EliGE played Counter-Strike 1.6 casually at a young age, but had his focus on StarCraft 2 early on. He played the real-time strategy game for the thrill of the competition, although he was finally swayed to switch back to Valve’s flagship first-person shooter in 2013 after trying out the new version in the beta period. The youngster quickly made his way up the ranks playing ESEA in North America and he began competing with Peter “ptr” Gurney in Justus Pro before continuing under the wing of veterans David “Xp3” Garrido and Tyler “Storm” Wood in eLevate, a team with whom he finished 3rd-4th at ClutchCon in 2015 after beating Tarik “tarik” Celik’s CLG in the quarter-finals before bowing out to Cloud9 in the semi-finals.
”When I first started playing video games as a kid, I played CS 1.6 first and it was always a game that I played casually until StarCraft 2. Starcraft was the game that made me put way more competitive effort towards being good, but it didn’t make me feel like CS did. My goal was always to be a professional gamer since I was younger and I was pursuing any game, regardless of how fun it was to me, that was a top scene just so I could achieve that goal. When I was kind of over my run in SC2 and CS:GO was rising at the same time, it felt like the perfect time to put all of my focus back to my childhood game.”
Not long after ClutchCon, EliGE signed with Liquid, replacing Keith “NAF” Markovic in the organization that he has now called home for nearly six years. He then started to gain experience at a much faster rate in his new home, playing on the international stage and even attending his first Major, DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, in the last quarter of 2015. Less than a year later, already a regular on the international circuit as a teenager, EliGE went on to reach the semi-finals and the grand final at two Majors, MLG Columbus and ESL One Cologne, in a turbocharged Liquid squad with a blossoming Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. Having struggled at his two first Majors, the event in Germany was where EliGE first showed a world-class performance at a Valve sponsored event, ending the tournament with a 1.15 rating.
EliGE really started to hit his stride individually in 2017, following s1mple’s departure from the team, as he took on more responsibilities in Liquid. EliGE played a flawless year with no negative showings at any event and was named the 12th best player of 2017, his first appearance on a Top 20 players ranking, for his consistent performances all year long and strong efforts in his team’s first deep runs at events like ESG Tour Mykonos and ESL One New York, where they achieved second-place finishes.
The American rifler continued to charge along in 2018, once again becoming one of the best 20 players of the year, this time at No.15, as Liquid brought in NAF and won their first international tournaments, cs_summit 2 and SuperNova Malta CS:GO, and made final runs at bigger events, namely ESL Pro League Season 7 and Season 8 Finals, ECS Season 5 Finals, ELEAGUE Premier, ESL New York and IEM Chicago.
Liquid finally exploded in 2019 after Jake “Stewie2K” Yip joined the team, becoming one of the top contenders at every event they played, winning seven titles and making the final at five more. Liquid won the Intel Grand Slam in record time and hit the No. 1 spot in the world rankings, although they slowed down towards the end of the year. EliGE, one of the main engines driving the team’s success, finished 2019 as the fourth best player in the world, his highest finish in a Top 20 players ranking yet.
”My most successful year ever in my career was 2019 and it was a year in which I really shined as a player. I felt like I cracked the code and was able to find answers faster than ever and grow faster than other players, as well. Not only did my individual game improve significantly, but so did my mental game thanks to a lot of combined gradual efforts from my sports psychologist, Jared [Tendler], the staff at Liquid and my own individual efforts through reading and listening to successful people in other industries.
“Going into 2020 after a year like 2019 wasn’t as high energy as it could have been. We ended 2019 very poorly for the standards that we had for ourselves at the beginning of the year and I think that the level of effort starting from the beginning of that player break really showed how poor our form was afterward. Teams were studying us and taking things from us, advancing quicker than we were. We were still trying to make sure we were on the same page with what we had before, players were rusty from not playing enough during the break and overall we were just trying to break even while other teams were passing us. I think the way it went at the end of the year lowered our confidence a bit.”
