One of the most important events in all of CS:GO history is the DreamHack Winter 2014 Major match between Fnatic and LDLC. Or more specifically, the Fnatic boost on Overpass. It is one of the most iconic moments in CS:GO history the game and Fnatic as a team. There have been multiple different angles of examining that particular incident, but there was still one approach that was never examined, what if there was no scandal around the boost? While it is likely impossible considering the sentiment that surrounded the Fnatic players at the time, suspend your disbelief for a moment and imagine a world where it isn’t a giant scandal. It’s just an incident where Dreamhack decide to ban the boost after it’s unveiling and everything moves on in that tournament. What happens in that world? The counterfactual I posit is that in this universe, Fnatic go on to win that Major, but fail to become the greatest lineup of all time in CS:GO history.
Counterfactual thinking is the idea of thinking how an alternative reality works out. When I look at the DreamHack Winter 2014 boost, there are a lot of factors that went into play. Both sides had used an illegal boost, though Fnatic’s was far more effective. This only exacerbated the situation as the French players had a heated rivalry with the Swedes as they had yet to beat them. It had also gone personal as one of the French players, Richard “shox” Papillon publically called Robin “flusha” Ronnquist a cheater. The biggest tipping point though was the public outcry and rage that was thrown at Fnatic after the match.
In that moment the five Fnatic players: Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson, Jesper “JW” Wecksell, flusha, Markus “pronax” Wallsten, and Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer felt an immense amount of pressure and hatred from the community to the point where they decided to forfeit. It even got to the point that players like olofmeister and KRIMZ considered retirement. So what if that community outcry doesn’t happen?
That is where the counterfactual comes in. If there is no large public outcry, then perhaps DreamHack decide that there is no need for a rematch as both sides had used an illegal boost. From that point on Fnatic continue playing in that tournament and because they are the best team at that Major, it’s reasonable to assume that they win. The team then goes on and from here the counterfactual gets complicated. At MLG Aspen Games 2015, Fnatic and NiP play during the NiP lineup with Mikail “Maikelele” Bill. It’s an incredible series, one of the best in all of CS:GO history and NiP end up winning it with incredible magic moments. Fnatic though fought them tooth and nail the entire time.
So we can assume that goes the same way. How about ESL Katowice 2015 Major? This is a Major that could have swung the way of NiP, despite Fnatic being the better team. The score is 2-1 in Fnatic’s favor, but NiP had a big change to win the first map on Dust 2, and a very late rally is what Fnatic needs in order to win that map. After that, NiP take cache, and Fnatic win inferno to win the Major.
So if NiP win Dust 2, it’s not unreasonable to say that NiP win the Major. And when we look back at the final moments on Dust 2, we have a series of incredibly clutch moments from Fnatic to steal it from NiP. First we have the classic Fnatic pause before round 27. In the subsequent rounds, Fnatic make hero plays to steal the series. On the force buy, olofmeister gets two kills to win the round. In the 29th round, KRIMZ either makes the perfect read or gets the perfect timing on Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund’s rotation near the end of the round to get the opening pick and setup for an A split. The 30th round is a Fnatic chaos round where Olofmeister makes contact at first B causing a domino effect around the map as NiP make the rotations and Fnatic counter those rotations to win the game.
Let’s look further at the ESL Cologne Major 2015. This is the tournament that crowns Fnatic as the consensus greatest lineup to have ever touched CS:GO. This is the one where Virtus.Plow is in full effect. In the semifinals of that Major, they are down one map in the series. 13-7 down in the second map and have yet to post a round up in the second half. They take the legendary pause where they say nothing. They recompose themselves and forcefully stop the plow from destroying them. They go on to win that series and then repeat the same miraculous comeback on EnVyUs in the first map. This breaks EnVyUs and they win the series and the Major.
Perhaps we can argue that Fnatic still win the Katowice Major against NiP. They were the better team and the swing map was Dust 2, famously an individually based map where Fnatic had the better players. At the same time, we already know that players like JW, flusha, and pronax were proven performers under pressure because they had already been to a Major finals and won one in DreamHack Winter 2013. In this alternate timeline, we can say the same of KRiMZ and olofmeister. It’s just another day at the office for them.
