Photo Credit: (Bart Oerbekke)
2017 saw Coldzera and NiKo clash for the title of best player of the year. Astralis, FaZe and SK players made up 60% of the list. Going into 2018, no one could predict the shift that saw Astralis stride far ahead of the pack, s1mple dragging Na'Vi to finals through sheer skill and willpower and North American Counter Strike overtaking their South American counterparts in terms of ranking and results.
Each of the top twenty players of last year made bold predictions for players they expected to see great things from in the upcoming year and near future and this article will look at each of the thirteen, review their year and consider those who will most likely feature in this year's predictions.
Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken
Picked by: boltz, Elige, dupreeh and kennyS
At only 19, Twistzz was named four times as a player to look out for in 2018. Twistzz gathered nominations from a global list rather than just those in his own region.
Having found a home on Team Liquid last year, Twistzz played a pivotal role in TL’s victories and successes from cs_summit to deep runs at multiple tournaments from IEM Katowice to ESL One Belo Horizonte. At both the ESL LAN Finals and ECS Season 5 LAN Finals, Liquid’s nemesis was Astralis, who beat them in the finals as well as ELEAGUE Premier, forcing them to settle for second place four times.
Team Liquid had their best chance to win a Premier event at ESL One: New York and despite a performance from Twistzz that statistically surpassed s1mple and NiKo that saw him earn the MVP medal, Mousesports emerged the unlikely winners of the best-of-five marathon.
Victory finally came at the end of the year in the form of the Supernova Malta trophy. The event marked the first 'real LAN' win for TL and the second ever title for the organisation in CS:GO. This win was especially important for Twistzz who had struggled with health issues at the previous tourney and had an uncharacteristic dip in form.
With Team Liquid sitting as the second best team in the world, bested only by the unstoppable force that is Astralis, Twistzz will only become a stronger player after an impressive 2018. As changes are on the horizon, it will also be interesting, to see Twistzz on a team alongside another former NA prodigy in Stewie2k and without the coaching of zews.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.13
LAN Victories: 2 (cs_summit 2, SuperNova CS:GO Malta)
Best LAN performance in 2018: FACEIT Major Main Qualifier (1.44 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: ECS Season 6 Finals (0.76 rating)
Denis "electronic" Sharipov
Picked by: snax, oskar and s1mple
After a year in FlipSid3, electronic was being hailed as the next s1mple. It was perhaps fate that the two would be joined on Na'Vi after s1mple boldly predicted electronic as a rising player in both 2016 and 2017. Snax and oskar both also suggested electronic after his rise to prominence and huge potential was finally starting to be noticed.
In 2017, to call the young Russian the star of FlipSid3 would have been a huge understatement. The cries from the community to 'save this man' grew stronger. It was a matter of time before electronic found himself on a team worthy of his skill and now working alongside s1mple, he has become a dangerous addition to Na’Vi’s roster.
As electronic was a definite upgrade over seized, Na’Vi were able to have deep runs in tournaments and the Russian recruit has positive ratings at every LAN event besides IEM Chicago, with a notable 1.42 event rating from WESG 2017 from Russia’s third-place finish. ESL One Cologne might have been The S1mple Show, but electronic finished with a 1.31 rating that shouldn't be ignored or forgotten.
Electronic's only negative event, IEM Chicago 2018, saw Na’Vi bomb out in the group stage directly after a win at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen. While Astralis were notably weak at BPS, electronic does not struggle when he faces the dominant Danes. Across the 12 maps he has faced them on at LAN tournaments, he has averaged a solid 1.14 rating.
With Gambit releasing players, we may see a CIS shuffle of sorts, but there is not a world in which electronic isn't on the strongest roster should a split occur. After s1mple and flamie's failed escape to MIBR, Na'Vi will likely hold the key players so we can expect to see electronic in black and yellow well into the future.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.20
LAN victories: 4 (StarSeries i-League Season 5, CS:GO Asia Championships, ESL One: Cologne, BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen)
Best LAN performance in 2018: WESG 2017 World Finals (1.42 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: IEM Chicago (0.90 rating)
Gabriel "NEKIZ" Schenato
Picked by: coldzera and fer
A Brazilian pick for two of the four Brazilians on the list, NEKIZ was an interesting pick. Having joined Luminosity in the second half of 2017, the team has seen significant changes. Towards the middle of the year, the ex-Immortals trio of steel, HEN1 and LUCAS1 joined LG, followed by another former Immortal boltz, leaving NEKIZ as the only player who started, remained and ended his year on LG.
