The CIS squads are continuing their show of strength at IEM Katowice as Spirit and Gambit won their last group stage matches against Astralis and G2, respectively. Spirit are therefore through to the IEM Katowice semi-finals following their clean run in the Group A upper bracket, while Astralis will have to start their playoff run from the quarter-finals as the Group A runners-up.
Gambit and G2 both reached the Group A lower bracket final after losing their opening matches in the tournament. In their last group stage match Gambit came out on top in two maps, winning their map pick Vertigo and then besting G2 on Dust2 to seal the deal with 16-11 scorelines on both maps, knocking their European rivals out of contention while booking a spot in the quarter-finals.
Spirit came out guns blazing on their map pick, Inferno, taking an early 5-1 lead on the terrorist side, but Astralis managed to turn it around by halftime, albeit just barely as the CIS squad kept it within one before switching sides. Spirit tied things up in the second pistol round, but after losing to the forcebuy found themselves in a spiral until Abdul “degster” Gasanov downed four CTs to give his team a lifeline at 9-13. Spirit fought to swing momentum back in their favor, but finally faltered as the Danes closed out the first map 16-11.
Spirit kicked off Train on the preferred CT side, taking an impressive 9-2 lead early on before Astralis started to close the gap with two more rounds, but degster downed three opponents in a pistol buy to hit double digits before switching sides. Having won the second pistol round Spirit kept on track all the way to a 14-5 lead, but Astralis started to mount a comeback on the defense, only giving the attacking squad one chance to plant in seven rounds. Spirit finally posted match point at 15-12 before closing out the map two rounds later, 16-13.
Spirit manhandled Astralis on Dust2 to win the series
The decider map, Dust2, started off with Spirit taking the lead after three USP kills on an A defense by Boris “magixx” Vorobiev. From there on out they went on to dominate, not giving the Danish squad a chance to plant until the sixth round, then they were able to retake the A site to keep the slate clean, 6-0. The pounding continued as Spirit won the half cleanly, with Astralis only scoring one round to stave off the humiliation of a 0-16 loss before the CIS squad closed the map out.
Gambit started on the defending side of Vertigo, their map pick, where despite losing the three first rounds they were able to take complete control of proceedings in a team effort, losing only one more round in the half to a 1vs2 clutch by Nemanja “nexa” Isaković. G2 also won the second pistol round, but even then they were quickly put on the back foot. Up against match point the European squad tried a late comeback linking four rounds in a row, but finally fell 11-16.
G2 and Gambit brawled early on in Dust2. Down by one in the ninth round Gambit had the equalizer in their sights, but a four-kill round by Kenny “kennyS” Schrub kept his team ahead. G2 kept the lead all the way to the half, but only by one round, 8-7. With Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov and Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov leading the charge the CIS squad found the cracks in G2’s defense as they gave up just three out of 12 rounds to win the second map 16-11, securing a spot in the IEM Katowice playoffs.
fnatic managed to upset the second-highest-ranked team at the tournament in the winners’ match of cs_summit 7 group A, taking down OG 2-1.
The series started with a convincing win on Train for Maikil “Golden” Selim‘s boys, with OG striking back on Mirage with a CT-side comeback. The European mixture seemed in control as things went onto the final map, Inferno, but fnatic posted a strong T side to force overtime, and closed it out in the added rounds.
OG will have another chance to earn a playoff spot at the $200,000 event when they face the winner of Dignitas – Complexity, while fnatic have a few days off before the bracket play starts on Friday.
fnatic march on to the playoffs
On their map pick, Train, fnatic looked strong right from the start, grabbing a 7-2 lead on the Terrorist side of the map. Some back-and-forth ensued, but OG managed to salvage the half and finish it just three rounds behind. The Swedes extended that by winning the second pistol, and stopped the comeback attempt after Jesper “JW” Wecksell clutched a 1v3 to bring the game to an early conclusion, 16-9.
Golden‘s team stayed in control as the action moved to Mirage, limiting their opponents to just two rounds from the opening ten as JW and Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin shined. Deagle rounds were won by both sides as the end of the half neared, with fnatic finishing it 10-5 up. The scoreline gap was bridged by OG as they put up a solid defense and survived a couple of scary clutch attempts, going on an eight-round streak. The Swedes then got their first, but a great display from Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså and Issa “ISSAA” Murad helped OG complete the comeback, 16-11.
fnatic‘s 3-0 lead on the CT side of Inferno was canceled out in no time as OG dominated on the offense, winning the Banana fight time after time. From 9-6 down, fnatic quickly got back into the lead with a convincing T-side of their own. The Swedes looked good to close it out, but OG defended against three match points to force overtime. In the end, it was all for naught, as fnatic sealed the deal after Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson‘s quad-kill hold, 19-17.
The road to becoming “Mr. Consistent” of CS:GO has been long and arduous for device, who embarked on it as a teenager, in a previous version of the game. His first LAN experience dates back to 2009, when he played a local CS:Source tournament as a 13-year-old. Not long afterwards, device managed to reach the top of the Danish Source scene in its final years, linking up with Henrik “FeTiSh” Christensen for a short period before moving on to Global Offensive.
A messy start to CS:GO meant that he wasn’t in contention for a spot in the Top 20 players of 2013 ranking, which ended up being the only one he has missed to date. However, under the tag of Dignitas in 2014, device started grabbing attention with his fragging output (1.11 rating, 0.77 KPR), which helped the team reach a number of playoffs during the year, including at all three Majors. Unfortunately, he also showed a tendency to go missing in the most important matches, which in turn resulted in the team being unable to secure a single trophy.
After sneaking into the best players of the year list in 2014 at No.20, device would reach new heights in 2015 after the team parted ways with FeTiSh and brought in Finn “karrigan” Andersen as their in-game leader. Now representing TSM, the Danes finally managed to get over the hump and win their first tournament, CCS Kick-off Finals, with device earning his inaugural MVP medal from the showing in Romania. The team won a total of five events during the year, in large part due to device improving his big-game performance, as he claimed a total of four MVPs in 2015 and placed third in the Top 20 players of the year ranking, behind two dominant forces in Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács.
Newcomers to CS:GO might find it hard to look at device as anything else than an AWPer, but it wasn’t until he was 21 and playing for Astralis that he took on that role. Nicolaj “Nico” Jensen and René “cajunb” Borg were the ones wielding the “Big Green” ahead of him in previous teams, but when the latter parted ways with the long-lasting core in 2016, device took it upon himself to master a new role.
“I watched demos of all the top AWPers and tried to develop my own style, I made a google doc with which moves I needed to try on specific maps and sides, and then I evaluated which worked for me, and that would be my go-to. Then in the latter part of the year, I used a program that shows an overview heat map and then shows my tendencies and I tried to become more diverse, especially on the CT side.” – device about his role change
After linking up with karrigan, device started lifting trophies
device wasn’t completely inexperienced with the AWP, having played as a hybrid in 2014 (14.74% of total kills) and 2015 (22.69%), but nonetheless had another considerable obstacle to overcome. Despite the role change and the team being in flux, device was incredibly consistent in 2016. He flawlessly adapted to two significant roster changes in the team (cajunb and karrigan for Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye and Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander) and managed to earn his fifth MVP at the end of the year, at the ECS Season 2 Finals. Following that event, he reached another milestone – rising to the No,1 place in the world ranking with Astralis for the first time.
In 2017, new challenges arose for the Dane. After winning his first Major, ELEAGUE 2017, Astralis were put in the spotlight back home, and having so much media attention required adaptation. Nonetheless, device didn’t falter, and in his first full year as the main AWPer, he earned six EVPs from 12 events while picking up his level deep in tournaments by averaging a 1.13 Big event playoff rating. It wasn’t an amazing year for Astralis overall, though, as they were displaced by FaZe and SK as the best teams later on, and missed a chance to win their second Major after an upset loss to Gambit at PGL Krakow.
“I definitely feel like at one point their [FaZe and SK] ‘hunger’ was bigger than ours. It affected everyone on our team that we had a lot of media focus, that we had tried to win the ‘big one’ and been the best team in the world for a while. This is actually the toughest place to be in, since everyone has their eyes on the team to beat, and the team at the top usually does not have so many places to look for inspiration/motivation. We have learned a lot from this period, and I only think it has made us smarter as a team on how we are supposed to deal with this in the future.
“The loss against them at the Major was really heartbreaking because it felt like the moment we could get closer to solidifying what other great lineups had previously achieved by winning two Majors in a row. But no, I wasn’t that ‘surprised’ that we could not beat them since they were a really good team with nothing to lose in that game, but it was still the toughest game mentally that I feel like we lost in 2017.” – device about his 2017.
Unfortunately, device wasn’t able to finish out the year, as health issues saw him checked into a hospital upon the finish of IEM Oakland and forced him to take a sick leave after that. Learning to balance the lifestyle of a professional player with a hiatus hernia, an illness that gets worse with stress and travel, was the next task on his list.
“I am a bit disappointed that I did not take time to focus on my illness [earlier], because now I already feel like a new person,”, he said going into 2018, when the sniper reached a new level in Astralis‘ historic year, winning ten events in total – including their second Major. It was after the addition of Emil “Magisk” Reif that the Danes became an unstoppable unit, but as good as the rifler was, a lot of the success was down to device, who was one of the best “big game” players that year. He won seven MVPs in 2018, breaking Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund‘s record from 2013 for the highest number of medals won in a single year, in addition to six EVPs from a total of 17 events played. He also secured his first Major MVP, while averaging a 1.24 rating for the year.
device broke the record for most MVPs in a year in 2018
That story repeated itself in 2019, when device continued to display his consistency both early and late in tournaments, securing three MVPs and winning six tournaments, including his third and fourth Majors. Lifting the trophy at StarLadder Berlin, exactly on his 24th birthday, saw his team go down in history as the first one with four Majors to their name, as well as becoming the only one with three victories in a row. While the year wasn’t as dominant as the previous one, Astralis again finished it as the best team in the world, winning three out of the last four Big events held.
device and his team continued breaking records, but one still eludes him – the No.1 spot in the player ranking. His 1.22 rating in 2019 was enough only for another third place on the list (sixth year in a row in which he was inside the top five), as this time it wasn’t just s1mple that placed ahead of him, but another prodigious talent in Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut.
The Astralis star continued his streak of incredible years in 2020, a difficult one for his team and the CS:GO scene overall. The Danes kicked things off with a slow start at BLAST Premier Spring Series, the event’s group stage, but then showed class at IEM Katowice by surging through the group stage. From the three series, all of which finished 2-0, device‘s worst map was a 1.05-rated Vertigo against Vitality, posting 1.30+ ratings in the remaining five. Natus Vincere were unbeatable in the semi-final, though, limiting Astralis to just five rounds on each map before going on to win the title.
The month-long ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe was next on the agenda. In the first tournament of the pandemic-caused online era of CS:GO, device seemed well adjusted to the “new normal”, going on to post a 1.20 rating, with that number going up to 1.32 when only playoffs are taken into account. Astralis played mousesports twice in the final games of the tournament, winning handily the group stage match but suffering a close defeat in the semi-finals, albeit device posted nearly identical ratings in both games – 1.33 and 1.32.
“We knew early on that Lukas (gla1ve) would need a break, so Emil (Magisk) took over gradually and already called during ESL One: Road to Rio so it didn’t feel like an abrupt change. Everybody on the team always contributes and pitches in with ideas, I mainly keep track of the economy in the game, so in that way, things didn’t change much for me, but of course, it was very different playing without Lukas and Andreas (Xyp9x). We tried to keep our roles and I think we adapted fairly well, but for the players who came in, it was a bit tough as they weren’t playing their optimal roles. But because of that, I think it made it way easier for us to re-integrate Lukas and Andreas once they got back.”
Astralis couldn’t handle NAVI on the stage of the empty Spodek
After settling for top-four finishes in the first two events and earning EVP mentions from both, device kicked his game into a higher gear in ESL One: Road to Rio – Europe, the first Regional Major Ranking tournament. After another grueling format that saw them play 24 maps in total, Astralis were crowned champions, having breezed through the playoffs without losing a single map against G2 (16-13, 16-7; 16-6, 16-2) and FaZe (16-12, 16-7). With an outstanding 1.58 playoff rating and an incredible 1.38 impact rating for the event, device earned the MVP award from the tournament – the 16th of his career.
That result ensured Astralis‘ return to the No.1 spot in the world rankings, having briefly lost it after an uninspiring start to the year. Although, they wouldn’t keep it for long, as changes to the active roster would hinder the Danes heavily.
First, it was gla1ve who stepped down from the line-up, and then, shortly afterwards, Xyp9x also requested some time off. At the time, it was unclear what was happening with the team. Patrick “es3tag” Hansen was signed as their sixth, but he unable to play initially due to his still-active Heroic contract, while Jakob “JUGi” Hansen and Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer came in as a part of an “extended roster” but ended up being little more than glorified stand-ins.
“Playing during the pandemic has been tough, no doubt. It has been tough for everybody. We are used to spending a lot of time together, preparing, planning, coordinating and just hanging as a team, and everything changed overnight.
