The ESL One Cologne 2016 Qualifier bought with it as many new teams and faces as it did upset results over a three day span – utilising a new tournament format that broke down any excuses that teams had for not qualifying. From these three days of competition came a series of upset wins and as a result some legendary and exciting teams not qualifying for the major. From a massively surprising performance by Flipsid3, which knocked out favourites to qualify Immortals and Hellraisers, to upsets at the EU Minor in both Godsent and SK Gaming, falling in the groupstage and not even getting a chance to qualify for the qualifier. All of these teams that have come short in varying lengths to reaching the apex of counter-strike stardom and they represent a large body of individual talent that in some cases is superior or equal to that of a fair chunk of the talent at the major itself. This is a fairly comprehensive list of 15 names (5 honourable mentions), with the primary criteria in ranking these players is their individual performance on LAN against the top 20-1 teams in the world, their impact on their teams results and the results themselves.
10.) Emil “Magiskb0y” Reif
Operating as a stand-in for the third/fourth best Danish team (SK), in late 2015 following the departure of star players tenzki and k0nfig, magiskb0y went relatively unnoticed until he was fully signed with the SK squad in December of last year. Although at his worse magiskb0y’s inexperience on LAN and questionable decision making can make his intuitive and aggressive play look amateurish, at his best when he has the consistent fragging of his teammates to fall back on and confidence to take – and most importantly win – aim duels against more seasoned opposition, he can take over entire halves and games on his own. These two important factors that seem inseparable from magiskb0y succeeding – a strong team foundation and confidence – perfectly came together at both the CEVO Season 9 Pro Finals, and the group stage of ELEGAUE. Earning himself a silver medal at the Season 9 finals against an expanding tier 2 NA/EU team pool, and maintaining the highest rating in the ELEAGUE group stage, (at the time of writing) superseding legendary names like Device, olofmeister and coldzera, magiskb0y has started to gain recognition from fans and analysts alike. So although his team didn’t even manage to make it to the Cologne qualifier, losing out to both Orbit and Epsilon at the EU Minor, his potential time spent in any LAN environment, especially at something like the Major, is valuable stage experience that could change him from an upcoming, 18 year old, talented rookie to prodigy star player.
9.) Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham
With the Cloud9 roster being left in shambles following the departure of seangares, and then Freakazoid, the former NA star studded team have been left a shadow of their former, summer run of 2015, selves. Against all manners of opposition on LAN, from both their domestic counterparts to international competition, Cloud 9’s almost sole reliable and consistent fragger has been primary awper Skadoodle. While his teammates all have the potential skill to rise up and above his current level, Skadoodle is often left to his own devices to use his stationary, turret aim lock style of awping to carry his team over the line. After being knocked out of the Cologne Qualifier with a 2-3 record, and losing games against tough opposition like: EnVyUs, G2 and mousesports, will mark the first time Skadoodle and Cloud 9 fail to qualify for a major. Not only will Skadoodle – a cornerstone player of the NA scenes – denial into Cologne act as a wakeup call for the entire region, but also as a disservice to those that enjoy watching his unique awping style play against elite opposition.
8.) Jacob “Pimp” Winneche
Ever since his glory days as part of – for a period of time the second best team in the world – Western Wolves in early-mid 2013, Pimp has remained a journeyman of the Danish scene. From his time on Anexis, to both the Western and Copenhagen Wolves, to Dignitas, SK and now Team Liquid, and many smaller teams in between, there isn’t too much of the counter-strike landscape this 20 year old Dane hasn’t seen. One of the most consistent riflers going around, Pimp’s tenacity in game combined with his deep knowledge of timings and having ice cold blood in clutches makes him a valuable pick up for any organisation. Unfortunately for Pimp, he will be unable to play at ESL One Cologne 2016 with his new team – Team Liquid. Pimp brings a level of class and reliable skill that supersedes anything in his new NA environment, and unlike the international star he was replacing, S1mple, has an easy-going attitude that should lend itself to meshing with the team. Although he hasn’t been on a truly world class team for years, with his addition to the Liquid roster it seems destined that they will not only take the NA region by storm, but maybe replicate some of Liquids previous success at MLG Columbus.
7.) Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson
Originating from the deep crevice of the Swedish semi-professional scene, Lekr0 has in the space of 7 months gone from playing in online cups as part of mix teams that disband the next week, to at times destroying international competition on LAN, and competing for six figure prize purses. Playing alongside legendary Swedish names like pronax, schneider and twist, as part of a unique, grassroots team that has organically grown into being a top ten team in the world, means that Lekr0 as a player has also grown along with the rest of his side. Lekr0 is known for his deadly rifle and pistol proficiency, being able to spray down incoming enemies as easily as landing naughty one deags across the map. On T-side he often finds himself being one of the first people to run into the site, breaking open the enemies encampment to let the rest of his team pour in, whilst on the CT side being able to play individually on a site with a lock-down, position focused style, and let his team focus on other areas of the map. Although his time in the spotlight has been relatively short he has had incredible performances at both Dreamhack Malmo, where he dropped 31 kills against mousesports and helped lead his team to a top 4 finish, and more recently at Dreamhack Summer against both Immortals and Hellraisers. Unfortunately for this burgeoning talent the Godsent line-up failed to get into the Cologne Qualifier, due to the insurmountable challenge of the Finnish side ENCE in the group stage of the EU Minor which resulted in the Godsent major dream ending as soon as it began. So unfortunately the CS:GO community will miss out on watching this potential star perform on a large LAN stage, and develop his talent in front of millions of fans around the world.
