— Team Liquid (@TeamLiquid) December 1, 2019
Is it better to get close to victory only to fall short, or to never have gotten close in the first place? Everyone remembers the teams who win it all. We remember the legacies of the best; The Patriots, The Yankees, The Red Sox. We remember the stories of victories, the last second miracles, the championships. We remember the victorious.
No one remembers the almost-victors, the people who stand in the shadows and try to scream their names enough times that they earn a place in our memory. No one remembers the people who didn’t quite get there.
In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the undisputed best team in the world since the start of 2018 has been Astralis. The Danish squad has won 15 tournaments in two years and, as a team, have won almost $4 million in prize money from those victories alone. Including their Intel Grand Slam win last year, which netted them $1 million, and numerous other top four finishings, they’re well over the $5 million mark. They’re also four-time major winners, and undisputedly the best team of all time.
But just behind them in the shadows of that greatness is Team Liquid. The North American squad, which currently consists of Nick “Nitr0” Cannella, Keith “Naf” Markovic, Jonathan “Elige” Jablonowski, Jake “Stewie2k” Yip, and Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, have come in second in 11 tournaments in the last two years. Astralis beat them in the grand finals in seven of those 11 tournaments.
The team, which signed Stewie2k in January to replace Epitácio “TACO” de Melo, did go on a winning spree over the summer of 2019, claiming six titles in two months. But that impressive record is lessened when you look at the fact that Astralis only attended two of those tournaments and in one, Liquid never even played them.
It’s difficult to imagine how it feels to stand on a stage nearly a dozen times only for it to not be enough. At some point that simply becomes how it is: You grow to expect that second-to-last step is the highest you’ll ever get.
In the history of CS: GO there have been great teams before. In the early days it was Fnatic, who made four of the first six major finals and won three, and Ninjas in Pajamas, who made the first five in a row but only managed to win one. But since around 2016, there’s never been one or two teams with that much of a streak. There have been good teams, there have been great teams, but there haven’t been teams that were so unreasonably dominant that if they didn’t win a tournament it was a disappointment.
In many ways, the Team Liquid of the last two years is the Ninjas of the first three. NIP still holds the record for longest LAN map win streak, 87, most major finals in a row, five, and most lost major finals, four. They boasted some of the best players in the world, players who are still iconic half a decade later, but they were never the best team in the world for the simple reason that another team was. Had Fnatic never formed in those early days, it’s likely the Ninjas would’ve taken their place as the best team of all time.
Or what was the best team of all time, until 2018. Then, Astralis pounded back into the scene and made it clear that Fnatic’s place at the top of history was about to change.
In another universe, it would be Liquid who won the clutch rounds, who made the right shots, who won tournament after tournament after tournament and left Astralis defeated in second. But in this one, all Liquid can do is keep fighting, tournament after tournament, and hope that one of these days they’ll find what they need to take down Astralis on that finals stage. But even if they never do, even if they never again beat Astralis for first place, they’ll ask that we still remember them.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @TeamLiquid from Twitter
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.