“[Regarding health issues being easier to handle in 2020], I rarely have issues travelling nowadays, as long as we plan for it and the tournament schedule allows for rest. So for me, it is not an advantage to stay at home because I live in Stockholm, far from the office and the other guys, which made a lot of the time at home very lonely this year.”
device stuck to his roles during the two tournaments they played with the makeshift roster, and despite underwhelming team results, remained consistent. In DreamHack Masters Spring, an Elite event, he posted a 1.23 rating, topping the scoreboard in three of the four series Astralis played en route to a 9-12th finish. He was the best player of his team in the BLAST Spring Showdown as well, but Astralis were unable to qualify for the Spring Finals and decided to skip cs_summit 6 to go for an early player break.
The most successful five-man lineup in CS:GO was broken up as gla1ve and Xyp9x took time off
Two new members were introduced to the fold during the summer, es3tag, who was finally out of his contract with Heroic, and former MAD Lions star Lucas “Bubzkji” Andersen. Again adapting to a new constellation of players, device performed admirably in ESL One Cologne Europe and excelled in opening up rounds (0.18 opening kills per round, 0.06 opening deaths per round), but wasn’t up to his usual level in the playoff series against NiP (0.95 rating) as the team faltered against the Swedes for a 5-8th finish. Worth noting is that this was second and last time in 2020 that he wasn’t the best-rated player for Astralis at a notable tournament, topping the charts for his team in the remaining nine they played.
“[gla1ve and Xyp9x taking medical leave] was tough because you know how the other guys are feeling. You need to be a professional, but of course, you think a lot about your teammates in a situation like this because we regard each other as close friends.
“I do think the guys we brought in did extremely well under the conditions they were put in though. We maintained a respectable level throughout a very tough period, but when you are used to the consistency, it is very hard to constantly re-adjust, I think especially for Emil with the IGL situation. It did help that we were openly speaking about the struggles we had with the situation over this period, and I am super proud that we managed to get both players back from the break and back into the team.”
Another ESL Pro League season awaited Astralis in September. They topped their group before crossing paths with Heroic in the first round of the playoffs, losing handily (16-7, 16-7) and falling to the lower bracket. Following an uninspired match against his countrymen (0.75 rating), device elevated his game as Astralis made the lower bracket run to reach the grand final. There, he was the best-rated player of his team and inspired a BO5 reverse-sweep against Natus Vincere, securing the Danes their second trophy of the year.
gla1ve returned to the lineup for that win, but Magisk was still calling the shots, as was he when Astralis attended DreamHack Open Fall. A showing that would be considered remarkable for almost anyone else (1.10 rating, 1.20 impact) was statistically one of device‘s worst ones of the year. He had a tough time in the initial game against Heroic and only finished 58.8% of maps played with a 1.00+ rating, but was still the best performer in his team and earned an EVP mention in their third-place finish.
“I am not really the person that regrets a lot of stuff. There are so many what-ifs, what-could-have-happened moments, and I think diving into that mindset, you will always be able to find excuses. Although the hardest moment this year was definitely being by myself so much. I was used to socializing and travelling for so many years in a row and it abruptly stopped, that really messed with my head.”
The squad was back together for the final events of 2020
Throughout the year, including only teams he played five or more maps against, device was least effective against Natus Vincere (1.08 rating), Heroic (1.06), and NiP (1.05), significantly below his average 1.20 rating.
“It’s hard to say exactly why you perform better or worse against some teams, but if I recall correctly, NiP has always been a hard team for me to play against. If I had to give an educated guess as to why it is, I would say their aggressive playstyle and individual level is very high when they are at their peak as a team.
“Heroic (cadiaN) has always been a little bit more problematic for me to play against – I think last year was both his and his team’s best, and when we faced them earlier I would say cadiaN would win the AWP duel, so that’s my guess [why I had a tougher time].
“And last, but not least, NAVI. They are just one of the best teams in the world, with a style where you kind of know what their plan is, but because of their individual talent, they can still win even if you prepared perfectly for them.
“I don’t know how big the sample size is with all these teams, but I would actually also think it has something to do with the map pool we have against these teams. Maybe those are not my strong maps.”
As the final series of tournaments was approaching, gla1ve was reinstated as the caller of the team, and Astralis hit their end-of-year stride, just like the previous two years. device was the spearhead of their success in DreamHack Masters Winter, recording just two below-1.00 rated maps and standing out in series against North American opposition (1.66 rating vs. FURIA, 1.60 vs. Liquid), and in the grand final against mousesports (1.37 rating). The tournament was device‘s best of the year in many categories, including overall rating (1.34, +21% of team average), ADR (89.9), and kills per round (0.86), with impeccable playoff rating (1.42) and impact rating (1.36) to boot.
“This year it was about really digging deep. Up until the last three tournaments, I’d say we had a decent year and actually did rather well when you consider the player changes, transfers, swapping IGL twice, re-integrating the two players, not being able to prepare as much as we prefer to, and all that stuff.
“Being decent is nowhere near what we expect and desire, so Danny (zonic) had some individual talks with some of the players in which he would push us to play more, do better in practice, take the right decisions inside and outside (sleep schedule, workout, diet) the server.
“That really gave me some perspective, I think I was somewhat tired and lost in a mindset waiting for LANs to happen, being unhappy with my level and I really wanted to end the year on a high note.”
device picked up three MVPs in the year, reaching 18 in his career
Another lower-bracket run all the way to the title match was pulled off by Astralis in the BLAST Premier Fall Finals, but after taking down mousesports, G2, Natus Vincere, and BIG in convincing fashion, the Danes were unable to overcome Vitality in the grand final. device posted just a 0.88 rating in the last BO3, but was above par in all the other series for an average rating of 1.19, which earned him another strong EVP to go alongside the silver medal.
IEM Global Challenge was the final event of the year, and a lot was on the line. The neck-and-neck race between Vitality, Natus Vincere, and Astralis for the first place in the world rankings would essentially be decided by this event. Eliminating the Frenchmen in the group stage (device with the tied-best rating in the team, 1.16) did wonders for them in that regard, but the sniper pushed his level even further in the playoffs. Across the two series against Natus Vincere and Liquid, the AWPer averaged a 1.32 rating, earning himself his third MVP from the team’s fourth tournament victory (the only one missing, from EPL S12, was claimed by s1mple on the losing side).
“My favorite moment of 2020 was definitely the first time we met up as a team at the office after Lukas and Andreas had come back from their sick leave, and then also playing the IEM Global Challenge from the office and winning was amazing. It had that real tournament feeling to it, actually.”
In the end, winning IEM Global Challenge not only ensured Astralis would go into the new year as the highest-ranked team (fourth time in five years), but it also meant that they edged out Natus Vincere and Vitality for the title of the team of 2020 – repeating that success from 2018 and 2019.
“I think we as humans always have the possibility to grow. If we allow ourselves to get too comfortable and satisfied, I think it will affect anyone for the worse. That is the biggest motivational factor for me.
“Seeing other AWPers flourish — and as a player that analyzes a lot —, I was very inspired by the likes of syrsoN, for instance. Which really led me to believe there were a lot of possibilities inside game where I could improve.
“As I grow older, I am also able to relax more and detach myself from the individual results or games. It does not mean I have become a better loser, but I have become better at dealing with each game and focusing on what is important. What I can change. We are all about improving and becoming better and we have a lot of goals we still want to achieve.”
Why is device the third-best player of 2020?
This was perhaps the spot that was first locked in this edition of the HLTV Top 20. device had such a good year that there was no doubt he should be above everyone that was ranked below, and at the same time, he was never really in contention for one of the top two spots, through little to no fault of his own.
His 1.20 rating and most of his other stats do a solid job of illustrating what a great year he had. He was the third-highest rated player and was ranked fifth for kills per round (0.77), opening kills (0.14 per round) and multi-kills (19.5% of his rounds). Moreover, he also had a very low death ratio (0.62 per round, the 11th-best).
device was inside the top 5 in the player ranking for the sixth time in a row
As we’ve gotten used to over the years, his consistency was once again almost unmatched as he put up at least a 1.10 rating at every event, and had a bad game very rarely, with 91% of his maps being rated 0.85 or higher.
When it came to the most competitive events, he was still superb, averaging the third-highest rating (1.19 from 116 maps), and despite a few notable playoff series in which he could have done better, he was still excellent in the big matches with the fifth-highest rating (1.21), a slight improvement on his overall rating.
He had three MVP and six EVP awards from 11 events, with two EVPs from Elite events being particularly strong (EPL S12 EU and BLAST Fall Finals). The high level of his individual awards, combined with the sheer number of them, was more than enough to give him ample separation from players below and put him in a tier of his own.
“Listen, these guys [ZywOo and s1mple] are insane and they deserve every honor they get and more. I might be able to improve my stats and have a slightly better chance of disrupting the top two, but I am not sure that the changes to my game I’d have to make would help my team. Being a consistent part of the top-five players in the world is something I am extremely proud of, but having four stars — and potentially five — on my jersey [indicating Major wins] means so much more.
“I would love to be No.1 on this list before I am done with CS, but if you talk about goals for 2021, the fifth star on the jersey is much higher on that list.”
“I am going to go with Mann3n and ztr, the newly-signed players for Young Ninjas. They are really talented with a great work ethic and I have no doubt that they will be able to pursue a great career. I have played with and against them in the Swedish FACEIT (esportal), and they have really impressed me.
” I also think the development we have seen, where organisations pick up talent teams and develop their own players, will be exciting to follow. The next hidden gem will be much easier to find when these young players play against each other more often.”
As we close in on the revelation of the full Top 20 players of 2020 ranking list, take a look at the Introduction article to learn more about how the players were selected. This year’s ranking is supported by:
Xtrfy – Built on experience GG.BET – Online betting and odds on sport and esports
NiKo began carving his trail in the Balkan Counter-Strike scene in 2010, playing in a series of tournaments held across Bosnia and Serbia. In the following two years, he had the chance to witness first-hand the chasm between the world’s finest and the best that his region could offer when he attended Adepto BH Open 2011, in Sarajevo, and DreamHack Bucharest 2012 as part of eu4ia and iNation. In both tournaments, NiKo’s teams could not make it past the quarter-finals following blowout defeats to two different iterations of fnatic.
With CS:GO taking over and bringing the 1.6 and Source communities together, NiKo made the switch and continued to play with iNation, who added two more experienced players in Janko “YNk” Paunović and Nemanja “k1Ng0r” Bošković. The team failed to make the playoffs at Mad Catz Vienna and DreamHack Bucharest, hitting a brick wall every time they faced tougher opposition, such as VeryGames and LDLC, but their breakthrough came later in 2013, at StarSeries VIII, where they came in as a late replacement for Clan-Mystik.
NiKo at Adepto BH Open 2011with eu4ia
The Serbian team, who had reached an agreement with GamePub just days before the event, surpassed all expectations as they finished in third place, beating Astana Dragons and playing close series against AGAiN and Natus Vincere, with NiKo showing that he could be a force in the future as he put up a team-high 1.11 rating. The Bosnian prodigy was starting to make a name for himself, but he ended up taking a break from the game in 2014 after internal issues and some disappointing results had brought his team to an end.
NiKo returned to action closer to the end of the year with a slightly different version of his previous team, competing in several smaller tournaments with aimface and also in the European Championship 2014 with Bosnia & Herzegovina alongside players like Faruk “pita” Pita and Benjamin “BENDJI” Söderena. A few months later, he finally took up an offer to join mousesports – whom he had previously rejected during his break from the scene over fears he wasn’t ready to play for an international team at the time.
The Bosnian made his presence felt immediately after his arrival, putting up a team-high 1.13 rating as mousesports finished in fourth place at the ESEA Invite Season 18 Global Finals and a whopping 1.70 rating at the ESL Meisterschaft: Spring Finals. But despite his undeniable talent, NiKo saw himself on the bench just two months into his tenure when mousesports saw an opportunity to grab a Major spot and landed the PENTA trio of Johannes “nex” Maget, Timo “Spiidi” Richter and Denis “denis” Howell.
By his own admission, NiKo, felt “betrayed” by that decision, but he kept his head down and continued working hard – standing in for Kinguin at the Gaming Paradise Inhouse Qualifier, where he was the best player of the tournament, and for SK at IEM Gamescom 2015. He was recalled by mousesports after the team bombed out of the Major in last place, and put up solid numbers in the remaining LAN tournaments of the year, especially at the DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca Major (1.16 rating) and at the CEVO Professional Season 8 Finals (1.21). Before the year came to an end, he also took up in-game leadership duties following the departure of Fatih “gob b” Dayik.
2017 was a year of change for NiKo, who left mousesports just two months into the season but not without giving the team a proper farewell as he averaged a sensational 1.48 rating at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, his final tournament before the switch to FaZe. Freed from the in-game leadership shackles, NiKo immediately became the team’s star player, picking up a title in his second tournament under the North American organisation, StarSeries Season 3, where he was also the MVP. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, but a shocking 0-3 exit in the Swiss stage of PGL Major Krakow saw FaZe hit the reset button and bring in Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács and Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer to replace Aleksi “allu” Jalli and Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey. The team won three more titles that year – ESL One New York, ELEAGUE Premier and ECS Season 4 Finals -, with NiKo finishing second to Marcelo “coldzera” David in the top 20 players of the year ranking.
