Fans could enjoy plenty of top-tier action in February. The three BLAST Premier Spring Groups was where it began last month, but the biggest driving force behind the month’s ranking changes was the IEM Katowice Play-in and the $1,000,000 main tournament in the latter half of the month, of course, as it boasted extra-stacked competition with 16 out of the top 20 teams in attendance.
At the lower tier, teams fought in the first edition of Snow Sweet Snow and in the second European Development Championship, while the 36th season of ESEA Premier started picking up speed with close to half of the group stage matches now done and dusted.
Here’s a summary of our ranking for new readers:
Our team ranking is based on teams’ achievements over the past year (with severe decay in points throughout each month), recent form over the last two months, and performance in recent events in the last 3 months.
Each team is required to have a three-man core in order to retain their points. Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, online results, which previously had a minimal effect, now carry more weight as they are also included in the ‘Achievements’ and ‘Recent Events’ sub-categories.
Below is the current top 30 table as of March 1, which goes more in-depth into how the points are distributed — or you can check our special page, where you will be able to find the latest, weekly version of our ranking. You can see the lineup for each team by hovering over their name in the table.
Please note that the +/- gain on this table differs from our weekly rankings page, and it is related to the ranking update of February 1.
Gambit, Virtus.pro, and Spirit shatter status quo at IEM Katowice
IEM Katowice brought many surprises from the beginning of the Play-in to the end of the tournament. To the joy of CIS Counter-Strike fans, the typically NAVI-dominated region had three other names in play in the prestigious tournament and they all outplaced Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev‘s squad after all four teams made it to the playoffs stage, taking down some of the biggest names present in the process.
Gambit spearheaded those efforts as the surprise champions, as they came back from an opening loss to Evil Geniuses in the group stage to go undefeated from that point on, beating the new mousesports squad, Heroic, and G2, as well as each of their three regional rivals in the playoffs — Natus Vincere, Spirit, and Virtus.pro — with stunning confidence. As a result, originally the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov & co. jumped 15 spots compared to the beginning of the tournament, all the way to fourth place in the ranking.
Virtus.pro improved on their peak placing last month with the runners-up finish in IEM after displaying just as much drive up until the grand final, securing wins over teams like Vitality, Astralis, and Liquid over the course of the tournament before their eventual demise at the hands of Gambit. Meanwhile, still quite fresh off changes after adding star AWPer Abdul “degster” Gasanov, Spirit lost just two maps en route to the playoffs with victories against much more established teams like BIG and Astralis, until they also ran into the red-hot Gambit in the semis.
With the unprecedented success, the CIS region now has three out of the top four teams with Natus Vincere, Virtus.pro, and Gambit breathing down Astralis‘ necks, as well as a fourth in the top eight in Spirit, which is more than they had ever had in the ranking’s history.
Vitality’s top-three streak ends
One of a number of teams who took part in both of February’s top-tier events were Vitality, and they ended the month all the worse for it, as their four months long streak as a top-three team came to an end following the Frenchmen’s unsuccessful run in BLAST Premier Spring Groups and the similarly disappointing group stage elimination from IEM Katowice just a couple of weeks later.
The team now sits in fifth place, the lowest since mid-October, after the consecutive early exits. That would normally ring alarm bells, had it not been for Dan “apEX” Madesclaire‘s mysterious personal issues that saw the in-game leader placed on the sidelines by coach Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam for a few days and miss out on the second match of the former tournament in the meantime, with Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom stepping in for the entire Evil Geniuses series at BLAST.
The pressure is now on Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut & co. to perform when they come back to play in the upcoming ESL Pro League Season 13, where the French squad will have a chance to save face and regain their place in the top three throughout March and early April.
OG, Heroic out of top 10 amid roster changes
OG have gone from being on the fringe of the top five teams in the world at the turn of the year after peaking at No.6 and plateauing for several months, to falling out of the top 10 in February. The season didn’t start off great for the international squad, who finished 5-8th at cs_summit 7 in January, and February brought no better results for the team led by Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, as they started it off by falling in last place at BLAST Spring Premier Groups with losses to Astralis and BIG.
A successful IEM Katowice 2021 Play-In bid with victories over fnatic and Cloud9 gleamed a ray of hope on OG, but they ended up eliminated after two straight 0-2 losses to FaZe and Vitality at the main event, ending in the dismissal of Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt. Now on the market for a fifth, OG could be unveiling Nikolaj “niko” Kristensen as a replacement for the recently departed French player, which would reunite the Dane with his former North teammate, Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså, and OpTic coach, Casper “ruggah” Due. Whether the reported move pans out or not, OG will be banking on a change to regain their lost footing with ESL Pro League looming large on the horizon.
