The Myth of the Honeymoon Period

There is a myth that plagues the mindset of the North American Counter-Strike scene. It’s a falsity that has infected players, casters and leaders of the scene. It’s a bronze idol that has contributed to the instability of the scene’s teams and perhaps reduced its level of results. And it’s a lie so insidious, I’ve even heard European casters and players repeat it, unaware of the poison in their own words.

This is the Myth of the Honeymoon Period.

No, not that sort of honeymoon--though the PGL KeSPA Asia Minor seems like quite the destination...Photo courtesy scoopnest.

No, not that sort of honeymoon–though the PGL KeSPA Asia Minor seems like quite the destination…Photo courtesy scoopnest.

Whenever I see a recently changed NA lineup play an online match and put up rounds, someone casting the game (I’m looking at you, Dustin “dustmouret” Mouret) invariably mentions something along the lines of: “In this honeymoon period, the team is going to have a special synergy unique to newly-formed teammates. They’re getting new looks, they’re feeling excited about the possibilities, and they’ll play better now.”

When I was first getting into CS:GO, this was an alluring idea to me. The sudden connection of a new lineup propels them to unexpected conquest! On some level, it is connected to the Cinderella story, or the band-of-brothers movie trope, where success appears spontaneous and magical, rather than from hard work and training.

I am still a believer in the magic of a victorious team. I think that championship CS:GO sides do have something unique working for them: a special understanding of the game, irreplaceable synergies between certain players, inimitable team-play, a gestalt that produces victory.

But now, whenever I hear it, this “honeymoon” idea, it makes me sick. It’s just wrong.

When a new team forms, its members may be understandably excited about the new team. It’s a blank slate, an untested hypothesis that could lead to any conclusion. Our optimistic minds often jump to the loftiest possibilities. This may lead to its members playing on better-than-average form.

But at the same time, there will be many kinks with a new lineup that need to be ironed out. More likely than not, each teammate’s positions will need to be rehashed, with one or more players needing to learn how to play new CT spots so that the team can have reasonable defaults. The team’s shot-calling will be erratic at first, as a team’s in-game leader will need to learn his player’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. And while excitement about the new lineup might smooth over mistakes that come from the poor communication that is natural to a new lineup, those mistakes can only be resolved by the training and learned camaraderie that comes from sticking to the team, not first joining it.

If we extend this idea to the marriage metaphor, we might see how problematic the Myth of the Honeymoon Period is to CS players. If a person enters a marriage expecting that marriage’s success to be founded on the first month’s torrent of rabid and passionate sex, we’d laugh at their expectations. If a person enters a marriage conscious of the negotiation and teamwork that will come after the honeymoon—finding income, fixing dinner, taking out the trash, raising children—we would expect their marriage to be more successful.

A CS:GO player from any scene should not look to jump from team to team, looking for that “perfect match” and constantly striving after the honeymoon feeling of a new team. This will NOT produce his or her best Counter-Strike. That player should look for a lineup that might work, then stick with it, hammering out problems as they arise and devoting practice time to developing strategies, coordination and communication. This will make that player far more successful than any amount of honeymoon high.

A simple look at the history of successful CS:GO teams will show that there are very few instances of a sudden and short-lived burst of championship form from a new team. Teams are either successful after a period of trial and tribulation, or they are successful for an extended period of time at the beginning of a lineup too long to be called a “honeymoon.” I’ll pay special attention to the most successful NA lineups and to famous international examples of hot starts to teams.

The original masters of CS:GO had a long-lived run of form. Courtesy HLTV.

The original masters of CS:GO had a long-lived run of form. Courtesy HLTV.

NiP

This team famously started out 87-0 in the beginning of CS:GO. This was not a honeymoon period, though. This was a group of talented fraggers outclassing everyone else in the scene. Furthermore, the team went on to two years of sustained success after that streak was ended. In a simple sign of their longevity, the current NiP, which has surged back into an elite or near-elite form, has four members of that original dominating lineup. That’s commitment.

Virtus.pro

This lineup burst onto the scene following a big roster move (picking up Snax and byali) by winning ESL One Katowice 2014, the second major. Honeymoon? No, the team has gone on to be the longest-standing lineup in CS history, returning to world-beating form multiple times. The Virtus.pro may come and go, but this lineup lasts forever–or two plus years and going, which feels like forever in CS.

envyus major winners

The closest thing we’ve had to honeymoon winners was EnVyUs with kennyS and apex, a talent-laden exception to the rule. Photo courtesy Daily Dot.

EnVyUs, with apex and KennyS

This lineup is the closest thing to a honeymoon period in CS:GO. Immediately after forming, the lineup became a world-beater, reaching the finals to two straight majors and numerous international finals in between, only to fall of significantly after that. However, a couple things should be noted. First off, this was a true celebrity marriage, perhaps the most talented lineup that CS:GO has ever seen assembled; in this sense, it was a perfect storm for a honeymoon team to assemble. Second, we must note that their plummet in form, was as severe as their start was strong. It was clear the team did not have the tools to establish long-lasting success.

Cloud9 (Summer 2015)

NA lineups always seem to be searching for that magical mix, but the most powerful NA team of all time (three straight international final appearances, all within three weeks–I think that qualifies) showed that such a blend requires hard work, coordination, and leadership. This lineup actually struggled mightily on its first couple international LANs, drawing ire from several voices in the community. It seems like poetic justice that the first map win that sparked their rare NA run of success came on cache versus EnVyUs, a team that had beat them soundly on that same map just a couple weeks ago. C9’s synergy was the result of both clever roster moves and hard work–something other NA teams have barely repeated.

CLG

While other top-achieving NA teams (like Cloud9) have come and gone, CLG has been notable as the one team that sticks with its players for long periods, focusing on teamplay and strategy to improve rather than roster shuffles. This faith has forestalled its progress at times by sticking with an inferior player like FNS, but it has also reaped its rewards. Sticking with tarik has seen him grow from an onliner and FPL star to an impact fragger in the last major. And when jdm was first incorporated into the team, DaZeD called the AWPer the worst player on the team; within a few months, jdm had grown into CLG’s first star and perhaps the best player in NA. Whoever takes Fugly’s place can take some comfort in the fact that his teammates will give him adequate time to incorporate and grow.

Team Liquid with s1mple

This team’s story was not that of a honeymoon. It was that of an NA lineup struggling to incorporate a fiery Ukrainian star—and briefly succeeding in doing so, against the lesser feelings of division that we now know were brooding within the team. This team actually struggled at first, barely managing to qualify for the major and with s1mple performing below expectations. Their run at the major was a minor feat of perseverance as much as it was a momentary self-discovery for a team that had roster, communication, and firepower issues leading up to the major. If only s1mple had the perseverance to stick with Liquid, they might have been able to sort out their issues and become a true threat.

 

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