The Biggest Roster Moves of the CS:GO 2023 Off-Season
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s off-season, also known as the player break, is the month of time between mid-June and July. During this span, teams typically take a look at their current rosters and their performance. If the organization has faith in the project, then they’ll keep going same as before. If not however, CS:GO roster changes will be made.
The 2023 player break has seen many big-name teams shuffle their squads around in an attempt to get better results. Some of these swaps start out promising, while some may take some time to get up to speed. Here is our list of the biggest and most important roster shuffles moving into the second half of the 2023 CS:GO season.
The NAVI Revamp
Unsurprisingly, number one on our list goes to the NAVI roster revamp. Essentially, NAVI has strayed away from an all CIS squad for the first time in their CS:GO history. They cut long-time players Denis “electroNic” Sharipov and Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy, as well as benching then loaning out Andrij “npl” Kukharsjiyj.
In enters Finnish in-game leader phenom Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen to call the shots for NAVI. Aleksib is most known for his time leading ENCE to a Major Grand Final in 2019, but also for leading OG, G2 Esports, and Ninjas in Pyjamas since. NAVI struggled all last season in the IGL role, as electroNic was forced to fill in following the loss of Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov.
NAVI has two new toys in the rifler roles as well. Fresh off their breakout performances at the BLAST.tv Paris Major, Justinas “jL” Lekavicius and Ivan “iM” Mihai have been brought in to bolster NAVI’s firepower. Previously on Apeks and GamerLegion respectively, these two players showed incredible talent and promise while helping their teams through the Major playoffs.
Now, NAVI has the difficult task of transitioning the team from an all-CIS squad reliant on Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyljev carrying to a well-rounded international squad. The good news is that Apeks and GamerLegion were international teams. S1mple and Aleksib have experience playing on English-speaking teams as well, so comms should not be an issue.
We’ve already seen this new look NAVI play in the BLAST Premier Fall Group Stage. They’ve looked good against Astralis and BIG, two teams also trying to adjust to new rosters. However, NAVI were completely flat against Heroic, an established squad with title aspirations. It’s still early in the life of this new NAVI. We’ll have to wait patiently to see what the celling of this roster can be.
Cloud9 Pick up the Scraps
For being one of the biggest organizations in esports, Cloud9 has had an underwhelming CS:GO squad for a while now. The winners of North America’s only CS:GO Major has been fielding the CIS core of the ex-Gambit Esports squad for over a year now. Hope in this roster was bolstered early, as the team won their second event under the Cloud9 banner at IEM Dallas 2022.
Cloud9 has been trophy-less ever since then. They’ve gotten close on a couple occasions; top fours were somewhat common and they did make a Grand Finals appearance at ESL Pro League S17. Even so, an organization of Cloud9’s caliber demands better. They made their first roster change back in January, dropping Timofey “interz” Yakushin for Timur “buster” Tulepov.
The team still wasn’t able to fix their issues, so more drastic measures were taken during the player break. Cloud9 has cut buster, as well as IGL Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov for the former NAVI pair of electroNic and Perfecto. ElectroNic IGLing was a notable issue on the NAVI roster. It’s not that he was particularly bad at it. It’s just that his fragging took a big hit and NAVI couldn’t make up for it elsewhere.
To compare this new Cloud9 to old NAVI, Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov is the s1mple parallel. Sergey “Ax1Le” Rykhtorov and Abai Hasenov are akin to the riflers of b1t and npl, granted the Cloud9 pair have much more experience behind them. Whether or not the IGLing of electroNic and support of Perfecto will make this team stronger is up in the air. At the very least, this team now radiates veteran presence from all roles.
Team Liquid Goes Euro
Well NA fans, it’s happened. Team Liquid, the last bastion of North American Counter-Strike, is now a European majority team. The re-retirement of Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella forced the org to find a replacement in-game leader. They decided to swap Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis to the role and find a new rifler.
Additionally, Liquid also allowed their most tenured player, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski to take offers. He ended up being bought by Complexity Gaming, ending EliGE’s over eight-year run with the organization. EliGE was touted as NA’s most mechanically talent player at certain points in his career. He leaves big shoes to fill in the rifler role as well.
Liquid looked to Europe to replace both Americans that they lost. Robert “Patsi” Isyanov was their pick to replace EliGE. Patsi was formerly with Team Spirit, a CIS team that routinely shows up in tier one tournaments. Their crowning achievement was back-to-back Major playoff appearances in 2022 which Patsi was a huge reason for.
Replacing nitr0 is Aleks “Rainwalker” Petrov, a Bulgarian rifler who previously played with 500. Rainwalker has never made an appearance at an S-Tier tournament and is untested at the top level of the game. It’s not incorrect to say that Liquid picking him up is the riskiest of the CS:GO roster changes any team made in the off-season.
That said, Rainwalker will be moving into an anchor role on defense and a lurker role on offense. He’s a notably flexible player who won’t have issues in his new roles. The question is if he, and Liquid as a whole, can keep up with the competition.
FalleN to FURIA
Brazilian CS:GO hasn’t been in the best spot in recent years. FURIA at their peak was the closest thing the region had to a title contender. However, they haven’t shown any promise ever since their top four at the IEM Rio Major in late 2022. The organization made their first change since January 2021, replacing André “drop” Abreu and Rafael “saffee” Costa with the Imperial duo of Marcelo “chelo” Cespedes and Counter-Strike legend Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo.
While FalleN might be 32-years-old, he’s shown that he still has the chops to AWP and IGL with the best of them. He recently led Imperial to a top four finish at the BLAST Premier Spring Final, only just barely losing to Heroic in the semifinals. While Imperial didn’t win any trophies, they constantly made appearances at top tier events and were way more threatening than a team that could barely crack top 30 should have been.
FalleN’s leadership could be what FURIA need to elevate the team back to title-contender form. The original FURIA core put together in 2018 is still here. And now that Andrei “arT” Piovezan is free from IGL jail, he can be truly unleashed as one of the most aggressive players CS:GO has ever seen. If FalleN to FURIA works out like it can on paper, Brazil could find themselves back in the spotlight.
While we are getting to see NAVI and Team Liquid at the BLAST Fall Group Stage, Cloud9, FURIA, and many other teams that made CS:GO roster changes will first showcase them at IEM Cologne beginning on July 26.