CS:GO

The rise of FURIA and the ceiling of pure aggression in CS:GO

Perhaps the most exciting Counter-Strike team in the scene at the moment is FURIA, the young Brazilian side with a hyper-aggressive attitude and zero respect given to top sides. They’ve peaked fifth in the HLTV rankings so far, and now the real question is whether this sort of high-octane strategy is sustainable at the top or it’ll inevitable be counter-stratted to shreds, like it was in the semi-finals of Moche XL Esports 2019 where they were destroyed by Ex6sTenZ’s Team GamerLegion.

It’s always easy when you’re the new kid on the block, especially when you’ve got style. FURIA’s amazingly aggressive approach to Counter-Strike earned them a lot of plaudits and many fans over the course of the last few months, and they’ve collected quite a few impressive scalps along the way, including Astralis’ in two different matches at the ECS Season 7 finals. With that win over the ailing ex-best team of the world, it seemed like the sky’s a limit for the young Brazilian side.

Then the Moche XL Esports event happened, a small LAN tourney in Portugal where they were expected to crush their limited competition and get in the habit of winning before they were slated to meet the big boys again in Cologne. Instead, they were soundly beaten by Team GamerLegion as Ex6TenZ’s side neutralised them on Inferno (16-11) and Vertigo (16-12) before getting crushed by Windigo in the grand final.

A loss to such a fairly low-ranked team implies that FURIA’s success was at least in part down to the unexpected nature of their aggressive play, and the more games they play against the top sides, the more demos will become available to dig through for the coaches and analysts – and there’s no doubt this double defeat will be on top of the list of teams in Cologne to check out. In a sense, they were already going against the grain. The teams that rose in 2019 and managed to stay near the top were on the other side of the spectrum: both ENCE and Team Vitality rely on a tactics-heavy approach to stay afloat, while the Brazilians were firmly on the other end of the spectrum.

This is not impossible to pull off, as teams with in-your-face lightning-quick tactics were fairly successful in the past: the post-pronax Fnatic basically relied on the incredible firepower of olofmeister, flusha and JW. Many of their timeouts were used as a mere prompt for olofmeister to open up a site on his own (preferably with a Tec-9 in a low-buy situation where the Swedes were merely hanging on by a thread). This could only last until the players kept up their red-hot form, and once olofmeister’s wrist injury derailed their campaign at MLC Columbus, the team was never the same.

Similarly, HappY’s heyday also revolved around incredibly aggressive tactics with Team LDLC and Team EnVyUs, a setup which rapidly lost its effectiveness once the other teams realised how dedicated the in-game leader was to lurking, turning deadly flanks into free frags over time. Perhaps the best example of all is FaZe Clan, way back when karrigan was still trusted as an IGL, shortly after they’ve formed the superteam: five stars with the capability to go off at any time coupled with simple strats and explosive play gave them a huge edge at the start, threatening to redefine Counter-Strike as a pure aim game for a short while, only to fall off once it turned out that this wasn’t quite enough by itself to become an era-defining team.

It goes to show that a free-flowing, ultra-loose approach can only really work if your individual players are that much better than the rest of the competition. As impressive as FURIA have been lately, this cannot be said about their fragging department, which seems to indicate that they will have to deepen their playbook if they want to stick around with their current company of top-tier CS:GO teams. It remains to be seen whether they can accomplish this task: their rise and potential fall will be one of the many tantalising storylines at ESL One Cologne.

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