2018 began with a heartbreaking loss to Cloud9 in the ELEAGUE Major Boston final as the North Americans came back from 15-11 down on the final map to win the series in overtime. Shortly afterwards, FaZe were also hit by roster instability as olofmeister stepped down due to personal reasons, although the team still tried to make the most of it and secured titles at IEM Sydney and ESL One Belo Horizonte, first with Richard “Xizt” Landström and then with Jorgen “cromen” Robertsen standing in. FaZe still won one more title that year, at EPICENTER, with olofmeister back in the squad, but the cracks were all too clear to see and resulted in Finn “karrigan” Andersen’s benching before the turn of the year. Despite the plethora of issues, NiKo always played at a very high level – he was the MVP in two of FaZe’s title runs and was among the Exceptionally Valuable Players (EVPs) seven times – and made his third consecutive appearance in the HLTV Top 20, this time at No.3.
NiKo won several titles during his first years with FaZe
FaZe experienced more peaks and troughs in 2019, a difficult year for the team but also for NiKo, who was unable to deliver the kind of consistency that he had shown in the past. The team won the ELEAGUE Invitational and BLAST Pro Series Miami with Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev filling in, but then they turned to Filip “NEO” Kubski, who took up the in-game leader role. The experiment with the Polish veteran didn’t last long, however: After an early exit at the StarLadder Major, FaZe made a double swoop and signed coldzera and Helvijs “broky” Saukants, with GuardiaN being moved to the bench. A first-placed finish at the BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen showed the potential of FaZe‘s new star duo, but the team were unable to keep that intensity for the rest of the year. As he had to settle for a spot just outside that year’s top 10 in the player ranking, NiKo stated his wish to return to his best level in 2020.
FaZe began 2020 with a bang, topping their BLAST Premier Spring Series group in convincing fashion as they made light work of Liquid and the new NiP lineup, with NiKo topping the leaderboards in five categories, including rating (1.49). But the team wouldn’t be able to pass their first real test of the year, however, as they crashed out of IEM Katowice in the group stage following two defeats to eventual champions Natus Vincere.
FaZe were unable to make the playoffs in Katowice after a close loss to NAVI
In hindsight, NiKo, who averaged a 1.17 rating, admits that the team’s early elimination was not as bad as it looked initially, given how NAVI went on a tear in the playoffs, beating Liquid, Astralis and G2 without dropping a single map en route to the title.
“We felt confident going to Katowice because we had played BLAST Premier before and we had rolled over the opponents that we had played there. At some point, I was feeling that we were really clicking together and I had flashbacks from when we brought on olof and GuardiaN and we had those two runs in New York and Atlanta. That’s how I felt during this BLAST event.
“Facing NAVI was a bit unfortunate, they really showed up in that event, and most of the games were close, it wasn’t like they smashed us, I think one round maybe decided who went to the final. I’m not saying that we would have gone to the final if we had beat them, but I think there was a big chance of us reaching the final, because we really felt good during that event. We had two bootcamps prior to it, we worked really hard and the synergy was good. Everything was going our way. We were not disappointed about the results that we had, NAVI did really well and smashed most of their opponents. In the end, it was alright. But maybe if we had reached the final, the year could have been different, but it’s hard to say, because everything went online after that, so I’m not sure if we would have been able to keep our performances if we had won the event, for example.
“The worst memory was definitely the way we lost to NAVI. It was really down to one round basically. It really would have made the difference in the year, but it is what it is. Also the BLAST Premier Spring Finals, where we lost to Complexity and Vitality. I really feel that we could have won that event, we really felt confident. We played well and then we lost to them…”
That was the final LAN event that FaZe played that year as everything switched online once the coronavirus pandemic hit the globe. NiKo made the best of a bad situation with a streak of EVP awards between ESL Pro League Season 11 and the BLAST Spring Europe Finals, averaging some impressive numbers in the team’s deep runs in these four tournaments: 1.20 rating, 1.29 Impact, 86.9 ADR and 0.78 KPR. He was third in the race for the MVP award in the BLAST tournament (1.21 rating, 1.37 Impact) and fourth in ESL One: Road to Rio (1.18 playoff rating, seven clutches and a +77 KDD).
“I wasn’t as confident [playing online] as I thought I would be. I did alright, considering the circumstances. I mean, if you ask players, most of them are going to say that they all feel better playing on LAN because of the routines, because of the feeling when you’re playing in a studio, or especially in an arena. Playing online is just so depressing, even when you’re playing important games. It was difficult to get used to it, but I tried to have a different mentality, so I did my best. I played a lot of CS during this period, so I think that is what kept up my performance level. It wasn’t easy but it was the only thing that I could do at the time, so I was grinding CS all the time and doing my best to keep up my performances and help the team to become better and better.”
The third-placed finishes in DreamHack Masters and in the BLAST Spring Finals – FaZe‘s first tournaments with Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras – seemed to indicate that FaZe were handling the loss of olofmeister well, but such considerations were thrown out the window right before the summer break. FaZe were ranked third in the world by the time cs_summit 6 started but could not even get to the playoffs following two defeats to BIG. To rub further salt into their wounds, ENCE then beat them in the 9th-12th place decider. The 11th place after taking down Movistar Riders in their final match was hardly satisfying for the team.
NiKo says that the team were caught off-guard by olofmeister’s decision to take another break
Despite this, there were still some positives for NiKo to take from this tournament. He was ranked first for opening kills per round (0.17) and third for rating (1.19, 12% higher than the team’s average) and ADR (86.0).
“olof was a really big part of our team, even though stats don’t really say much about it. Maybe he didn’t have great stats, but he really was a big part of our team and of our game. He had important roles that he was doing really well, and I didn’t have another player that could do those roles as well, and these are roles that are very crucial most of the time when it comes to doing defaults, reacting to opponents and what they’re doing. Besides, his communication was always on point. When you go from a guy who has won so many events to someone who was a young talent… Bymas hadn’t really played in a team, so there was a big difference when it came to things like communication on his side.
“We did alright with Bymas, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. We really felt that olof left us at a really bad time. I don’t know which event it was, I think it was Pro League, and he was like, ‘Okay, guys, I cannot do this anymore. I’m done’. And we were like, ‘Oh shit’. We had an event in like seven days and we had no clue that he was going to take a break. We were like, ‘What the f*ck are we going to do? We cannot buy out anyone in that period and we have to go for some FPL player’. We really didn’t know how it was going to work out, but honestly, in the end, I was happy with how we performed with Bymas. It wasn’t as bad as we expected. He did a good job, we helped each other a lot, keeping up the good mood and just doing our best.”
FaZe came from the summer break with a new player, ELEAGUE Major Atlanta MVP Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye, but the first impressions weren’t entirely encouraging. The team went out 9th-12th in ESL One Cologne – the only time NiKo did not have the highest rating in one of his teams in 2020 – and then 13-14th in ESL Pro League Season 12, in which they won just two of the seven matches they played in the group stage, against NiP and Complexity.
NiKo hit a rough patch of form when returning from the player break
NiKo averaged just a 1.06 rating across these two tournaments, in which he also put up his worst Impact ratings and Deaths per Round ratios of the year, failing to make an Elite event’s EVP list for the first time in the online era.
“After olof left, it wasn’t pretty in the team. We never really got the player that we wanted, so it wasn’t easy to deal with all the things. During the summer break, we couldn’t get the IGL we wanted, and there was one more change that we wanted to make that we couldn’t. After that, I was like, ‘If we start doing badly with Kjaerbye, I don’t know what else we can do’. After we got Kjaerbye, we had those two events that really made me decide to leave the team. After ESL One Cologne and EPL, I was really mentally destroyed. I was like, ‘There is no way that I can keep going like this and that we can keep dealing with things this way. It’s going nowhere’.
“Before that, I always tried to fix things or get the player that would fit the team, but I really had no options. That’s when I decided to leave the team. Right after EPL, I felt that there was no point in going on. I had wanted to play with huNter- for a long time, and this felt like the right time for us to team up and work together. I’m happy that we managed to do it.”
With reports of an impending move by NiKo to G2 already in full swing, FaZe enjoyed a sudden and unexpected burst of form in IEM New York, which they won in convincing fashion after sweeping Vitality and OG in the playoffs. NiKo, who was top of the scoreboard in the three-map final (1.24 rating and 85.5 ADR), added to his MVP collection after putting up some year-high numbers, including a 1.28 rating, a 1.38 Impact rating and 74.9% KAST.
“It probably had something to do with pressure, but we also kept practicing and kept improving. Even when I told them that I was going to leave or that I wanted to leave, we still kept doing our best because we knew that I could not leave before DreamHack Open Fall due to the roster lock.
“We kept doing our best. I wanted to give my best so that they could get RMR points. I was acting the same way as before, doing my best, and I think we did alright, given the circumstances.”
NiKo made final appearance for FaZe in DreamHack Open Fall, the last Regional Major Ranking (RMR) tournament of the year in Europe. The international team fared a bit better than in cs_summit 6, finishing in ninth place, but they looked a far cry from the side that had won IEM New York as they recorded losses to BIG, GODSENT and NiP, and were even tested by sAw. NiKo was once again the standout player in the team with a 1.23 rating, impressing his soon-to-be teammates in the 9th-12th place decider match with some incredible numbers (1.64 rating, 119 ADR and +32 KDD).
“I was probably a big part of why he [coldzera] joined the team, YNk and I, because he had worked with YNk before and he wanted to work with him again, and he wanted to play with me because we’re close friends. I think it was during the summer break, the first plan was to create a new team, which was me, nexa, huNter, FalleN and cold. That was our first plan, but then some things couldn’t just be done because of contracts.
“We kept playing in our teams and we still tried to do our best in FaZe. We’re still close friends, but business is business, we are all chasing our dreams and I’m never going to stop chasing mine, so… We are friends, but I have to look for what’s best for me, and I believe that he is going to do the same if the opportunity comes. It was hard to leave him because, as I said, I was a big part of why he joined the team and moved to Belgrade. But in the end, I gave my best to make it work but it was like when you know it doesn’t work and you have to move on. I didn’t choose to leave immediately, we tried to make it work, but it didn’t work out.”
NiKo slotted into G2 seamlessly, but the team were unable to contend for titles in their first months with the Bosnian player. He hit the ground running with a 1.24 rating as G2 topped a very tricky BLAST Premier Fall Series group that also included FURIA, MIBR and Astralis, and played a key role in the team’s semi-final run in IEM Beijing-Haidian, in which he earned his final EVP award of the year with some respectable numbers, including a 1.36 Impact rating and a year-high 90.5 ADR.
NiKo is unhappy with how he performed in the last tournaments of the year
After sitting out the IEM tournament, François “AmaNEk” Delaunay returned to the lineup for the final two events of the year, in which G2 looked somewhat sluggish, finishing 9th-12th in DreamHack Masters Winter and 5th-6th in the BLAST Premier Fall Finals. Despite being the team’s best performer in both competitions with ratings 10% higher than the squad’s average, NiKo was fairly underwhelming compared to his usual high standards, especially in the BLAST competition, in which he put up some of his worst numbers of the year (1.04 rating, 79.1 ADR and 64.3% KAST).
“I think we took a big hit right at the start, when we switched players. The first event we played with AmaNEk, the BLAST groups, we did really well there, or we thought we did. We won the group and we felt good, and then, when we switched to JaCkz, it was like… It’s a really weird feeling when you’re playing well and then you just have to switch a player to try out someone else, so it was a weird feeling.
“I think we expected a little bit more, I don’t think we were satisfied with the results that we had towards the end of the year, but certain players had some personal issues, which affected our performance a lot. It just wasn’t easy towards the end of the year, because of those circumstances… But, overall, we were all looking forward to this year, to have a bootcamp, like the one we’re having now, to just get to know each other, because I didn’t really know anyone but huNter and nexa. We didn’t have big issues after losing those events, but we weren’t satisfied with our results.
“The best memory definitely has to be teaming up with huNter. That was my goal and a dream of ours, so that’s definitely a highlight of the year. It was also a great feeling winning the BLAST Premier Spring group in the way that we did. We pretty much just crushed everyone that we played. Other than that, probably winning IEM New York.”
Why was NiKo the fourth-best player of 2020?
To put it simply, NiKo was one of 2020’s best fraggers and most impactful players, who shined in the most competitive tournaments and against the toughest opponents. His 86.5 damage per round, the highest overall, is particularly impressive, closely followed by the third-highest KPR (0.78) and Impact rating (1.29), which was in part the result of his remarkable ability to open up rounds (0.15 opening kills per round, third-best) and to get multi-kills (19.5% of rounds, fourth-highest).
This all contributed to his 1.19 rating for the year, the fourth-highest overall, but what’s even more impressive is that his numbers improved when he faced tougher opposition as he put up the third-highest rating when filtering matches against top-10 teams (1.20), as well as the third-highest against top-five teams (1.24).
