Team Vitality: The revived French lineup

Team Vitality have entered CS:GO by picking up a brand-new roster with many big names from the French scene. Can the remains of G2 and nV return to the top again?

by Phoebe Dua

Photo Credit: (Starladder)

Team Vitality has announced a brand new French roster in CS:GO. The French esports organisation already fields teams across multiple esports including Rocket League, League of Legends and Call of Duty but this marks the first time they have signed a Counter-Strike team.

The brand-new roster’s lineup is:

  • Cédric “RpK” Guipouy
  • Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut
  • Dan “apEX” Madesclaire
  • Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt
  • Vincent “Happy” Schopenhauer
  • Philippe “faculty” Rodier (Coach)

Origins

After G2 benched apEX and NBK and deals with organisations such as mousesports fell through, many were wondering what would be next for two of the French scene’s biggest names. The two players sat on the bench throughout the Major cycle, a first for NBK who has made an appearance at every Major previously, while their former org went 2-3 in the New Legends stage, narrowly missing the playoffs. 

While Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey took the majority of Team EnVyUs, with himself as IGL, to the CS:GO Asia Championships and the EU Minor as ‘LeftOut’, Happy and RpK were not with them, instead standing in with Tempo Storm until the end of July as the team imploded due to internal issues.

Happy, NBK and kio were the three French players in the French teams that won DreamHack Winter 2014 and DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 when French CS was at its peak and LDLC/EnVyUs were the second best team in the world. From the LDLC roster that won DreamHack Winter 2014, shox and SmithZz are now on G2 and from the nV roster that won DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015, kennyS is also on G2 while apEX will be joining Vitality. On paper, the two best French squads of all time are evenly split between the two rosters.

The true star power of the team is definitely ZywOo, who has impressed the entire CS scene with his performances in FPL and played for against All authority, putting up impressive stats for the team online and at smaller LANs. He was offered a contract with Team EnVyUs but he chose to finish school before pursuing a full-time professional career.

Photo Credits: DreamHack 

Absences

Kioshima is part of neither team, following LeftOut’s disappointing showing at the EU Minor after minimal preparation for the event, leaving ‘The Problem’ once again teamless for now. Ali “hAdji” Hainouss, who came from EnVyUs Academy to join the main nV lineup for four months, has since joined The Imperial, an EU mix team.

Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom is a name many expected to see in further French shuffles. The Belgian most recently stood in for fnatic at ESL One: New York but the team did not make it out of the group stage. ScreaM is set to stay with fnatic for EPL which could result in him being a long-term stand-in similar to Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad on Renegades. Despite his reputation as a ‘headshot machine’ and previous success with shox on G2, ScreaM is a player which requires space and his playstyle is fantastic when it works, but it doesn’t always have the impact it needs when ScreaM is being given the space of a star fragger.

Alexandre “xms” Forte retired from CS:GO earlier this year at only 21 years old. Others who have been absent from teams for a while, like Timothee “DEVIL” Demolon, are without teams too. There is enough talent to potentially make a third team that could compete in a tier below G2 and Vitality, but whether this talent remains within the French CS scene is uncertain. With C9 experimenting with international lineups, other organisations may choose to do the same and with limited prospects nationally, French scene talent could end up in surprising places.

Rivalry

The lineups’ debut as ‘Waterboys’ during the GG.BET Shuffle – IEM Chicago qualifier saw them in the same event as G2, taking down another French team, 3DMAX, as well as the runners-up from the CIS Minor, Team Spirit. 

When looking at both teams, Vitality should be more than capable of going toe-to-toe with G2, but there are factors which tip the scales between the two teams that will make for an interesting challenge to see who will be the best in France.

Head-to-head – Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt vs. Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans

NBK is taking the helm of Team Vitality over Happy, who had led both LDLC and EnVyUs to success, before losing control of his teams. During mixwell’s trial on G2, NBK was motivated to lead, but the team did not find results at DreamHack Masters Marseilles nor at IEM Sydney, leading to an early return for shox and his proposed changes being put into action. 

The current IGL of G2 is Ex6TenZ, who despite his lack of success at Majors, is considered the most respected leader in the French scene. On his return to G2, Ex6TenZ initially impressed many as his ability to frag seemed stronger than expected and there was a cohesion that the roster had lacked when shox was leading it. However, as G2 finish 5th-6th in yet another tournament, failing to make playoffs at ESL One: NY, the roster and Ex6TenZ are looking far from strong in terms of individual level and map pool depth.

NBK or Ex6TenZ?

Sheer experience and past results under his belt makes Ex6TenZ the stronger IGL and having a good IGL has been shown to be key to French success. A tactical edge within G2, with kennyS and shox at the forefront, should be able to be utilised by Ex6TenZ well. NBK may be a more skilled player, but his prowess as a leader has yet to be seen. G2 have also recently added Damien “maLeK” Marcel as a coach, while Vitality’s coach faculty is a former 1.6 player and writer, but has no coaching experience in GO.

AWP battles – Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut vs. Kenny “kennyS” Schrub 

The future clashes between ZywOo and kennyS will likely be the highlight of the rivalry between these two teams. Vitality will be ZywOo’s first competitive team with a good chance to reach top tier LANs and face the best teams in the world. His performances in FPL against pros have been unmatched, but he has yet to face the likes of a full Astralis or Na’Vi roster. 

