There are hardly any words to describe the past year. The whole world had to suffer under the coronavirus and esports had to change rapidly in order to accommodate for our new ways of living. But the teams and players have stood strong. Even after months of intense online competition, they have still delivered great Counter-Strike until the very last match.
Usually, there’s some kind of review at the end of each year. HLTV publish their Top 20 player rankings and the ‘ZywOo vs. s1mple’ discussion starts anew. Of course this is an interesting and hotly debated topic, but there have been some great competitors in CS beyond just this one rivalry.
Even though Nicolai “device” Reedtz has never been the one best player of any given year, he has been at the top for a very long time. Even before Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut began his professional career, he was already part of the HLTV Top 20. This year, he has put up a great show once more. But just like his team, he struggled with the constant onslaught of online matches. The temporary departures and additions made them lose form for a while. But since September, the team has been on a constant climb to the top. Two big tournament victories in recent months indicate that the legendary team is slowly rising from the ashes – and device is playing a huge role in that process.
The BIG Clan had its own little summer miracle. For a short while, they were the best team in the world. Florian “syrsoN” Rische was a major player in this success story. His tenure with BIG hasn’t always resulted in great games, but this year he really set himself apart as one of the best AWPers on the planet. After a Winter slump, they recovered and got into the Semi Finals of the last tournament of the year.
HOW WERE THINGS IN NORTH AMERICA?
On the other side of the world, there have also been some great displays of skill. The trio of Henrique “HEN1” Teles, Yuri “yuurih” Santos, and Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato dominated the North American CS:GO scene for a long time. Even Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses failed to overtake them, which can be attributed to these three players. On European soil, though, they weren’t all that impressive. Only their BLAST Premier: Fall Showdown performance remains in distant memory. But overall, they failed to really take on the top teams.
Again, ZywOo and Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev obviously make up the top of Counter-Strike. Their performances were just that impressive over the course of the entire year. In the case of device, he’s even maintained his form for over half a decade. But before we go over the biggest rivalry of the year, there are some young and hot prospects to cover first.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE STARS OF 2020
The FaZe Clan hasn’t really been great when it comes to roster moves. Their signing of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač in 2017 may have been their biggest success story. They never even came close to replicating the form they had with him and Finn “karrigan” Andersen at the helm. Without karrigan on the roster, they have now struggled for years to catch up to the best teams of Counter-Strike.
When FaZe Clan suddenly signed Helvijs “broky” Saukants, who really didn’t boast any professional experience aside from some months with Epsilon Esports, the fans started to worry. But the Clan’s scouting process has really paid off, as broky has become their top player this year. Ever since the beginning of the online era, he has constantly improved and climbed the rankings. After the departure of NiKo, he is now the highest rated FaZe player.
Patrick “es3tag” Hansen was a solid player under Heroic, but when he joined Astralis, he quickly rose to become a star player. Under the leadership of Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, within weeks he learnt enough to become a key component of the team’s game plan. When he made his sudden move to Cloud9, Astralis broke down and took some time to recover with Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth back on board. However, the young Dane has been unimpressive on the Cloud9 roster so far. He obviously lacks the help and leadership of a gla1ve-like figure, who has worked all his career to produce world-class talent like Emil “Magisk” Reif.
THE RISE OF BLAMEF
Denmark hasn’t just spat out es3tag as a top CS:GO player in 2020. This year, the shotcalling realm grew to include another star player. Benjamin “blameF” Bremer signed for Complexity at the end of last year as the new in-game-leader. Before that, he had led Heroic to some minor victories. But nothing really inspired confidence in him being able to take the ‘juggernaut’ to the top.
When Complexity played their first offline tournament, they shocked the world by taking down Astralis and Team Vitality. In the Finals of the BLAST Premier: Spring Regular Season, they eventually fell to Natus Vincere – but it was an astonishing debut nonetheless. In the following months, blameF presented himself not just as a competent leader, but also as a star performer. He regularly tops the scoreboard and edges out even the likes of Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke.
THE NEW FRENCH DUO
Vitality have already produced two new superstars. Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier has been somewhat of a background player in the French roster. But ever since Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom has joined the team, misutaaa has consistently gained form as well. Most recently, he shocked everyone with a 2.12 rating against Astralis, as the team dismantled them for a 16-4 Vertigo victory.
But Nivera stands out even among these players. He has put up a great show ever since joining the team. Granted, he’s had one or two bad maps in between – but when he plays to his best abilities, he manages to surpass even ZywOo. He most recently showed this in the Grand Finals of IEM Beijing. When the entire roster was underperforming, he picked up 23 kills to keep them in the game.
ZYWOO VERSUS S1MPLE
Last year, ZywOo managed to make first place in the player rankings. This year, it looks as though he might win the gold medal once again. But with all these online tournaments, it’s difficult to make such a decision. These two have definitely dominated all Counter-Strike in 2020, just like in 2019. Their performances have been otherworldly and the numbers don’t really point to a clear winner.
So where to draw the line between the two? One reason to pick ZywOo would be the sizable trophy collection that his team has amassed this year. Moreover, they stood in many more Grand Finals, some of which they online lost on narrow margins. So if it’s just about the amount of trophies, then ZywOo has definitely shown s1mple the exit door. But that would only be one side of the coin.
After all, Counter-Strike is a team game. Even though the Frenchman is obviously the strongest one on his roster, Nivera, misutaaa, Richard “shox” Papillon, and even Cédric “Rpk” Guipouy have chimed in as well. Every one of these players has the ability to go off and dominate a game at any given moment. The same doesn’t hold true for Natus Vincere, however. On their camp, it has been the s1mple show all along. Denis “electronic” Sharipov has contributed a lot, but the rest of the squad has fallen silent this year.
This is one of the reasons for NaVi’s only real trophy this year being IEM Katowice. So s1mple already has a much weaker base and support structure. He lacks the foundations to help him achieve even more. Nonetheless, he gets his kills and wins his rounds. Maybe, given the circumstances, we should value this performance even more.
But maybe there just shouldn’t be a ‘best’ player of 2020. So many external factors influence online competition – so much so that it is plainly impossible to determine how these two would square off now in an environment like ESL One Cologne and the LANXESS arena. But one thing is certain – both of them make up the very pinnacle of Counter-Strike prowess. Will we have one ‘best’ player in the coming year again?