“I think that I performed okay. I mean, I performed well most of the time, but I think I lacked consistency a lot. If I had been more consistent, I think I would have been top three. I’m really sad that I underperformed in the last two events, and I think that is why device beat me in the ranking. He had some amazing last two or three events and I really underperformed, so props to him…
“Overall, I’m really happy with my performances throughout the year, but I’m not really satisfied with how it ended. I don’t think I did my best, performance-wise, I think I can do better than I did last year, I know it. I will keep doing my best, and we’ll see what happens this year.”
He was also among the very best when it came to consistency as he never had a bad tournament (1.04 was his lowest event rating) and he was at least a Valuable Player in all notable competitions that he played. His map-to-map consistency was also admirable as he ranked fifth for maps with ratings equal to or higher than 1.00 (75.1%) and fourth for maps with 1.30+ ratings (37.8%).
With these numbers, NiKo was in contention for an even higher spot in this HLTV Top 20, but while he does have an MVP award from IEM New York, the rest of his performances, including his five EVPs, were not of the highest caliber, in part because he rarely reached the biggest matches and also because, when he did, his level dipped slightly as he averaged a 1.14 rating from 34 maps in Big Event playoffs.
“Obviously, the most important thing is to stay healthy. I will work even harder than I did last year so that I can be more consistent, which I feel like was the only thing I was missing. I will put a lot of effort into my consistency. And obviously, I will do my best to bring G2 back to the very top and to start winning titles together.”
“I think he got into FPL in the summer break. I hadn’t played FPL for like two months or something, then when I was back, I was playing against him and I was like, ‘Who the f*ck is this guy? I’ve never heard of him and he just comes and he starts popping heads’. I’ve also played with him and he has really good communication and he sounds like a really good guy. I think he probably has a bright future, I don’t know him that much, but when I’ve played with him he’s done good things. If he keeps working the way he’s supposed to, I think he’s going to be really good.”
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:
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electronic had an atypical start compared to many players in his age range, as he didn’t climb up the ranks through pick-up games in systems such as FPL, and instead gained much of his early experience at LAN events in his hometown of Kazan, Russia. He started playing Counter-Strike 1.6 as early as 2010, at the age of 11, but after repeated losses at local tournaments, the youngster ended up taking a break from competition for several years, playing mostly custom maps.
“I think playing at LAN tournaments early on in my career had an impact on my composure during matches now.”
The youngster was scouted in 2015 by Aleksandr “toff” Shelop, a player he had met on KZ servers, and was brought on to Dmitry “hooch” Bogdanov’s ACES, a team in which he would go on to play his first notable offline event, the CIS LAN Championship. The tournament, held in Voronezh, was also where electronic played his first matches covered by HLTV. The then-16-year-old ended up with a 1.05 rating as his team finished third behind two well established squads, FlipSid3 and HellRaisers, despite being close to elimination after the first day of play.
After a falling out with hooch, electronic then moved on to the Belarussian team Evolution, in which he earned his first small salary. Not long afterwards, he and teammates Sergey “spaz” Skrypchik and Roman “CyberFocus” Dergach transferred to Rebels, the team with which electronic would play his first Minor, the StarLadder Regional Minor Championship CIS. He was the third highest-rated player at that event, with a 1.15 rating, in his team’s second-placed finish. He then played his second Minor, this time under the Empire banner, where he got a 1.09 rating and helped the squad reach second place to qualify for the ESL One Cologne 2016 Main Qualifier — electronic’s first LAN outside of the CIS region.
electronic at the ESL One Cologne 2016 Main Qualifier with Empire
Empire then became a revolving door, with players coming and going, and the team was unable to find the stability needed to keep improving, going so far as to lose organizational backing. Despite the setback, electronic had already started to turn heads, and before long Andrey “B1ad3” Gorodenskiy offered the youngster a trial in one of the region’s best sides, FlipSid3, following the departure of Oleksandr “Shara” Hordieyev. electronic also joined back up with hooch briefly at the time to play with .Russia in the one-off WESG team, helping his national squad qualify for the World Finals thanks to a spectacular 1.33 rating at the EU & CIS Regional Finals.
electronic had several strong showings at DreamHack Open events in late 2016 and early 2017, quickly cementing his place in FlipSid3, with a highlight being a 1.35 rating at his first international LAN win, DreamHack Open Leipzig. He then accrued a 1.14 rating in the team’s last-place exit at the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta before carrying the team at the PGL Major’s Main Qualifier, boasting a 1.38 rating and pushing FlipSid3 over the line in the do-or-die match against Liquid for a spot at the Major. They then went out in the group stage at the main event, but electronic ended with a 1.15 rating nonetheless.
“The most important moment of my career before joining NAVI was the victory at DreamHack Open Leipzig 2017, as it was my first ever victory in the international scene. Sure, the tournament wasn’t the largest, but nonetheless, it was there that I realized that I can worthily compete with big players.”
By then Natus Vincere were interested in the services of the 17-year-old, at a time in which FlipSid3 were going through a period of low morale in the team, but a breakdown in the negotiations ended up with electronic remaining with his struggling side for several months until finally, at the end of the year, a deal was struck. NAVI won their first event with the new starting five, DreamHack Open Winter 2017, where electronic averaged a 1.17 rating.
NAVI won their first event with electronic, DreamHack Open Winter 2017
Natus Vincere kicked off 2018 saving their ESL Pro League spot in the relegation stage and followed it up with a semi-final finish at the ELEAGUE Major in a year that would see the CIS squad once again become a true title contender. electronic rose to the challenge that year as NAVI won four tournaments, reached five finals, and made several other playoff runs. In all, electronic was named EVP an impressive nine times, and as one of the highest-rated players who put up great playoff performances and did heaps of damage all year long, he was named the fourth-best player in the world, entering the top 20 players of the year ranking in style for the first time.
NAVI slowed down in 2019, winning only one event, StarSeries i-League Season 7, where electronic showed incredible form with a 1.33 rating, but big changes were made halfway through the year as Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács returned to the team following Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko’s retirement. Reunited with their former AWPer, NAVI continued to struggle, while electronic wasn’t able to get as many individual accolades, picking up only three EVP awards. However, he was still one of the top performers of the year across the board, once again showing incredibly high peaks and strong performances in big matches to be named the sixth-best player of 2019.
Natus Vincere brought on Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy for the 2020 season and started to get a feel for the new fifth at the BLAST Premier Spring Series. Despite losing the opener to Vitality, the CIS squad then beat Astralis, took revenge on the Frenchmen and defeated Complexity to top their group and secure a spot at the Spring Finals. NAVI remained in London for the ICE Challenge, and that’s where electronic started to take off, averaging a 1.36 rating, 1.55 impact rating and 98.5 ADR in the team’s second-place run to win his first career MVP despite his team losing the final to mousesports.
NAVI won the only Big LAN event of the year, IEM Katowice, after finishing second at ICE Challenge
NAVI then traveled to Poland for IEM Katowice, the only Big LAN event of the year, and although electronic wasn’t quite as dominant, he managed a 1.12 rating as his team enjoyed a fantastic run that ended with them lifting the trophy in an empty Spodek Arena. The 22-year-old boasted a 1.23 playoff rating as he put in big performances in the semi-final stomp against Astralis and in the 3-0 grand final against G2, to secure his first EVP award.
“Most of us were acquainted with Perfecto before he joined, so the adaptation process was very easy for the whole team. We tuned onto the same wavelength pretty fast.
“My best memory of the year was of course IEM Katowice, even though there weren’t any viewers. At the time we had enough confidence to achieve the highest results.”
electronic got another 1.12 rating, this time at the first event after Counter-Strike had moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, across a gruelling 25 maps in ESL Pro League Season 11. The Russian rifler didn’t get an EVP in Natus Vincere’s fourth-place finish, his only notable event in the first half of the year in which he didn’t get an MVP or EVP, although he was still valuable in his team’s placing. NAVI then slipped up in one of the smaller events in which they competed in 2020, ESL One: Road to Rio – CIS, the first RMR event of the year, amid a general dip in performance by everybody on the team with the exception of Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev.
”I started feeling that some players had lost the required confidence that they had previously shown on LAN after transferring to online play. We made a lot of mistakes and we didn’t listen to each other during matches.”
Natus Vincere moved on from their blunder against local opposition and finished fourth in DreamHack Masters Spring, in which electronic was right back in full force with a 1.27 rating, 1.45 impact and 87,3 ADR, finishing with an above-average rating on every single map with exception of the first one in the opening victory against Vitality. Another fourth place followed, this time in the BLAST Premier Spring Europe Finals, and electronic was once again one of the engines of the team with a 1.18 rating and 1.28 impact, which earned him another EVP mention. The 22-year-old was the team’s best player in the opening match against NiP, with a 1.80 rating in two maps, and second behind s1mple in the lower bracket semi-final victory against G2. He was also the top performer in the team’s last match in the tournament, the lower bracket final loss to Vitality, with a 1.19 rating across the three maps.
Natus Vincere returned after the summer break with a victory against mousesports in their ESL One Cologne Europe opening match, in which electronic got a 1.26 rating, but the CIS squad then plummeted with two big losses to Complexity and NiP, not getting double digits in any of the four maps played and finishing in 9-12th place. electronic got his only below-average tournament rating of the year (0.96) at notable events.
“I would say ESL One Cologne was the lowest moment of the year. We bootcamped beforehand, we trained a lot, and we really wanted to win, but we didn’t even manage to exit the group stage in the end.
”If we’re honest, it was one of our worst results during the online period. After our loss, we had a conversation and we discussed our next steps. We learned a good lesson from it and we continued working.”
The CIS giants gave a much better account of themselves in the following tournament, ESL Pro League Season 12. The CIS squad finished in second place in the drawn-out tournament, in which they played 27 maps, falling in the grand final to Astralis. electronic was once again on point for his team with a 1.16 rating, which expanded to 1.23 in the playoffs, and after which he was awarded another EVP. electronic was particularly good in the last three matches in the tournament against Complexity, Heroic and Astralis, showing strong performances in the two victories and the lone defeat in the final.
electronic couldn’t point out what exactly held NAVI back in the final stages of tournaments
electronic had dips in performance in another minor CIS event, IEM New York CIS, ending NAVI’s fourth-place run with a 1.06 rating, and in the BLAST Premier Fall Series group stage, in which he posted a 0.98 rating. He bounced right back after the lesser events and was again one of the driving factors in NAVI’s IEM Beijing-Haidian Europe success, however, as they went all the way to the final with victories against MAD Lions, Spirit, Astralis and G2 before falling short against Vitality. electronic finished the ESL event with a 1.15 rating and 80.6 ADR to secure yet another EVP award.
”it’s difficult to answer [why we couldn’t go all the way and win a title]. Everything went exceptionally well during our matches up until a certain point, after that something happened that I can’t really explain, it was as if it was a different NAVI.”
Natus Vincere once again got another fourth-placed finish, this time in the BLAST Premier Fall Finals, the CIS team’s first tournament with Valeriy “B1T” Vakhovskiy as a substitute in the newly-implemented six-man system. electronic ended the tournament with 100% of maps with 1.00+ ratings in the team’s four matches, which were wins against Astralis and FURIA and losses to Vitality and Astralis, this second bout against the Danes in the lower bracket final. The 22-year-old rifler ended the tournament with a 1.18 rating and the same impact rating, as well as an 85.2 ADR, and was awarded an EVP mention for the sixth time in 2020.
”I think that Valera [B1T] is a great player, but any substitution requires restructuring. We’re currently trying to find our optimal game on Inferno and I think we’ll be able to achieve it soon.”
Natus Vincere ended 2020 in the stacked eight-team IEM Global Challenge, the final tournament of the year, kicking the event off with two promising group stage wins against FURIA and Liquid, but they were once again stopped in their tracks by the team that had been foiling their runs all year long and that went on to claim the No.1 spot in the top teams of the year ranking, Astralis. electronic was awarded his seventh and last EVP of the year in NAVI’s 3rd-4th place effort, as he ended the tournament with a 1.13 rating, including a 1.24 rating in the lonely playoff match against Astralis, and a 1.18 impact rating.
“I think we had a pretty good year, and, yes, I think the team ranking is accurate. I have to give it to the Danes, they always demonstrate great form, and those matches were no exception.
“In 2021 I want our team to become number one and win as many big tournaments as possible.”
Why was electronic the fifth-best player of 2020?
electronic earned his place among the very best of 2020 by putting in superb performances in the best tournaments and in the biggest matches. His consistency was not on par with the other top seven players in the ranking (69% of maps with 1.00+ rating, which is still great compared to everyone else), and it led to his 1.14 rating being only 12th-highest. Despite that, he was still one of the best damage dealers (81.8 per round, sixth-highest) and one of the most impactful players (1.19 impact rating, eighth-best), the latter thanks to good opening kill numbers (0.13 per round, 12th-highest) as well as a high multi-kill frequency (18.5% of his rounds, 11th-best).
Like several other players whose overall numbers don’t do them justice, electronic performed better in the most competitive events. He took part in all eight Elite tournaments, in which he averaged the sixth-highest rating (1.15), earning a remarkable six EVPs. In addition to that, he had the MVP display at ICE Challenge and also the EVP from the BLAST Spring Europe Finals, making him the fourth-most decorated player of 2020, with eight awards from ten events.
