Berlin bolters: The Dark Horses of StarLadder's CS:GO Major

We’re so close to the Berlin Major now it hurts, with fans tuning in to Rainbow Six, Call of Duty or even … Fortnite to get their fix of guns and competition. With conversations in the Luckbox office pretty much reduced to TI9 and Berlin, we thought we’d bring you in, and run the rule over four of the ‘dark horses’ that could make an impact at StarLadder’s inaugural CS:GO Major ...


This looks like an obvious pick, but opinions on the Danes still vary wildly depending on who you ask. Many experts have already written them off, while others are wary about doing so given the peak we’ve already seen Astralis hit, and this is also their land. When it comes to pressure and Majors, this is a team that we can assume has no problem playing on the biggest stages.

In their last two Major outings they went through playoffs without dropping a single map, dominating the best teams in the world without breaking a sweat. The bootcamp photos posted on Twitter suggest the team is back in the saddle for one more attempt at making history, and this Major could make or break the future of the five. Write them off at your peril.

StarLadder Berlin Major schedule

  1. New Challengers Stage: August 23rd to August 26th
  2. New Legends Stage: August 28th to September 1st
  3. New Champions Stage: September 5th to September 8th

Related: New Challengers Stage schedule confirmed

Related: Waldo's Berlin Major Pickems


There has been a lot of debate online about the most improved team in 2019, with a number of American fans pointing out that Cloud9 technically improved 280-odd ranks, which entirely misses the point of the rankings. CS is like sprinting, where nobody cares if you run 16 seconds for the 100m when you used to run 18s, but everyone takes notice if you go from 9.98 to 9.96.


Vitality were a long way behind where a team with their talent should have been, but are now on track, if not ahead of schedule to be a true contender. Their weakness is their strength, as they are predictable reliant on ZywOo, but that can even be used as a tactic if they can utilise him as a decoy at times, knowing how scared other players are of his talent. The main problem is Liquid, who match up vs Vitality very well, but people said the same about Cloud9 before they faced FaZe in the Boston final, and look how that turned out.


It wouldn’t have been a very adventurous list if we’d stopped with those two, so here’s our darkest horse yet. Led by a man with much motivation, Mousesports are a team that has a stupid amount of talent, and crucially come in with zero pressure in the same way the likes of Gambit did in Krakow, and to some extent the likes of OG at TI8 did. That is crucial for them, as the team has a vast disparity in it when it comes to experience.

For mouz to do well there are a few conditions that must be met, and most importantly is the axis of skill represented by ropz and woxic. The pair can dominate anyone on their day, with the former actually underrated despite his reputation, and if they both play well the likes of ChrisJ, karrigan and frozen are more than capable of pulling their weight. It’s a long shot, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t taken, and like we said karrigan is a man with a chip on his shoulder and a deep playbook.

You wouldn’t think a team with a Major-winning leader and the best player in the history of the game would be a controversial pick as potential winners, but Na’Vi divide fans for a very good reason. The potential of this team is huge, but it always feels like their in-game leader Zeus is as much a blessing as a curse, and they’d be better under new management.


Still, the former Gambit man has announced he will leave Counter-Strike at the end of this year, and assuming he hasn’t decided to reverse that decision this will be his last tilt at doing it in yellow and black. A Major win would put to bed any question about his greatness, and also ice the s1mple cake, and if things go their way Na’Vi could finally find themselves this fall.

There are others of course, and we are sure fans of ENCE and MIBR are ready to tell us why we are wrong, but to be honest this isn’t the strongest field we’ve seen at a Major. The Finns are good, but since the AUG nerf not quite as much as before, and MIBR are in a period of transition where the only thing that could motivate them is the sense of being under siege.

There may not be $30m on the line, but for many this is still the premier esport, and Berlin is going to be a high point for the year. If Liquid can fend off all runners and emerge as NA’s second Major champions, it will be a glorious end to their season, and set us up for a truly epic 2020, but the uncertainty is what makes it so exciting.

Pictures: Starladder