Liquid started the year on LAN, playing the BLAST Premier Spring Series group stage in London, where they were sent to the Showdown by FaZe. The North American team then traveled to Poland to play the only big LAN event of the year, IEM Katowice, which they started out with two victories over Evil Geniuses and Virtus.pro, but things quickly turned sour as losses to G2 and Natus Vincere saw Liquid go out in 5-6th place. Despite not going deep into the playoffs, EliGE earned his first EVP mention of the year thanks to a 1.18 rating, 1.35 impact rating and 87.5 ADR in the team’s nine maps played.
“I believe that we were going into 2020 trying to rebuild in the same way that we had in 2019, doing the same types of practice routines and with the same mindset. We were going to need some time for our work to start showing and we did okay at our first tournaments at the beginning of the year. We didn’t have any tournament wins then, but I think we were on the right track.
“It sounds weird to say, but I think my best memory of 2020 was IEM Katowice. It was when I was still feeling competitive and was in a competitor mindset. Even though we lost and it wasn’t the result we wanted, it felt like we were just getting started and after that the year only worsened.“
EliGE then went on a tear in the first online event after returning to North America, ESL Pro League Season 11 North America, accruing a spectacular 1.27 rating, 1.38 impact rating and 90.5 ADR across 16 maps. Liquid looked like they were going to be one of the dominant sides in North America early on and beat the likes of 100 Thieves, MIBR and Evil Geniuses. EliGE was a key player in the two victories over EG with a 1.37 rating in their group stage match and a 1.29 rating in the final against tarik and company, all of which played a part in him earning his first and only MVP award of the year.
“We were still really in the grind then coming off of the LANs from earlier before putting in a lot of work and I was still feeling really good individually [at ESL Pro League Season 11]. Every peek that I took I felt like I was going to win it. The team was feeling on the same page and that is when I really feel like I can excel the most. When you have to be questioning if everyone knows what they should be doing or have to be managing more of that, it makes it more difficult to perform at my best. It was kind of just continuing off of my 2019 form.”
The 23-year-old kept his numbers up in ESL One: Road to Rio North America and DreamHack Masters Spring 2020, with 1.20 and 1.19 ratings, respectively, but Liquid weren’t able to bring home any silverware, finishing fourth and second, respectively. The North American squad’s sheen started to wear off, losing three times to FURIA in their match-ups at both events, including in the DreamHack Masters Spring grand final. Despite not winning any new titles, EliGE was again awarded two more EVPs for his efforts.
“FURIA is a team that you really have to prepare for to make sure you know all of the plays that they like to do so you can stop them earlier and get it into a 5v4. However, even if you get that, they are one of the best 4v5 teams in the world in my opinion so we still need to be really sharp. If any team thinks they are just brainlessly doing things then they are wrong because you can see their coordination in a lot of late rounds how they slow down the game and make you make mistakes. They try to get you to think that they are just all aggressive and nothing else but their slow game is very good and I think we didn’t put in enough effort learning their game earlier and thinking of solutions better.”
Liquid were fruitless in their search for another victory at their last two events of the first half of 2020, BLAST Premier Spring Americas and cs_summit 6. EliGE ended up with above average ratings at both, 1.06 and 1.05, respectively, but well below his usual personal marks, although he was still very impactful for his team, with 1.17 and 1.18 impact ratings in their fourth and third place finishes. At the BLAST event, Liquid were out after only six maps in two losses to Evil Geniuses and FURIA, whereas they were able to beat MIBR, FURIA and 100 Thieves at the summit event, but lost to Evil Geniuses and Gen.G.
“Unfortunately, when the pandemic started and made most of our games online again, that really affected the team. We have never been a team that has been good online, and even during our better tournament runs in 2019, we performed poorly online. It affects our competitive mindset a bit since it is a lower level of play and the games were increasingly more and more meaningless. Many games that were the exact same against the same teams every single week didn’t really hype you up when it’s months on end and I think it definitely affected us the most but I am sure other teams as well.”
