Stuchiu: Why Golden's return from exile has resurrected Fnatic - Dexerto
CS:GO

Stuchiu: Why Golden’s return from exile has resurrected Fnatic

Published: 18/Nov/2019 22:14 Updated: 24/Nov/2019 12:27

by Stephen Chiu

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Maikil “Golden” Selim’s career is one of the strangest in Counter-Strike. After leading Fnatic to multiple finals and victories in early 2018, Fnatic removed him from the team. He then spent another year playing on Cloud9. On Sept. 16th, he returned to the Fnatic roster. Golden’s return from exile has catapulted Fnatic back into an elite CS team.

Golden’s First Fnatic Run

When Golden first joined Fnatic back in 2017, Fnatic promoted him from their academy squad. The first Fnatic reunion of Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson, Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Robin “flusha” Ronnquist, Dennis “dennis” Edman, and Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer had failed. The team decided to part ways. Olofmeister went to FaZe, and dennis went to GODsent. Fnatic chose to build the team around the core of KRIMZ, JW, and Flusha. They added two young talents that could fill in the spots they were missing. They got Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson and Golden. Lekr0 was a talented young Swedish player that added the skill and firepower they needed to compete at the top levels. Golden was the in-game leader that could bring it all together.

Golden joined in August 2017. After a few months, he got the team up-and-running. They played a fast-paced, aggressive style that still kept the core of the team play that made Fnatic great. In that iteration of Fnatic, the two-star players were KRIMZ and Lekr0. KRIMZ transformed Golden’s system. Before KRIMZ played under Golden, he was a stalwart support player with a great cerebral game and often compared to Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth. After playing under Golden, KRIMZ became a superstar player. He had the aggressive impact of his old partner Olofmeister with the pure fundamental and cerebral foundation he had built over his years of play. Lekr0 was the passive star of the team, mostly used as the third man in the entry pack to clean up sites and ensure trades. The remaining three players were role players who filled out the designated roles needed to complete the tactic.

This system got Fnatic two top-four placings at the end of 2017 at ESL Proleague Season 6 Finals and ECS Season 4 Finals. In early 2018, the team then got top 8 at the ELeague Boston Major and then bombed out of StarLadder i-League Season 4 in 15-16th place. The placing happened to coincide with NiP benching Richard “Xizt” Landstrom. At some point during this period, Fnatic decided that they needed to get Xizt into the team, and rumors started to circulate in the community about the potential move.

DreamHack/Adela Sznajder

From the outside, the move made no sense as Fnatic was doing well. They didn’t need any drastic roster moves. The move made even less sense as Fnatic went on to win IEM Katowice 2018 and WESG. After winning WESG, Golden tweeted the famous words, “I stay.”

The victories brought Golden some time, but the writing was on the wall. Xizt came into the team as the leader, and the team moved Golden to the entry-fragger role. Golden never could play that role, so once he failed, he was cut from the side.

The Interregnum

In the ensuing year, both Golden and Fnatic’s stock started to drop. Golden moved to Cloud9, which had massive roster issues. Cloud9 locked themselves into Major Purgatory. All of their roster shuffles tried to keep the Major slot. This meant that Cloud9 could never build a stable foundation. Soham “valens” Crowdhury, the former coach of Cloud9, talked about this issue in an HLTV interview, “This is the first time in the last 16 months or so that we weren’t bound by having a trio/roster for a Major event and to keep optimizing for a recipe that clearly wasn’t working. What we needed was a complete rebuild. Slotting in 1 or 2 players to recreate our 2017-2018 form wasn’t working.”

DreamHack/Adela Sznajder

That entire period of Cloud9 resembled the world’s most expensive game of musical chairs than an actual CS team. It was even worse for Golden as he was suffering from physical injuries, which often took him out of the game. Even when he was a part of the game, the roster issues were antithetical to his style of play.

Golden wants to play an aggressive, fast-paced style, but that requires a level of chemistry that needs time to build. In the first run with Fnatic, the core members of Fnatic already had the team play to make that style work. In Cloud9, the constant roster changes made it nigh impossible. Martin “STYKO” Styk touched upon this in his twitlonger, where he said that Golden was a fantastic in-game leader, but his style was too passive for what Golden needed.

This is also why the most successful Cloud9 iterations during this period was when Flusha was in-game, leading the team. Will “RUSH” Wierzba said in an HLTV interview, “We use some of the same setups and strategies that we had with Golden, but flusha’s calling style is a lot different. With Golden, it was a lot more reactive, like a fnatic style. With flusha, it is a lot slower and more methodical, he wants to take his time in the rounds, wants to think about what he wants to do, it is not about instantly reacting to teammate plays or to what the opponent is doing.”

The Return

While there were a lot of extenuating circumstances around Golden’s time in Cloud9, you could not call it successful by any stretch of the imagination. That is why it was surprising when Fnatic decided that they were due for a second reunion. On September 16th, 2019, the team did a second reunion. The lineup was: KRIMZ, JW, Flusha, Golden, and Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin. The only different player this time around was Brollan, but four of the five players were part of the Fnatic 2017-2018 lineup.

