I have unfinished business in Counter-Strike. After a string of poor personal performances following my return to Natus Vincere in September 2019, I knew that I needed to take a step back from competing at the highest level. My game-to-game rating was on a steady decline and I wasn’t comfortable with my impact inside the server.
So at the backend of January, both the team and I made the decision to move me into an inactive role on the bench. Perfecto was the perfect replacement, in the sense that it freed up s1mple to step-up the role of Primary AWPer — and everyone knows what he can do with that weapon in his hands! After all, there’s a reason his iconic AWP play from 2016’s ESL One Cologne has been memorialized as graffiti on Cache.
Since then, I’ve been working on my individual game non-stop. On a personal level, I’ve been striving to achieve the same individual form that I was hitting during my first tenure with NaVi. While most of this has been a psychological battle, the freedom of being able to grind FPL — and working to feel ‘comfortable’ with an AWP in my hands once again — has been a blessing. If I was to compare how I feel right now to my previous form, the Boston Major/Katowice era would be a fair reflection. So with that being said, I’m ready…
Why I’m ready to return to CS:GO
I’m ready to return to competing in CS:GO at the highest level. People might say that I’m old, but I think that age is just a number in CS. When I stood in for Dignitas during Flashpoint, there were glimpses of my old self, I felt it. But, as you’d guess, consistency was lacking. While I believe that even then, I could have slotted into a top-tier roster and still go toe-to-toe with the very best, I also think that the timing wasn’t right.
Fast-forward some months, and after watching the ‘online era’ of Counter-Strike unfold before me, I’m seeing mistakes being made at the highest level. Mistakes that I know I wouldn’t make. Saying that, I’m not expecting to come back and be the most consistent fragger on a team. But with the right team, I know that I can fill the void as a top-tier AWPer and grind to become one of the best snipers in CS:GO again. If my months grinding FPL have taught me one thing, it’s that adapting your style to make yourself more unpredictable (i.e., aggressively peeking an unexpected angle) will generally work in my favor.
In my opinion, playing FPL is much harder than against a team. Of course, in FPL, there’s nothing to lose, so players are willing to experiment and make plays they typically wouldn’t in a more structured, team-based setting. As an AWPer, this is often very difficult to play against. Especially with my approach — which is largely based on anticipating what my opposite number will do, and then put myself in a favorable position to do as much damage as possible. I’ve been playing CS:GO every day for the past six months, and individually speaking, I’m there. As I said, I feel like I’m getting back in my stride (comparable to my peak with FaZe). So for now, I’m just waiting for the right opportunity to arise which will allow me to be the right asset for my team.
Breaking my ‘Major curse’
Let’s address the elephant in the room… My Major ‘curse.’ During Cluj-Napoca, we just weren’t ready. Envy were our kryptonite during that tournament, and we just weren’t equipped to counter kennyS — especially on Cobblestone. During Columbus, I felt like there was next to nothing I could do to help my team perform when it mattered most. Nursing an injury meant that I was playing on a mouse sensitivity that threw everything out of the window. While our road to the Grand Final was smooth enough, when the Brazilians were firing on all cylinders, we were put under a level of pressure that we were unaccustomed to.
Then there was the infamous Boston Major. Under FaZe, I rediscovered my groove. As a squad, we peaked at the perfect time. It felt like we did everything right. And after Cloud9 dismantled FalleN and co. in the Semifinals, I finally felt like it was time to clinch my first Major… Turns out, the third time isn’t a charm after all. After we both traded map picks, the notorious double-overtime Inferno was a map I’d prefer to leave as a distant memory. At 15-11, we thought that we had it in the bag. But as C9 gained momentum, we began to seize up. The one-versus-two clutch to take the match to double-overtime was one of the most euphoric moments of my Counter-Strike career.
But it wasn’t enough. Again, we failed at the last hurdle. I failed. For the third time in a row, I watched another team lift the Major trophy. But this one stung. It was almost like we wanted to win too much, and we felt that pressure. And that’s exactly what shouldn’t happen in a situation like that. So, moving forward, if I’m lucky enough to find a team that soars to the pinnacle of CS:GO once again, I want to find teammates that will be able to stick to the game plan and take each round as it comes. That’s easier said than done, of course. But if I’ve learned one thing from my brief stint away from CS, it’s that the difference between becoming a Major winner or a runner-up is dictated by the finest of margins… And often, that can be something as trivial as staying head-strong in the face of adversity.
To understand the exact way a team should work, I always look to OG’s Dota 2 squad during the Grand Final of 2018’s ‘The International.’ Down 1-2 to PSG.LGD, they were getting destroyed and their fate appeared to be sealed. Yet they showed resilience, with the likes of Ceb remaining calm and collected, while N0tail continued to call the shots. And that’s exactly how a team should function in high-pressure situations like that. They shouldn’t fall apart like we did in the pivotal moments of a game, and ultimately, that’s what led OG to bag their legacy by winning two consecutive Internationals.
So I’m not just coming back to CS:GO to tick a box and earn a paycheck. It’s much, much more than that. I’m hungrier than ever; and I feel like with the right team, I can finally claim the elusive Major trophy and it will no longer be a case of ‘one that got away.’