Big changes have hit the North American Counter-Strike scene, and they start at the top.
Cloud9 have officially announced the rumored departure of long-time Spencer “Hiko” Martin, along with the acquisition of his replacement, Shahzeb “Shahzam” Khan.
The changes were rumored since the team’s disappointing stay in Europe earlier this year. That time ended with an early exit from DreamHack Winter, as the squad was eliminated in the group stage following losses to Fnatic and Hell Raisers.
The results of the ESEA global final in Dallas, Texas appear to have been the last straw. Cloud9 started off with a promising win over Mousesports before losing a tight series with Virtus Pro and, shockingly, in a sweep to Denial.
The result seemed to leave Cloud9 sitting outside the top two spots in North American Counter-Strike behind iBUYPOWER and Denial.
Martin then made the final decision to leave the team. In a statement on Cloud9’s official website, Martin made it clear there were no hard feelings.
“We have been through good times and bad times, and have had the same core for almost two years now,” Martin wrote. “In the end, time is not wasted as I have grown and learned so much playing and traveling the world with this group.”
Cloud9 looked to an obvious place for Martin’s replacement: the team that eliminated them from competition in Dallas.
Khan will leave Denial to join Cloud9 immediately. The player brings him with prolific sniping skills and some uncertain baggage, which Cloud9 manager Tres “Stunna” Saranthus spoke to in a statement.
“We know (Khan) has had an interesting and sometimes even questionable series of interactions with the community in the past. Per Cloud9’s policies and history, we will continue ensuring that all our players will behave like true professionals and represent the (Counter-Strike) community properly,” Saranthus said.
Meanwhile, Denial have reacted to the move by acquiring Eric “Adren” Hoag.
Hoag most recently filled in for iBUYPOWER at the ESEA global final, where the team placed third and managed victories over such teams as Titan and Mousesports.
Hoag has a history as a professional Counter-Strike player, having previously played full-time with iBUYPOWER.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Denial have been forced to make such a move. Previously, Nick “Nitro” Canella left the team to join iBUYPOWER. Just as is the case now with Hoag, Denial replaced Canella with a former iBUYPOWER member, Todd “Anger” Williams.