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CS:GO • Sep 13, 2019

Stuchiu’s Standpoint: The opportunity cost of missing the Karrigan lottery

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Stuchiu’s Standpoint: The opportunity cost of missing the Karrigan lottery
ELEAGUE

On December 15th, FaZe Clan benched Finn 'Karrigan' Andersen. While it was a heavy blow to the Danish veteran, it was a prime opportunity for nearly every other CSGO team. While his final months on FaZe were disappointing, his overall record as a leader firmly entrenches him as one of the best in-game leaders in CS:GO. In terms of leading international mixed lineups, no one has come close to his success.

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So when FaZe benched Karrigan, a bidding war should have started between competing organizations to secure his services. Instead, what little information we have reveals that none of the top teams looked to add him to their roster. 

It has been nine months since then, and now we can look back and reflect on the decision to skip out on the Karrigan lottery, and what that cost the various teams who made that choice.

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The case for Karrigan

I consider Karrigan to be the second greatest in-game leader in CS:GO history. The only leader that trumps him is Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, though Karrigan has a good head-to-head record against the various iterations of Astralis. 

What makes him exceptional is his understanding, versatility, and map vetoes. His understanding of the game allows him to deconstruct the core essence of anyone he plays with and figure out how to make them shine. 

This ability to get players to reach higher levels of form is colloquially called the “Karrigan effect.” We’ve seen the Karrigan effect in play when he first commanded the Danish Dignitas/TSM roster and elevated their play. After he joined that lineup, the team started to win titles and were the primary rivals of Fnatic during their era.

ELEAGUE
Karrigan plays to the ELEAGUE crowd

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Since then, we've seen the Karrigan effect take hold in three other scenarios. In the first iteration of FaZe, Karrigan took a broken team and in three days started their ELEAGUE season 2 campaign that got them their best results of 2016. In just a few months, they became a consistent playoff team. 

When FaZe constructed the super lineup and brought in Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer and Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovacs, both players were in recessions of form in their careers. Both became far better the moment the joined FaZe Clan. 

Finally, in the current mousesports lineup, the Karrigan Effect has worked its magic on the three young star players of the squad: Robin 'ropz' Kool, Ozgur 'woxic' Eker, and David 'frozen' Cernansky. All three have played their best Counter-Strike while under Karrigan.

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Karrigan’s versatility is just as impressive as the effect he has on his players. The Dignitas/TSM/early-Astralis squad was a tactical all-Danish lineup. The first FaZe roster was a collection of international mercenaries. They had good skills, but no natural synergy. The FaZe super team featured Hall of Fame-level players. The current Mouz squad has talented, but relatively inexperienced players. 

Karrigan has shown he can excel in any situation or style of play. He has played with tactical teams, loose teams, with veterans, and with young stars. He can play in a clearly defined Danish culture or a loose international mix. No other leader even comes close to his versatility.

The final thing to note is Karrigan’s map veto usage. He is the best map veto-er in CS:GO history. He’s consistently found ways to use the map veto process to punish or surprise the enemy. 

His most memorable map veto was against Astralis at IEM Sydney 2017. Karrigan and gla1ve played map veto chicken with Cobblestone, as it was the permanent ban for both teams. They dared the other to ban it, until it eventually became the deciding map in the group stage. Karrigan then doubled down on the mind games when he said post-game that he was hiding strats. 

Gla1ve called out Karrigan in an interview, saying “One thing I can tell you is that Karrigan is definitely lying -- nobody is hiding tactics from when you are behind 12-6, that would just be stupid.”

The teams then met in the semifinals of the tournament where Astralis picked cobblestone into FaZe. FaZe won cobblestone 16-13 and then the series 2-1.

Karrigan celebrates a FaZe victory

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The context surrounding the Karrigan Lottery

Not only is Karrigan an exceptional leader, but CS:GO leaders are a scarce resource. If any organization has serious plans about being a long time contender, then an in-game leader needs to be established first. They are arguably the biggest pieces when it comes to tactics, culture, and setting up a system.

For these reasons, I thought there was going to be a bidding war to get Karrigan. It was perfect timing for anyone looking to build a team. FaZe benched Karrigan on Dec. 15th, 2018. The Katowice Major ended on March 3rd, 2019. That meant teams had four months and one Major to figure out a plan to construct a team and get Karrigan on board. 