”I always strive to train a lot, and this, specifically, is the key to success for any player.”
What made his awards even more impressive is that he earned them by improving his play in big matches, in which he averaged a 1.22 rating across 45 maps, the fourth highest of all players. What’s particularly impressive is that in all eight tournaments in which his team reached the top half (usually by going through the group stage, or on some occasions by making it through the first round or two of a bracket-only tournament), his numbers improved without exception. Another factor that showcases his ability to perform in the big moments was his 1.21 rating against top-5 teams, the fourth-highest overall. That is what ultimately gave him the edge over the other players that were in contention for a spot in the top-five but ultimately missed out, while his slightly worse consistency and lower floor prevented him from going any higher.
electronic‘s prediction of a player that could make this very list in the future is B1T, the 18-year-old NAVI Junior member that stepped in for the team in the BLAST Premier Finals and in the IEM Global Challenge in Inferno games, replacing Egor “flamie” Vasilyev.
blameF‘s ascent through the ranks was quite unlike the typical route you’d see a Danish player take to reach the top of the game. While others advanced by climbing the ladder of the sub-top scene in the country, where they encountered someone like Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen who helped them take the next step before making it to a team like North or Heroic, blameF didn’t get the opportunity to play alongside some of the key names in Denmark until he had already made a name for himself in 2018.
“I started out mostly playing with my friends. Especially Bjarke “miNd” Benjaminsen, who I played with in 1.6, has been a guy who’s been on all my former teams before I joined Great Danes. I always had a lot of respect for the game and treated it professionally to some extent even before I went pro. I remember that back then it was really hard for us to play any tournaments that would be featured on HLTV, so everytime we qualified for King Of Nordic me and my teammates were always so hyped to get the chance of having other people watching us and we would be going through defaults and some strats on all maps, even if we were just playing with different mix teams.
“A key part of my career has been how much support I have gotten from my family. They were watching all my matches even before I played HLTV matches and they were always invested and interested in how it was going. On top of that, they paid for all my expenses back when I didn’t have any money so I could pursue my dreams and only focus on development in Counter-Strike.”
It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. While playing with some more or less serious teams and mixteams, blameF was trying to grab the attention of some of the bigger names in his country but got denied a chance to move up at every turn, until he joined his first notable team, Great Danes.
“I never really knew many people from the Danish scene. I mostly only played with my friend miNd and a handful of other players, so I never really got to build that personal relationship with other players, which is very helpful when you are looking to get picked up by a better team because people will vouch for you and help you get opportunities. There were many times I saw roster changes happen on the Danish scene where I would think to myself that I don’t understand why they didn’t give me a chance, because I thought I was way better than the people they picked up.
I even remember before joining Great Danes personally writing to some of the IGLs who back then were some of the guys who developed a lot of talent on the Danish scene. I wrote to BERRY and he didn’t answer me. I wrote to haste and he told me he didn’t think I had enough experience, and I wrote to sycrone, who told me he saw potential in me but that it wasn’t my time yet. So then I ended up joining the project Great Danes, which was built a lot around me and I had a caller named alexsomfan who told me he would do anything to help me perform, so it was really a pleasure playing in a team who had a leader who believed in me at that time and was ready to sacrifice himself to make me play better.”
Like many other Danes, blameF got his first taste of LAN competition at Copenhagen Games in 2018
With them, he got to experience LAN competition in the BYOC qualifier for Copenhagen Games in 2018, where the Danish side most notably beat Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez‘s LDLC. Though Great Danes didn’t manage to qualify for the main tournament, that highlight victory against the francophone squad meant a lot to blameF, whose performances in that series put him into the community’s spotlight for the first time.
“The first time I realized I had some real potential was at the Copenhagen Games 2018, which was my first LAN tournament ever. I remember that 14 days before it started I told myself I wanted to prove some of the people who told me I was a cheater wrong and I started playing three hours of deathmatch/aim_botz a day to improve. I was very nervous, not only because I had to see how it was to play in a LAN environment, but also because it was the first time I would meet anyone in person from the gaming community and I didn’t really have the best reputation. But I ended up playing really well individually and we had some good upsets against some bigger teams as well.
“We beat LDLC 2-0 and I remember I was so happy that night, so when I came home at 4 AM I had to wake my mom up and tell her all about how we beat them. I couldn’t even sleep that night even though I knew we were playing a new match in a couple hours, there was so much adrenaline pumping through my body that I was shaking in my bed. This was also the first time I got some recognition on social media, I couldn’t believe all the nice messages I was receiving from people who thought we had done a good job.”
“I got the offer from Epsilon in the transition of roster changes in Great Danes, and at the time Epsilon was a much more established team who could provide me with a higher salary and some experienced players. They were also invited to more tournaments and it was a better opportunity for me to show the world how good I could be. So when Keita (coach of Epsilon) contacted me, it didn’t take long before we started playing our first couple tournaments where one of them was the closed qualifier for the Europe Minor and we ended up beating Heroic, which was a great start.”
The team underwent several changes over the course of the next few months and didn’t accomplish much apart from taking down some known names every now and then, while blameF continued to impress on an individual level. One of those names was the team that would become his future home, Heroic, as the Dane ended up replacing Andreas “MODDII” Fridh there when the calendar turned to 2019.
“In the beginning of 2019, we were again in need of players in Epsilon and we couldn’t find any players who wanted to play with us. So when Peacemaker contacted me and told me that him and Erik (CEO of Heroic) wanted to have a talk with me I knew immediately this was the biggest chance I was gonna get in a long time. It was the first time I was part of a professional organisation and we started the team out by doing a bootcamp, where Heroic had three people from the organisation coming over from Sweden to Denmark to bootcamp with us, and it was very overwhelming for me that people would travel to different countries just to make sure we had everything we needed.
“So when we didn’t get the immediate results I was hoping for I was so embarrassed that I was letting not only my team but also my organisation down. But everyone assured me that they were just happy we were working hard, and the most important thing to them was progress, so I felt like I had all the backup I could get. I have to also say the amount of help and support I got from es3tag in the beginning of Heroic was extremely important for me to feel comfortable in the team. He gave me a lot of the roles he was playing on both T and CT sides and he never once made me feel like he was angry or annoyed by it. He was such a good teammate who always had my back and made me feel important to the team, even in the beginning when we barely knew each other. I think that was very important for me to get the instant feeling of joining a team who not only wanted me to come in and play all the leftover positions but actually made space for me to play my own game and learn from the more experienced players they had.”
blameF became an in-game leader in Heroic
blameF got to show off his worth at the highest level that year with the Danish team, averaging a 1.18 rating in his eight-month tenure with Heroic as he played at his first big events such as IEM Sydney, ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, and ESL One Cologne, all the while becoming the in-game leader after several other players could not fulfill the role.
“There were some IGL problems in Heroic when I joined, we had three different IGLs in the first two weeks of practice (es3tag, friberg, and AcilioN). None of them really worked out, so we as a team ended up looking for a new IGL from another team, and after trialing NEO as the IGL for a couple matches, where people also weren’t very happy, I told peacemaker that if he ever wanted me to IGL I wouldn’t mind taking on the duty. I had had some past experience in the role, obviously not against tier one-two teams, but I told him I would be the hardest working IGL he ever had and I would be a humble IGL and listen to all the experience he could give me and all the tricks he could help me with. So that’s what happened.”
Before the year came to a close, blameF switched homes again and became the centerpiece of Jason Lake’s vision of the Juggernaut. The Great Dane joined Complexity alongside William “RUSH” Wierzba at a time when the Dallas-based organization still fielded the majority of their former roster and played out the rest of the year with them, but soon after the American core was gone as Valentin “poizon” Vasilev and Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke rounded out the new lineup in preparation for 2020.
“Jason Lake did an amazing job with getting us new players in Complexity. It was obvious who we would get, as k0nfig was playing on a dead team and poizon was looking to get picked up as well, so finding the players wasn’t a problem, but more to actually buy them out of their contracts — or so I thought, at least. Jason told me he would get me those players and I think he closed both deals in literally a couple of days after telling me he would get them, which was very impressive considering how long it usually takes to negotiate contracts and buyouts, etc. I am always gonna be grateful for the chance Jason Lake gave me back then, he put a lot of faith in me, even before I proved much to show that I could be a world class player, and I hope to one day repay the trust he gave me back then by giving him the world class team he dreams of and deserves as a very passionate CEO.”
2020 began early for the new Complexity, who remained in the United States in January to play in three qualifiers, for IEM Katowice, DreamHack Open Leipzig, and DreamHack Open Anaheim. They were only successful in the last as they finished third on the other two occasions, so the team’s first LAN showing together took place at the BLAST Premier Spring Series.
Despite their short existence, the brand new mixture impressed in their first European outing in London, beating Astralis and Vitality in convincing affairs to clinch the spot at the finals before they lost a somewhat meaningless first-place decider to Natus Vincere at the end. Meanwhile, blameF took the back seat view of some of his star teammates’ performances, though still putting in the numbers he needed to along the way.
“It was the best experience I had ever had at that point. It showed me that all the hard work we put in as a team had paid off, but we had a lot of mixed results online at the same time, as well, so we didn’t think that one tournament defined us or let it get to our heads. The most important thing it confirmed to me was that I was playing with some of the most skilled individuals in the world in poizon and k0nfig. I was blown away by their individual skill and their confidence and it made me view Counter-Strike a different way.”
The team couldn’t translate that success into online play, however, and failed to make it through the open stage of Europe Minor qualifiers ahead of their brief return to America for DreamHack Open Anaheim. The Californian event saw blameF‘s side make it to playoffs on the back of two confident wins over MIBR, and their campaign ended in the semi-finals after they lost a narrow three-map series to FURIA. That marked the end of LAN competition for Complexity before the pandemic struck in March, and the team soon moved to Europe long-term to be able to play at the biggest events.
Complexity couldn’t have imagined a better start to the season
The first few months of online play in the Old Continent didn’t go very well for blameF & co. in spite of the in-game leader putting in great numbers. The team was able to grab maps off some of the big teams and picked up a few series wins against teams lower in the rankings when they competed at ESL Pro League Season 11 and at ESL One: Road to Rio, but Complexity seemed to be missing the consistency to make deep runs and were eliminated from both events in the group stage. The results didn’t improve in time for DreamHack Masters Spring despite a great start at the tournament, featuring a couple of highlight performances from the Dane, including one of his best maps of the year against MAD Lions — a 2.03 rating on Vertigo.
“Fitting so many big names in a team has been a big challenge for me. When you have four players who are used to being the best guy in their old teams, it’s really hard to fit all of that into one team all of a sudden. I am very happy to get the chance to work with such a humble and experienced guy like RUSH, because he is the guy who makes all of this possible with him doing all the support, taking all leftover positions, buying all nades and being a hard entry in every single set strat. It is not an easy role to do, and it must be mentally draining when some people don’t realize that it’s people like him that makes the star players of the different teams in the world able to play the way they are. I hope one day people will give him the recognition he deserves.”
It wasn’t until after Complexity played five consecutive Home Sweet Home cups against teams outside of the top tier and won four of them to gain some confidence that the team finally clicked — at least for a time — in the BLAST Premier Spring Finals. blameF was perhaps at his best at the finals as he led Complexity in an undefeated run through the tournament’s upper bracket, taking down OG, Natus Vincere, and FaZe on the way to the grand final. Vitality seemed to have the best of them when the title decider saw the Frenchmen win Vertigo in a 16-2 affair, but blameF‘s side came back from the crushing opening loss to clinch their one and only title of 2020, with the in-game leader’s 1.68 rating making all the difference on the deciding Nuke.
“We had a lot of problems in my team. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. I was very unhappy with how some people viewed the game and the way people were approaching the game work-wise and we had so many clashes and discussions every single week that it kind of drained the team. That, on top of some bad results, put us in a very bad spot mentally. I think at one point the team just said ‘fuck it, let’s just go with blame’s vision of the team,’ and on top of that we agreed to play the Home Sweet Home cups to regain some confidence for the players in the team and after that it just started clicking.
“We won BLAST Finals, and it was the period of my life where I have done the most anti-stratting ever. We would sit every night and go through every one of the opponent teams’ executes and figure out what spots you could sit in to not be blind or how many flashes there would come in each spot or where they lined up their grenades from so we could wallbang them and other stuff. It was a very proud moment to win BLAST. After that, we also played Pro League, where we continued our wins and won our first 4 opening matches including a 2-0 win against Astralis and qualified for the playoffs, and I felt like we finally cracked the code and were on our way to greatness. Unfortunately, oBo left us shortly after and we were forced to play with different stand-ins.”
blameF only just lost out in the race to the Most Valuable Player award to the omnipresent Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and instead secured the first of a string of seven Exceptionally Valuable Player mentions, as Complexity‘s triumph at the BLAST Premier Spring Finals led to more playoff appearances in the latter half of 2020.
“My favorite memory has got to be winning BLAST Premier Spring. I had never won a big tournament before and we beat some very good teams on our way to the trophy. Also most new teams are not gonna win their first big final due to inexperience, but we did and that was very impressive for me.”
