The ubiquitous ‘Oceanic Shuffle’ has swept the region again. Lineups such as Tainted Minds, Grayhound Esports and Legacy Esports have all made changes to their starting five, while a brand new roster of top-tier players has formed under Kings Esports Club.

The main talking point around these shifts in premier teams is who will benefit the most from the changes made, or lack thereof.

Tainted Minds v Kings: How Tainted can make the best from worse

Tainted Minds have been off the radar for the past few months. The best team in the region through 2016 were set to take their dominance to new heights at the start of this year following their signing with the Tainted organisation, a semi-final finish at the ESEA Season 23 Global Challenge, and the addition of the internationally-experience dexter. However, a slew of roster changes, including the losses of in-game leader sonic, star fragger liazz and the aforementioned dexter, and the lack of any offline events for the team, since the ESEA LAN at the start of January, has left the only remaining players from 2016’s Athletico, chuch and InfrequeNt, reeling for both teammates and results in online leagues. Finally, it seems Tainted’s roster has settled with the addition of the ex-Winterfox veteran ap0c and ex-Avant support rifler kyoto.

On paper, however, Tainted Minds didn’t win the Oceanic shuffle. Man for man, I think Kings Esports Club has a better lineup of players. But the lack of in-game leader and aggressive presence will severely hinder the super-team’s play-style and I think Tainted will come out on top in matches between the two and overall results.

Ex-Tainted player dexter recently tweeted “unless you define a unique team style, meh” in response to the Kings announcement, and it’s true. The Oceanic scene has an abundance of frag-heavy, aim-reliant teams toward its top end that often fail to implement any kind of meaningful system. While wizard was announced as the team’s in-game leader, it’s actually emagine who will take on the shot-calling duties, a player who hasn’t called for any team in the past and may fall into a simple style. Players like Hatz and Sico, coming from the rigid style of LONSDALE in Avant, could play direction-less in this Kings lineup, thus rendering players like wizard, emagine and liazz unable to capitalise on an opened-up bombsite.

Tainted Mind’s Jesse “InfrequeNt” Barker

The in-game leading of ofnu will be severely tested in this roster, but I think it has more room for development and achievement than emag’s on Kings. The Kiwi hasn’t called for a side since Legacy in 2015, but if he can rekindle the work he did during that period, Tainted can succeed. ofnu, alongside ap0c, attended DreamHack Winter 2015, where they played fairly close on Cobblestone and had a decent showing against Team Liquid in 2-0 loss. While the team didn’t show too much tactical prowess, ofnu was able to command his troops around to find picks on the T side and have some impactful games himself. Since then, ofnu, while not directly developing his calling, would have refined and matured his style of play and vision for the game, hopefully bringing something new at the helm of Tainted.

Tainted need to embrace the raw fragging power of chuch and InfrequeNt if they are to make the most of their sub-optimal pickups. Both chuch’s rifle and InfrequeNt’s AWP are notorious for opening up the map for their side, and formed the spearhead for the team’s success in 2016. A default can be set up where one or both of these players are free to take map control and engagements, with the buddy-system support of ofnu and kyoto following suit.

The support role is one that’s often overlooked in Australian CS, but I think ofnu and kyoto might be two of the best at it. ofnu especially was an instrumental force in past lineups at navigating the chaos created by his entry-fraggers and the team’s utility to wipe sites clean. He’s also incredibly calm in clutch situations, thus best used towards the middle or rear of Tainted’s executes. kyoto, while not the most deadly of players, will be reuinted with chuch and InfrequeNt in this lineup, where the Athletico of 2016 was where he possibly played his best CS. He situates himself as more of a hard support than the hybrid support-fragging style of ofnu, and will be essential in affording his entry-fraggers their best shot at finding kills.

ap0c is a player that’s been shifting between roles over his time with teams like Exile 5, Legacy and Winterfox, but may find a home here playing the one most suited to his playstyle. As an aggressive lurk, ap0c is a master of causing chaos around the map, cutting off rotations and capitalising on his side’s presence elsewhere.

Liazz joins Kings Esports Club with old teammate Wizard

The roles on Kings, however, are quite muddled. liazz and emagine are extremely similar players on the T side, with both favouring the lurk position and playing passively around the map. Hatz and wizard, similarly, both lean towards playing a coldzera-style support role. Hatz, while more akin to being an entry-fragger, was in this role during his time with Avant Garde, and if he continues to play stylistically similar, his team will sorely lack an aggressive force. Sico’s AWPing style is a lot more controlled and passive than many in the region, but the Kiwi will need to take more initiative in this team for them to find openings.

Again, when comparing the two lineups on paper, I think Kings edges Tainted out in man-for-man skill. But Tainted’s aggressive presence, experienced in-game leader and well-defined roles, suited to each player’s skillset, will allow them to tactically outplay their opponents, including Kings whenever these teams match up, rather than just using brute force or raw fragging power.

