Australian CS is a weathered battleground of competition. The only way to transcend domestic play and obtain the undeniably crucial international exposure and experience, is to run a gauntlet of teams all longing for the same. There’s a limited number of slots and opportunities for a large group of immense talent. To make yourself bigger than the region and succeed abroad, you first have to beat the best the scene has to offer.
Since the dissolvement of the Winterfox line-up back into domestic play, this constant fight to be Australia’s number one has only become more closely contested. The most talented fraggers have largely found themselves amongst the ranks of top teams with the money and growing local infrastructure to help support them. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron and as the era of parity at the end of 2017 showed, to play top-tier Aus CS one has never had to be more on the cutting edge.
The most recent side to break free of this domestic crucible has been ORDER, who qualified for IEM Katowice by beating Tainted Minds from the lower-bracket. The roster moves amongst top teams has benefitted ORDER in replacing wizard with Chiefs’s former young-gun aliStair. With this move ORDER now boast the strongest arsenal of firepower following a months long arms-race between top sides for the best talent.
ORDER have maybe the most mechanically gifted Australian player in Liazz who’s afforded the space his skill deserves as their round-closer and safety net. He works alongside the equally dominant NZ-based AWPer Sico who flaunts a well-rounded, fundamentally sound skill set which ORDER can consistently build rounds from. Alistair, hatz and emag form a three-pronged fragging core that can find success in opening rounds through fast-paced hits and tremendous entry power with any gun and against any opposition. They are a team full of dangerous individual potential.
ORDER wants to give these star-components the space they need to shine. They call a fast, looser style of T-side and look towards playing a pressure-filled, default punishing CT-side. As we saw in the IEM Katowice closed qualifier, if sides aren’t ready, or aren’t prepared, to contend in relentless duels and a higher-tempo maelstrom of the scene’s best duellers, they can beat anyone.
Although ORDER has arguably the most amount of talent, amongst the likes of Tainted Minds, Grayhound and Chiefs, they stand-out on the whole. While Tainted Minds, Chiefs and Grayhound have looked more towards structure, methodical executes and anti-stratting – some more-so than others – ORDER have largely embraced individual freedom. Opting to play the faster style and look to talent as the primary win condition works primarily, and ironically, through the chaos it can create.
Alistair’s addition to ORDER over Wizard seems crucial in this sense. Coming from Chiefs, AliStair was a player caught between AWPing/rifling and working within the Chiefs system/with individual freedom. Often seen being the dynamic switch-up for Chiefs if they need a volatile force, aliStair is at home in a team geared around harnessing the energy of explosive fraggers.
For a team that uses one of the more inexperienced IGL’s in emag, a style that is streamlined in its execution, deadly in its effectiveness and efficient in enabling its stars makes a lot of sense. But that’s not to say it’s without flaws.
ORDER’s T-side is very susceptible to counter-play and exposing the lack of win-conditions beyond the individual talent and forcing them to grind rounds on the back foot. While it all may still remain in the world of online play so-far, we have seen both Tainted Minds and Chiefs able to figure out and shut-down the ORDER offense. Both sides were able to successfully work pressure onto ORDER through CT-aggression and shut-down the individual prongs of a hit or default before it got dangerous. Both teams were also able to match ORDER on an individual level as well which was important in driving and enabling a lot of the macro punishes.
ORDER’s CT-side also lacks a lot of the nuance and cohesive layers of a tenured team. This seems like less of an issue though given how well the individuals of ORDER can perform on-sites or in bouts of CT-aggression of their own.
The question for ORDER isn’t a matter of bolstering their firepower further, but of figuring out how dynamic they can make their current configuration work. While they will be able to run over sides outside of the top 4-5 teams in Australia by virtue of talent, against their peers, an evolving style is crucial. Time spent playing and practicing world-class teams in Katowice will likely be big for ORDER to further develop and flesh-out their identity as a team more. If ORDER do manage to evolve in this way, becoming a more well-varied, and clearly structured, international experienced 5-man lineup, they could definitely cement themselves as the top team in the region.
ORDER is actually a crucial litmus test for the Australian scene. If they want to find success in this newly minted, tough top four they’ll need to grow beyond leveraging just the immense skill of their roster into wins. If ORDER fail as a side due to the stagnation of evolution beyond this stage, it shows how Aus CS has itself matured into a more complex competition, demanding more from a side to be truly dominate.
Comfortably being the top team in Australia is now more than ever a ticket to legitimate international recognition; the nature of what makes a top Australian team is changing as a result as well. There’s a higher value on being number one, and more resources than ever are being expended to get there. This Kings, now ORDER core was formed solely to get that top spot, and four months ago, they did. That’s no guarantee that they will in this post-shuffle period though. The competition seems to be once again fiercer, more stacked, more hungry for international competition, and tougher than ever for a team like ORDER to dominate as number one.
Photo credit: HLTV and WESG