Liquid made several changes in the off-season, losing longtime in-game leader Nick “nitr0” Cannella and Eric “adreN” Hoag, a tactics-heavy coach that stood behind the team during their peak. Michael “Grim” Wince and Jason “moses” O’Toole were brought on for the second tournament season, which prompted deep shifts in the team’s inner workings as both of the incoming members had very different profiles than those of the people they were substituting.
“The coaching change has to be looked at in combination with losing nitr0. The entire team dynamic changed, the two more vocal people on the team were nitr0 and Stewie2K and that shifted towards being Stewie2K and me. I was already transitioning towards trying to be more vocal more often, but it was pretty heavy on both of us and not having another person to help lessen the burden made it very difficult team-wise and for me individually.
“nitr0 added a lot to the team, such as bringing new things to practice, thinking of solutions to our problems, being a big voice on the team and he was very good at playing off of me and supporting me. He let me think less and get into good positions and was always ready for the flash that I called for or helped me get into those spots, so I think that the loss of chemistry with him affected me a lot individually at the end of the year.
“adreN is a coach and person that I will always respect and I think that he was doing a really great job towards the end of his time with us. The team wanted to shift from someone more tactical to someone with more of a voice to get people back into the game. However, with us losing nitr0 at the same time as losing our more tactical coach, it made us take a couple of steps back strategically trying to get everyone on the same page and helping moses get more caught up in the meta and strategies. I think that he is learning quickly right now and is really helping in trying to find solutions to the problems we are having.”
EliGE was quick to find his best form once again after the break, putting up a 1.21 rating at the smaller DreamHack Open Summer North America and more importantly a 1.18 at ESL One Cologne North America, in which the renewed Liquid took second place, looking like they could become more competitive, although they were kept away from the title by Evil Geniuses in the final. EliGE added yet another EVP his tally, which by then sat at four.
”I think the ESL One Cologne final was a really tough loss. It was a very tiring, long day and that makes it really tough to play at a high level during so many hours. I think from start to finish it was six or seven hours, which is absolutely insane to think about. Not even a spectator can really watch that intensely for so many hours, so you can imagine that a player can’t either. We felt like we were playing really well during that series and I think the fatigue got to us harder than EG at the end, when I felt like we had them on the ropes in the earlier maps.”
Liquid went on to finish fourth in ESL Pro League Season 12 North America, where they were once again unable to keep up with the most competitive teams in the region, losing to FURIA and Evil Geniuses in the group stage and 100 Thieves in the playoffs. EliGE dipped down to a still imposing 1.10 rating in the team’s 21 maps played, and although he was still a high-impact player with a 1.20 impact rating, he came shy of being awarded another EVP mention.
EliGE once again ramped up his individual performances, hitting his highest peak of the year in IEM New York North America despite Liquid’s fifth place following losses to Evil Geniuses and FURIA. The 23-year-old managed a 1.36 rating, with a staggering 98.6 ADR and 1.47 impact rating in 16 maps played to get his fifth EVP. Liquid then fumbled at one of the least-stacked events of the year, IEM Beijing-Haidian, falling to Triumph in the semi-finals, although EliGE was still racking up big numbers with a 1.26 rating by the end of the tournament.
“It definitely is my main job to frag out as hard as possible so the team definitely helps set me up with letting me play in my preferred roles, and in the second-round forces, one of my teammates will drop me an AK to help me excel and win the round. I need to be making sure that I live up to that and I keep finding solutions to problems by thinking of plays that I can do, and if I am not doing that then I am failing. Stewie2K really helps me out with that and really believes in me in those situations, so I just need to do my part and do as much as I can. All of those factors really help me keep up my form even though this year has been tougher than most.”
The North American squad then travelled to Europe to finish off in some of the bigger online events, although they ran into one of the teams that had been stumping them on home soil all year long, FURIA, in the BLAST Showdown semi-finals, and another loss to the Brazilians meant they wouldn’t make it to the tournament’s final stage. Then came DreamHack Masters Winter Europe, where Liquid spiraled against two European teams, losing 0-2 to mousesports in their opening series before being put in an unfortunate match-up against Astralis in the group stage lower bracket, which they also lost 0-2, going out in 13-16th place. EliGE had his only event in the red all year in an otherwise impeccable individual record, with a 0.90 rating across the four lost maps.