Out of six LAN events this year, NEKIZ only posted a positive rating in two of them and they were humble numbers of 1.04 and 1.09. The events were LG's 2nd place finishes at DreamHack Open Valencia and DreamHack Open Atlanta, the highlights of an otherwise unremarkable year for the Brazilian squad.
Being auto-relegated from EPL was a late blow in the year and NEKIZ has not stood out as a particularly special player on the roster online nor on LAN. On top of that, Luminosity failed to out of the Americas Minor for ELEAGUE Major Boston at the start of the year, losing to CLG and Misfits in the group stage. They then didn’t make it through the Americas Closed Qualifier for the FACEIT Major, finishing 7th, just outside of the top six that earned spots deeper in the qualifier.
As the only non-Immortal on LG now, NEKIZ has a fresh start going into 2019 with a roster who stunned many by making the PGL Krakow Major final the previous year.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 0.98
LAN victories: 1 (GG.BET Summer Brazil)
Best LAN performance in 2018: DreamHack Open Valencia 2018 (1.09 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: IEM Chicago (0.85 rating)
David "frozen" Čerňanský
Picked by: GuardiaN and rain
The 16-year-old talent had been picked previously by Magisk at the start of 2017 as one to watch and two members of FaZe Clan praised the teenager coming into 2018.
Having played in teams since he was 13, frozen is not a newcomer but is obviously still a very young and promising player. eXtatus let their roster go in July just before frozen turned 16, which would have seen him able to compete in EPL and MDL leagues after rule changes to stop under 16s from competing.
Since leaving eXtatus, frozen has been dominating at low tier LAN events with the Central European mix warmup, then GUNRUNNERS, winning Tiger Masters Season 4 Finals, FORTUNA COOL League 4 - Finals and Czech Championship 2018.
Frozen has yet to get a shot on a bigger stage but remains an intriguing talent who could be a star with other Czech-Slovakian rising talent or absent names like Zero, or on a strong international lineup if he was willing to look beyond regional teams in the future.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.22
LAN Victories: 4 (COOL League Season 3 Finals, Tiger Masters Season 4 Finals, FORTUNA COOL League Season 4 Finals and Czech Championship 2018)
Best LAN performance in 2018: Tiger Masters Season 4 Finals (1.47 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: ESEA MDL Season 26 Europe Finals (1.03 rating)
Bektiyar "fitch" Bahytov and Alexey "Qikert" Golubev
Picked by: Hobbit and AdreN
AdreN picked qikert as his bold prediction while hobbit picked Fitch, who was his teammate coming into this year while also suggesting all of AVANGAR had a good chance of making names for themselves. It is interesting to note that hobbit himself is a player both s1mple and flamie spoke highly of in the previous iteration of the top players' predictions.
At the start of 2018, fitch played the ELEAGUE Major with Gambit was loaned to Tengri briefly while sat on the Gambit bench for five months. AVANGAR acquired him in July, winners of the ELEAGUE Boston CIS Minor and so joined qikert who has been with the organisation for a year previously.
While AVANGAR remained a prominent online opponent, the team claimed two small LAN wins at MSI Gaming Arena, as the team powered through the lower bracket after an early loss to eUnited, and Bucharest Gaming Week Invitational by ESL, where Ali "Jame" Djami, qikert and fitch were among the top five performing players out of the four teams attending.
AVANGAR as a whole are an exciting team if they manage to convert their strong online performances to stronger showings at top tier LANs. While Jame is certainly their star, fitch and qikert are important components for the team, having respectively strong and poor performances which correlate to the team's LAN success this year. Having qualified for the CIS Minor in Katowice having faced no notable teams, a strong performance there could set them up for further success in 2019.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 0.95 (fitch) / 1.02 (qikert)
LAN Victories: 2 (MSI MGA Finals and Bucharest Gaming Week Invitational by ESL)
Best LAN performance in 2018: Bucharest Gaming Week Invitational by ESL (1.23 rating for fitch and 1.29 rating for qikert)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: ALTEL Cyber Games (0.84 rating for fitch and 0.64 for qikert)
Robin "ropz" Kool
Picked by: device
The poster boy of FPL, Robin "ropz" Kool has now been on Mousesports for almost two years. 2017 saw Mouz rise up the rankings and the start of 2018 seemed to signal their stay among the best in Counter-Strike with a Legends spot acquired at ELEAGUE Major Boston, a first for the organisation and wins at StarSeries i-League Season 4 and V4 Future Sports Festival. Ropz was a force to be reckoned with in the Boston New Challenger Stage as the tenth best player in the qualifier overall and a reliable pillar for Mouz across the other events.