Why Chiefs will continue to dominate post-shuffle – Max Melit

The Australian CS:GO scene is in a perpetual state of motion. Teams seem to be restless to  escape the shackles of mediocrity. The recent flood of money from non-endemics, opportunity for international travel, and raised stakes across the board has definitely seen a shift, both in-game and outside of it. No longer is the title ‘best team in Australia’ measured merely in bragging rights over former teammates and rivals. Now, boasting domestic dominance actually affords tangible benefits. Whether that be in the form of international recognition, greater leverage in contract negotiations, better chance of qualifying for international LANs or having Nase Pybus tweet about you.

Top sides have now taken the opportunity of ex-WFX becoming free-agents and a body of other teams disbanding to make upgrades to their current cores or form new ‘super teams’ altogether. These sides have been forged out the belly of any CyberGamer poster’s dream team fantasy. They have been created with the clear intention of taking the number one spot. It seems that this shuffle has sparked another level increase for the overall competitiveness at the top end of the scene.

Before these intimidating super-teams and freshly branded organisations start to stake their claim in the space however, lets not forget who the real current Kings of Australian CS:GO are. Lets not forget Chiefs.

A quick reminder. As of writing (26th of June) in 2017, Chiefs have played a total of 23 Bo3/2 series with their full roster. They have only straight-up lost 4 of these series. Three to Immunity/Greyhound – once in ZEN League, the Minor Qual and CGPL – and once to Dark Sided – again in ZEN League. That’s an 82% win-rate in series games.

Chiefs Esports Club at IEM – Photo by Steph Leung

One also has to consider the context of how this win-rate was achieved. The Chiefs are the primary target for every top team who wants to vie for the Australian CS:GO crown. Being the biggest fish in a small pond leaves a lot of surface area for the smaller fish to attack. The Chiefs demos were likely poured over by the other elite teams. Their style is by no means a secret, and although they might be the best, that doesn’t mean there aren’t holes to exploit. Usurpers to the throne have had constant chances to beat Chiefs at their own game or force them into uncomfortable positions. Yet, somehow, the consistent win-rate prevails.

This can be pinned to a number of reasons. The most apparent is the collective skill ceiling of this roster. Chiefs have not only proved they can hit their ceiling – but also that it may very well be the highest in the region. Sure, Kings Gaming Club might put forwards a strong case to say otherwise in terms of potential but no other team in the present can come close to contesting the manifested in-game level of Chiefs.

This massive bank of individual skill can be drawn upon to push the Chiefs over the line in tough situations. All five members of this team can – in any combination, and from any position – pull out a big performance and carry. Need pecks and malta to drop 25+ to get the last few rounds and win 16-14? Done. What if you need to shut down those two big fraggers on the other team in overtime? Alistair will have you covered there as well.

This is a team who have struggled to fall from grace because their individual skill won’t let it happen. This notion is amplified even further when you consider the great system they play under. Giving tucks full reign of this team’s calling has truly helped transformed Chiefs into the monsters they are today.

Being able to fully experiment with his own mix of set-executes, individual freedom, and unpredictable mid-round calls – tucks can make this team play even greater than the sum of their parts. Even if opening picks are a struggle to find – the system from which Chiefs build their game from affords a base to fall back to. They can easily tighten up their own game and play fundamental CS if the star-power for whatever reason is lacking that night.

The Chiefs, in terms of  balanced roles, results, and proven potential, exist in a delicate eco-system of their own in Australian CS. For them, everything is finely tuned, refined and rational right now. There’s no need to make a change.

A casual observer might point out that pecks lacks ‘big number’ consistency relative to his four teammates. Whereas tucks might have this problem to, at least he has the excuse of calling to fall back on. Pecks, seemingly, might be the weakest link. One that could easily be replaced by the slew of talented riflers up for grabs in the shuffle. Why not see someone like hatz, or liazz, or even a better ‘support’ player like emagine not take the apparently underwhelming pecks?

Because what pecks offers is far more important to this specific four than any other, more mechanically superior rifler could afford.

Chief’s Pecks at IEM Sydney with Nase

He’s willing to do anything to help his team win. If that means having to take on the star role to push his team over the line in key situations, or simply plug and play positions for teammates that might feel uncomfortable in that spot, he’ll do it. He’s willing to throw a flashbang and bait for someone as he is willing to put himself in winnable 1v2’s. Whatever is required at the moment, he does his unselfish best.

In this sense, even though this shuffle potentially dangled some of the finest players in Australia in front of the Chiefs face, they stuck to their guns. They know they have a winning chemistry, a winning position, and an exclusive realm of balance and consistency few other teams can match. For not giving into a restless move to ‘cement’ their spot as number one they have shown a mindset on the long-term.

It seems because of shunning the impulsiveness that many teams have suffered in Australian CS, the Chiefs will have a realistic chance to become the best team in Australian CS history. For if they can keep a winning consistency against these monstrous teams formed from ex-WFX being dissolved back into the scene, they stand alone in a historical sense. No other team would be able to boast such a long-reign, over such tough, competitive opposition, a lot of which have been hardened by overseas play.

They have transcended a mindset and given themselves an unparalleled opportunity to shape a historical narrative around themselves. For this, to me at least, they have won the mid-2017 OCE shuffle.