The Complete Story of Apex from 2012 - Cluj-Napoca
Dan ‘Apex’ Madesclaire is an often over-looked French player due to: his role as entry-fragger making it hard to put up massive numbers, his inconsistency on Titan in late 2014/early 2015, and often being over-shadowed by his fellow teammates. However Apex is an all-time great French player in his own respect, that deserves individual recognition. His tournament history is one that shows longevity in the scene with: 30 top 8 international finishes, 24 top 4 international finishes, and 7 international wins, as for the majors he made it into the top 4 ESL One: Cologne 2014, came 2nd the following year at ESL One: Cologne 2015, and finally as the crown jewel in his trophy cabinet a 1st place finish at Dreamhack: Cluj-Napoca. Apex’s journey to being the champion of Cluj is not a sudden one, in fact as most players journeys do, his starts at the very beginning of CS:GO, transitioning out of Counter-Strike: Source.
Beginning of CS:GO
When CS:GO came out apEX was a part of the French power-house CS:S team VeryGames as co-caller with ex6tenz, however he was cut from the team almost immediately after CS:GO came out due to reasons the manager of VeryGames Niak cites “Being the co-leader is very important, especially in a game schema that we would like to develop. apEX initially came in Team VeryGames for this, but we quickly noticed that he would have troubles to fully carry out this role. Dan has many individual qualities, but he must make changes in his gameplay, his temperament doesn't help him in this approach.” This in the short term for Apex was nothing less than heartbreaking, however him being cut from VeryGames meant that he was picked up by French team Anexis, which contained legendary source player shox, rising talent ScreaM and future teammate Uzzziii. Soon thereafter Anexis released the team and they were picked up by Epsilon, apEX immediately left Epsilon however and joined Prime.clan, created by the in-game-leader of the team Happy. As part of this Prime.clan team, Apex begins what will become long relationships under the leadership of Happy, and playing alongside Maniac. Prime.clan was later picked up by team Extensive!
By the end of 2012 while he was playing under Happy in Prime.clan apEX had a very clear style of play: intuitive, aggressive, and generally relying on his raw skill to out-aim opponents and brute force himself onto sites or to stop pushes.
First LDLC Lineup
When the Extensive! Line-up was picked up LDLC, they struggled to find consistency in the first 3 months of their conception with a revolving door of former Extensive! teammates and rising French talents. However this didn’t stop Apex’s signature aggressive, aim duel heavy style flourishing at the Mad Catz Invitational in Vienna, where he put up MVP level performances against lemondogs and 3DMAX in the groups, but struggling against the third best team in the world at the time ESC eSports. apEX played with LDLC until they disbanded, and then took the offer to be a salaried play on Clan-Mystic.
In between major international tournaments apEX played as part of a French/Polish mix-team Nostalgie at the Prague Challenge, along with KennyS, Overdrive, Taz and NEO. At this tournament there were almost no expectations on this mix-team that could hardly communicate with one another, however they made it into the grand finals, playing against the hot Na’Vi team who had just taken a map off of the seemingly indominable NiP and were the favourites to win. In the 3rd map of this Bo3 final apEX hit a high in his career, dropping 33 frags against Na’Vi on train, getting an ace on the T pistol round, playing his signature intuitive, aggressive style on CT, catching Na’Vi off guard and winning the tournament.
Clan-Mystic and ESWC 2013
As part of Clan-Mystic, apEX was not required to be a star aimer as he was in Extensive! or LDLC as in Clan-Mystic he worked in tandem with the star of the team Kioshima, entering into sites with him on T whilst being a reliable rifler and aimer on CT, enabling the other star of the team KQLY to work his magic, this style of play was epitomised at ESWC 2013. Out of nowhere Clan-Mystic at ESWC 2013, beat Astana Dragons 2-1 in the semi-finals and then proceeded to beat the best team in the world, VeryGames, 2:0 in the grand-final. This feat propelled the team into the spotlight and showed the world the insane skill that apEX, Kioshima, and KQLY possessed. Despite this win however, they did not have to face NiP or complexity, so the real test as to whether Clan-Mystic could be a top 4 team would come at CS:GO’s first major, Dreamhack winter 2013. At the major Clan-Mystic failed to get out of groups, losing to LGB and Fnatic in convincing fashion, it seemed that they were nothing more than one-hit wonders who over-performed at ESWC. Coincidentally this disappointment at the major coincided with the rebirth of LDLC out of the ashes of the former Recursive lineup of Uzzziii, Maniac and Happy, LDLC then asked both KQLY and apEX to join this new roster as salaried players, an offer which both players could not refuse.
