In the lead up to DreamHack Masters Marseille, the competitive Counter-Strike landscape is in a period of uncertainty. With no clear favorite in sight, many of the world’s best teams are champing at the bit to prove their worth. Of the 16 teams attending, five have made roster changes since their last LAN appearance. This tournament and the chaos that transpired before it will make it one of the juiciest events of the year.

Cloud9 lost its core superstar in Jake “Stewie2K” Yip ​to a full Brazilian lineup, just over two months after winning North America’s first Major in CS:GO. In return, Team Liquid jumped at the opportunity to bolster its squad and replaced Lucas “Steel” Lopes ​with Epitacio “TACO” de Melo. TACO had spent a significant portion of his time with the SK Gaming, winning two Majors and numerous premier tournaments. While the Stewie2K move is gutsy, it pales in comparison to the originally proposed move of Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev and Egor "flamie" Vasilyev instead joining SK Gaming. 

S1mple is the best player in the world and nearly joined the SK lineup before ​mysteriously changing his mind. It will be interesting to see if their attempt to escape the Natus Vincere organization (and, ultimately, ESForce) will have an impact on their performance in Marseille.

FaZe Clan is still ranked No. 1 in the world by most and has still been forced to make a change with Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer ​going inactive for the near future for personal reasons. Former Ninjas in Pyjamas in-game leader and fellow Swede, Richard "Xizt" Landström, has taken over his role on the active lineup. FaZe has struggled to close most tournaments, finishing second, third or fourth on four separate occasions to begin 2018. FaZe is as desperate as ever to improve on those results as the year progresses.

G2 Esports not only lost rifler Richard "shox" Papillon to wrist surgery, but lost him indefinitely after their struggles to begin the year. He will not return to the lineup and has ​been replaced by Spanish hybrid Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas. Taking over in-game leading duties is veteran Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt, who has expressed his commitment to ensuring G2 reaches a level of form the world has yet to see. Shox himself has a number of opportunities from which to choose, including playing with former teammates Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux and Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans, who are not currently in active lineups.

Returning after recent victories are Mousesports and Fnatic who won StarSeries Season 4 and IEM Katowice respectively, making the stakes even higher as they attempt to build on their recent legacies. Space Soldiers has its first opportunity since WESG to prove its incredible online form translates to LAN play; Space Soldiers’ tied for first place position is Season 7 of ESL Pro League has already qualified the team for the Finals in Dallas, Texas next month. It should also be noted that cousin of superstar Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, Nemanja “huNter” Kovač was able to qualify for the event with Valiance. It is the first time they will play at a large international event together.

So how does this all shake out? It will be interesting to see. But the teams CS:GO fans are used to seeing at the top for the last six months are more vulnerable than ever, and whoever rises to win this event will stake the first claim to dominance heading into a busy spring and summer.

Photo by Adela Sznajder/DreamHack