Heroic touched the sky when they reached the top spot in the ranking following their ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Open Fall victories last season, but the Danes haven’t been able to curb a slow and steady decline that began at the end of last year. To try and stop the bleeding, Heroic decided to make two changes to the roster and removed Johannes “b0RUP” Borup and niko, dropping seven positions from last month in the process and falling out of the top 10 for the first time since their meteoric rise in the summer of 2020.
The changes that followed a respectable 3-4th place at cs_summit 7 in January and the 9-12th place finish at IEM Katowice in February broke a ten-month period of stability in the Danish squad, who have now acquired Rasmus “sjuush” Beck and Ismail “refrezh” Ali to shake things up, although looking back on their exit from the latter of the two tournaments it wasn’t as hard of a fall as could have been perceived when it happened, as their two defeats came at the hands of two of the event’s standout teams — Gambit, the winners of it all, and semi-finalists Spirit. Looking ahead the Danes will have their eyes set on returning to the top positions in the ranking, but so will a slew of teams packed around them in the leaderboard, many of which are in similar situations and carry the same ambitions, including OG.
forZe, EXTREMUM drop out of top 30
forZe broke the top 30 barrier for the first time on New Year’s eve in 2018 and remained around the top 20-30 throughout most of 2019, dropping below that threshold just briefly before peaking at No.12 in September following a second-place finish at BLAST Pro Series Moscow. They remained a top 15 team after that high point until play moved online in early 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and their form decreased dramatically. forZe then struggled and dropped in the ranking, once again returning to the verge of falling out of the top 30. Roster movements finally ensued at the turn of 2021 and the team settled on two new players in February to try and revamp a roster that wasn’t bouncing back to their pre-2020 form.
The Russian squad, with Aleksandr “zorte” Zagodyrenko and Aleksandr “KENSI” Gurkin in lieu of Dmitriy “facecrack” Alekseyev and Bogdan “xsepower” Chernikov, weren’t able to curb the top 30 exit, however, falling to No.31 as they couldn’t show improved form immediately in their first month together. The renewed roster ended February with two ESEA Premier losses to SAW and Apeks and two quarter-final exits, at Snow Sweet Snow 1, where they lost two close maps to FunPlus Phoenix after winning the opening map, and at European Development Championship 2, where they were once again edged out, albeit that time around by Nemiga.
EXTREMUM, the spiritual successor of 100 Thieves with Hansel “BnTeT” Ferdinand in the place of Justin “jks” Savage, played their first tournament since reuniting at Snow Sweet Snow 1, but the results were less optimistic than expected as they came in 13-15th place in the tournament’s Swiss stage. The international squad have since dipped below the top 30, falling two spots beneath it, which marks a first for this core since coming together in October of 2018 — when Jay “Liazz” Tregillgas and Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai first linked up with Aaron “AZR” Ward and Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad in Renegades and were ranked 30th.
Not competing at ESL Pro League, EXTREMUM will have an easier tournament to try and bounce back at after their Snow Sweet Snow 1 losses to GODSENT, Winstrike and forZe; the Pinnacle Cup, where they will face teams of a similar calibre to track their progress and potentially even get a chance to rematch two of the aforementioned teams. Aleksandar “kassad” Trifunović’s men will be kicking off their run in the tournament against Wisla Krakow in the first round of the tournament’s Swiss group stage on Sunday, March 7.
Chance to soar for packed middle of the field
Six teams are in a fraught battle in the middle of the leaderboard, packed within 30 points of each other between No.13 and No.18 in the ranking, with NIP not far ahead in 12th place and FunPlus Phoenix right behind in 19th place. All six of the teams, Evil Geniuses, Heroic, mousesports, fnatic, OG and FaZe, as well as those directly above and below, will be competing at ESL Pro League Season 13 — the biggest tournament taking place in March with all top 20 teams in contention except Spirit —, and will have a chance to set themselves apart from the peloton by posting a strong result at the stacked event.
All of the teams in this tightly crammed group have been afflicted by roster changes since the beginning of the year, be it earlier this season season or right before going into ESL’s flagship league, and will be eager to show up big against direct competition as they will all be facing one or more close rivals in the round robin group stage, including Heroic, OG and FunPlus Phoenix meeting in Group A; NIP, FaZe and mousesports clashing in Group B; and Evil Geniuses and fnatic engaging in Group D.
Lucas Aznar Miles contributed to this story