EMS One: Katowice 2014, Second LDLC lineup
Due to the LDLC Line-up consisting of 3 former recursive players, the team earned a spot at the next major EMS One Katowice. The LDLC squad did not play a single large tournament in the lead-up to the major, so there were many question marks as to how they would perform, although the general consensus was that they would be in direct contention against Titan as the best team in France. At the major they managed to get out of groups beating both Vox Eminor and 3DMAX in close fashion and losing to NiP. In the quarterfinals, Virtus.Pro went into full plow mode, playing in peak form, stomping LDLC and went on to win the tournament dropping only 1 map. After the major LDLC played at Fragbite Masters Season 2, Copenhagen games 2014, and FACEIT Spring League 2014 placing in the top 4 at all 3 international tournaments. Then they did not play in another major LAN for two months, only reappearing at Dreamhack Valencia where the only competition was really Hellraisers and Epsilon, giving LDLC the tournament win, beating their fellow French side 2:1 in the finals. It is hard to comment on Apex’s play in the lead up to the major as he wasn’t really challenged by any top tier players from these teams.
ESL One: Cologne 2014
ESL One Cologne 2014 was the highlight tournament of apEX’s career up to this point, dropping 25 kills against London Conspiracy and 28 against Na’vi in the groups, it was clear that apEX was in peak form and came into the quarterfinals as such. In the round-of-8 they faced off against Virtus.Pro, the previous major winners, previously beating LDLC in the quarterfinals of the last major in a convincing 2-0, and winners of the latest, large international LAN G3. apEX played a great series on both Dust 2 and Mirage, top fragging in both games and emphasising his style as an aggressive CT player, often pushing through smokes and choke points without a flash. This series wasn’t against a slumping Virtus.Throw either, Pascha was playing in top form, hitting ludicrous awp shots and winning rounds that the polish side had no right to win, however good executes on sites as T as set out by in-game-leader Happy, combined with apEX’s aim in form, saw them plow through the plow. Furthermore the world saw Apex in peak form as an entry fragger, with scary consistency opening up sites and facilitating KQLY and Happy to close out rounds. At Cologne, LDLC were well prepared and researched against their opponents, while their opposition had little read on LDLC due to them not attending some large international tournaments in the lead up to the major.
In early August of 2014, after a disappointing last place at ESL One Cologne combined with a further consistent dip in form, Titan started what would be a chain reaction of player moves, known as the first French shuffle. In this move, Titan poached KQLY, Maniac and apEX from LDLC, on the other hand LDLC took Smithzz and NBK from Titan, shox and Kioshima from Epsilon and Happy became the only remnant of the former LDLC squad, and Epsilon got all the left over players including ScreaM. Before the shuffle, the French scene had 3 solid teams that could be contenders for the round-of-8 at majors, but never had the potential to have a true best or second best team in the world. After the shuffle however both Titan and LDLC were poised with incredibly skilled rosters to battle each other with for the best team in France and to be one of the best teams in the world. apEX in this roster (Titan) would be once again playing under the guidance of his former VeryGames IGL Ex6tenz, and LDLC teammate KennyS. apEX from the outset would be integral to his team’s success as more emphasis was put on him and Maniac to perform as riflers in the double AWP team of KQLY and KennyS.
Post-Shuffle at Dreamhack Stockholm
The first test on Titan would be at Dreamhack Stockholm where they faced off against the other new French team, LDLC. Titan comprehensively beat LDLC in the grand finals of this tourney in a 2-0 fashion, playing an aggressive style of play, completely counter-intuitive to what the members of LDLC who had played on Titan before the shuffle were used to. This change of style from Ex6tenz’s methodical execute style, to this aggressive, aim and rush heavy style completely caught LDLC off guard and made it appear for a brief period of time that Titan was the best team in France. However, this would both be the highest point of Titan’s new lineup and the lowest of LDLC, as after Dreamhack Stockholm, LDLC would begin a rise to becoming the second best team in the world, and culminate too winning Dreamhack Winter. Titan on the other hand would struggle for consistency against top international teams, and would be pushed to the breaking point after one of their star players KQLY would be banned for cheating.
