mertz has a point to prove in CSGO return: “There are a lot of things to fight for”

Adela Sznajder/DreamHack

Daniel ‘mertz’ Mertz’s CS:GO career has not been what many projected it to be. As he returns to the game after a Valorant sojourn, he is confident that he can still realize his potential.

mertz vividly remembers the moment his career began to lose pace.

In a July 2018 interview with HLTV.org, then North captain Mathias ‘⁠MSL⁠’ Lauridsen explained mertz’s removal from the team days earlier with the need to have an AWPer that could “kill a lot and play smart”.

That billing of a player who was ‘all aim and no brain’ has stuck with him in the years since and is still frequently brought up by the CS:GO community every time his name is mentioned.

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It was, mertz acknowledges, “a punch to the stomach”, though he says it was not entirely unwarranted. His undoing was his attitude towards the game and the fact that he took his career “a little bit for granted” — something he did not realize until years later.

“I was a much less mature guy back then, and I think I had a lot of other priorities,” he tells Dexerto. “Maybe I wasn’t taking things as seriously as I should have or putting in the hours that I should.”

After a nine-month spell with Heroic that was ended by a last-place finish at IEM Sydney, mertz suddenly found the doors to tier-one Counter-Strike closed to him. So he took a step back and moved to smaller teams. He played for Singularity, Copenhagen Flames and x6tence, putting up solid numbers every time.

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But in a stunning turn of events, the Spanish organization decided to drop the team just two months after his arrival. By the time he joined Nordavind in February 2021, he had grown increasingly disillusioned with the game. That summer, Nordavind put all their chips on the Brazilian market, merging with 00 Nation and signing the team known as O PLANO.

Tired of “waiting for things to happen” after a string of negative experiences, mertz decided to try his luck in Valorant, landing a spot on Team Heretics, one of the biggest names in the EMEA region in the game’s infancy. But by then, Heretics had become a revolving door of players; his tenure with the Spanish organization lasted under three months.

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Heretics
mertz’s tenure with Team Heretics was short-lived

mertz said that he never found his footing in the game, something he partly attributes to the confluence of players from different paths, which made it harder to find a common ground. At the same time, he harbored a feeling of unfinished business in the CS:GO scene. So he decided to give the game another chance.

“I didn’t feel quite at home in Valorant,” he explains. “I was missing Counter-Strike. My good old Counter-Strike.”

A fresh start

mertz is determined to fight back to the top of the CS:GO scene from the bottom. He has joined The Prodigies, an academy team assembled by Prodigy Agency, the Toulouse-based talent agency that represents some of the best esports players in the world.

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Jérôme Coupez, the founder and owner of Prodigy Agency, wants this project to serve as a platform for up-and-coming talent to showcase their ability. (All players receive a salary and access to coaching and training facilities.) He has hired a production company and professional casters to cover The Prodigies’ league games, bringing more eyeballs to the team. VODs and highlights are also posted on YouTube after every match.

Last season, The Prodigies moved up the ladder as they secured promotion from ESEA Intermediate to Main. (The team was even one match away from climbing up to the Advanced division.)

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It’s a different reality from what mertz is used to, but at the same time, it’s the perfect atmosphere for a player in his situation to regain his best form.

“It should be beneficial for both parties,” he explains. “I can teach the younger talents and they will give me the chance to show that I’m still good.”

After three months in which his days were spent playing FACEIT pugs (not even FPL, from which he was kicked for inactivity when he moved to Valorant), mertz is ecstatic to be in a team environment again. He believes that he still needs some time to shake off the rustiness, saying that he feels at “75 percent” of his best self.

“There’s some stuff I need to catch up on,” he adds. “I haven’t played on a team for over a year. That’s a long time out of the game.”

mertz doesn’t put a timetable on finding a top team again, but he said that he hopes to be ready by the time the next big shuffle in the CS:GO scene comes around, which will happen at the end of the current Major cycle.

He also sees the irony of his situation. He went to another game to find the opportunities that were in short supply in the CS:GO scene, only to watch Astralis, Denmark’s biggest team, experiment with different AWPers during his time away, without success.

“I definitely think I could have carried on and reached bigger heights, but I was also doubtful at the time that it would happen,” he says. “Looking at what Astralis have been through, maybe I could have got a chance there if I was performing well.

“Maybe you can say that mistakes were made, but I still feel that I’m coming back refreshed.”

Adela Sznajder/DreamHack
mertz says that he has come back with a fresh attitude

With mertz, it always comes back to the same theme. Can he finally live up to the potential that many saw in him in 2018, or will he always be seen as an example of wasted talent?

He has heard all the noise over the years. And while he admitted that proving his doubters wrong does “fuel the fire” in him, he insisted that his main target is to finally reach the level he knows he can play at.

“I think I have barely achieved anything,” he says of his career. “I have played on some big teams with some big names, but I have never won a big tournament. So I think I still have a lot to achieve and that there are a lot of things to fight for.

“You want to show people that you are not what they think you are, but most of my motivation comes from within and from knowing that I could have been more but didn’t do myself justice. Now I can grind and hopefully, at the end of this, I’ll look at myself and say, ‘I did what I wanted with this.’”