The best CS:GO players of 2021 comprise star players across the world’s best-performing teams over the past twelve months. There will no prizes for guessing the number one spot, but who has put up the best challenge to s1mple’s dominance in Counter-Strike this year?
In a year of two halves for CS:GO, with a mix of online and LAN events, deciphering the best players is made more of a challenge, as some teams struggled to replicate their early form after reaching the LAN environment.
Of course, one player who almost never misses a step is Ukrainian superstar Sasha ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev, who has not only dominated statistically but also lifted multiple trophies, including the PGL Major Stockholm.
Best CS:GO players – 2021
5 — Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov
Always a bridesmaid, never the bride, electronic was often in Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev’s shadow in a historical year for NAVI, but he was still a key cog in their engine, especially when the going got tough on LAN.
The 23-year-old was never really in contention for an MVP award, such was s1mple’s brilliance, and oftentimes he saw newcomer Valeriy ‘B1T’ Vakhovskiy receive more attention from casters and analysts than him. But there shouldn’t be any doubt that electronic had a great 2021, even if s1mple’s feat and B1T’s rise to prominence have understandably demanded the headlines.
Electronic was as influential as ever throughout the year, but he lifted his game to new heights every time he stepped into an offline environment. His LAN rating was only slightly better than B1T’s (1.23 to 1.21), but his 1.27 Impact was miles ahead of the rookie’s and underlines his importance to the team in their quest to build an era.
4 — Dmitry ‘sh1ro’ Sokolov
Gambit ended 2020 as a team on the rise, but no one could have predicted the success that the team would have in 2021, when they cemented themselves as one of the best sides in the world.
Sh1ro played a central role as Gambit enjoyed a meteoric rise during the first half of 2021, and he was rewarded with an MVP medal at IEM Katowice, one of the best tournaments of the year. As Gambit continued to win titles in the months that followed, Sergey ‘Ax1Le’ Rykhtorov and Abay ‘Hobbit’ Khasenov also burst into the limelight, but sh1ro remained as influential as ever.
But Gambit’s problems began when the first LAN tournaments came around. It’s not like they went through a slump in form, but they lacked the experience, as well as the killer touch, to reach the same heights in an offline environment, and nowhere was that more apparent than at the Major, where they struggled against FURIA in the quarter-finals and were then battered by NAVI.
Sh1ro picked up two more MVPs in the second half of the season, from IEM Fall CIS, an online tournament, and from the V4 Future Sports Festival 2021, a small LAN that didn’t have any other top-10 team in attendance. His struggles at the Big Events, where his Impact dipped to 1.05, explain why he is just No.4 on this list.
3 — Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut
“That wasn’t the ZywOo we know the first two games, and I told him, I was completely honest, if he’s not there we’re not gonna qualify.” Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire’s call to action as Vitality stood on the brink of elimination had an instant effect as ZywOo took his game to a new level from that moment on.
It’s not like the French AWPer had been a non-factor since the start of the year, though. But for a player named the best on the planet in 2019 and 2020, not being able to contend for titles came as a huge blow. After a third-place finish at the BLAST Premier Global Final, Vitality struggled for form for months on end, a runner-up finish in ESL Pro League Season 14 the only high point of an otherwise tame period.
Everything changed after those remarks from apEX. He carried Vitality to the Major playoffs (1.25 HLTV rating against Evil Geniuses, 1.51 against Astralis and 1.49 against Entropiq) before they met their demise at the hands of NAVI after two closely-maps.
When it became known that Vitality would undergo changes at the turn of the year, the team broke free from the shackles and became a genuine threat with their carefree mindset and loose playstyle. ZywOo regained some of his best form at the tail end of the season, averaging a 1.32 rating as he helped the team to win IEM Winter and make deep runs at the two BLAST events, taking some big scalps along the way.
He ended 2021 with the second-highest Impact in the game – making one wonder what he would have achieved if his team had been a stable performer.
2 – Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač
2021 was probably one of the worst years of NiKo’s career. G2 struggled to find their rhythm and didn’t win a single tournament, losing the only two finals that they played, at IEM Cologne and PGL Major Stockholm, to the unstoppable force that was NAVI.
But that shouldn’t take away from what was an incredible showing from NiKo all year long. The Bosnian player was already a solid performer during the first half of the year, and then he stepped it up a notch as LAN events became a reality again.
NiKo was a joy to behold at the Major and one of the favorites for the MVP award before the grand final against NAVI. In a year when he averaged a sensational 1.28 HLTV rating on LAN and stood tall among AWP gods, NiKo truly deserved at least one big trophy. It’s a shame that his team couldn’t keep up with his brilliance.
1 – Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev
Sometimes it feels like we’re running out of words to describe s1mple. Every time we think we have seen it all, the Ukrainian prodigy continues somehow to find ways to take his peak to the next level.
After losing to ZywOo the title of the best player in the world two years in a row, s1mple hit a new plateau of excellence in 2021, racking up a record eight MVP medals over the course of the year. He has also equaled Nicolai ‘dev1ce’ Reedtz’s record medal haul of 19 awards, and looks set to become the player with the most MVP honors in 2022.
In a year when he finally broke his Major duck, s1mple was head and shoulders above everyone else, and there was never a sign of a flatlining of form, not even during NAVI’s bumpy period in the first months of 2021. He was in a league of his own with a 1.35 HLTV rating and 1.43 Impact (1.45 and 1.55 on LAN), even surpassing the standards he had in 2018, when he was first named the best player in the world.
Three years later, s1mple is back to the Olympus of world Counter-Strike. No one knows what he will do to push himself to the next level in 2022. But there’s no doubt that he will continue to defy all logic.
Be sure to check out the rest of Dexerto’s Best of 2021 series, for the best players, influencers and games of the year.