Instead, none of the top teams seemed to make any moves at all. In a report from Jarek 'DeKay' Lewis, there were only two teams in serious talks with Karrigan as of March 5th, 2019: EnVyUs and Mousesports. 

Another Major has since come and past with Astralis winning the StarLadder Berlin Major. In the wake of that Major, we are seeing one of the largest roster shuffles in CS:GO history. However, for many of these teams, they were a cycle too late as Mousesports have already locked down Karrigan.

The Post IEM Katowice Roster Results

Almost all of the English and Danish speaking teams except for Astralis and Team Liquid could have been boosted by Karrigan after IEM Katowice. As that’s the case, I’ll narrow down my list to teams that had both the resources and reasons to change their IGLs. 

At the time those teams included: Mouz, NiP, Fnatic, North, OpTic, Cloud9, and G2 Esports. For now, I’ve skipped Mouz and OpTic. Mouz eventually hired Karrigan and OpTic Gaming as an organization were in no state to make any roster changes.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

At the time, NiP had just made top 8 at the Katowice Major. Even so, this was a team that needed to make a change. Their run to the Champions stage itself wasn’t that impressive, as they limped through both group stages with 3-2 records. Their run was shaky and the lineup was close to its maximum potential.

While the lineup was good, there was a lot more individual skill that could have been harnessed. The team had skilled players across the board with Patrik 'f0rest' Lindberg, Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT' Alesund, Fredrik 'REZ' Sterner, Jonas 'Lekr0' Olofsson, and Dennis 'dennis' Edman. 

Outside of f0rest, none of the players were playing close to their potential. So while their system got them some decent placements and upset potential, they needed a leader to take them to the next level.

Igor Bezborodov and StarLadder
lekr0 with NiP at StarLadder Berlin

This was made more apparent as Lekr0 had hit a roadblock with his in-game leading. The team oscillated between using defaults and set pieces. The longer Lekr0 led, the more his personal form started to dip. Should karrigan have joined the team, he could have figured out which players could be saved and which players had to go (as he did in the first iteration of FaZe). 

Since not acquiring Karrigan, NiP have started to plummet. Dennis took a break, William 'draken' Sundin stood-in. They went back to dennis before signing Nicolas 'Plopski' Zamora. It seemed possible that Maikil “Golden” Selim would be the new IGL for NiP after he stood in at StarLadder Berlin. But that now seems doubtful as they’ve put GeT_RiGhT back on the roster for the time being. NiP continue to flounder, while Karrigan and Mouz rise in the ranks.

Fnatic

Fnatic was another team that should have broken the bank to sign Karrigan. Fnatic’s lineup at the time included: Freddy 'KRIMZ' Johansson, Jesper 'JW' Wecksell, Ludvig 'Brollan' Brolin, Simon 'twist' Eliasson, and Richard 'Xizt' Landstrom. Fnatic’s results were inconsistent. They got top four at IEM Chicago, top four at IBUYPOWER Master IV, and bombed out of the Katowice Challengers Stage with losses to Vici Gaming, Winstrike, and G2. 

Fnatic were in an odd spot as their lineup was mostly young, with the exception of Xizt. At IEM Chicago, they played amazing. At the Major, it was horrific. It was easy for them to try to write off the Major performance as a fluke, and continue to see how the lineup could evolve.

StarLadder
Fnatic at the EU Minor

The problem with that thinking was two fold. The first is that Xizt wasn't as good of a leader as Karrigan. He didn’t have the special Karrigan effect that could raise the level of his players. Xizt is also a more static leader as he must use the loose Swedish style of CS, whereas Karrigan can play tactical CS as we’ve seen in the earlier iterations of FaZe, Mouz, and TSM/Astralis.

The second problem was timing. A leader of Karrigan’s caliber rarely becomes available and so Fnatic needed to take this chance. Especially in the context of the Swedish scene which has been desperate for world class leaders in the last few years. If Fnatic could have acquired Karrigan, they could have transitioned themselves into a mixed international squad.

Instead Fnatic stuck with Xizt and continued to get diminishing returns. They performed great at StarSeries i-League and IEM Sydney where they made the finals, but since then, it has been all downhill. 9-12th place finishes at DreamHack Dallas, EPL 9 Finals, and ESL One Cologne. Then they were eliminated from StarLadder Berlin major contention in the EU Minor.

