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ESL Pro League Season 16 has delivered on all the excitement we’ve hoped for so far, and the teams that competed for the playoff spots in Group A have shown us a lot of interesting glimpses about the CS:GO season that’s ahead of us.

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New-look Vitality may have finally clicked

For the longest time, Team Vitality’s Danish-French hybrid failed to convince, and the new setup seemed to greatly diminish ZywOo, the squad’s star AWPer. The addition of Spinx for misutaaa seems to have been a masterstroke so far as the team went 5-0 in a flawless series of performances. Most promising of them all was the return of ZywOo’s confidence: with a KAST of 80.1% and nine clutches, he’s been the star of the show in a way he hasn’t been for a long time. It’s no wonder the team is now back to the fourth position of the HLTV rankings: Vitality were head and shoulders above the opposition, and fans should be excited for what seems like a promising playoff run with a potential to dream.

Fnatic show promise with their converted IGL

Though every other team was overshadowed by Vitality, Fnatic also seem to have made significant progress after a period of protracted failure. It’s tough to overstate just how far the team has fallen in recent times: since the end of 2020, they failed to form a competitive team. Peppzor was a waste of time, ALEX’s tenure didn’t work out, Jackinho and Golden are gone, smooya’s also turned into a failure, regali wasn’t good enough for the main squad either: it’s been over 800 days in the wilderness for an org that once had the strongest team ever seen in CS:GO. Now only KRIMZ remains from that squad, and he’s definitely still deserving of a spot in an elite-level roster. Can this new Fnatic side reach those heady heights again? Though this remains to be seen, the team was pretty damn good in this group stage, with mezii turning out to be a real revelation as an in-game leader. The young Englishman was initially discovered as a promising rifler for HenryG’s doomed Cloud9 project, and he’s always been a bright part of the trainwrecks he’s been a part of, including the previous UK-Swedish Fnatic hybrid roster. Now the mélange of nationalities includes Danes and a Dutchman as well, but the team is more cohesive than it’s been in a very long time. It’s a good time to be a Fnatic fan!

Transitional NAVI in trouble as questions swirl around s1mple

From undisputed #1 to undisputed #2 to who the hell knows what they are, it’s been a dizzying slide for NAVI’s players and fans alike. It seemed like they’d quickly get over Boombl4’s controversial departure in light of electronic’s short showings, but it seems like there is a new, s1mple-shaped void in the squad. Now, no one would blame the legendary player for falling off somewhat. The impeccable standards he’s set over the course of the last five years are nothing short of incredible, especially considering how he’s only 24 years old. Take the non-stop grind of elite-level CS and couple it with the terrifying affair that is the war on his homeland, and you could see how s1mple (apparently still busy dealing with the affairs of relocating to a new country) wouldn’t be on top of his game. Still, there’s no denying that his individual performances were a far cry form the level of excellence we’re used to, and there was a disjointed nature to NAVI’s play overall. This meant that the runaway favorites to win the group only ended up finishing third, with a 2-3 record, barely squeaking into the playoffs on account of superior tiebreakers. Currently, the team doesn’t even have a set fifth player, with sdy serving as a long-term stand-in but not yet confirmed as a permanent addition. It’s undoubtedly tough to craft a strong strategy under these circumstances – but nevertheless, what we’ve seen so far doesn’t inspire confidence in us when it comes to the playoffs.

Team Spirit fail to find stability after the loss of degster

The CIS outfit was not among the favorites to qualify from this stacked group, and yet, they will be quite disappointed to go out on tiebreakers after how the games shook out. In many ways, this represents progress by itself, a decent if inadequate way to bounce back from the departure of degster. Still, questions remain as to whether this squad can still produce the sort of incredible upset runs they did in Antwerp and their early performances in the online era. There’s clearly a lot of work to be done, and the competition is only going to get tougher.

NIP stuck in limbo still as the dev1ce saga rolls on

What else can we say about Ninjas in Pyjamas that hasn’t already been said? The slow-motion soap opera around the squad will continue until a definitive announcement is made about dev1ce, and the situation renders any success temporary and any setback ethereal. The roster and the roles will not be set in stone until the matter is resolved, and until then, no significant improvement can be made. Mental health is a serious concern, but this has to affect the well-being of all the other professionals in the squad. Unless they are already informed about what’s next – which is a reasonable proposition – it’s tough to pinpoint anything else behind their underperformance and early elimination as this continued drama.

Endpoint show promise but the big boys are still far away

The UK outfit took quite the scalp with their shock win over NAVI, but they couldn’t convert promising positions in other series. Still, they earned invaluable experience and quite a lot of plaudits for their gutsy play, and should they make it back to this stage again through the Conference Stage, they may very well do some damage in Season 17. Next up: Group B, featuring FaZe, G2, BIG, Outsiders, MIBR – and Portuguese minnows FTW Esports. No doubt they’d be more than pleased if they could match Endpoint’s results and performances.

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