Instagram/goldenmajk

Since the reunion, Fnatic has soared straight into championship contention status. At DreamHack Masters Malmo, they had a miracle run. They beat G2, FURIA, NiP, Astralis, and Vitality to win the entire event. It was one of the most miraculous runs whose only comparable in recent history was NiP’s magical victory at IEM Oakland over FaZe.

Everything clicked in that tournament. KRIMZ returned to superstar status. JW was playing at vintage levels. Flusha had taken six months off but was still at his normal level. Brollan came out as an aggressive third star of the team. While it was a miraculous victory, it was hard to believe that they could duplicate it as it relied on a lot of magical (or bullshit depending on where you stand) moments.

The next tournament assuaged those doubts. At StarLadder i-League Season 8, Fnatic made another deep run. They got second bt beating Mouz, MIBR, Vitality, G2, and FURIA. They dropped three bo3s through their run. One to Renegades in the group stages, and twice to EG in the winner’s finals and grand finals. This run was a lot more convincing than Malmo. While Fnatic could still pull out magical moments, it wasn’t a crutch that they relied on. Instead, they were doing it through consistent skill and team play. One of the big reasons for this was Brollan breaking out as the secondary star of Fnatic.

At Malmo, Fnatic’s two big stars were JW and KRIMZ. While JW is a brilliant player at his best, his wildcard playstyle is inherently inconsistent. If JW is your second-best player, then the results will never be consistent. That is why Brollan’s breakout has been critical as he is aggressive, consistent, and instinctive. He is the perfect fit for Golden’s system.

Golden is about playing fast and instantly reacting to what your opponent and teammates are doing. That is why the core team play between KRIMZ, JW, and Flusha looks so good when put into Golden’s hands. On top of that, Fnatic now have three aggressive opening duelers: KRIMZ, Brollan, and JW. Each of the three have distinctive styles of winning their duels. Brollan is a robust mechanical dueler, KRIMZ combines his mechanics with nearly unmatched game sense, and JW uses unorthodox wildcard plays that are hard to predict. This often lets Fnatic dictate the pace of the match, and even should they lose the opening duel, the team has that inherent teamplay that allows them to make the best counter-play possible in a 4v5 or 3v4 scenario.

Other factors that have helped Fnatic’s success

While Golden’s return has probably had the most significant impact on Fnatic’s success, there are other factors to keep in mind. From Fnatic’s side of things, the year they spent with Xizt wasn’t in vain. During that time, JW was trying to find his playstyle again as he switched from AWPer to rifler and back again. He eventually found out that he was a playmaker rather than a pure AWPer or rifler. In addition to that, the Xizt period got Brollan into Fnatic. Brollan is a crucial piece as there aren’t any comparables to him in the Swedish scene, especially at his age.

Even with those factors in mind, Golden’s has been the catalyst that Fnatic needed to get to this level. Fnatic had plenty of skilled players in the last year. They had KRIMZ, JW, and Brollan. The difference, though, is that Xizt was never able to unlock their potential or creative a cohesive whole that made them greater than the sum of their parts. One month into this reunion, Golden has. KRIMZ is a superstar. Brollan is rising quickly as one of the best young stars. JW continues to have his vintage wildcard performances.

For Golden, this has been a triumphant return. Despite taking Fnatic to elite status in late 2017 to early 2018, Fnatic removed him from the team. On Cloud9, he suffered through illness and a never-ending shuffle. However, now that he has returned to Fnatic, he’s proven to everyone that he is the best Swedish leader and can lead a Swedish team back to the absolute heights of competitive CS:GO.

CS:GO

BLAST’s director of operations on maintaining integrity with online CSGO

Published: 24/Nov/2020 15:23 Updated: 24/Nov/2020 15:33

by Adam Fitch

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“This time last year our rulebook and our whole setup were based on LAN events,” BLAST’s director of operations and production Andrew Haworth told Dexerto. “We hadn’t really done a huge amount of work on how that would be replicated in an online world.”

Earlier this year, with the global health situation emerging, governments all around the world were forced to reduce the feasibility of hosting events, and thus, they were moved online — halfway through a tournament, in some cases.

Prior to the restrictions, tournament organizer BLAST managed to host their first big competition of the year in February, impressing many and unknowingly hosting what would be one of the only prominent offline events in the 2020 Counter-Strike calendar. They didn’t have the same privilege later in the year, however, as limitations had yet to be permanently relaxed in many locations. Nonetheless, they went on with their plans to host the BLAST Premier Fall Series, albeit online.

Another layer of absurdity was added as a factor of hosting an event, and that was the revelation of a spectating bug that spanned multiple years. With the Esports Integrity Commission — a body devised to maintain the integrity of competitive gaming — issuing bans to dozens of coaches, integrity questions were more prominent than ever during an online era, no less, where it’s harder to monitor the activity of teams and their coaches.

BLAST Premier Fall Series 1
BLAST
Commentators Scrawny and launders arrived at the production location early to accommodate local restrictions.

Haworth’s background working on major music festivals and the Olympics Games means he’s no stranger to crafting contingency plans to put in place in case of a problem arising. Prior to hosting the Fall Series, they went through sessions of scenario testing with key department leads to devise numerous methods of still getting the job done.