6.) Henrique “HEN1” Teles
One of the most flashy and explosive awpers in the world, Tempo Storm – now Immortals – rise to glory has been helped by the transient moments of greatness by their frag montage star HEN1. Never one to rest on his launders on T or CT side, HEN1 looks to play of the confidence of his teammates and make the crucial opening kills in a round through ludicrous shot selection that makes you wonder what his wrists are made of. First stepping into the spotlight at the RGN Pro Series late last year, HEN1 has continued to consistently show all throughout this year the might of the Brazilian scene by helping push the then second best team in the world Na`Vi to the edge at IEM Katowice. Although against NA competition HEN1’s awping style can legitimately win entire games on its own, with no real challenge to stop it, against the greater international competition in Europe and even against their domestic counterparts Luminosity, HEN1’s constant seeking for frags can work to the determent of the side. This showed in their performance at the Cologne qualifier, with the two teams that have snipers that can challenge HEN1 (Flipsid3 and EnVyUs), being the two teams that proved the most difficult to overcome. That being said, with Immortals recent win at Dreamhack Summer, helped in part by HEN1’s style, it is criminal that we won’t be seeing this Brazilian talent wreaking havoc in the group stages of the Major.
5.) Simon “Twist” Eliasson
Well known for his stint on LGB Gaming alongside now legendary names like olofmeister and KrimZ – where he earned a top 4 placing at Dreamhack Winter 2014, Twist now acts as the workhorse for frags and star power in Godsent. Being an effective hybrid of both the awp and rifle play, Twist brings a wide spectrum of talent that is expertly utilised by his veteran in game leader Pronax. Whereas his more inexperienced teammate Lekr0 may struggle at times to keep his cool in big games on LAN, twist brings a level of veterancy and knowledge of how to stay calm on a big LAN stage. With his dominating performance at Dreamhack Malmo, supported by consistent levels of greatness online and reliability to always find frags regardless of the situation, Twist is the backbone of the Godsent roster. It is apparent that the entire Godsent team, but more specifically the leadership of Pronax, struggles to play teams that they have little to no background demos/knowledge to go off on, and leads to the side failing in certain key qualifiers – like the Cologne Qualifier for the Qualifier, EU Minor and Starladder Qualifiers as well. This reliance on pre-existing information to keep afloat anti-strats and to facilitate the fragging of their star players like twist, means that Godsent have not gotten a chance to appear on what could be the biggest CS:GO tournament to date. What is more tragic is that we don’t get to see Twist – the bedrock and foundation of an exciting Swedish team – perform on this big stage.
4.) Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný
Oskar time spent on Hellraisers can be compared to a Sisyphean task. Always being the one to push, carry, tug, and grind his team up the hill to the top ten or a major, but every time they reach the top of this hill, they fall all the way back to the start. His proficiency with the awp is unequalled in the just outside the top ten level of competition he plays in. Having a seemingly perfect mix of aggression and passivity, Oskar moves around the map with a demonic grace that leaves most opponents in a confused mess, wondering where the indomitable Czech sniper will strike next. The almost limitless range of shots he is able to not only take, but actually land, is only matched by his inability to effectively use the rifles. If I am going to use the Greek myth of Sisyphus to describe his failings on a team level, then it is suitable to use the other Greek myth of Achilles heel to show his shortcomings with rifle play. His team’s entire long-term economic play in game is centred on getting the awp in Oskar’s hand. Whilst this understandable, it does sometimes limit the side in terms of force buying. Oskar doesn’t seem to be phased against any opponent he plays against and ESL One Cologne 2016 wouldn’t have changed this. Considering how this once online phenomena, now turned LAN star has never played at the highest level of CS:GO stardom – a major- is a crime within itself. So when once again Hellraisers fell short at the Cologne qualifier to Flipsid3, it’s no surprise that Oskar hinted at a roster move on his Facebook page. Although we mightn’t see Oskar at Cologne, at least we might see him adorning a new team logo and hopefully brighter prospects.