KQLY’s VAC ban completely changed Titan as a team and made what was once a top 8-6 team that had the potential to make it to the quarterfinals of majors and upset elite teams, controversially banned from competing at Dreamhack Winter, and forced to find a 5th man to round out their roster. This forced CS:S legend RpK, to come out of retirement and fill this last spot. This limited the fragging power of Titan and forced KennyS into the sole star-player role. Although it bought out the best in Kenny and placed them as runners up at two international tournaments, they largely failed to recapture their red-hot form at the start of the year.
Titan and apEX Slump
Titan was very inconsistent throughout the summer, a glimpse of hope at Gfinity Masters Spring 2, with an easy 2:0 over Virtus Pro and taking a map off of Fnatic in the semis, but was largely underwhelming, not getting out of groups at their 3 offline tournaments. This point in early 2015/Late 2014,Apex showed drastic inconsistency but there were glimpses of vintage form at ASUS Winter ROG 2015, and at Gfinity Masters Spring 2, where he destroyed both Virtus.Pro and Cloud9 in the groups, and took a map off of the best team in the world at the time Fnatic. Furthermore, the majority of the top 4 and playoff finishes largely came as a result from KennyS hitting the highest peak in form that any player in the history of CS:GO has hit and will likely ever achieve, and when Kenny eventually stopped dropping 30+ frags consistently, a return in performance from Maniac back to his CS:S days also helped keep them afloat. It can also be said that apEX was one of the primary factors for Titan’s slump, as although at times he could completely take over a game, more often than not he would often be the main contributor to losses, as Titan lived and died by his entry-fragging and his performance. Because KennyS was always consistent and the carry, Maniac lifted his level and became a good player, RpK became mediocre and reliable, Ex6tenz wasn’t used on the team for his fragging power, meaning that a lot of the games came down to whether apEX could perform or not.
The Second French Shuffle
On the 20th of July of 2015, Titan announced that they would be acquiring Smithzz and Shox, and in return, EnVyUs (ex-LDLC) would be taking in apEX and KennyS. This change would be considered the second French shuffle and would give apEX a chance to be on a top level French team again. Historically, newly formed, top tier French teams are unplayable in their first few months of competition as said by Richard Lewis multiple times, and this proved to be evident at their first LAN, IEM Season X, where they came first. However impressive this may have looked it wasn’t a real test of the line up as the tournament itself used a gimmicky format and the competition could be heavily skewed by viewers voting on what maps and teams played each other, making it more of a popularity contest than anything else.
ESL One: Cologne 2015
At ESL One Cologne 2015, there were a lot of question marks about EnVyUs and whether this team would be able to compete against the likes of Na’vi, Virtus Pro, Cloud 9 or Fnatic. As a caveat however, prior to the event EnVyUs did seem to be able to have a good match-up stylistically with TSM. The way this EnVyUs lineup plays can be epitomised by comparing and contrasting their T and CT sides against Na’Vi in the group stage game of Cologne. On both Inferno and Mirage, Na’Vi play their T half in a very methodical, slow, creeping style at the start of the round, then explode with a well-timed and tactical execute onto the site, relying on their solid core of aimers and carefully prepared execute to overwhelm the site. EnVyUs on the otherhand play a very pug like, loose, devil-may-care style, that on any other team would make them look disorganised and not well practiced, however with this EnVyUs lineup every single player is an exceptional fragger in their own right and can win 1v2, 1v3 situations seemingly out of nowhere. This loose style perfectly complements apEX’s own style of play, which he had clearly defined by the time he arrived at Cologne of being a supreme aimer, and opening up sites with ease, and his aggressive style on CT side which was all about a cerebral game sense, in which he knew when to push and what pace to get crucial information for his team or catch players off guard. Furthermore, as part of the new EnVyUs, apEX had very little pressure on him to perform, to the point that even when he is entering onto site and only takes a player to half health and dies, the information of where the players are on the site, facilitates Kioshima, or NBK to then clear up the site with their insane aim.
At ESL One Cologne itself, EnVyUs played a great tournament beating both Na’Vi and TSM, in the lead up to the finals, the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the world at the time respectively, to face the ultimate raid boss, Fnatic in the grand-final. The Bo3 final at Cologne was one of the best series of the year, even though it was a 2-0 and the second game was a blowout, it was such a key series for so many storylines: Fnatic winning back to back majors, and cementing themselves as the kings of an era, KennyS having the worst game of his career in the second game on cobble and missing out on the elusive major title, and another French line-up establishing themselves as an elite level team. Cologne showed the world what EnVyUs was capable of, and set the stage for a shake-up in the world rankings.
