The first half of 2022 is behind us and it’s now time for the players to go on their well-deserved break after an incredible IEM Cologne. We asked Counter-Strike legend Emil “Heaton” Christensen to take a look at the first half of the year in the world of CS:GO and give us his views on who he thinks were the five most influential players in that period.
Looking back, it has been the best season of Counter-Strike since its release in 1999. Finn “karrigan” Andersen finally won a major and we had the best final ever between NAVI and FaZe Clan in a best-of-five match at IEM Cologne. I am normally not a fan of the BO5 format, but this grand final had it all. This season ended just over a week ago and, I have to say, we’ve been on an amazing journey during the first half of 2022.
I am going to go over five players who I think have been the most influential over the first half of the season, both in a good way and in a bad way.
“karrigan” steps up
I will start with Finn “karrigan” Andersen, who finally won a major. It's been known for a long time that he's been the best IGL on the market, especially when we talk about the tactical side of the game, but his firepower has been questionable which is okay for an IGL of his calibre.
He’s often in a team with superstars and in FaZe Clan, it's no different. The biggest change for FaZe is that “karrigan” is not only performing in his IGL role but he has also stepped up his individual game. This has been the tipping point for FaZe and “karrigan” to reach the number one spot in the world.
We can see that FaZe often play some tight games but since everyone on the team is shooting hard right now, they often win these games. Some people will most likely disagree with me here but I think “karrigan” is as important for his team as “s1mple” is for NAVI and that's a huge thing in my book.
“s1mple” being “s1mple”
Moving on to Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, I believe he's the best player in the world when it comes to individual plays and that’s not up for debate in my opinion. Considering everything that is happening in his home country (Ukraine), he keeps delivering on an insane level and even his lowest level is really high.
For example, he started off NAVI’s recent game against Astralis with a 1-8 scoreline but managed to turn it around and end the game with a positive K/D score. No matter what, he can always turn around a game for it to be his game and that’s just “s1mple” doing “s1mple” things.
I think that “s1mple” is still developing and is becoming a more stable player than he was before and that’s beautiful to see under the circumstances. He really is a one-of-a-kind player and I feel honoured every time I get to watch a game where “s1mple” is playing. Counter-strike has been around since 1999 and we have never seen a player like “s1mple”. It’s just beautiful to watch him play.
Can “ZywOo” turn it around?
Now let’s take a look at a player whose season has not been so positive - Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut. In my book, he was at the same level or even better than “s1mple” at times just one to two years ago. But his performance has been falling off a lot. He is still the best player in Team Vitality, but his performance is not on the same level as before.
Also, when building their current roster, the team had expectations to win big – especially after adding Emil “Magisk” Reif and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen. Vitality now has a superstar line-up but they do not make it work. For me, the biggest reason why Vitality are not performing is their communication – it feels like the team can’t communicate in the correct way.
“Magisk” and “dupreeh” have only played in a full Danish line-up at Astralis before, while Dan “apex” Madesclaire, “ZywOo”, and Kevin “Misutaaa” Rabier had been communicating in French before the Danes joined.
You can see in their performances that they make marginal errors, which take 1-2 seconds for them to adjust to. It may not seem long, but that’s a really long time when it comes to CS:GO. I do believe that it’s some kind of communication error or other problems in the team and that’s most likely the key reason why “ZywOo” is not performing at the same level as before.
The upcoming player break will be very interesting – will they swap someone out? What else can they do to become real contenders? We’ll soon find out…
The underperforming “Plopski”
Next up are our Swedish heroes, Ninja in Pyjamas, and, of course, I have to talk about them since I’m a hardcore fan.
For this team, I need to touch on Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora. His form skyrocketed after Daniel “djL” Narancic joined the team, and he began showing the potential to become the player that I and NIP, together with a lot of others, thought he could become. However, in the last few months, his form has been falling down and in my book, “Plopski” doesn't put up the numbers that we should expect from him.
I am not sure what the reason behind it is because I, just like he and NIP, know that he can perform better. Maybe it’s the connection with his teammates but “Plopski” needs to step up. I am not even sure if NIP and “Plopski” will be able to win any tournaments together.
“SunPayus” – a superstar in the making
Last but not least is a player to watch for the upcoming year. This player is one of my personal favourites and it is Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia, playing for Movistar Riders. This team have been developing so much and they have now gone from being a tier 2 team to winning Dreamhack Valencia, reaching the semi-final in IEM Cologne, and just playing very well overall.
Even if there was a bit more to give in his semi-final performance, “SunPayus” has been the driving force of this team. He, together with his teammates, has a bright future. I am not sure if we can count Movistar Riders as a higher tier 1 team yet but they will be soon. “SunPayus” will be a key player here and if he can reach the next level, Movistar Riders will be dangerous.
We saw in the semi-final of IEM Cologne that the pressure of really big matches can overwhelm. As soon as he gets used to this environment he will be a superstar because the raw potential that “SunPayus” has is insane. He will be in the world’s top five players if he keeps this level of performance up.