3.) Ricardo “Boltz” Prass
After being kicked from Luminosity in late 2015, Boltz has been on a slow but sure road of redemption, and with his recent win at Dreamhack Summer it is safe to say that he has not only redeemed himself, but surpassed his previous career high on Luminosity. Boltz is infamous for his extraordinarily tight and cerebral CT side play, always putting himself out of harm’s way whilst maximising his damage, Boltz is never afraid to simply back off from an executing T side and then strike back with his own retake. Boltz is the key to any success Immortals has on CT side and is crucial role player in T side executes. A position orientated rifler at heart, Boltz is calm and collected in clutches, showing equal amount of emotion in a 1v3 clutch win, as he would in a 1v3 clutch loss. However this calm demeanour is counter-intuitive to the snowballing style of momentum that Immortals likes to play. Boltz and his team relies heavily on winning the pistol or the force after the pistol in order to get their T/CT side underway, and can often find themselves broken if they don’t get these key early rounds. He was considered by many to be the MVP of their winning run of the CEVO Season 9 Pro Finals, and has continued to maintain his high level despite the departure of their coach. Despite Boltz’s insane level of play with the rifle and his unique playstyle his presence will be sorely missed at ESL One Cologne after failing to qualify with the rest of his team.
2.) Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye
Having played on Dignitas for a year and a half, and growing from being a role player to star players Aizy and Pimp, to sharing stardom with K0nfig, to being the standalone star of the team, to being finally picked up by Astralis, has been a long road for Kjaerbye. But it has all been worth it, with his time spent on Astralis looking to be the driving force behind their easy win of Group C in ELEAGUE and top four finish at Dreamhack Summer. Kjaerbye is a highly aggressive player that seeks frags around the map and is not afraid to take aim duels with any calibre of player. On T-side he will be the second or first man in, working with Dupreeh to open up sites, whereas on CT side he acts as a dynamic force that constantly keeps enemy teams on their toes. Writer Stephen Chiu has him pegged as one of the best players in the world, and after his dominating performance at ELEAGUE against lower level teams, it will be an unfortunate turn of events that we won’t get to see his skill at the top echelons of play. Although his time on Astralis has been short, it seems that he is already an upgrade from Cajunb’s volatile performances, and bringing a fresh voice and face into the side has revitalised Astralis’s T-side play. However due to Kjaerbye winning the EU Minor with Dignitas he will be unable to play in the Major, and will have to watch from the sideline as stand-in ga1ve does his best to fill the young Danes growing shoes.
1.) João “felps” Vasconcellos
Possibly one of the hottest talents in the world right now, following a decimating performance at Dreamhack Summer, felps is as explosively powerful as he is volatile, and is the olofmeister talent in the Immortals line-up to Boltz being Krimz and HEN1 being JW. Although an entry-fragger at heart, felps is capable of – when he’s at his best – filling any role with the rifle. Felps is deceptively brilliant, keeping a veteran level of cool nerves in big games and against even bigger opponents, despite only being 19 years old. Embodying the momentum based style of play Immortals rely on; felps can easily turn into a divine unstoppable Brazilian force as shown with his 1.36 rating and 108.1 ADR in the Bo3 finals against the resurged NiP at Dreamhack Summer, just as easily as he can fall behind and lack the same impact. However to say that he totally relies on momentum would be a disservice to the innate tenacity and ability to grind out kills when his other star power in the form of HEN1 and Boltz can’t do it. He showed this ridiculous level of mental fortitude for a 19 year old in their Bo5, full five game series against Virtus.pro in the semi-finals of the CEVO Pro Finals, top fragging the entire series and being the MVP of the five games. No one else that isn’t at the major has the same body of work, results, form and MVP level performances on LAN as felps in the last three months. Although when the pressure isn’t on and he’s playing against NA opposition, motivation can dip and as a result so can his level of play, there are very few players that have so much room to grow, achieved so much, and is a top ten player in the world, all at the same time. It’s a massive knock against fans of this game all around the world that we won’t get to watch this Brazilian prodigy do work, due to one of the biggest chokes/upsets of the year at the Cologne qualifier. So based on his recent form, teams results, how much he impacted in achieving these results and the unique set of characteristics in his play that stand out from the rest of the pack, felps is in my opinion the best of the rest.
Aleksi “allu” Jalli: Although his team hasn’t had any noteworthy results on LAN, it is undeniable just how much allu is the carry of this team and the sheer amount of work he can do in the server against the lower level ranked EU sides ENCE often plays against.
Yulun “fancy1” Cai: The exciting Chinese talent from an exciting Chinese team, although the frequency of LANs that fancy1 gets to play against international competition is low, he represents the apex of a developing region and with better management of VISAs and funding we could see him make a real impact on the international circuit; like he did at Malmo.
Martin “STYKO” Styk: The only other player that brings real firepower to the Hellraisers side, STYKO has real potential in his game and could potentially blossom into a real star if oskar leaves the side and more resources are devoted to his game.
Joakim “disco doplan” Gidetun: In an interview with Pronax, he called disco doplan a potential future star, and he showed the inklings of real talent in their massive Dreamhack Summer 2-0 upset against Hellraisers.
Written by Max Melit – @max_melit