However, I think they lose the ESL Cologne 2015 Major in this alternate timeline. Even in this alternate timeline, Fnatic is still hated. Even before the Fnatic boost happened, they were never a popular team like Virtus.Pro or NiP. That particular match was more than just skill in the game. By that point, Fnatic were falling off individually. Teams were catching up and what really pushes them over the edge isn’t superiority in skills or tactics, it is composure and grit. In the face of an overwhelming Virtus.Pro crowd, in the face of a community that wants to see them lose, in the face of potential elimination from the Major, they didn’t bat an eye. They forced the timeout, they recomposed themselves and they got a legendary Major victory.
And I’d say that composure, that grit comes from the DreamHack Winter 2014 incident. Remember back to that moment. Before that happened, the Fnatic members were ordinary players. I remember olofmeister saying something along the lines of he thought the community would have loved the boost. Instead they hated him and his team. It got to the point where olofmeister and KRiMZ were considering retirement. They could have capitulated at that moment, but instead they forged their spirits in that hatred. They came out the other side with a chip on their shoulders and a defiant spirit that defined their character as a team moving forward.
In essence, that dire circumstance changed them for the better. Kobe Bryant once said this, “If practice is more intense and harder than a game 7 will be, then game 7 will be easy…but if it’s not that’s when teams start folding and capitulating.”
For those Fnatic players, DreamHack Winter 2014 was literal hell. It forced them to face the entire world’s animosity. The community was against them. The pros, usually a brotherhood, were actively against them. With constant hate spammed their way, they could have just quit and run. Instead they stood and fought and that was their crucible. They had survived the valley of death and had come out the other side reached apotheosis. Nothing could scare them anymore. Teams could be better than them, players could beat them, but they never played themselves out of a situation. That moment made them the champions that we know today.
Another thing to consider is how different the Major victories impact us. In the alternate timeline, Fnatic win the DreamHack Winter 2014 Major at a time when they were supposed to win. In our timeline, they forfeit that Major. But the experiences from that Major forge them into something greater and that spirit, that resilience, that is what allows them to pull of an incredible miracle victory to win ESL Cologne 2015.
The number of Major victories is the same, but the ESL Cologne 2015 victory is the most prestigious of Fnatic’s tournament victories. It was done at a time when Fnatic were on the decline, but they still won anyway. For me, that is what defines all time greatness. To win when you aren’t supposed to win. To continue to win when everything and everyone is against you. Many have won tournaments at the beginning of their rise, to only fall later. Astralis in early 2017, SK in mid 2017, FaZe in late 2017 all spring to mind. Those teams failed, whereas Fnatic succeeded. They continued to be great and were able to get another Major victory that clinched the deal. Upon winning ESL Cologne 2015, they walked out and called themselves the greatest. Despite being hated, no one could naysay them at that point, no one could. That is what makes them the greatest lineup of all time and the boostgate of DreamHack Winter 2014 never happens, I don’t believe they gain that mental strength to do what they did at ESL Cologne 2015.
It isn’t just that. Think upon the era in which Fnatic played. They had Virtus.Pro, NiP, EnVyUs, and TSM all gunning for them. Each of these teams posed legitimate threats and at times beat Fnatic. However Fnatic was always able to rally back and stop the challengers from every overtaking their spot as the best team in the world.
As for how the rest of the counterfactual works out, it gets fuzzy from there. Do they force the Dennis “dennis” Edman trade earlier and if so, do they still have the same run of form without that mental strength to bullshit rounds whenever they wanted. In turn do they crush LG 16-0 like the current timeline on Dust 2 and alter the way that lineup works out? Similarly did LG’s own battles with that version of Fnatic forge them to become one of the greatest clutch teams we’ve ever seen?
After all teams learn from failure. LG losing so many times to Fnatic from the end of 2015 to the beginning of 2016 could have forced them along a path where they realized they needed to make hero plays to win the game and become unphased when they had to. It is similar to how the boostgate forged Fnatic to become this ultimate team that never fell under the pressure.
In either case, the counterfactual as I’ve explained it is clear. Fnatic in the counterfactual probably get the same amount of Majors, but because they don’t get the right Major, the idea of them as the greatest of all time isn’t as strong. However as history stands now, we know that Fnatic can win when all the chips are down. With the highest possible stakes, with the Virtus.Plow at full power breathing down their necks. They took a pause and in those three minutes, they remembered what they were. The greatest and they took that game, took that series, and took that Major. The DreamHack Winter 2014 boostgate was one of the worst moments of those Fnatic player’s careers, but it ended up being a pivotal moment that forged them into the greatest lineup CS:GO had ever seen.