His second and third EVP mentions came at DreamHack Open Summer and at ESL One Cologne immediately after the summer break. Continuing his run of incredible form with 1.21 and 1.26 ratings at the two tournaments, blameF led his team to a semi-finals finish at the former and to the quarter-finals at the latter, with the rising Heroic squad putting an end to their campaigns on both occasions.
Another deep run was on the cards when the team entered ESL Pro League Season 12 with four consecutive wins in the group stage. The promising start helped them make the playoffs from the second place in their group, but then disaster struck as Owen “oBo” Schlatter decided to leave the team before the playoffs began and FaZe were forced to play the DreamHack Open Fall closed qualifier as well as the bracket stage of Pro League with coach keita, without much success.
“We were definitely hurt a lot by oBo leaving us. But more by the way he left us than the fact that he didn’t wanna stay in Europe anymore. He told us one night he wanted to go home and be with his family, and I remember me and my coach talking about how we respected a guy who was able to say that to his team and be honest about it. So we agreed to him playing for around two more weeks with us to finish Pro League and to play the closed qualifier for the RMR tournament, DreamHack Open Fall, with us, because that was our last chance to qualify for the Major, and also then we would have time to look for a new fifth.
“Unfortunately, I woke up the next day, on the day of the RMR tournament, to a message from oBo saying that he had gone to the airport and wasn’t gonna help us out with RMR or Pro League, and we were now in a situation where we were arguably gonna play the most important tournament of the year in two and a half hours and we didn’t know who our fifth was gonna be. We weren’t allowed to take in any stand-ins and were forced to play with our coach and ended up losing the tournament.”
The roster issues bled over into October as blameF briefly reunited with his former Heroic teammate Niels-Christian “NaToSaphiX” Sillassen in IEM New York. The team was surprisingly competitive at the tournament all things considered, as they clinched an opening win against G2 on the back of a carry performance from the in-game leader and went on to lose close encounters with Vitality and fnatic while blameF continued to carry the load. Despite not reaching the playoffs, the 23-year-old secured his fifth EVP mention at the IEM stop as one of the very best players of the tournament, appearing in several of the leaderboards with remarkable numbers like a 1.27 rating, 91.5 ADR, and 0.84 KPR — statistically his best showing of the year.
Although he had to give up some of his positions on the Terrorist side, the Dane maintained an impressive level after Complexity finally locked in their replacement for oBo, welcoming Justin “jks” Savage to the team ahead of the last five tournaments of 2020. Highlight series against fnatic and BIG, featuring a 2.21-rated map on Nuke against the Germans, at IEM Beijing-Haidan earned him yet another EVP while the team picked up another top-four placing at a highly competitive event, and he would add one more to his tally by the end of the year.
In the meantime, the new squad was still struggling with consistency issues as they were unable to qualify for the BLAST Premier Fall Finals, with Vitality and BIG standing in their way in the Series and the new Cloud9 ‘Colossus’ at the Showdown. Nonetheless, they still made one more playoff appearance at DreamHack Masters Winter, where blameF was awarded his seventh and last EVP after one more exceptional display, before the year ended on a sour note.
poizon was sidelined ahead of the IEM Global Challenge — and as it later turned out for the beginning of 2021, as well — because of an emergency surgery, and the team was forced to use a stand-in for the third time in a span of three months. Otto “ottoNd” Sihvo stepped into the team for their final outing of the year, which ended very quickly as Complexity ran into Vitality and Astralis and were eliminated early after two convincing losses to the tournament favorites. An underwhelming series against the Frenchmen meant blameF would record his only sub-par showing of the year at the IEM stop, putting an end to the long string of EVP-worthy performances.
“It has not been jks’ fault that we haven’t had the results at the end of the year that we were hoping for. jks has worked hard and tried to help the team, but we have been in such an unstable and unhealthy environment for the past couple of months that it has been hard to even have time to talk about mistakes or how we wanna play because each tournament we had to play with a new player. Since oBo left us, we played with keita, NaToSaphiX, jks, ottoNd, and now JUGi.”
Why was blameF the sixth best player of 2020?
blameF showed an incredibly high floor level and consistency in 2020, finishing nine out of eleven notable events with at least a 1.19 rating, in seven of which he was awarded an Exceptionally Valuable Player mention while in the other two he was a strong Valuable Player. Throughout the year, he scored some remarkable numbers, with some of the most notable being 82.3 ADR (fifth most), 73.7% KAST (sixth most), and 0.59 DPR (fifth fewest). His ability to stay alive also ties into his undeniable talent in clutching, as he won 71 1vsX situations last year (sixth most). When adjusted for rounds played, he even has a case to be named the best clutch player of the year due to averaging one 1vsX situation won every 53 rounds — more frequently than anyone else.
“I think I changed a lot as a player in 2020. Lurking/clutching was never my preferred role, but playing with players like RUSH, k0nfig, and poizon, who all really like to be aggressive, it kinda made sense that I took on the lurking role on the team. And after almost a full year of doing that role, I think it just became very natural for me to have that extra overview, cutting rotations and listening to information by calling from the other side of the map than where that pack is always kinda give me an advantage in my clutch situations, because I usually have better information than the player I’m against. Also, I am not and never really have been a highlight player, I always go for the secure kills and never take any unnecessary risk, which I think is important to have as a guy who just needs one or two kills to win the rounds.”
blameF was also above average in almost every other category, as well, which made him one of the most complete players of 2020. He scored 0.73 KPR (15th most) and 0.12 opening kills per round (19th most) — which, together with his clutching ability, helped the Dane record a 1.15 impact rating (15th highest) — as well as 21.9 support damage per round (tenth most) and 6.8 utility damage per round (seventh most). On top of that, he remained consistent no matter which side he played on with a 1.15 T side rating (seventh highest) and a 1.22 CT side rating (sixth highest). All of that helped blameF record the fifth-highest 1.19 rating, a number that stays the same when looking at only the Elite-level events and ranks fourth highest among all players.
“I am really satisfied with 2020, it was a great year. I think peaking at top five as a team was the highlight, I felt like I was part of something that was working really well and when we started to get into the habit of even being the favourite when we were playing top teams, it made me so proud. I never worked as hard before as I did in 2020 and I do feel like it paid off.”
In the end, the remarkably high floor level and number of great events were more than enough to secure him the sixth position, although that was as high as he could get given his noticeably lower sample size at the biggest events and in their playoffs especially. blameF recorded only 20 playoff maps at big events, and even though his 1.13 rating there was impressive overall, it was the lowest among the top seven players of the ranking.
“My goal for 2021 is to peak at some point throughout the year at number one with Complexity.”
blameF opted for an original prediction, tipping 20-year-old Shuaib “D0cC” Ahmad, a former Defusekids member, to become a top player, under the condition that he gets the right in-game leader to utilize him.
“I have to say D0cC. I think mechanically speaking he can compete with the very best in the world and if he got a chance with an experienced caller who would invest some time in finding the best way to use D0cC, he could become a top player.”
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:
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Players making their way from anonymity into top teams via pick-up game services like FACEIT and ESEA might be common now, but it was ropz that laid the path with his, at the time, unique way of becoming a professional player. The Estonian began his Counter-Strike: Global Offensive journey in 2014, after a couple of Majors had already been played, but he adapted to the game quickly. After all, he had played CS 1.6, spent countless hours on KZ servers, and experimented with Call of Duty before schoolmates told him that a new version of his favorite game had been released.
Like most players, ropz initially turned towards his country and region when looking for teammates and competition, but quickly realized that being from Estonia, a country with a population of little over one million people, was going to be a limiting factor. Therefore, he set out to play FACEIT and make a name for himself that way, qualifying for FPL Challenger in April 2016 and taking it to the next step by earning a spot in FPL (FACEIT Pro League) before the end of the year.
ropz made playoffs at his first LAN with mouz, beating NAVI and Heroic
It took ropz less than a year to go from reaching FPL-C to qualifying for his first Major, but that doesn’t mean the period was easy for him. He was an instant sensation in FPL, winning the competition in his second month and outperforming some of the most proven and decorated players of the game. But the fact that an unknown 17-year-old Estonian kid was doing so well didn’t sit right with everyone. Despite ropz streaming his games, cheating accusations were hurled at him, with a stream clip including Jesper “JW” Wecksell‘s comment describing the atmosphere at the time quite well.
It was not only the kills he was getting, but the manner in which he played, checking every angle, always being aware, that made people suspect there was foul play at hand. The fnatic member was far from the only professional who doubted ropz‘s legitimacy, which prompted FACEIT to fly out the youngster to their offices in London, where he was expected to play as he did at home to prove that he wasn’t cheating.
With immense pressure on his back, ropz performed adequately, and slowly but surely, the suspicions died down. The test happened in March, and by April, he signed his first professional contract, joining mousesports. He wasn’t lacking options at the time, with multiple organizations recognizing his potential, but he decided on the team featuring Chris “chrisJ” de Jong and Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný as they were willing to be flexible and allow him to continue his education.
“When I qualified for FPL, I knew that the accusations would eventually start. It had been the same deal in FPL-C, a lot of people even wanted to dodge games if they were against me, so I was prepared for it. I tried to do everything in my power to prove myself (even streaming with a camera that showed me playing), but no one, of course, believed anything, because why should they? So I kind of started to question myself and I was feeling really down. Then FACEIT approached me and that was my only option left, so I just took it. I think it proved to me how good I really am and nowadays it’s just fun to look back at what a lot of people said.” – ropz talked about the situation after ranking 19th on the Top 20 players list in 2018.
ropz‘s slow and meticulous playstyle made him slot right into the lurk role, which he continues to play to this day, perfecting it over time. On his LAN debut at DreamHack Open Tours 2017, mousesports finished 3rd-4th and the Estonian posted a 0.97 rating, but he picked up the pace at ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals a few months later with a 1.12 rating, quickly adapting to LAN play. Not long after he had officially become a professional, mousesports earned a spot at the PGL Krakow Major 2017, with the Estonian posting an outstanding 1.49 rating in the Main Qualifier. At that point, it was apparent that he was the real deal, and his zero-to-hero story opened up the doors for many other players.
The 2017-18 mousesports lineup was ranked as high as second in the world
The first Major he attended with mousesports was nothing to write home about, as they finished 12-14th, leading to a roster change. The additions of Martin “STYKO” Styk and Miikka “suNny” Kemppi created the most successful mousesports lineup until that point. They won their second event together, ESG Tour Mykonos 2017, and went on a playoff streak that lasted 11 LAN events and included the ELEAGUE 2018 Major, ropz‘s first time reaching this stage of a Major. During that time, ropz also won two tournaments, StarSeries i-League Season 4 and the ~$600,000 prize pool V4 Future Festival 2018.
A standout player during the run, ropz earned a number of EVP mentions and kept up his form for the second half of the year, when Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski was introduced instead of STYKO. In a sea of underwhelming performances with that roster, including a last-place FACEIT Major exit, mousesports managed one great result, winning ESL One New York 2018. For his consistency in a historic year for mousesports, ropz was ranked 19th on that year’s list of the top players, but he showed even better form in 2019.
“I think communicating in a language that is not your native language isn’t that big of a thing nowadays. As long as everyone is used to it, it’s hard to notice. Well, I actually have nothing to compare it to. But from my own experience, once people are used to playing with each other and know how we talk, etc., it just becomes smooth and easy. There are many things to do, of course. For example, we had some very specific talks and exercises with our psychologist on how to ‘help communication’. We met and made up a lot of keywords, not even make all of them up because we already naturally use many to shorten sentences to just a word or a few. And we put it on paper and turned them into ‘facts’, so no one gets confused.
“An example – if we say freeze or gap, it usually means one of us is in a super good position which could determine the round and everyone else should react to what this player does next, you could imagine me on a lurk or someone found a gap, etc. In general, I think speaking in your mother language is always going to be superior in a game like CS, in which communication is very important and everything needs to be said without delay. However, the effect nowadays feels minimal to me at least, considering I’ve been playing on such a roster for four years.”
The year started with heartbreak, however, as his team failed to get out of groups at the Europe Minor, leading to a massive roster overhaul. In-game leader Finn “karrigan” Andersen, young talent David “frozen” Čerňanský, and star AWPer Özgür “woxic” Eker came in for the trio of suNny, oskar, and STYKO, creating the core that represents the team to this day. The new mousesports took some time to get rolling and become a top-10 team again, but ropz was again always performing, finishing only one event “in the red” across the whole year – the StarLadder Major Berlin, where he was unable to get out of the New Legends Stage.
The karrigan-led mousesports broke the deadlock at CS:GO Asia Championships 2019
The team reached its peak at the end of 2019 with four great events, winning three and finishing second at the other one. ropz was instrumental to mousesports accomplishments and picked up his career-first MVP at the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals, the team’s biggest trophy of the year. In the end, he placed 10th on the Top 20 players of the year list, standing out with an extremely high rating (1.20, sixth-highest) and as one of the hardest players to kill (0.60 deaths per round, seventh-best).
ropz wasn’t the main star of the team in 2018 or 2019, finishing just one event as the highest-rated mousesports player in 2018 and three in 2019. Going into 2020, that was about to change.
ropz was influential in the victory, posting a 1.21 rating and year-low deaths per round, 0.57, netting himself a strong EVP mention from the tournament in London before heading for IEM Katowice.
