The two most shocking roster changes at the StarLadder Berlin Major were ENCE kicking Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen and Team Vitality benching Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt. Both were key pillars of their respective squads. Since their kick, reports circulated that the two were looking to partner up under OG.
The alliance has finally come together, and now the exiles return to get revenge and prove their former teams wrong.
Cornerstones of their squads
For Aleksib, the story begins in April 2018 when ENCE first made the super Finnish lineup of: Aleksi “Allu” Jalli, Jere “sergej” Salo, Jani “Aerial” Jussila, Sami “xseveN” Laasanen, and Aleksib. The only Finnish star missing was Miikka “suNny” Kemppi who was playing for Mouz at the time.
Four months later, Slaava “Twista” Rasanen joined on as coach. The team slowly rose through the ranks in 2018 and then broke out to international acclaim at the IEM Katowice 2019 Major. It looked like a miracle run as they made it to the finals. However, ideas of calling them a fluke ended in the ensuing months.
From March 2019 to September 2019 at the StarLadder Berlin Major, ENCE were a top 3 team. They couldn’t beat Liquid or Vitality, but had better results than any other team in the world. They killed Astralis' undefeated streak on Nuke at BLAST Pro Series Madrid, got top four at CS Summit 4, and got to the finals of both DreamHack Dallas and IEM Chicago.
While ENCE had some skilled players, particularly in sergej and Allu, tactics and teamplay was the primary driving force of the team’s success. They were one of the best teams at grinding down other squads with fast-paced, structured executes. These executes had slight deviations in timing or positioning and these subtle changes often caught opponents off guard. ENCE were brilliant at constructing a T-side half as they controlled pacing, positioning, and timing.
During this mid-2019 period, they were the best tactical team in the world and the community gave Aleksib a lot of credit as the in-game leader. It’s also worth pointing out that during this time period, the differential was smaller between ENCE and other teams with the AUG meta which allowed them to use superior positioning to bolster their CT-side defense. By the time the StarLadder Berlin Major rolled around, Aleksib was the best tactical leader in the world, and ENCE were one of the favorites.
For NBK, the story was business as usual. The Kingmaker had lost a round of French CS politics as Richard “shox” Papillon ousted him from G2. In the aftermath of the collapse of the G2 French super-team, shox kicked out both Dan “apEX” Madesclaire and NBK in the ensuing civil war. NBK tried for one last bid to join G2, but was denied. Soon after, NBK and apEX teamed up to create a new French project with Vitality.
The plan was to create a different type of French team. With NBK and apEX at the core, they wanted to institute a different culture in the team. Both NBK and apEX have lamented at different times about the lack of dedication in French teams. apEX once told flickshot, “I think the French scene lacks really hard working, dedicated players….I think the French scene has the talent and everything needed to be on top but we are just ‘French’, we are just people who don't work enough.”
NBK and apEX teamed up with French prodigy Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut. They rounded out the team with another French reunion as they got Vincent “Happy” Schopenhauer and Cedric “RpK” Guipouy. NBK was the initial leader of the squad, but his time as a leader was largely unconvincing. The identity, cohesion, and tactics wasn’t up to scratch. Happy didn’t work on the team. At the end of 2018, Vitality changed Happy for Alex “ALEX” McMeekin.
The community criticized the move at the time as Francois “AmaNEk” Delaunay was considered the better player. However, NBK had clear reasons as to why he wanted ALEX over AmaNEk. He told HLTV, “A lot of people have been expecting AmaNEk, but, again, it's a matter of personality, where he's a bit more like Happy himself, and ALEX has a role of taking care of — especially on the CT side — trinomials, binomials, so directing ZywOo and RpK.”
The move made Vitality a bit better, but they still needed to make one more change. That change came between the Katowice Major and StarLadder i-League Season 7. ALEX took over the in-game leader. The team used their defaults to take map control on the map and then execute or split a site. Using this space, they created a pocket to enable ZywOo and ZywOo became one of the best closers for the team. While the firepower outside of ZywOo wasn’t stellar (relative to a team like Liquid), each player did their respective role well. Vitality used these strengths to become the second-best team in the world in mid-2019. As the StarLadder Berlin Major rolled around, Vitality were another one of the favorites to win the event.
Then the kicks happened. The first was Aleksib. On August 23rd, 2019 ENCE took Aleksib off the active roster. This was right before the start of the Berlin Major. Due to the roster rules, ENCE had to field Aleksib at the Major. At the event itself, Aleksib acquitted himself well at the event, but it wasn’t enough as Renegades eliminated ENCE in the quarterfinals.
The second kick came during the Major itself. AVANGAR upset Vitality in the quarterfinals, and in the middle of the tournament, Vitality tweeted that they had removed NBK from the active roster. It was a shocking move as NBK did his role well inside the game. In the aftermath, he wrote on discord, “I don’t wish them bad things, but I don’t wish them good things either.”
NBK had a right to be upset, as he was a cornerstone and founding piece of the Vitality project. While it’s hard to credit how much impact he had, it is no coincidence NBK was a part of nearly all the most successful French teams in CS:GO history. NBK earned the sobriquet, Kingmakerm due to having a large hand in crafting those teams and it’s likely that he had a large hand in Vitality as well. That is also probably why he wrote, “I’ll land on my feet and beat the French teams as per usual.”
Soon after ENCE benched Aleksib and G2 benched NBK, the two of them were linked in creating a new team.
Getting the Band Together
The alliance of Aleksib and NBK seemed to be a natural thing. Both were exiled by their respective teams, both of them had something to prove, and an international route was their only viable option. So it made sense to team together, especially as they had two pieces that most international teams are missing: a great in-game leader and a great flex player. As Aleksib described it in this interview, “I was most interested in working with Nathan. He has shown what he can do as a player and also as a role model.”
Their recent successes also attracted other talents. Soon enough Valdemar “valde” Bjorn and Issa “ISSAA” Murad were on board the project. The hardest piece to get was the fifth piece as they had to pivot multiple times. Dekay reported that they first wanted Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen, but he was connected to a VAC banned account. They tried to shift over to Valentin “poizon” Vasilev, but poizon joined compLexity. After that, the team settled on Mateusz “mantuu” Wilczewski.
On paper, it seems like most of the roles are obvious. Aleksib is the in-game leader and can pair with ISSAA to contest map control. Mantuu is the primary AWPer. NBK is the small-site anchor, secondary AWPer, secondary leader, and overall flex player. The only question is where Valde fits in as he is a superstar with an all-around game. His versatility could let him be a star wing player like Sergej or be pocketed like ZywOo was on Vitality.
Something to Prove
It has taken a while, but OG have officially announced their roster. Aleksib and NBK have returned from their long exile and both have something to prove. Aleksib was largely professional in the public discourse, but even his Finnish composure cracked when he read what Aerial told HLTV about his leadership, “With Aleksib we just tried to play default and did the same executes all over again.”
Aleksib’s tweeted his response, “Wtf did i just read :D”
As for NBK, the desire for revenge burns fiercely. He has always been someone who enjoyed a bit of spite. He once told TeamLiquid.net that taking the trophy away from North was better than winning in an interview. The discord screenshot shows that he still has that spirit. More than that though, NBK is someone who has always had a desire to win.
— Aleksi (@AleksibCSGO) December 4, 2019
In the middle of 2019, Aleksib and NBK battled each other as rivals across the server. Both were kicked by their teams, and now they will team up to prove to the world that even without their national squads, they can still contend for titles with OG.