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Column

lurppis: Judging the aftermath of ELEAGUE Boston

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ELEAGUE Boston ending in late January opened the floodgates to another silly season, with teams having just over a week to complete all their roster moves before ESL Pro League’s roster lock kicked in. Now that the changes are said and done, let us look at the biggest winners and losers of the mini off-season that just took place.
Winner – Team Liquid

(Keith "NAF" Markovic replaces Joshua "JDM" Marzano)

Liquid is one of the few teams we have already seen in action, as they overcame the entire field to win cs_summit 2 last weekend in Los Angeles. While jdm64 showed plenty of potential in his Counter Logic Gaming days and has the occasional strong game in Liquid – the inferno game versus SK Gaming at ESL One New York comes to mind – his downfall was always his rifle play.

NAF was a sensation during his six months in Renegades, putting up 1.26 rating with 0.80 KPR during his tenure. He is going to make up a Big Three of sorts, together with Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken, who are all going to be high-impact players capable of taking over games with their rifle play. The only downside is the lack of true sniper – currently filling that role is Nick "nitr0" Cannella, a talented player who only scored 6.1% of his kills in 2017 with a sniper – but the added flexibility should prove well worth the risk.

Keith
Keith "NAF" Markovic


Loser – Ninjas in Pyjamas

(Dennis "dennis" Edman replaces Richard "Xizt" Landström, pita new coach to replace departed THREAT)

Losing THREAT as the team’s coach looks like a net-loss for the Ninjas, regardless of the success pita had in his short-term role with the squad starting in late 2014 as a “strategy adviser”. But the core of Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg, Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and Xizt – which had been together since August 2012, then NiP was brought back to life for CS:GO – needed a shuffle. Letting go of Xizt to bring in dennis, who most recently had a strong showing as a one-off stand-in for Astralis at BLAST Pro Series, is a good move.

NiP’s short-lived experiment with f0rest as an in-game leader at cs_summit 2 did not work out, and it is unclear whether dennis will do well in that role. However, the moves give NiP hope, and the style of dennis’s teams has always been in-line with the free-wheeling play of f0rest and GeT_RiGhT. NiP are better off, but it is unlikely to be enough for more than a couple of good showings – as is normally the case for NiP after roster changes. This team cannot change enough fast enough.


Winner – Virtus.pro

(Michał "MICHU" Müller replaces Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas)

As impressive as the record of having the same roster for four-plus years was, the Virtus.pro roster certainly outstayed their welcome and were no longer producing the kind of results that would justify their salaries. Bringing in MICHU – who previously stood in for Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski at IEM San Jose in 2015 – will give the Poles some fresh blood, and a new look at things. While not adjusted for level of opposition, his 1.19 rating in 2017 also far outshines TaZ’s disappointing figure of 0.93. We may not know for months whether this move alone is enough to re-energize what was a tired roster, but it is certainly a welcome changes for a team that shockingly stagnated directly after their DreamHack Masters Las Vegas victory, almost exactly a year ago.

MICHU
MICHU


Loser – G2 Esports

(no changes)

The team who perhaps the most needed changes, adjusted for their perceived potential as deemed by yours truly, is G2. The Frenchmen won ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals in May and DreamHack Masters Malmo in September, but otherwise failed to make top-four at 7/8 events – an unacceptable result for one of the highest-paid teams in the scene, with stars such as Richard "shox" Papillon and Kenny "kennyS" Schrub on the payroll. To make matters worse, shox will be undergoing surgery on his wrist next month, setting the team back further in terms of preparation, as they are expected to field coach Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux as a stand-in in the meantime.

G2 severely lacks leadership. While in-game leader, shox has been unable to have the kind of impact on the game he is used to having, missing out on the annual top 20 players list by HTLV.org for the first time in 2017 while finishing the year with a 1.06 rating (roughly 1.00 in rating 1.0 terms) – not bad, but nothing compared to the superstar-levels we have come to expect from him. It is clear kennyS cannot alone carry the team to victories, and their skill-reliant, force-buying playing style is simply outdated – or it lacks the personnel to succeed. Their style is most effective in making their best player ineffective; though they still do not manage that. Just let that sink in.


