With 2018 in the books, we have another exciting year of Counter-Strike to look forward to. While the players have a well-deserved break, the teams have stayed busy as several made roster changes in a bid to improve their fortunes in 2019.
With IEM Katowice 2019 quickly approaching, we’ll spend the next few weeks looking at each of the top ten teams to see how they stack up to the competition beginning with the Danish squad North at number ten.
Summer Success and a Sharp Decline in 2018
During the summer of 2018, North looked like a team on the rise. After winning DreamHack Open Valencia in July, North then managed to defeat Astralis at DreamHack Masters Stockholm in August. Considering the dominant year that the latter team had, this was a notable win for the squad and helped them climb to fourth in the HLTV.org world ranking.
However, despite such a promising summer, they failed to capitalize on their momentum and accomplished little else for the remainder of the year. Since winning in Stockholm, North only made the quarterfinals at one other event. Furthermore, they had several poor performances including a 9-12th placing at IEM Chicago, and a terrible 13-16th at the ESL Proleague Season 8 finals.This downward trend in performance means that North will be starting the new year with a lot of negative momentum. If they want to succeed in 2019, they’ll have to turn this around as a team and start winning again.
A Roster Change Fails to Spark Success
At the end of September, a struggling North made two major changes to their lineup. Mathias ‘MSL’ Lauridsen and Nikolaj ‘niko’ Kristensen were both benched in favor of awper Casper ‘cadiaN’ Møller and Valdemar ‘valde’ Bjørn Vangså. Unfortunately, these changes failed to generate renewed success for the Danish squad and they continued to underachieve for the remainder of 2018.
While valde has looked consistent, cadiaN has failed to make the impact that any team needs from an awper. His first issue is with consistency. Looking at his matches with North, his performances can swing wildly. For example, at the ESL Proleague finals in December he had a solid performance against NRG going 21-18. However, when North played the Sharks in their next series he went 7-17 and 12-18. These dips in performance can be found in many of his LAN series with North over the past three months.
Kills and deaths aside, cadiaN’s other main issue seems to be that he isn’t providing enough impact with the awp. According to HLTV, he has only managed 145 opening kills to 153 opening deaths in the past three months. What this means is that he isn’t managing to find opening picks which can be essential in opening up a bomb sight or pulling a rotation. Furthermore, he has 869 zero kill rounds compared to 661 rounds with one or more. Statistics don’t always tell the full story, but when you are wielding the most expensive weapon in the game you need to get more production.
Time for Another Change?
While the team’s slump is not entirely cadiaN’s fault, he hasn’t provided the impact you hope a roster move would have. Valde has been North’s highest rated player since he joined the team, but North has few results to show for it. Therefore, this move has failed to give North new life, and their roster currently doesn’t look like championship material.
A Promising Map Pool
North’s current map pool looks pretty solid going into 2019. They have a positive winning percentage on all but two of the maps in the pool. Of note is their relative strength on Nuke and Train, where they have a 71.4 and 64.7 percent win rate respectively. Teams don’t generally play these maps well, so it does give them options when it comes to map picks.
Their map pool isn’t perfect, however. North has struggled for results on Mirage and Overpass, where they have a sub-50% winning percentage. Since nearly every team plays Mirage, it makes it an easy punish pick for teams, and is a serious weakness for them going forward. Furthermore, if cadiaN continues to struggle with the AWP then teams may pick Overpass to exploit the long-range match up.
Overall, North’s map pool should be seen as a positive. While struggling on Mirage is a serious concern, their ability to win on some of the lesser played maps should make up for it. If they can continue that trend in 2019, it can make up for the fact that they don’t have the same level of talent as some of the better teams.
North is a solid tier-2 team going into 2019. This current lineup has been considerably less successful to the prior one, and unless most of the players step up their game, they’ll likely continue to struggle at bigger events. There is promise in their map pool, though, meaning that if the roster does heat up, they may have an outside shot at some tournament victories. It will be interesting to see how North develops this year, and whether they can return to the form they had in the summer of 2018.