Fnatic should have bet the farm on Karrigan seven months ago. Instead they are stuck trying to rebuild and hoping in vain that a new Swedish in-game leader appears out of the woodwork. For now it seems like they will try to turn the clock back once again as 1pv reported that they are looking to recruit Golden once again.

North

North was another team that should have tried to hire Karrigan. After kicking Mathias 'MSL' Lauridsen, North failed to make any significant headway with Casper 'cadiaN' Moller as their in-game leader. While the team had some decent performances (top eight at StarSeries i-League Season 7 and top four at ECS Season 7 Finals), they were nowhere close to the heights of the MSL-led North lineups.

Like NiP and Fnatic, North had a good amount of potential skill in the lineup. Valdemar 'valde' Bjorn continued to improve and was closing in on a top 10 position in the world. Philip 'aizy' Aistrup came back as a capable role player, but still had flashes of world-class star player form. Markus 'Kjaerbye' Kjaerbye was in a slump, but he was the type of player that Karrigan had resurrected before.

StarLadder
North celebrate a win at the EU minor

Instead North skipped out on the Karrigan lottery. They eventually kicked cadiaN and now have Valde as their in-game leader. While Valde has exceeded expectations in his first flight as leader, it still hasn’t been enough for North to regain their position as a true dark horse team that could win tournaments (as they did at DreamHack Stockholm against Astralis).

North’s future seems uncertain as their progression largely depends on Valde evolving to become the next great Danish leader while continuing to be a top 10 player in the world. Karrigan’s Mouz on the other hand, looks primed to be a future potential contender.

Cloud9

Honestly, Cloud9 needed something to anchor themselves with in 2019. They continued to shuffle their roster throughout 2018 and 2019, and by the Katowice Major, it was clear that they needed a guiding light forward and an actual plan rather than continue trying to patch holes in a sinking ship.

The lineup at the Katowice Major included: Timothy 'autimatic' Ta, Will 'RUSH' Wierzba, Robin 'flusha' Ronnquist, Fabien 'kioShiMa' Fiey, and Jordan 'Zellsis' Montemurro. The team had decent, but disparate firepower. This was the type of team FaZe Clan was before Karrigan took control and C9 had the potential to be Karrigan's new turn-around project.

That didn’t happen as Cloud9 never engaged in serious talks with Karrigan. They spent the remainder of the season shuffling until NRG kicked their IGL Damian “daps” Steele. Daps constructed a new roster with a good base and Cloud9 appear to moving in the right direction.

G2 Esports

The final team I want to look at is G2 Esports. G2 were a team that should have seriously considered Karrigan as a pickup around the Katowice Major. Unlike the other teams on the list, G2 did a good job in managing their roster. They picked up the right role players they needed with Lucas 'Lucky' Chastang and Audric 'JaCkz' Jug. They made the move to get Francois 'AmaNEk' Delaunay after the Major which gave them the secondary in-game leader they needed.

Overall, the only criticisms you can levy against G2 is their failure to get Mathieu 'ZywOo' Herbaut before Vitality, and the initial premise of having an all French team to begin with. The CEO of G2 is Carlos “ocelote” Santiagos. His League of Legends squad has been successful with a mixed international team and his first forays into CS:GO had him use an international lineup. So the idea of going the international route wasn't foreign to him and likely something he considered.

StarLadder
A dejected G2 after their StarLadder Berlin elimination

Even so, G2 stuck with the all French lineup for another cycle. In the context of that, G2 have made good moves and been relatively successful. However G2 as an organization have always aimed to be the best, and after a 2-3 Legends stage finish in Berlin, have decided to go international. According to a report by 1pv, they have benched shox and Lucky, and are looking to go international.

While this post-Major roster shuffle features the largest number of players for hire, none of them hold a candle to Karrigan when it comes to leading mixed international teams. So while I agree with G2’s decision to go international, the move comes six months too late. If they were going to go this route, they should have gotten Karrigan when they had the chance.

The incoming roster shuffle

As CS:GO gets more money into the scene, the roster management of teams becomes more critical to a team’s long-term success. You can see its effects when you compare Mousesports to the other potential teams that could have picked up Karrigan. 

Mouseports are on the rise and have locked in an all-time great in-game leader and three young rising stars. NiP and Fnatic are in shambles. North is treading water. Cloud9 is at the starting line 6 months after Mouz started. G2 have to start rebuilding once again. 

The decision to pass up on Karrigan lottery could have big competitive ramifications for many of these teams for years to come.

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