Sep 21 2016 - 11:59 pm
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Heroic: The Danish Heretics

How have Heroic moved beyond their meager means to challenge the Danish paradigm?
CS:GO Analyst
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The somewhat lazy or disingenuous commenter might be tempted to describe Heroic and their recent tournament runs in terms of their organizational name. The new Danish lineup swept onto the scene, cutting a swath through the nefarious legions of competition. With Astralis and Dignitas unable to rise to the occasion, the newest champions of Denmark are here to secure the sanctity of the Danish sense.

Likewise, a narrative description of their entrance could easily fall into the tired tropes that revolve around “up-and-comers” or “young guns.” Without any experience or know-how, they burst the international action carelessly, toppling longtime veterans and dismantling the old-boys club. What they lack in known, they make up for in raw untapped skill and potential.

Heroic is far from a motley crew of talented young prodigies. They are not world-beaters. They are not heroes. But in a set system where Astralis takes the best and Dignitas what’s left, Heroic has somehow found a series of close victories with results that have greatly surpassed their meager means. If anything, they are scrappers, scavengers, corpse-collectors, and peasants by comparison. But if you want to be grandiose, they have become a threat to the established dynasty by finding achievements on par with the reigning duo in Denmark.

Initiation

Heroic is the resulting combination of two different mid-table Danish teams, ex-SK and unu.AiN. Before the SK organization moved over to sponsor the world leading Brazilian team, the original team looked like the clear number three team in Denmark with an outside chance at making something of themselves in the world rankings. However, following SK’s formation 2015, they started to be hindered by their lack of prestige as their talented players, Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and Jesper "tenzki" Mikalski, left to join Team Dignitas in October. With a new lineup, after toiling away for the better part of a year, SK found their first major success in April 2016, finishing second at CEVO Gfinity Pro-League Season 9 Finals after defeating HellRaisers and their domestic rivals Dignitas in the run up to the finals.

Despite the promise shown at CEVO, SK looked unspectacular thereafter, losing convincingly to subpar teams at events like DreamHack Summer and StarLadder i-League Invitational #1. Then, just a month and a half after their silver showing, Jacob "Pimp" Winneche departed to the American Team Liquid with the SK organization officially dropping the rest of the team soon afterwards to make room for Luminosity.  Without an official sponsor, the roster further splintered as Emil "Magiskb0Y" Reif Larsen moved to Dignitas and Asger "AcilioN" Larsen traveled over to a revamped Splyce team.  

The remnants of SK, which would soon be called Team X, looked to be stuck in an impossible catch-22 scenario. They were hamstrung by Dignitas and NA teams taking their better performing players, but the only way to build up organizational cohesion or prestige is to have good results. However, when they found a single good result at CEVO-Gfinity, several other teams came in to lure away a majority of the team, though that was obviously exacerbated by the team’s de-sponsoring.

To replace their departing players, ex-SK or Team X looked to unu.AiN, which is a tag often used by Danish teams lacking a sponsor. unu.AiN were themselves made sponsorless after the longstanding Copenhagen Wolves organization fell apart in June. The resulting combination would put Michael "Friis" Jørgensen and Andreas "MODDII" Fridh of SK together with Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer, Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander and Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså of unu.AiN.

At 27-years-old, both Friis and MOODII have extended experience in Counter-Strike that dates back to 2008, with both playing on several prodigious teams culminating in their inclusion on the final Fnatic lineup of 1.6. Of the pair, the team’s sole Swedish player, MOODII, stands out as he was considered to be an especially talented player during his latter 1.6 days, but unfortunately, he never seemed to live up to that reputation once moving into Global Offensive.

The 27-year-old, Snappi, also has an extended history that dates well back into 1.6, but while his tenure in the game is nearly as long as both Friis and MOODII, the quality of his teams and his results were not quite on the same level. The final two members of the team in gla1ve and Valde are both younger at 21 years of age each, but gla1ve has far more competitive experience dating back to the earliest days of CS:GO, while Valde’s emergence was far more recent, only showing up on recognizable teams as late as early 2016.

