too good as a team and took the map 16-14.
Overpass was also a close affair, going all the way to a 22-20 overtime victory for Astralis. It looked good for MIBR, as they took a 15-11 lead on the map, but as we have seen all year, it’s impossible to count Astralis out of a game until the very end. Overtime was highlighted by one of the best plays of the year from Tarik “tarik” Celik, as he completed an ace after an incredible 1v4 situation. In the following round, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander immediately came back with a 4k of his own, breaking MIBR’s money and securing Astralis the victory soon after.
2 Cloud9 vs FaZe Clan - ELEAGUE Major Boston
One of the most memorable runs this year was Cloud9 going all the way at the ELEAGUE Major in Boston. Despite getting the most difficult bracket possible, Cloud9 defeated both G2 Esports and SK Gaming before taking on FaZe in what was a very exciting grand final.
FaZe were the favorites to take the whole tournament. Their biggest rivals, SK Gaming, had to play with a stand-in, leaving this major ripe for the taking for the European superstars. And aside from a small hiccup against Vega Squadron in the New Challengers stage, FaZe made it to the final without a lot of issues.
Cloud9 seemed like a dream opponent for FaZe at the time. The two lineups had faced each other on LAN three times in 2017, with FaZe going 6-0 in maps, winning all three series in convincing fashion. This left most people expecting FaZe would end the cinderella story and win the final with relative ease.
Instead, we got a series that went back and forth. FaZe took Cloud9’s map pick of Mirage, but Cloud9 surprised everyone by stealing away FaZe’s map pick of Overpass. Cloud9 showed a very solid CT side, going 12-3, and eventually won the map 16-10.
Then we got to Inferno perhaps the most memorable map of the year. The whole game went back and forth with both halves ending up with 8-7 scorelines. On Cloud9’s CT side, Jake “Stewie2k” Yip became the bane of FaZe’s existence on the B bombsite, which allowed Cloud9 to take it to overtime. With the first overtime ending in a tie, the game had to go all the way to double overtime.
In the second overtime, the MVP of the tournament, Tarik “tarik” Celik got an ace that lead Cloud9 to a great streak which eventually got them the trophy. Cloud9 had completed an incredible underdog run, overcame their kryptonite, and won the biggest tournament in CS:GO on home soil in a fantastic game.
1 Astralis vs Fnatic - IEM Chicago
Once Astralis hit their form it was rare to see them get defeated, but at IEM Chicago, Fnatic came almost as close as you can get. It was a series that had it all.
Going into IEM Chicago, Fnatic had added Simon “twist” Eliasson and Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin to the roster. They had a great start to the tournament, winning their group by defeating Team Liquid in the winners match, securing them a spot in the semifinal.
Astralis on the other hand, had a very rare 2-0 loss in the group stage against FaZe Clan. The Danes didn’t look great in the series, leaving people to speculate that this might be the event where Astralis could be defeated. However, in the quarterfinal, they bounced right back and beat mousesports 2-0, and moved on to play Fnatic.
The first map was Dust2, and Astralis got off to a great start. On the T side, they won the half 12-3, which included some great clutch rounds from Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth and Emil “Magisk” Reif. On the CT side, the Danes eventually got themselves a 15-6 lead, and had the series for the taking. But Fnatic started an incredible comeback, winning eight rounds in a row, but on the very last round, Astralis denied the comeback and won 16-14.
Even after getting denied on the finish line, Fnatic bounced right back and won Mirage 16-12, and we were set for yet another decider on Inferno.
Inferno had been one of the best maps for Astralis, and especially on the CT side, the Danes had been very difficult to stop. But Fnatic did everything right on their T side and got off to an 11-4 start. On the CT side, they even got up to a 15-9 lead and had six match points to finish off the series. This is when Astralis started an incredible comeback.
The Clutch Minister, Xyp9x, was once again a huge factor, and his quad kill clutch allowed Astralis to get to 14-15. On the final round, Astralis were down in a 4v5 situation, and it didn’t look good for the Danes, as they made the call to execute against three players on the B bombsite. But a picture perfect execute allowed them to kill all three CT’s and plant the bomb to secure overtime.
In overtime, both teams had their chances to win, and Richard “Xizt” Landström did his best to keep his team in the game with yet another great clutch in the series. But on the deciding round, Xyp9x and gla1ve shut down Fnatic on the B bombsite, and Astralis had completed their incredible comeback.
What was your series of the year? Comment below!
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