Lead-up to Dreamhack: Cluj-Napoca
After the major, EnVyUs had a hot run of form winning Dreamhack London and Gfinity Champion of Champions and placing runners-up to TSM at CPL. The highlight for apEX during this time would be at Gfinity Champion of Champions, in the semi-final second map against the Virtus.Pro, running a master-class on how to play T side inferno dropping 30 kills with a 1.85 rating. Furthermore in the run-up to the major, it was evident that Happy’s loose style of T side, combined with the raw talent of the EnvUyS side and aggressive, force buy type play, put them alongside TSM as favourites to win the next major Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca.
At Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca, there was a wide open field as to who could win the major. TSM and EnVyUs were in the hottest form coming in, Fnatic had dropped off a bit, but were still the best team in CS:GO history, Virtus.Pro could always go into plow mode and beat the best teams in the world and Na’Vi had the potential to upset teams in the round-of-8 and semis. This tournament was a culmination of circumstance and skill that saw apEX and KennyS claim their first major win, and establish themselves as the #1 team in the world. Although this tournament should have seen a battle of the gods in the final of TSM vs EnVyUs, it was hindered by a series of upsets in the round-of-8, with a faltering NiP beating TSM, and a new team G2 beating Virtus.Pro. This meant that G2 would face EnVyUs in the semis and Na’Vi face NiP on the other side of the bracket. The G2 vs EnVyUs semi, was in my opinion the absolute series of the year, a back and forth series that had a triple overtime map on in inferno, and the series as a whole epitomising apEX’s career, having the worst rating in the first two games, nearly costing his team a chance in the finals, but then going absolutely ham in the final map, winning his team the series. Na’Vi beat NiP on the other side of the bracket in an easy 2-0 and the stage was set for the Ukrainian/Russian powerhouse led by star awper Guardian vs the extremely in form and hot French side EnVyUs to win the major. This final series was the icing on the cake for EnVyUs and for apEX, beating the CIS squad in a fairly convincing 2-0 and gave apEX his first major win.
apEX under different in-game-leaders
It can be said that after apEX won the major that he was always at his best when he was playing under Happy. Although Happy’s style of being an IGL originally revolved around anti-stratting and executes, it eventually evolved itself to mirror how Happy (and coincidentally Apex) liked to play, a very loose and aggressive style that relied less on waiting for the enemy to execute onto him and more about pushing for information or going in on a site very quickly; when you compare this style to Ex6tenz’s style of in game leading it is apparent that apEX’s raw skill as an entry fragger and rifler in general, was utilised in a different manner. Under Ex6tenz, Apex was still the primary entry fragger, however he was also utilised as a lurker in some cases, playing solo on the other side of the map to his team, using his aim and game sense to kill rotating players. Furthermore, Apex also mid-round called alongside Ex6tenz, demonstrating that his game sense that made him such a good clutch player and entry fragger could also be utilised to read the game in a more general sense. Ex6tenz’s style of IGL was a very execute heavy, anti-strat dominate way of play, that relied entirely on sticking to a generalised game plan and adapting to mid round calls. Despite Ex6tenz trying to utilise Apex in more areas, it was clear simply through the current success of Apex as a player that his visceral aggression and abstract way of playing the game struggled to shine under the very strict in game leading style of Ex6tenz, and fit perfectly in the stark contrast game style of Happy.
The rise of apEX
apEX’s journey to becoming a major winner saw him on the losing side of a French shuffle, where he watched his fellow Frenchmen rocket to the top in Late 2014/Early 2015 while he was struggling to find consistency and making it into the quarterfinals of tourneys. It saw him refining and maturing his now infamous style, to suit a team dynamic and learn that the positives of overpeeking, aggressively pushing through smokes, and having insane aim on entries can also be directly tied to his downfalls. Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire with a career of both insane highs and depressing lows, tied in with his cerebral, intuitive, emotional game style will never put him as the greatest player or even best French player ever, often being overshadowed by teammates and controversy alike, he is still a world-class player that deserves the individual recognition of fans and critics alike that he rarely receives.