Instant Gratification

The transition from Team X to the player-owned Heroic organization was officially announced on Aug. 26, which coincided with the start date of the Danish only PowerLAN 2016. Their main competition would obviously come from the slumping, but usually Danish-leading, Astralis team, and Dignitas, who had SK’s best performing player in Magiskb0Y and have long been a mid-table international team.

To open the group stage of the tournament, Heroic breezed past the less dangerous Isak team before being put up against Dignitas on Mirage. The map was surprisingly close but ended with the expected Dignitas victory. However, they were able to make it out of the group by defeating Singularity 2-0, but their second place finish meant they would have to play against the Group A leader, Astralis, in their semifinals match.

Astralis’s pick of Dust2 was an embarrassing 16-4 loss for Heroic — then in-line with the presumed conclusion of a clean Astralis victory — but bizarrely, Heroic battled back on Cobblestone and Overpass before eventually taking both maps 16-13. But the upset was somewhat soured by the recent especially poor results and form of Astralis, excluding their quarterfinals Major finish where they played with Heroic’s own Gla1ve as stand-in.

The bigger upset, that seemingly secured Heroic’s rise to prominence, came in the finals versus their ex-teammates in Dignitas. Heroic won another Cobblestone game in overtime before falling again on Dust2. A 27-kill performance on Mirage by their least experienced member, Valde, would clinch the series and the tournament for Heroic.

Heroic christening their new namesake with a tournament victory was a logic defying result. With Astralis siphoning talent from Dignitas, and Dignitas siphoning talent from SK and others, it should have been impossible for Heroic to take the cup.

However, it is often the case that interregional results don’t accurately represent actual strength, as the frequency of play between teams can create very specific knowledge and dynamics that won’t exist versus a more diverse pool of competitors. Also, outside of their group stage game versus Isak, Heroic wasn’t dominant at any point of the tournament, as they barely emerged victorious in all three of their best-of-three matches, so their victory at PowerLAN could easily be written off as a fluke rather than the start of some revolution.

Fortunately, Heroic was given the opportunity to prove themselves in a series of three offline tournaments on consecutive weekends in September.

Continuation

Heroic was only able to attend Northern Arena-Toronto by chance. Godsent happened to resend their own invitation to the event following their roster shakeup, so the slot was given to the recently established Danish dark horses.

In the group stage of the tournament, Heroic far from dominated. Against the new Oceanic iteration of Winterfox, Heroic won 16-10, and they struggled even more vs. Selfless on Train before they barely took the victory, 16-14. From there, Heroic’s two wins secured them a spot in the bracket stage, but their first place finish in the group meant they had to play the occasionally fearsome OpTic in their first round of the playoffs. Despite underperforming on Train once more, losing the game 16-11, Heroic was able to take the series following fairly contested victories on Cobblestone and Nuke.

Their quarterfinals victory would then match them up against Cloud9, who looked unusually potent online following the acquistion of TSM’s lurker Timothy “Autimatic” Ta, and the series was quite close once more. Heroic would win their own pick of Overpass, but fell in the following two maps on Train and Mirage, taking their first LAN loss for the team since establishing their new organization.

In the third place game, Heroic crushed Echo Fox, but by this point, their identity and weakness finally seem established. They were good, but not incredibly so on three maps (Overpass, Mirage and Cobblestone), and were one of the rare teams who was willing to play Nuke, which could earn them the occasional win. However, they looked poor on Train and nearly always banned or lost on Dust2 and Cache.

From a player perspective, they were almost always led by their younger talent in Valde, and Gla1ve statistically looked especially dominant. MOODII was perhaps their third best rifler whose fragging totals would usually be on par with or slightly exceeding those of their main AWPer and his fellow veteran Friis. Their weakest link individually was usually their in-game leader Snappi, as is very common with in-game leaders.  

Heroic, warts and all, would keep up their gauntlet of tournament appearances by attending the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 2 Finals the following weekend. In the upset fraught tournament, Heroic would do its part. In the group stage, again versus the prestigious Astralis, Heroic would take the victory on their apparent Achilles heel Train, 16-13. They were then faced with the bothersome Chinese team TyLoo, who had already defeated Na’Vi at StarLadder and famously upset Liquid and Luminosity way back at DreamHack Malmö. On their preferred Cobblestone pick, Heroic would win another nail-biting 29-round contest.