Liquid unexpectedly saved their trip to Europe from being a complete missed opportunity at the last event of the year, IEM Global Challenge, a stacked eight-team tournament with the top six teams in the world ranking all in attendance. Liquid started out with a victory against Heroic and a loss to Natus Vincere before taking revenge on FURIA in the group stage elimination match. Having left their Brazilian rivals behind, Liquid defeated BIG in the semi-finals in a match in which EliGE posted a 1.62 rating in two maps to help his team secure a grand final appearance. The North Americans weren’t able to take out Astralis in the title match, losing all three maps played, but EliGE nonetheless secured his sixth and last EVP of the year thanks to a 1.14 rating, 1.18 impact rating and 83.3 ADR throughout the tournament.
“Our finish at the IEM Global Challenge was more of a relief, I can’t believe we did so well, to be quite honest. We were not playing well whatsoever prior to the Global Challenge in the tournaments nor in the scrims beforehand. We were making a lot of mistakes, it felt bad overall during the practice games and it was looking like the result was going to be at most getting out of groups. I am very happy with our result, of course, but it was more of a shock of how good we did there considering the circumstances.”
“The goals for 2021 are to get the team back to being a top contender at tournaments, first, and then becoming the best in the world again. I want to bring back the structure we had when we were winning and keep moving forward with FalleN, whom I think is going to be an integral piece of our team this year.”
Why was EliGE the eighth best player of 2020?
EliGE was one of 2020’s most impactful players inside the server, putting in the fourth-highest damage output (84.2 ADR), which helped him to rank seventh for kills per round (0.76) as well as 12th for assists per round (0.15). He also excelled at opening kills (0.14 per round, ninth) and multi-kills (19.3% of his rounds, sixth), which tied into him having the fourth highest Impact rating (1.28), only trailing Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, s1mple and Nikola “NiKo” Kovač.
The 23-year-old averaged the seventh-highest rating of all players (1.16) with everything added up, or the sixth-highest (still 1.16) when filtered for Big events only. He also showed great consistency by performing well at almost every notable event he attended, with Liquid’s disappointing 13-16th place run at DreamHack Masters Winter Europe being an exception, which is reflected in his seven awards from 11 events — including EVPs at both of the Elite-level tournaments he attended, IEM Katowice and IEM Global Challenge.
Like the rest of players who spent the larger part of the year in North America and mostly played against each other, EliGE’s numbers have to be looked at in that context, which is why he couldn’t be higher even if his statistics and number of awards might justify it. What ultimately sealed his position at No. 8 was his exceptional play in big matches, in which he put up a remarkable 1.25 rating from a sample size of 29 maps in Big events playoffs (this includes the five biggest North American events, IEM Katowice and IEM Global Challenge), the third-highest out of all players. Furthermore, he is the player who improved the most between the group stages and the playoffs, consistently showing that he can elevate his performances when it matters most.
”I think that I stack up very well individually against the teams that we were playing against this year, and I have a good practice schedule that keeps my mechanics where they need to be, although I do think that I didn’t get to play to my potential this year because of not being able to play at the higher levels of competition.
“I am a type of player that rises to the competition and I want to feel the pressure and feel like the games matter, so I think this year I was only treading water individually from my form last year.”
EliGE chose one of this year’s most popular predictions as his player to watch, also named by Justin “jks” Savage, Yuri “yuurih” Santos and Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato, is FURIA‘s most recent signing, AWPer Paytyn “junior” Johnson.
”I think junior has the potential to be a good player. He has a lot of impact with the AWP and is very aggressive so I think if he can get more experience with better players around him that can teach him more of the fundamentals he can rise quickly.”
Stay tuned to our Top 20 players of 2020 ranking and take a look at the Introduction article to learn more about how the players were selected. This year’s ranking is supported by: