"Against boredom even gods struggle in vain."
Richard "shox" Papillon's departure from EnVyUs should reasonably have been the end of his relevance as a star name in CS:GO, beyond the nostalgic glory that is his history with the game. Titan had been the live coffin burial from which even the sniping magician kennyS had been unable to successfully escape, despite playing at perhaps the highest level ever witnessed in CS:GO.
What's more, shox had rarely been the shox of VeryGames while in nV, thus making his reuniting with Ex6TenZ, famed leader of VG, one which certainly did not guarantee success. shox is the best French CS:GO player of all-time and Ex6TenZ the best leader, but the pair were both in their primes back when they combined to produce one of the best line-ups ever witnessed, taking over the scene in the last third of 2013, dethroning the previously imperious NiP.
In truth, shox's transformation from what had been the world's best player in early 2014 to something quite other began before he joined up with LDLC/EnVyUs. When he departed from Titan in April of 2014, it was less a shock in terms of their recent results, flopping a major and failing to finish top four at Copenhagen Games, than in as much as the best player in the world was leaving his team and with no favourable destination in site.
shox would attempt to take over Epsilon and began retooling his game to be more based around being a primary AWPer and even some aspects of in-game leading, at times. Gone was the monster mid round player who could clean-up any opened bombsite or close out a round against seemingly any opposition. This was a confused period of time both for shox and those watching his awkward metamorphosis. There were still some superlative performances that few could deny as the work of genius, most notably his 30:3 dust2 destruction of HellRaisers at Dreamhack Valencia, but shox was no longer the most important player in the game.
When he shuffled his way into LDLC's colours, shox would find himself not even a star within the line-up. LDLC were able to win a major title at Dreamhack Winter largely off the back of the consistently excellent play of in-game leader Happy and emerging star kioShiMa. shox was now consigned to entry-fragging and making room for one of the most aim-heavy line-ups in CS:GO to walk into sites.
In typical shox fashion, he nonchalantly would come to shine even in that new role, casually walking into the line of sight of otherwise lockdown CT side players and out-dueling them with superior aim, taking their heads off with a clean and crisp AK burst. It wouldn't be until EnVyUs began to slip down the rankings around the Summer of this year that shox reasserted himself as more of a central figure within a top team. Taking over in-game leading for a short period of time, he began hard carrying his now flagging formerly world number one side.
Exiting EnVyUs in their blockbuster move to bring kennyS and apEX the other direction in the trade with Titan, shox finds himself in an even less reasonable set of circumstances than the much bemoaned mediocre team-mate prison of kennyS. kenny had originally been pulling on his Titan jersey alongside both apEX, considered one of the world's elite entry fraggers, and KQLY, who was a versatile talent with prowess as a top secondary AWPer. With that team, kenny had won his miraculous victory at Dreamhack Stockholm in September of 2014.
LDLC's line-up was still and likely always would have superior, with it extremely unlikely Titan could have secured 14 straight offline top four finishes or a major title, KQLY ban or not. It wasn't until said ban that kennyS's prison sentence truly began, as he not only lost a significant portion of his line-up's fire-power, but would see apEX begin to spiral into infuriating inconsistency and bouts of poor player.
shox returned to Titan in a line-up featuring zero other star level talents, in modern day CS:GO terms. This is very much a carry and four supports. Such a line-up puts massive strain upon the carry and effectively yields even Herculean efforts as naught but valiant and spirited fighting in the face of inevitable defeat. Teams like TSM, EnVyUs, Na`Vi and FNATIC have more talent and versatility than they know what to do with, at times. Titan have one route to success and only one route: shox.
Despite such daunting circumstances, with the fate of Titan riding upon his shoulders, shox has yet again shown his talent answers to no conventional thinking on the necessity of good teams in facilitating their stars. It's often characterised that stars on lesser teams have it easier, left to look good in the face of surrounding mediocrity. Rather, CS:GO seems more a game where playing alongside a lot of talent allows many a good player to appear elevated to very good, with their team-mates doing more consistent damage to opponents and opening up favourable numbers odds in fights over and over.
shox is a player for whom none of the rules apply. Think a sportsman should maintain strict discipline over their sleeping hours, diet and social activities? shox is the true rock and roll star of CS:GO, capable of raging into the night soaked in liquor and encircled by beautiful woman, only to nap for a few hours and arrive at the venue the next day, ready and able to deliver a world class individual performance.
Experienced the difficulty of bursting techniques and single bullet tapping in CS:GO, in contrast to previous versions of Counter-Strike? shox moves around the map at a leisurely stroll and fluidly dispatches opponents at all ranges with such clean technique that he must surely know he has a kill secured before he has fired the finishing bullet. CS:GO can be a game which the players themselves must fight as much as their opponents, but that bucking bronco which others struggle to control is seemingly broken and tamed with the slightest gesture of the hands by shox.
Before shox arrived, his team-mates in VeryGames inhabited a waking nightmare when facing NiP, the world's best team. Ex6TenZ's men were clearly recognised as the second best team in the game for at least half of that time, yet lost a crushing four finals, seven offline Bo3 series and 14 straight maps to the dominant Ninjas. Ex6TenZ was criticised for being unable to find a way to break through NiP's style, kennyS was scrutinised for his play in finals and RpK literally retired from the game after the fourth straight finals loss. VeryGames were one of the world's best sides and yet the talk surrounding them was all about their "choking" and "inability to win".
shox came in May of 2013 and five months later VeryGames would turn the most one-sided match-up in the game entirely upon its head. From StarSeries VII onwards, VeryGames would meet and beat NiP in three straight offline Bo3 series, claiming the titles of two of those events. Suddenly, VeryGames were the best team in the world, with the best player and a favourable match-up against the undisputed best team in history.
Fast forward a year and LDLC would face NiP, admittedly no longer a contender for the world's best team, in the final of the major at Dreamhack Winter. Victory there and the first major title for a French side, began another trend of victories over NiP. EnVyUs would meet NiP in four finals the following year. Where VeryGames was 0:4 in finals against NiP prior to his arrival, he is 7:0 in finals against GeT_RiGhT and the gang, never having tasted defeat there.
NiP are still, in some respects, the most successful team in history, yet that doesn't seem to matter or apply when it comes to shox. A single man stands as the greatest winners' in history's Kryptonite. What a charmed life the French star has led and continues to lead. Much as in-game, he freely moves where he wants, even if that means voluntarily leaving teams which have at one point in time been world number ones and going to lesser sides, and still almost inevitably finds his path towards success, yet with seemingly no strain on his part.
Counter-Strike has always been a game in which players go through runs of good and bad form, with even the greatest players rarely maintaining that kind of performance level for more than a handful of months or a year at a time. CS:GO is even more volatile, yet shox has never known what it was like to be legitimately in a slump of form. There have been the odd games here and there and he was surprisingly ineffective at Dreamhack Winter 2014, yet the latter circumstances still saw him atop the podium at the end.
For shox, excellence is a habit he picks up with ease and confidence whenever he pleases. shox lives a life of luxury where applying himself to the game and studiously striving to be the best are not necessities of his life and career but merely options he can choose to exercise if ever he wants to win more or finds his game falling off. Chance would be a fine thing for so many other professional players, many of whom battle every day simply to tread water and keep their heads above the surface of the water of fierce competition one of the world's biggest esports offers up.
I don't know that Titan can win a big tournament, but I've already seen shox reassert himself as one of the world's best players, difficult team circumstances be damned! Team success is a very fickle thing, but the brilliance of shox's play cannot be denied or ignored. This is shox's world, we just live in it.
Photo credit: ESL