Considering BLAST have deployed everything at their disposal to maintain competitive integrity within their events, Dexerto spoke with Haworth to see how they adapted their processes to move to a remote production while monitoring the gameplay itself both in and out of the server.

Going back to esports’ roots

“We were fairly lucky in the timing of the outbreak, we just finished our Spring Series in February and didn’t have another live event till the end of May,” he said. “Other tournament organizers didn’t and were thrown into that halfway through a show. We had a bit of time, purely by luck, to have a look at what we need to do for our Spring Showdown and our Spring Final.”

While esports, like most other sports, is fundamentally an entertainment product, the need for competitive integrity is essential. Fans tune in to watch the best players in the world face off against each other, and that’s no different during an era of online competition.

“If the fans don’t have faith in what we’re putting on if our broadcasters and sponsors don’t have faith in what we’re putting on, and the teams ultimately lose faith in it, then none of us can stand behind it proudly,” Haworth said. “So competitive integrity is in integral to what we do, none of us are arrogant enough to think that we’re perfect in that.

“There may be things that we’re doing now that we’ll review and determine haven’t worked quite as well or are not effective. Some of the things that we have done we want to ensure, while maintaining competitive integrity at all times, doesn’t affect the performance of play. We don’t want to be taking up computer performance for the matches because that isn’t going to gain the right tone with anybody.”

BLAST Premier Fall Series 2
BLAST
The venue had no players in sight, with only production staff and broadcast talent being present.

With a change in circumstance comes a need to change the parameters in which events are run, and that filters all the way down to the gameplay itself. BLAST saw the need to adapt their guidelines early in the year, when LAN events no longer seemed possible, so all of the teams were on the same page.

“The rulebook gets issued at the start of every season, we generally review it and update it after every event,” Haworth said. “We did less of that last year — I think we only made one or two slight revisions from Spring Series into Spring Showdown because the former was very much for a LAN. We also have our competitive integrity policy, which is broadly drawn out of the rulebook and is a short, sharp summary to articulate to what we do. That’s on our website. We’ve worked with experienced tournament officials that have worked with other tournament organizers and in other settings, it’s important to us that they can see elsewhere what has worked, and equally what hasn’t worked, so we can pick up best practices.”

From bad to worse

All partners of ESIC — including the likes of ESL and DreamHack — vow to enforce rulings decided upon by the commission, and that was no different for BLAST. The spectating exploit utilized by at least 37 coaches rocked the CS:GO community and certainly begged the question as to what tournament organizers are doing to ensure fair play is had at all times.

Moving online adds another layer of difficulty to constantly and accurately monitoring the matches played, especially considering tournament officials can’t be present to see how teams are operating with their own two eyes. BLAST believes they’ve reached the pinnacle of monitoring at this precise moment.

“Some of the measures we put in place aren’t perfect but they’re the best available solution we’ve found so far,” Haworth told Dexerto. “There are methods that we’re developing and evolving. We are confident that the measures we have in place currently are giving the desired result in not allowing anybody to manipulate the system or take advantage of it.

“From a coaching bug point of view, the player cams that we’ve put in place have been a really useful feature. That’s something that we looked at, to start with, as a broadcast feature that had some great context and depth. It grew into something that we now utilize to ensure we can see what players are doing.

“We’ve worked with players on camera angles, we have down-the-line shots, coaches have cameras on them and we listen to TeamSpeak for both a broadcast feature and in terms of integrity,” he continued. “The MOss system is far from perfect but it allows us to know what’s open on someone’s computer, there’s a report sent to us post-match with that information.

Moving forward in the face of adversity

Despite having what they believe is a solid solution to both playing online and safeguarding the integrity of the tournament, it would be understandable if a tournament organizer decided to postpone an event due to the recent exploit revelation and subsequent disciplinary rulings. Haworth ensured Dexerto, however, that that wasn’t an eventuality BLAST considered.

BLAST Spike Nations
BLAST
BLAST have undergone plenty of growth in 2020 so far despite the difficulties, expanding into new titles like Valorant and Dota 2.

“We’ve never really moved our date around. We put our 21 days in the international calendar [that’s shared by all CS:GO tournament organizers] in April this year to try and provide full transparency,” he said. “We worked on this straight after the Spring Final, there were a couple of bits that we thought we could include like the coach cams but there were also a couple of things that weren’t ready for the Fall Series. We played around with them but wasn’t sure if it would cause performance issues on players’ PCs so we didn’t want to risk it.”

There’s not the only difficulty in providing a fair and stable environment for the players, BLAST have plenty of staff that are needed to execute a full production. Having staff at home using personal internet lines isn’t the most confidence-inducing prospect, but the company has managed to execute a means of working that allows for maximum efficiency given the circumstances.

While online play, and the copious amount of events that are taking place, may not be ideal, esports has proven to be resilient in the face of extreme and unpredictable challenge. The Fall Series was revered by industry professionals and Counter-Strike fans alike, but it’s clear that BLAST are not resting on their laurels leading up to the next phase of the competition.