The STYKO-Snax swap saw Mousesports as a whole suffer, but despite Snax not fitting into the Mousesports mould, ropz and the rest of Mouz won ESL One: New York alongside him. While Ropz finished with an average 1.02 rating, this was surprisingly a low for the young Estonian.
Throughout the year, ropz has been more individually consistent, with only one negative event, in what is only his second year of professional play. The return of STYKO to Mousesports' starting roster signifies a restoring of order and a battle starting at the Europe Minor to try and reclaim their former Legends spot will require ropz and the rest of Mouz in good form to return to the big stage of a Major.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.10
LAN Victories: 3 (StarSeries i-League Season 4, V4 Future Sports Festival and ESL One: New York)
Best LAN performance in 2018: ELEAGUE Major Main Qualifier (1.25 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: FACEIT Major 2018 (0.84 rating)
Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin
Picked by: olofmeister
Having joined GODSENT in December 2017 at 15 years old, Brollan was the hottest Swedish prospect who managed to catch the eye of the legendary Olofmeister.
On the GODSENT roster, later bought by Red Reserve in June, Brollan was snapped up by Olof's former organisation fnatic in October after a period of turbulence and surprise exits. While fnatic had a strong start to the year, winning WESG 2017 and IEM Katowice with Golden, the team eventually lost Golden and Flusha to Cloud9, while draken left to join Red Reserve. With spaces to fill, 2018 was Brollan's year to join the most decorated organisation in CS:GO and former home of the dominant roster who managed to secure an unforgettable legacy and era in CS history.
As the fifth best player overall at PLG Grand Slam, with a 1.20 rating, and KRIMZ posting a 1.34 rating himself, fnatic seemed to be finally taking further positive steps now with Brollan on the roster. 2019 may not see fnatic rising back to the very top again, but they are definitely a team to watch, with a special eye kept on Brollan for the near future once again.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.08
LAN Victories: 2 (Qi Invitational and PLG Grand Slam)
Best LAN performance in 2018: PLG Grand Slam (1.20 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: DreamHack Open Montreal (0.93 rating)
Jakob "JUGi" Hansen
Picked by: Kjaerbye
Having been bought out of his contract with Tricked in 2017 by Heroic, JUGi had been just below the surface of the top tier of Counter-Strike on the team for the year that followed. Repeated struggles in Closed Qualifiers for Majors and a lack of progress and impact when making it to Premier events left many feeling JUGi was wasted on Heroic.
Picked up by OpTic in April after the American-Danish mix crumbled alongside his Heroic IGL Snappi, the team was set to be a real challenger full of potential. JUGi had been impressing many on a lower tier and OpTic was his first true opportunity to show what he could do at a higher level.
Expected to be a star alongside k0nfig, JUGi has instead been lacklustre. A handful of promising LAN results in the beginning soon faded into mediocrity and even online, the AWPer was not doing as well as many in the community hoped and expected.
Now with Ismail "refrezh" Ali taking the place of Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen, OpTic will go into the EU Minor with another young talent looking to prove himself. With the undeniably talented Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and the pillar of consistency that is Rene "cajunb" Borg, JUGi also stepping up on this tweaked OpTic roster should enable the team to push into the top ten.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.09
LAN Victories: 0
Best LAN performance in 2018: Europe Minor - FACEIT Major (1.21 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: ZOTAC Cup Masters 2018 Grand Final (0.88 rating)
Daniel "mertz" Mertz
Picked by: Xyp9x
Mertz started 2018 with a promotion. The North Academy AWPer was called up to the main squad after the departure of cajunb and Kjaerbye joined the roster as k0nfig was benched.
Six months into his time on North, mertz was sidelined as North trialled Spanish player mixwell in his place at DreamHack Valencia, an event the team then went on to win. This sealed mertz's fate and he was loaned to Heroic the following month in a swap for niko. Many saw this trade as a fall for the young Dane as North were among the top fifteen for the majority of his time there while Heroic were fluctuating between top twenty and thirty placements in the rankings and had lost their IGL to OpTic in the previous months.