“The expectations were really high. What I meant back then was indeed the fact that I’d never had such a great start to a year, especially considering how we had ended the previous one. We continued with our success and everything seemed to be falling in place. It felt like we were reaching the No.1 status, for which I and everyone else had grinded for so long. The ICE Challenge in specific was supposed to be a tournament where we were like, ‘Okay, so let’s see if we can replicate what we did just a bit ago, in 2019’. And we did just that, that’s why I said what I said. The final being a BO5 against NaVi, taking it home quite comfortably was a beautiful sight. Though looking back, it was one of those rare occasions where s1mple didn’t perform to his best level also, so that could have been a factor (laughs).
“Because we won ICE Challenge, we instantly felt the confidence we had back in 2019 and we brought it into Katowice. I think what happened there was rather unfortunate. I can recall winning the first map against 100 Thieves, stepping outside of the booth, and seeing on the TV that the news was out. There would be no crowd, and things were looking bad. It was felt within the team that we slowly lost energy after that and ended up losing the match.”
The Estonian was outstanding in Poland as well, showing up in every map victory for his side, including the one in the 2-1 series loss to G2 and those in a 2-0 win over MAD Lions. But being the only above-average rated player in the final map of the decider series against 100 Thieves wasn’t enough to pull mousesports across the line, resulting in a 16-14 loss and a 7-8th finish at the event that ended up being the most competitive of the year.
The spirits were high after winning ICE Challenge in February
The European squad was back to deep runs in the first tournament of the “online era”, ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe. Across 31 maps played in March and April, ropz exhibited his late-round ability by pulling off ten clutches and posted a team-high 1.14 rating in mousesports‘ second-place finish (1.13 in playoffs). ropz was his team’s best player in the grand final against fnatic as well, but the efforts of Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin and Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson denied him anything more than a silver medal and another strong EVP mention.
“From my personal view, it’s almost as if nothing affects me when I play CS and perform at my best. My teammates call me a robot at times because of how I can just play and play, put in all the hours. Of course, I would rather play on LAN, but playing from home against the same competition doesn’t change much for me and I keep putting in the work. I mean, we had played online leagues just a while before anyway, so it was nothing new obviously. I guess the level of motivation dropped just slightly, but as I said, I can be like a robot in this so I’m going to work hard, no matter what happens. I had learned my lessons before, when I don’t work hard it never ends up well. But a lot happened to me during this time. I had my first ever break-up, with someone I had been together for over two years; because of not traveling I finally got time to get my driver’s license; I’ve seen more of my family, etc. There have been many ups and downs.
“On a team level, of course not everyone can be like me, and sooner or later the signs of COVID started to show. I would say the first couple of losses after EPL S11 were kind of a coincidence, but then we just couldn’t pick it up anymore. I don’t know what happened. A few of us said COVID was making us lose motivation and not care as much, but I didn’t want to blame it on that myself. If other teams could show that they were still the best, then so could we. But no matter what we tried, we even had a bootcamp at the very end, it just didn’t pan out as we wished.”
mousesports were ranked fourth in the world at the time, dropping from the second place they had held from December to February. Not having better results in Pro League or Katowice meant that ropz missed his chance to see his team finally ranked first in the world, with the opportunity to reach that milestone not appearing again in 2020. The team’s form would dwindle as time went on, dropping outside of the top 20 by the end of August.
It all started with ESL One: Road to Rio, the Regional Major Ranking (RMR) tournament which mousesports opened up with shocking losses to Movistar Riders (ranked 37th at the time) and North (26th). ropz posted a respectful 1.10 rating in the team’s group-stage exit, but was more impressive in the following DreamHack Masters Spring Europe, in which he was the sole mousesports member with an above-average rating as he posted a 1.11 rating (25% higher than the team’s average). The team managed just one map win from seven played, being eliminated in 13th-16th place following losses to Complexity, BIG, and MAD Lions.
mouz issues started with ESL One: Road to Rio
But mousesports‘ woes were far from over. They were denied a place in the BLAST Premier Spring Finals after losing 2-0 to ENCE in the Showdown stage, making cs_summit 6 their last event before the player break. The second RMR tournament was one of ropz‘s worst outings of 2020 as he managed just a 1.04 rating in the team’s 13-16th place. The best-ever start to a year had turned sour as mousesports headed to the player break, with the dream of becoming No.1 now replaced with the goal of getting back to the top 10.
“To be honest, it’s hard to name THE worst moment, but maybe one was when we started to lose. And that also happened to be the Major qualifier for Rio and those meant the most in the online season, I would say. We basically ended up not qualifying, but it was postponed so let’s hope we have a slim chance still.”
Time off and a bootcamp didn’t help the team turn things around. In ESL One Cologne 2020 Europe, mousesports were eliminated after just two matches, a 2-1 loss to Natus Vincere and a stomp by MAD Lions, who gave up just nine rounds across the series. ropz was again the only shining light, his 1.15 rating 39% higher than the team’s average. He also put in a year-high impact rating of 1.36.
ropz said farewell to woxic in the summer
The Estonian kept his impact rating high throughout the tournaments in the second half of the year, improving significantly in that regard compared to earlier in his career. That uptick coincided with ropz using the AWP more —averaging between 0.07 – 0.15 AWP KPR over the last six events of 2020 —, as well as finding opening kills at a significantly higher rate than before.
The roster change that followed after Cologne required those changes in ropz‘s game. woxic, the AWPer who had been named the 12th best player of 2019 ended up benched after struggling for form during the first half of the season. ropz remembers that the decision wasn’t an easy one as he had to weigh in his opinion as mousesports were looking for a way to get out of the rut.
“In regards to woxic, everyone had their say. It was a very tough call. We had to do something because people were starting to point fingers not only outside the team but also inside. Since I am such a hard worker and well-rounded player, people inside the team look up to me and always ask what I think and whatever it is they respect it. I don’t say stuff out of the blue, I give complete reasoning for every argument. Most of it should stay behind closed doors.
“What we were expecting was a new AWPer in the following months, which sadly never happened. We knew that the first few events we would play with Bymas, given he was signed as a sixth player. Bymas was never meant to replace woxic. We wanted to do our best in the next few events, but sadly we never got around to a new AWP, had to switch a lot around to make it work, and somehow had a few nice events at the end of the year, which we can be proud of. The team was very dysfunctional at the time.”
The first event with Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras on the roster was a massive success – at least compared to what the team had been going through in previous months. mousesports got out of the group stage in ESL Pro League Season 12 Europe after beating the No.1 ranked Vitality in a crucial match (ropz with 1.39 rating) and earned a fourth-placed finish.
While his team wasn’t even close to winning the title, ropz did so well that he was a part of the MVP race. He posted a 1.22 rating overall but did better in the playoffs (1.27) than in the round-robin group stage. He also only had three maps “in the red” out of 29 played, and secured 13 clutches while averaging 0.13 opening kills per round.
That form didn’t hold for DreamHack Open Fall, in which mousesports suffered another 13-16th place exit, while ropz‘s 1.01 rating was again the best in his team (23% higher than the average in the squad). Back to his standard for 2020, the lurker blew out BIG with a 1.41 rating in the opening game of IEM Beijing-Haidian and showed up in map wins over Astralis and G2, but mousesports suffered 2-1 losses in both series and ended up with yet another group stage exit.
ropz‘s fourth and final EVP came from DreamHack Masters Winter in December. The Estonian began the event with an underwhelming Inferno against Liquid (0.80 rating), usually a standout map for him, before kicking into a higher gear. He topped the charts in a 2-0 victory against woxic‘s Cloud9 and made the difference in a hard-fought semi-final against GODSENT as mousesports reached their first grand final since ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe.
The grand final featured masterclass displays from both ropz and the star player on the opposite side, Nicolai “device” Reedtz. The BO5 series went the way of Astralis, 3-1, and the Danish AWP edged out ropz for the MVP, but the event still went down as one of the best for the mousesports star, highlighted with some impeccable statistics: 1.21 playoffs rating, 1.31 CT side rating, 1.21 impact rating, 81.6 ADR.
“I think I played the best CS this year during the times we had VERY important matches, such as in playoffs. I could feel that I was ready for the big matches every time and I feel like I delivered.
“I can definitely recall the couple of times we played Astralis, those were amazing. I think the one in DH Winter is the most memorable one, where device went 15-0 on Train, the first map we lost. I thought: ‘Is this it? Is this how it goes again?’ But then I just dropped all the emotions and turned up my robot-self again and did the exact same as him on the second map, Inferno, going something like 15-0 myself. Those performances in those important matches are what I want more of, it was an amazing feeling.”
The last event of the year, the BLAST Premier Fall Finals, was a write-off. While mousesports were faced with a tough bracket, having to take on Astralis and then Vitality, being unable to get past the eight-round mark on any of the four maps played was disappointing. ropz wasn’t the difference-maker either, mustering just an 0.84 rating, recording his first below-average rated event of 2020. It was also just the fourth event of the year in which ropz wasn’t the highest-rated player of his team, topping the charts for mousesports in the remaining eight.
ropz is content with the year, despite all the difficulties
“I think the year wasn’t as disheartening as it looked. To be honest, I hate to say, ‘Damn, 2020 was tough’, or whatever year was tough. Of course every single year is going to be tough in some way. It goes without saying. But indeed I think as a player I’ve reached a very high level, I think I’m becoming a very complete player who has both talent and experience. I remember some people were calling me the best lurk there is, and I’m very proud and thankful for that, I hope to keep raising more eyebrows and rise from here.
“Personally, I felt like I was at the top of my game almost every tournament, except for the last one, where we simply got stomped. I guess there might’ve been some similarities with people losing motivation and not working as hard. However, the reason for that is crazier than anything ever before. A damn virus. Obviously, not an excuse, but just saying, if anyone is ever going to lose motivation then this might be why.”
Why was ropz the 7th best player of 2020?
We’re down to the final seven spots, and we reach a group of players that separate themselves from the rest with world-class consistency, fragging output, and superb peaks at the biggest events. ropz particularly excelled in the fragging department, averaging the fourth-most kills per round (0.78), getting multi-kills at the third-highest rate (in 19.8% of his rounds), and getting headshot frags very often (0.41 per round, third-highest overall).
Even though his team had very volatile results, ropz remained a stable performer, only recording a below-1.00 rating at his very last event, while otherwise being a beacon of consistency on every level: his 72.3% KAST meant his round-to-round contribution was up there with the best (19th-highest) and his map-to-map consistency was rivalled by only a few as he had 1.00+ ratings in 76% of his maps played (fourth-highest).
His play in big matches was another way in which he stood out, as even though he only reached the top half of an event five times, he averaged a 1.21 rating in Big event playoffs (sixth-best). It never resulted in an MVP medal, but he did have four very strong EVP performances, including in both ESL Pro League seasons as his team’s best player en route to a runner-up and a top-four finish.
All that, combined a generally great level at the biggest events (1.16 Elite event rating) and against top opposition (1.15 rating against top-10 teams), was what clearly separated him from those ranked below. But the remaining six players either had more great performances at the biggest events or were even more consistent at the highest possible level.
“It’s easy to say I would like to be better and reach new peaks. However, the thing I feel like I want most, is that, at the very minimum, I keep the level that I’m at now. No matter what, I DO NOT want to fall from this level. I am a person that when I fail, I just tell myself to try harder. That’s basically my motto and I feel like it’s going to be super devastating to me if that was to happen. I am so happy to have finally reached such a level. I must maintain it and keep going and going, and if possible, go even higher.”
As the third player to pick Shahar “flameZ” Shushan as his Bold prediction this year, ropz singled out the 17-year-old player from Israel for his talent and personality.
“flameZ is such a talented player and from the few times I’ve seen him play or faced him, he is definitely on to something. Not only is he talented, but he’s also a super nice, lovely little dude. I know he looks up to me and I’m happy to talk to a guy like that and give him all the support I can.”
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 played his first Major, DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, in October of 2015
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 got three EVPs and an MVP at his first four tournaments of 2020
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.”
“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.
Liquid’s changes during the player break kept the struggling team off-kilter
“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.
EliGE was the fourth most impactful player in the world in 2020 with a 1.28 impact rating
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.”
”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:
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dupreeh started out as an aspiring young player in Counter-Strike: Source, but he didn’t get to play for any notable teams until he switched to CS:GO, in 2012. Shortly after the new game arrived, the Dane got his first chance in 3DMAX and started gaining some experience at his first international LANs, setting himself up for the move to the highly-regarded CPH Wolves team in early 2013.
When the Danish squad started to make it deep into tournaments after their switch to Dignitas, the 27-year-old improved on that placing with the 16th spot in 2014, a year in which the team was largely remembered for their semi-finals curse and a poor record against the legendary NiP, who often caused the Danes’ late eliminations. The team then started appearing on the highest step of the podium more consistently in 2015, after Finn “karrigan” Andersen replaced Henrik “FeTiSh” Christensen at the helm of the squad and the roster became TSM. With the new in-game leader, dupreeh & co. managed to secure three consecutive titles in the first half of the year and were briefly considered the world’s best team amidst the fnatic era, with the entry fragger then named the 12th-best player.
dupreeh holding one of the five trophies TSM won in 2015
The only year that dupreeh missed out on a place in the HLTV Top 20 was in 2016. The year started off well as the team won the opening event, the Red Dot Invitational, and went on to place in the top four at nearly every tournament after the creation of Astralis, but a tough period followed and several early exits caused the team to sign Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye in René “cajunb” Borg‘s stead and eventually lose faith in karrigan, who was replaced by Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander.