Many say the hardest opponents to face are those you are unfamiliar with and ZywOo should be able to use this to his advantage in Vitality while he gains experience and confidence to back up his clear skill in the game. Kenny’s own issues and rumoured stalling negotiations with G2 could impact on the legendary sniper’s willingness to perform and his motivation for the game.

ZywOo or kennyS?

It feels like blasphemy to pick another name over the French legend to be a better AWPer, but ZywOo will either be the next greatest French player in Counter-Strike or will crumble under the pressure of top-tier team-play. He has played in smaller teams, has set records no one has matched in FPL and with kennyS faltering right now, ZywOo could usurp the king of French snipers in this new roster given some time.

Former leaders, old enemies – Vincent “Happy” Schopenhauer vs. Richard “shox” Papillon

With NBK taking the reigns, Happy will be left as a rifler for Team Vitality. shox led G2 for around two years before calling for the return of Ex6TenZ following his surgery and benching from the team. It is no secret that there is bad blood between shox and Happy, with shox disagreeing with his leadership style and eventually being kicked by Happy for his lack of motivation and poor behaviour. 

Both players should know each other well, are the same age and have the same number of tournament MVPs from 2014 to 2015. It is hard to forget that it was Happy who took the Major MVP at DreamHack Winter 2014 when the pair were on a team together. While shox should be the obvious star between the two, neither have hit the same peaks in the last two years.

Happy or shox?

shox has shown glimmers of that form he had years ago in this new G2 lineup and he will need to be at that level to ensure this team succeeds. If anyone in the French scene is capable, it is shox. Wrist surgery earlier this year has had no impact on his ability and this G2 is the team he wanted. There should be no excuse for him not stepping up. Happy, on the other hand, has his playstyle known and is known to be stubborn. Even a casual viewer of CS knows about Happy lurking. If he continues to play that style or gets forced to change what he has been doing for so long, it might lead to issues down the line. 

Field-tested veterans – Cedric “RpK” Guipouy vs. Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux

Both RpK and SmithZz are immensely experienced players, but they will both turn 30 soon. Very few tricenarians are still at the top, even fewer play at the level they did when they were younger. While ‘Le Tank’ had a resurgence in 2017, his form has been more inconsistent this year and he has been plagued with health issues which saw him hospitalised during ELEAGUE Major: Boston. SmithZz spent the year coaching G2 following his removal from the lineup due to his underperformance. 

In a world where rising talents are almost half the age of the veterans who have been around since 1.6 and Source, the spaces in top teams for legends of 1.6 and Source are scarce.

On G2, SmithZz is not bringing fragging potential but is a player shox wanted on the team with him again. He no longer has the responsibility of the primary AWP and has returned to the pro scene after over a year of coaching. shox has said he has underperformed, but getting the interpersonal dynamics right can be just as important as having the right players. 

RpK or SmithZz?

In terms of impact on the server, RpK should be the one putting up the bigger numbers and individually, as he is currently stronger than SmithZz who is yet to find his stable form. When looking at the team and beyond the game, SmithZz’s return to playing provides shox with the core of players he wanted and team chemistry other French lineups have failed to maintain long-term. If SmithZz enables shox to perform in a similar fashion as he did in his peak and finds his own consistency, he will be a key part to G2’s future success.

Alumni – Dan “apEX” Madesclaire vs. Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro

apEX is a fearless entry and one of the best at the role, but like all entry fraggers, he runs the risk of being shut down in rounds early on. On Vitality, apEX should be the second star who puts up the best numbers after ZywOo simply due to his naturally aggressive playstyle. 

Meanwhile, bodyy is still considered a young talent, but has had two years on G2, playing with the most notable players in the French scene. He has yet to really make a true name for himself, instead feeling simply like a ‘bodyy’ kept on G2 with the Major slot at stake if he left. Since ELEAGUE Boston, bodyy has only had one event where he has finished with a positive rating (1.14 at DreamHack Open Valencia, where G2 crashed out).

apEX or bodyy?

apEX is undoubtedly the better player. He has a defined role that he can play to perfection and a motivating energy that can spread to teammates, while bodyy seems to still be struggling to find his place. If G2 feel the need to make changes in the next few months, it seems inevitable that bodyy would be the first on the chopping block. 

Conclusion – G2 Esports or Team Vitality?

G2 Esports has shown so many glimmers of promise. Solid showings for every member at ECS S5 Finals, wins over mousesports and Na’Vi at ESL One Cologne as well as taking Astralis to OT with a strong comeback and some solid initial games in EPL S8 are all good signs for G2, but a disappointing crash out of DreamHack Valencia, the FACEIT Major and ESL One New York indicate the inconsistencies that plagued the superteam might persist. 

Team Vitality is exciting on paper and the team has the right pedigree. Three former Major champions, a CS veteran and a legend in the making should make Vitality competitive. However, the peaks of many of the names on this roster are now distant memories and it will take a lot of work to ensure the entire roster lives up to the expectations placed on them. 

Are you excited for this Vitality roster? Comment below!

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Phoebe Dua

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