ESL Pro League: Group D Preview
by Tom Coles

ESL call group D of Pro League their “group of death”, and it’s not hard to see why. There are a total of 11 Major titles across the players in the group. Of Counter-Strike’s 17 S-tier events in 2020, 10 were won by teams in this group. 3 of the teams held the #1 spot in the HLTV rankings during the course of 2020, and two of the teams that didn’t currently sit at #4 and #5 respectively — so not exactly a pushover.

No one ever said that Pro League would be easy for Endpoint (currently ranked #36), but fans could be forgiven for watching the group stage draw through their fingers.

But who are the teams that Endpoint will be taking on? In case you prefer to focus on the lower tiers of Counter-Strike and aren’t familiar, here’s a run-down:

Virtus.Pro

Virtus.Pro are best known for their legendary Polish lineup, the longest-standing line-up in professional Counter-Strike history. The “Virtus Plow” started in 2014 and lasted four years, but after a downturn in form and a number of unsuccessful changes, VP opted to pick up a CIS roster in 2019 instead. The team, which had reached #3 in the world after a run to the final of the Starladder Berlin Major that year (playing for AVANGAR), struggled to recapture their form in 2020, dipping as low as #39 in the world rankings. But a run of 3 tournament victories in a row following the signing of Latvian prodigy YEKINDAR, plus a runner-up finish at IEM Katowice 2021, has seen them rise back to that height— and considering the teams they have taken down already (including Liquid and Astralis) few would bet against them going even higher in the future.

Trivia: Virtus.Pro are the only team in group D that Endpoint have played before. Endpoint lost both matches (2–1 in the Flashpoint Closed Qualifier and 2–0 in Snow Sweet Snow 1).

Fnatic

Fnatic are another organisation based in the UK, but during their time in Counter-Strike, they have almost exclusively played with Swedish players. This has been very successful for them over the years— including 3 Major titles and over $5m in prize money. Despite benching Flusha at the end of 2020, they still have 3-time Major winner JW and 2-time winner Krimz (pictured), plus experienced IGL Golden, supplementing their experience with the youthful talents of Brollan and new addition Jackinho — who actually came up through the ranks of UKCS before returning to his native country. Having won ESL Pro League S11 Europe last year, they have every chance of surprising again.

Trivia: Brollan and Jackinho played with robiin’s mix team “Fightclub” last year.

jw and krimz

Team Liquid

Another geographically displaced org, Liquid are based in the Netherlands but have run North American rosters during their time in CS:GO. Again, this has not affected their success; while they lack a Major to their name, their core completed an Intel Grand Slam, winning the four IEM tournaments, in just 63 days in 2019. Poor form and roster changes meant Liquid struggled last year, as they lost leader Nitro to VALORANT and dropped rifler Twistzzz, picking up hot commodity Grim for the former and equally legendary Brazilian AWPer and IGL FalleN for the latter. While they have yet to win a tournament since their addition, early results are seriously encouraging and could be the difference that yet earns Liquid their first Major.

Trivia: Team Liquid also compete in Rocket League, where they have played Endpoint 7 times this year. Endpoint have won 6 of those matches.

Astralis

Astralis' lineup (pictured below) are so famous that introductions barely seem relevant. They have won 4 Major championships, including three in a row. They hold the record for the longest time at #1 on HLTV. They have possibly the greatest in-game leader of all time in Gla1ve, an absurdly consistent AWPer in dev1ce, two support riflers who frequently make the HLTV top 10 in Magisk and dupreeh. Even fifth man Xyp9x is known as the “clutch minister” for his talent in 1vX situations.

Okay, but how many ESL Premiership titles have they won?

Their worst enemy in 2020 was themselves, as poor management decisions caused two players to take leave after suffering burnout symptoms, and results took a hit. But no sooner had gla1ve and Xyp9x returned than Astralis immediately bounced back to winning ways, including ESL Pro League Season 12 Europe and the year-ending IEM Global Challenge. As defending EU champions, Astralis will look to retain their title against teams from around the world — and on the basis of their history, few would bet against them doing so.

Trivia: Endpoint and Astralis were drawn in the same group at Dreamhack Open Fall last year, but did not meet.

astralis

Evil Geniuses

Evil Geniuses were the #1 team in North America when COVID restrictions meant global competition was a thing of the past, winning three tournaments in a row between June and August and taking the #1 spot in the Regional Major Rankings. They even took the global #1 ranking on HLTV at one point. However, the trip across the pond to Europe proved less fruitful. Their best results on European soil have been 5th-6th places in 8 team events — something the team will look to address. They have a Major winner in Tarik, a top IGL in Stanislaw and one of HLTV’s top 20 players of last season in Brehze — and recent addition oBo will be looking to prove himself after being out of action for a while. Can they restore the Evil Geniuses to their heights?

Trivia: Endpoint fans may recognise oBo — while playing for Complexity, he met Endpoint 4 times last season in Home Sweet Home cups. Complexity won all 4 matches.