There are several reasons to love the Counter-Strike scene. This year we've added another one.
After Ninjas in Pyjamas incredible 87 win streak three years ago Fnatic picked up the baton and crushed all opposition during 2015. But in 2016 the Counter-Strike scene developed into a hornet's nest. Every game has been incredibly exciting and open-ended no matter the tournament, no matter the team's shape. As an esports devotee, I love it. One doesn't need to look any further than last weekend's game in Oakland.
► LÄS MER: HeatoN: "Riksidrottsförbundet, erkänn e-sporten som en sport"
Astralis and FaZe stormed forward and won their groups with style – only to be eliminated in the semis. Instead, we saw SK gaming enter the finals against Ninjas in Pyjamas as favorites to win.
A nerve-racking final ended up with the Brazilians leading with 14-12 for the terrorists on the deciding map. But the swedes woke up in the eleventh hour only to turn the game to victory with 16-14 – thanks largely to Jacob ”pyth” Mourujärvi.
I obviously rejoiced, being NiP:s manager and all. But more than anything I felt for "pyth", who got to win in his comeback after being away for almost 4 months due to an injury. He was feeling down in august and we counseled him regularly in personal talks within the team. To see him deliver immediately in the comeback was beautiful.
But the fact remains: with one week remaining until the year's last tournament – the ELEAUGE-finals – the final results are as open-ended as can be.
Seven different teams have won the eight latest big tournaments with at least 250 000 dollars in prize money: NiP, Cloud9, Dignitas, Natus Vincere, SK Gaming, G2 and Virtus Pro. Add the Oakland group winners – Astralis, FaZe and Fnatic – onto that. I haven't seen anything even remotely like that in the last few years of competitive Counter-Strike.
► LÄS MER: NiP mästare i Oakland efter Pyths comeback
The tournaments are particularly unpredictable and every match is open-ended in a way that only strengthens competitive gaming’s already high entertainment value.
This means that the demands on the team's tactical prowess are higher than ever. Games are often prefaced by a game of cat and mouse: the teams don’t always pick the games they are best at, but the maps their opponents are the worst at.
It's called contra tactics, and is one of the foremost arguments for why competitive gaming is at least as advanced as our established sports. You're chanceless without it.
I still remember CPL Summer 2003 when we faced our fellow swedes in Team9 on Inferno in the finals. They had crushed their opponents with a tactic in which they covered the bombsite from left to right with counter-terrorists. In preparing for the finals we developed a contra tactic where we surprised them with flash grenades. Team9 didn't have a contra tactic, and we could take down their arrangement with our flash grenades round after round. It all ended up in a blowout.
Conclusion: contra tactics are at least as important as your main tactic. This year's last tournament starts on Wednesday with the ELEAGUE-finals. So fasten your seat belt — and be prepared for even more surprises.
► LÄS MER: NiP-coachen redo att göra upp med Fnatic
Emil "HeatoN" Christensen, åttafaldig världsmästare i Counter-strike