Perhaps mertz wasn't ready for North back at the start of 2018. Perhaps he didn't fit under the North system at the time. Regardless, mertz' time on Heroic has built him back up to a strong AWPer for his team. He has had the opposite experience to JUGi but has certainly had the more successful year. Heroic claimed multiple modest LAN titles and mertz has been their highest-rated performer on LAN this year, not having a single negative event yet under the org.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.13
LAN Victories: 3 (DreamHack Open Tours, Games Clash Masters and Toyota Master Bangkok)
Best LAN performance in 2018: Games Clash Masters (1.39 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: ESL One Cologne (0.93 rating)
Martin "stavn" Lund
Picked by: k0nfig
At only 16, stavn had been with Fragsters for over two years by the end of 2018, as the players' contracts with the organisation expired on 31st December. His older brother, Jacob "dragoNfly" Lund and Nicolai "torben" Amorim had also been on the roster since September 2016 and are all that remains of ex-Fragsters coming into 2019.
As Denmark's most talented and experienced dominated the scene, and other veterans and up-and-comers held spots in teams like North and OpTic, eyes fell on Fragsters, a young but promising group, who could hold the future of Danish CS rather than just a keyboard and mouse. Peaking at 23rd in the world, Fragsters managed wins over far more experienced teams including BIG, Gambit and North at StarSeries i-League Season 6 Finals and Luminosity and eUnited in their 3rd-4th place finish at DreamHack Open Austin throughout the year.
Bubski's step back from professional CS and refrezh standing in for Cloud9 and signing for OpTic leaves stavn with two players beside him who could once again form the core of a promising Danish contender team.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.01
LAN Victories: 0
Best LAN performance in 2018: DreamHack Open Valencia (1.32 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: StarSeries i-League Season 6 (0.85 rating)
Marcelo "chelo" Cespedes
Picked by: FalleN
Starting the year on Luminosity Gaming, chelo found himself on Nao Tem Como following the release of the infamous Brazilian 100 Thieves roster. Later becoming NoTag following fnx's removal, INTZ eSports signed the team in September.
INTZ made the EPL Season 8 Finals after placing sixth in North America, with chelo being second only to kNg in terms of stats for the team. They narrowly missed out on a sole spot at DreamHack Winter after battling through the Open and Closed Qualifier, losing 0-2 to Bravado in the end.
With less than 0.10 between all LAN ratings this year, chelo has certainly been consistent in his performances. As INTZ looks set to lose one of their players as MIBR once again go all-Brazilian, chelo is worth keeping an eye on once the team settles and has a solid roster next year again.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.00
LAN Victories: 0
Best LAN performance in 2018: ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals (1.05 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: ESL One Belo Horizonte (0.97 rating)
Nemanja "huNter" Kovač
Picked by: NiKo
This year, huNter has only posted positive ratings, with a 1.00 at Copenhagen Games being the one time it seemed he could falter. With Valiance holding a spot in the stacked Europe Minor for IEM Katowice, the next month could see huNter get a chance to show off the skills his cousin NiKo has praised for so long.
With an injection of The Imperial talent, Valiance's performance this month will be the first stepping stone for a roster with a lot of potential but not a lot to show for it just yet. While huNter is definitely skilled, showing those skills at a higher level of LAN and against a higher tier of opponents would truly make him one to watch for the future.
Average LAN rating in 2018: 1.21
LAN Victories: 1 (A1 Adria League Season 2 Finals)
Best LAN performance in 2018: A1 Adria League Season 2 Finals (1.58 rating)
Worst LAN performance in 2018: Copenhagen Games (1.00 rating)
Matthieu "ZywOo" Herbaut
Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut is the obvious absence that was not tipped for greatness by any of last year's top talent. The young Frenchman rose to prominence and became the most exciting talent in France and a youngster for the whole scene to keep an eye on through incredible FPL performances. Now on Team Vitality alongside some of France's most decorated veterans while more than holding his own, the future is bright for ZywOo.
Jere "Sergej" Salo
Sergej of ENCE is another young player who should easily get some mentions in this year's list. After all, the 16 year old was named RealSport's Rookie of the Year and has been a key part of ENCE's year as the team went from obscurity to prominence.
Other young players who have been given chances on top orgs coming into 2019 like refrezh and Jordan "Zellsis" Montemurro could feature and it is expected that some more obscure and unexpected names may be thrown into the mix as players choose rising talent in their respective regions.
Who are your rising talents? Comment below!