The fresh blood seemed to make all the difference as Astralis immediately returned to the top in the last month of competition, and as the calendar turned to 2017, the Danes won their first Major in Atlanta with the new in-game leader. dupreeh had to change roles due to clashes with Kjaerbye that year, but great form saw him return to the Top 20 list in tenth place while the Danes showed the beginnings of their unrivalled consistency, scoring top-four finishes at 13 out of 17 events.
A disastrous exit at the ELEAGUE Major 2018 — the only time the dupreeh–device–Xyp9x trio did not make it past a Major group stage — followed a difficult end to 2017, when device had sat out a few tournaments because of recurring health issues. After the early elimination in Atlanta, Kjaerbye decided to make a surprise switch to North and Astralis brought in Emil “Magisk” Reif at the last minute in a move that would see them start an era to remember. The Danes went on to win 16 titles over the next two years, including three consecutive Major trophies, and earned themselves the right to challenge fnatic and NiP for the title of the greatest team of all time by pushing the boundaries of what perfect teamplay looks like. Meanwhile, dupreeh added two more top 20 appearances to his tally, with a top-five placing in 2018 and the 16th spot in 2019.
After their successful end to 2019 had seen them win three out of the last four tournaments, Astralis entered 2020 as the world’s best team, but they looked off when they arrived in London for their first outing in the new year at the BLAST Premier Spring Series, including dupreeh. The 27-year-old put in one of the worst-ever performances in his career in the group, featuring Natus Vincere, Complexity, and Vitality, with the Danish side falling to the Showdown stage after losses to Benjamin “blameF” Bremer‘s and Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev‘s teams.
“I don’t think I changed anything, or prepared differently, I just believe I had a bad tournament. Maybe some external factors impacted my performance, I’m not quite sure, as it’s been a while. I remember being frustrated about something, but I don’t recall what specifically. It was a disappointing beginning for me as an individual, but also for the team. We had high expectations after a very good end to 2019, so we were looking to be back with a great start to a — back then — hopefully good year, but soon afterwards, the COVID-19 situation quickly had its impact on the world and our game, unfortunately.”
Although still some ways away from his best form, dupreeh was back on his feet by IEM Katowice later that month. After the wake-up call in London, Astralis looked as dominant as ever while they coasted through the group stage after three convincing victories, with the entry fragger putting in one of his best maps of the year against Vitality with a 1.80 rating in a 16-9 win on Overpass. But when the playoffs came, the Danish powerhouse ran head-first into Natus Vincere in the semi-finals and suffered a second consecutive elimination at the hands of the CIS giants, who ran out 16-5 winners on both maps.
Astralis’ dominant group stage showing at IEM Katowice was overshadowed by a daunting loss to NAVI in the semi-finals
The pandemic struck shortly afterwards, and LAN play became off-limits. Online play had never been a significant weakness of Astralis‘, however, and they proved that once again in the following two tournaments, ESL Pro League Season 11 and ESL One: Road to Rio, with two deep runs. In the long Pro League format, the team topped their group in the first stage with a 4-1 record and went 3-2 in the second despite opening both phases with losses, before mousesports stopped them in a narrow semi-final affair. A couple of weeks later, gla1ve & co. clinched their first title of 2020 in the first Regional Major Ranking event after an undefeated run in the playoffs featuring two lopsided victories over G2.
dupreeh had to come to terms with the new situation, like many others, but despite having difficulties with staying focused, he looked more like his old self again with 1.15 and 1.09 ratings in the two long competitions. He stood out in the playoffs of the latter event in the team’s title-winning campaign in particular, for which he earned the first of his six Exceptionally Valuable Player (EVP) awards.
“Back when CS was partly online (with FACEIT League and Pro League games online) it was just a part of the game, and at that point, a very natural way to balance the industry. But as it slowly faded out and everything turned to LAN, I think everyone, especially our team, felt that we liked the new model a lot more. Sure, we had to travel a bit more, but the competition seemed more fair, more exciting and more real, so going from there to all of a sudden being in a situation where everything had to be played online, I especially had a hard time to adjust and feel comfortable around this new setup. Mainly because I missed the competition, the realness, the arenas, the excitement, the failures, the victories, the fans, everything that makes CS the game that I love and want to be the best in.
“Eventually, I said to myself that this was the situation, that I couldn’t change it, and since then I’ve tried my hardest to just enjoy the game online. Now I’m in a situation where I really want to get back to the LANs but at the same time will have a hard time having to get back to the habit of travelling, being away from family and girlfriend, and having a lot more time on my hands for my Peter-Peter time. But I do miss everything pre-2020.
“[Did I manage to maintain motivation throughout the year?] Both yes and no. As previously stated, I had my mental struggle but overcame it rather quickly when I realised I couldn’t change the situation, so instead of wasting energy on that, I focused it on the things I could change.
“I think my motivation has been pretty consistent, I’ve always enjoyed playing and working hard as a team, even though 2020 was different. However, the work ethic has been different. I think it’s been a challenge to find that tournament focus, as I need my teammates and coach around me to give me those final percentages. I seem to play worse sitting on my own. I need that hype and to share my feelings with someone, and that’s also why I shifted from playing at home to going to the office with es3tag, zonic and gla1ve a couple of times. I literally couldn’t find the balance between work and time off, so I had to get out of my apartment to kind of feel that.”
By then it was clear that something was going on within the team, after the organization had revealed their plans in March to form an extended roster with the signing of Patrick “es3tag” Hansen following the end of his contract with Heroic at the end of June. In May, they also signed Jakob “JUGi” Hansen, and it became obvious why when gla1ve took a medical leave ahead of DreamHack Masters Spring and Xyp9x followed suit just a couple of weeks later. Still playing with the ‘Clutch Minister’, the team made it to the playoffs in DreamHack Masters Spring, but once he was gone as well and Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer stood in, Astralis were in shambles and faced a tough elimination at the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown and an early exit in the DreamHack Masters lower bracket to end the first half of the season on a sour note.
“It was very difficult, not going to lie. Of course, in-game it was tough, but it was tougher mentally for me. I’ve been around these guys for years, and we’ve shared so many things together, and to suddenly see them fall and having to go on medical leave was difficult in a sense. I was worried about whether it would ever happen to me, and if my teammates would ever recover. Would we get back to the regular performances we had in Astralis, or was this the end?
“We worked a lot in the team throughout the summer period, along with our sports psychologist Lars Robl, dealing with the ‘unknown’. It was a good lesson, and a good way to approach this matter. It helped me to focus my energy on the right things. And now here we are, back as the #1 ranked team, with multiple titles in 2020. I’m very happy and very proud.”
Lineup changes continued at the beginning of the new season, when es3tag could finally join the team after a four-month wait on Heroic‘s bench and Lucas “Bubzkji” Andersen was brought in instead of JUGi as the organization saw the fit wasn’t quite right with the AWPer. With the team having more time to prepare with the new players, things began to look up when competition returned in the middle of August as Astralis played with the new additions in ESL One Cologne and made it to the playoffs there.
gla1ve came back from inactivity in time for ESL Pro League Season 12, and although he didn’t immediately seize the reins as the in-game leader again, it seemed to make all the difference. After an opening loss to Complexity in which the team played with Bubzkji, es3tag took the former MAD Lions‘ player’s place and Astralis went on to rally through the group stage with six consecutive wins. A tough opening loss to Heroic then sent the Danes to the playoffs’ lower bracket, where the team went on a spree as they managed to win the whole event, with dupreeh being one of the key players in the massive run as he recorded 1.00+ ratings in all 13 maps after the upper bracket loss, earning another EVP in the process.
“We were tired of losing, honestly. It’s not something we’re very good at (laughs). I think one of the key factors was es3tag’s motivation. Patrick is such a humble guy and he worked his ass off to make it work and to make a name for himself, and he sure as hell did. I was around Patrick throughout his time in Heroic [when both parties were owned by RFRSH], but I never really got to know him back then. I’m happy that I’ve gotten a new good friend, and I still spend time with him outside the game.
“Apart from that, we were obviously glad that gla1ve had come back into the team. Lukas is such an important piece to the puzzle with his knowledge and understanding of the game. It was great to have him back, and to feel that the time off he took was well used and needed.”
Hints of Xyp9x‘s imminent return began to surface around then, but the Danish squad still played one more event without him, DreamHack Open Fall. dupreeh secured another EVP award in the last Regional Major Ranking event of 2020, in which the Danes picked up a top-three finish as they beat teams like local rivals Heroic and G2 in the groups, with losses to the grand finalists Vitality and Heroic in a rematch stopping Astralis at the last hurdle as they played their last event with es3tag.
With Xyp9x returning at the beginning of November to play the remaining five events, the three-time Major-winning lineup was back together to finish 2020 on a successful note. The roster was shaky at first — still advancing through the group at BLAST Premier Fall Series with some difficulty and making a playoff appearance in IEM Beijing-Haidian —, but soon they were back to winning ways after they got a bit more time.
Coming in clutch to end 2020 as the No. 1 team, Astralis went on to appear in three consecutive grand finals in the last month of play and won two of them. Only a loss to Vitality in the BLAST Premier title decider stopped the Danes from getting the perfect score, as DreamHack Masters Winter saw them take down mousesports to secure their third trophy, and the fourth came in the year’s closing tournament, IEM Global Challenge, in which Astralis took revenge on Vitality and beat Liquid in the deciding best-of-five series.
“[My favorite memory of 2020?] Winning the IEM Global Challenge by far. Mainly because we were all playing from the office, and we got that tournament-vibe going. It was great. And a great way to end the year!”
dupreeh was there to reap the benefits of putting in some highlight series and individual maps on the way to the two titles and one runner-up finish with three EVP awards in a row, bringing his total award count to six in 2020 to lock down his return to the top ten in the end-of-year ranking.
“I’ve probably said it before, but making the top 20 is always a goal of mine. So I’ve accomplished it once more, which makes me very happy, especially looking back at a very odd year.”
At 27 years old, dupreeh is making his sixth appearance in the top 20 as the oldest player on the list in 2020. We asked him about his age and whether he feels any signs of slowing down ahead of his 28th birthday, which seems to have some significance in players’ tendency to drop off as only two players have ever made it onto the list after turning 28 (Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg in 2016 and Filip “NEO” Kubski in 2015). In response, the Dane was somewhat nostalgic as he looked back at his long career but assured us that he’s here to keep winning.
“(laughs) I’m slowly getting into veteran mode, which is so weird. I remember when I was 20 and played my first tournaments, and here I am, eight years later, still going. But I guess it’s just part of life.
“I enjoy life, I enjoy the game and there’s no reason to slow down. I’m not done winning. Retiring hasn’t crossed my mind at all, but I’ve thought about what I would like to do once I’m done. I’ll continue to play as long as it makes me happy, and as long as I feel I can compete at the highest level. So, you’ll have me for a few more years! Hopefully!”
Why was dupreeh the ninth best player of 2020?
Looking at his entire 191 map resumé from all events relevant to the Top 20, dupreeh didn’t stand out at anything in particular in terms of the basic statistics but still put in well-above-average numbers with 0.70 KPR, 0.64 DPR, 1.10 Impact and 71.2% KAST, for an overall 1.09 rating. Some more specific statistics help showcase dupreeh‘s overall impact, however: Astralis won 70.7% of rounds in which he got at least one kill (the highest percentage of all players), and 83.1% of rounds in which he scored a multi-kill (the second-highest percentage behind FURIA‘s Andrei “arT” Piovezan).
On top of that, it is important to mention that dupreeh‘s performances improved when the challenges became harder. When filtering out the qualifiers for BLAST Finals and looking only at the Big events, the Dane’s average turns into a 1.11 rating across 172 maps. When you only consider the Elite-level events — all eight of which dupreeh played —, he comes out as the ninth-highest-rated player with a 1.12 rating in 116 maps.
dupreeh’s remarkable consistency earns him the ninth spot
Seeing as he was never in serious contention for an MVP award, he lacked the sort of peaks that some of the players who placed below him had, but he made up for that with his remarkable consistency as he finished every notable event with at least a 1.06 rating. That stability helped him earn six EVP awards — including one in each of Astralis‘ four title-winning campaigns —, and he came close to securing two more mentions in IEM Beijing-Haidian and ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe.
All of that allowed him to place this high on the list despite his numbers not looking as impressive as those of some of the players around him. In the end, however, he couldn’t climb any higher due to lacking some more big performances, despite a solid 1.09 Big event playoff rating in 62 maps.
“[My wishes for 2021?] Making the top 20 again. Getting back to LANs. Being happy. Healthy. Getting back to the fans. Win some more. Breaking my top-five record on the list is a wish too. We’ll see how it goes!”