The Top Teams to Watch Going into CS2’s First Full Year
Counter-Strike 2 has entered 2024. As the winter player break ends, the landscape of the scene looks very different now. Teams got to dip their toes in the CS2 pool in the back half of 2023, and now they’re committing to their long-term rosters in this brand-new iteration of Counter-Strike. From sweeping rebuilds to finding that one missing link, the changes from last year are numerous. Here are the top teams to watch as they begin their CS2 journeys in 2024.
One of the biggest stories since CS2’s release has been the commitment of Team Falcons to building a tier-one team. The Saudi Arabian esports organization fielded a team in CS: GO consisting of French players that the likes of Team Vitality, G2 Esports, etc, had discarded. As a result, they teetered on the edge between tier one and tier two.
That all changed when CS2 was announced. Team Falcons immediately started planning on building a roster that could compete for championships in the new title. Rumors swirled non-stop about who they would be able to buy. Ultimately, they landed most of the ENCE core, plus a former Astralis turned Vitality dynamic duo.
Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer, Pavle “maden” Bošković, and Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia had great success playing together on ENCE in 2023. The core was a tier-one playoff staple that peaked in the middle of the year. After winning IEM Dallas and making the Finals at IEM Cologne and Gamers8, ENCE entered the HLTV top two for the first time.
Emil “Magisk” Reif and coach Danny “Zonic” Sorensen had a great 2023 with Vitality. They won the BLAST.tv Paris Major and Gamers8, and made many more playoff appearances to boot. As one of the winningest players and the winningest coach in Counter-Strike history, the pair will be a stable force for the ENCE core to mold around in CS2 2024.
Team Falcons, on paper, has a very solid roster in which almost everyone on it has had success recently. That said, this drastic team environment shift could take a while to get used to. For comparison, Vitality formed their half-French, half-Danish super team in January 2022. It brought them over a year to start winning, and that roster had a higher ceiling.
Team Liquid is back with a rebuilt roster featuring some hyped arrivals, some old and some new. Their previous CIS roster attempt with Robert “Patsi” Isyanov and Aleks “Rainwaker” Petrov was abandoned after just half a year. Liquid also moved on from AWPer Joshua “oSee” Ohm, who had been with the team since 2021.
Their new AWPer is also their new in-game leader. Casper “cadiaN” Moller has found his new home with Team Liquid. This is significant, as it’s the first time that cadiaN is on a non-Danish squad. After falling out with Heroic at the end of last year, it was heavily speculated where he could find a new home. After all, an AWPer IGL is a rare breed, and cadiaN’s impressive resume commands a salary to match. It seems like Team Liquid was a perfect match.
Making his much-anticipated return to the Liquid Blue jersey is Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken. Twistzz spent his back half of 2023 winning trophy after trophy in CS2 with FaZe Clan. Since Twistzz left NA at the start of 2021, he’s been improving increasingly. Now North America’s CS: GO GOAT, he’s returned home to try and bring Liquid back to their winning ways a la 2019.
Rounding out the roster is the Brazilian Felipe “Skullz” Medeiros. Liquid was familiar with Skullz from their regional matchups against paiN Gaming. Skullz is a young 21-year-old fragger who is being developed for tier one alongside the team. He’s the biggest unknown with this new Liquid, but he could also grow into a huge boon.
Much like with Team Falcons, it will take a bit for this team to adjust and find their best form. Depending on how quickly cadiaN adapts to leading a non-Danish squad, they could see themselves struggling early.
The product of the Heroic drama from last season, Astralis is back with their most impressive-looking roster ever since the four-time Major winning core began to split up. In CS2, Astralis was looking to make drastic roster shake-ups to regain title contention in the new game. They also chose to remain a full Danish lineup, limiting their options.
In the end, Martin “Stavn” Lund and Jakob “Jabbi” Nygaard flew the coop of Heroic to come to Astralis. Both players are 21 or younger and rose to the top of the CS pecking order as players under cadiaN, so seeing them in a new environment will be interesting. That Heroic roster had no problems getting to the biggest stages in CS: GO but struggled to close out titles when it mattered most. Perhaps some of the winners’ mentality that the Astralis name carries with it will help stavn and jabbi out.
Speaking of born winners, we saw at the end of 2023 how impressive Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz looked, still shooting like he’s in his prime. He’ll no doubt continue fragging with the best of them in the new year. Additionally, Benjamin “BlameF” Bremer has come into his own with Astralis during his time IGL’ing for the team. While he may be jokingly known as “BaitF” for his last-alive playstyle, it’s a style he’s embraced and a significant positive when he’s on his game clutching.
Astralis is one of the new teams that could easily fly out the gate in CS2 2024. These Danish players are incredibly familiar with their styles and mindsets in Counter-Strike, and integration should be swift. Once the synergy clicks, the Astralis machine may be up and running like the good old times.
FaZe Clan/G2 Esports
Lastly, the pair of FaZe Clan and G2 Esports. Both teams found success in 2023, with FaZe especially coming in hot in CS2. Their rosters have remained the same, barring one player swap each.
With Twistzz’s departure back to NA, the gap in FaZe has been filled with David “frozen” Čerňanský. Frozen is called “The Young Veteran” for a reason, as he was competing in CS: GO as young as 14. Despite his nearly eight-year career, frozen is just 21 years old. Frozen has always been a top-tier player while being the MOUZ frontman.
In 2023, however, he turned heads, leading MOUZ to the IEM Dallas Finals and the ESL Pro League S18 trophy. When Twistzz left FaZe, it was only natural for Frozen to join his former MOUZ teammates Finn “Karrigan” Andersen and Robin “Ropz” Kool to extend the offer to enter. While Twistzz was great with FaZe, frozen should have no problems slotting in easily.
G2 Esports, on the other hand, had to work to keep their team together in the off-season. Both Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov were reportedly pursued by Falcons, with the NiKo deal being close to finalizing. In the end, they gave up anchor player Justin “jks” Savage and brought back Nemanja “Nexa” Isaković from OG.
Nexa played with G2 from the end of 2019 to the start of 2022. During this span, G2 was in a trophy drought. Despite the team playing relatively well with Nexa, they weren’t at the level where they were a title favorite. Now, G2 has access to the dynamic duo of NiKo and m0NESY. While Nexa won’t be the driving force behind G2’s success, he’s an excellent fit to help them continue their high level of output in CS2 2024.