Winner – BIG

(Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić and Kevin "keev" Bartholomäus replaced, Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch and Niels "luckeRRR" Jasiek join)

BIG hit their peak last summer at PGL Krakow and have yet to achieve any results of note since then. Looks like Fatih "gob b" Dayik still has what it takes to lead a top-20 team and Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz has enough skill to be a star of an even better team, but he has received zero help from his teammates in the past months. Former Mousesports talent Johannes "nex" Maget shows some promise here and there, but neither LEGIJA nor keev kept up or showed any signs of improvement in all of 2017. Ex-Alternate Attax player tiziaN is largely unproven internationally, as is luckeRRR, but the moves give BIG what it needed the most – hope.


Loser – Gambit Esports

(Denis "seized" Kostin replaces Bektiyar "fitch" Bahytov)

Since winning PGL Krakow and recruiting fitch to replace Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko, who left to return to Natus Vincere, Gambit’s results have been somewhat disappointing, but with enough promise shown here and there to keep fans intrigued. They could have rolled forward with the same five, but they also were not improving – and if you cease to get better, you are effectively getting worse. Picking up seized – who left Na`Vi following the worst stretch of his career, putting up a measly 0.93 rating after he had to become the in-game leader in August 2016 – seems like a risk.

But few remember that despite being a veteran, seized is just 23 years old, compared to fitch’s 25 years of age. They are gaining experience, while becoming younger. Gambit also announced that star player Abay "HObbit" Khassenov will from now on be the in-game leader. That part is much riskier – you do not want to run the risk of Hobbit losing his form. Gambit’s sole move might have made them better, but this is a team who badly needed someone who at least shows an interest towards becoming an in-game leader. As long as that role keeps being tossed around, it is hard to see this team taking a sizable step forward.

seized
seized


Winner – Heroic

(Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel replaces Patrick "es3tag" Hansen)

While Heroic has shown promise occasionally, with the SK win at ELEAGUE Premier’s elimination game likely their highlight to-date, they never could muster enough firepower to compete consistently with teams better than themselves. Big part of the issue was es3tag being unable to put up numbers offline – he was the team’s second-best online in 2017 with a 1.11 rating, but dead last offline at 1.01. Heroic realistically still need the Danish Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen to step up his game to compete with elite teams, but bringing in RUBINO is a clear upgrade and will give the team much-needed experience when trying to scale higher in the world rankings this year.


Loser – Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen (North)

(North replace René "cajunb" Borg and Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke with Daniel "mertz" Mertz and Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye)

North’s fate is yet to be determined and they could turn out to be better this year, if Kjaerbye can return to his form of the dignitas days, and mertz plays to his potential. But these moves put a lot of pressure on MSL to put together a strong year, after what most would agree to be a disappointing debut for the North project. The Danish in-game leader saw Kjaerbye depart for Astralis in mid-2016, and has since benched both of his remaining star players in Magisk – who now also plays for Astralis – and k0nfig, who moved to the US to join Optic Gaming. If these moves do not work out, how much more faith can you have on the leader who seems to alienate his best talent? Jury is out on North, but MSL must find results in 2018.

MSL
MSL


Winner – Astralis

(Emil "Magisk" Reif replaces Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye)

You cannot say what, mostly because the team has been awfully quiet with their external communications, but something has been off with Astralis in the past few months. With Nicolai "device" Reedtz sidelined due to an illness, Peter "dupreeh" Rothmann took over the team’s AWPing duties and inexplicably stayed on the role for the Boston major, with dev1ce back in the lineup. Following a group stage exit at the major, the roles were quickly reversed, but making the swap to begin with seemingly spoke to some discontent within the team – an understandable reality given dupreeh was pushed outside of his long-time role as the entry fragger, once Kjaerbye joined the team.

Putting a natural lurker in Magisk into the team helps Astralis better mold the roles of their players. Both Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander and Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth can remain in their roles as in-game leader and support, respectively, but now dupreeh can step back into his preferred aggressive role, dev1ce can retain the sniping duty and Magisk can play the passive roles he has always thrived in. The Danes had a forgettable second half of 2017, despite starting the year off as the world’s best, and this move should help them out. They gain fresh blood and motivation through Magisk, better aligned roles within the roster, and a fresh start of sorts. Nothing suggests Astralis cannot get back into being favored to practically always make the semi-finals.


About the author
Tomi Kovanen, more commonly known as "lurppis", is one of Finland's most prominent Counter-Strike experts. Kovanen started his career as a player back in 2004, retiring in early-2012. During his active years, Kovanen represented teams such as hoorai, Team ROCCAT, 4Kings and Evil Geniuses.

Following his retirement, Kovanen has continued to be an influential member of the scene, sharing his expertise as a columnist, analyst, commentator and a frequent user of Twitter (@lurppis).

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