Moving out of groups with another 2-0 start, Heroic would have to face off against Dignitas in the quarterfinals in continuation of the fearful symmetry between PowerLAN and StarLadder. The map picks of the Dignitas vs. Heroic rematch would be nearly identically to the PowerLAN finals. The first and third maps would still be Cobblestone and Mirage respectively, but the second map this go round would be Nuke instead of Dust2. However, Heroic was unable to remaster their revolution. They would take Nuke, but lose Cobblestone and Mirage with MOODII, instead of Valde or Gla1ve, showing up as the solo star performer of the team.

Unfortunately, Heroic would continue their slightly negative trajectory at their fourth and final consecutive tournament: DreamHack Bucharest 2016. This tournament perhaps had the best parity of mid-tier teams, but Heroic would be given a difficult start as they had to play Team EnVyUs in the first round of the group stage. While EnVyUs’s results have been underwhelming for quite some time in comparison to their 2015 heyday, EnVyUs, like Heroic, finished in the quarterfinals of StarLadder despite playing with Christophe "sixeR" Xia as a stand-in in place of Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt.

The ensuing contest on Mirage went to six overtimes, making it one of the longest lasting LAN maps in the history of CS:GO, but Heroic finally outstripped EnVyUs 34-31 in the marathon match, with MOODII performing as their best player statistically once more, finishing +10 with 52 kills.  

In the next match, however, Heroic would have to face Virtus.Pro on their weak-link Train, where they would be dominated 16-6. This loss would force a best-of-three rematch with EnVyUs to determine the survivor of the group. Like the vast majority of their best-of-three series, this match would also go to three games, but this time, Heroic would come up short versus the French side.

Like their Dignitas series, Heroic would again take their own map pick of Nuke, but lost convincingly on Dust2 and Cobblestone, and for the first time since taking up their new name, Heroic would fail to make it out of the group stage.

Evaluation

There are causes for concern for Heroic. Valde and Gla1ve, who were the main components of Heroic’s initial success, were not as nearly effective at StarLadder and DreamHack, with Valde actually having a particularly poor series versus EnVyUs, finding only 48 kills in three maps while averaging just 66 ADR. For now, it’s unclear whether or not the performance of these two young players can be a sustainable force for the team, and it seems unlikely that MODDII alone can be the sole carry of the team.

Also, while Heroic is undefeated on Nuke after five games on LAN, their reliance on that map in the second half in their tournament run is somewhat of an inborn vulnerability. While its lack of popularity might make it a tempting specialty pick, it’s extremely CT-sided gameplay seems to actually devalue a team specializing on the map. As gun rounds become more determined by a team’s side on the map, pistol rounds and the knife round are perhaps given undue importance leading to results that are more variable or less dependent on a team’s overall “skill” on the map.

Regardless of whether or not Heroic sustain or improve their results moving forward, the achievements of this ex-SK/ex-Copenhagen Wolves combination thus far are still profound.  Over this four-week four-tournament run, Heroic took home victories over Astralis, Dignitas, OpTic, Echo Fox, TyLoo, and EnVyUs, rapidly establishing themselves as a top-15 or top-12 team in the world despite their humble origins. Even if Dignitas overall does look like the better team, thanks to their consecutive semifinal finishes at StarLadder and DreamHack Bucharest, the Danish scene still looks far more flat.

This recent rash of results and the player-owned structure of the Heroic organization may prevent Astralis, Dignitas, or any North American teams from picking off the Valde, Gla1ve, or even MODDII, but the possibility of top billing abroad or the most renowned players of their country at home still could easily dissolve this mounting Danish insurrection.
But they've already won scores of close series together, taken down some of the toughest opponents made available to them, and promulgated the heresy that the former dynasticism of the Danish scene is already dead. So perhaps it is just possible for them to stay together long enough to find some fraction of the conquering, Byronic results outsiders might have ascribed to them simply because of their name.


For compliments or complaints, you can find me on Twitter @WallabeeBeatle.

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