The Former NA KRiMZ: The Decline of CLG Cutler
With Counter Logic Gaming’s abysmal performance at the ESL One Cologne Major following the trade of star AWPer jdm64 for the struggling Koosta, CLG’s roster looks relatively done and dusted. A major team structure overhaul would likely be needed for the American side to find their footing. The lineup that was once regarded as a constant domestic threat among North American teams throughout their lifespan, now plays as a shadow of its former self.
While star names of Tarik and jdm64 served as the team’s firepower later on in its existence, it has been the decline in performance of once reliable supportive rifler Cutler that has best embodied CLG’s decline. Once praised as one of the most consistent, fundamentally sound players in NA, Cutler has struggled to put up the stable numbers in recent events. At his prime, Cutler was invaluable to CLG, in a similar way to many of Europe’s most consistent riflers are to their lineups, and represented a role that top level NA teams severely lacked: malleable, team-oriented, true support players that do not produce the frag movie sort of highlights, but play efficient and easily replicable Counter Strike.
In the time when CLG was mSpaz, still playing with the AWP of ptr and strat-calling of FNS, Cutler represented a pillar of consistency within a team of immensely erratic players. Stars ptr and tarik had the potential to play explosively, tarik with superstar performances in online qualifiers early on in the team’s rise and ptr with a breakout Dust II match against LDLC at the X-Games. However, the two were often inconsistent and failed to replicate their aim-reliant explosiveness from round to round. With Cutler’s patient and always calm demeanor, CLG became a roster with the potential to upset better teams in international play on a couple of home maps.
This unbreakable sort of style which made Cutler essential to one of NA’s best rosters led to his comparison with similar sort of European counterparts. Cutler was dubbed by many as the “NA KRiMZ,” emulating the fundamentally sound Fnatic superstar. The quality that warranted the comparison especially was the smooth, optimal decision making made by the two. To quote Thorin, “KRiMZ's understanding of the game means he always seems in control and to play at his own pace and on his own terms.” Like other prominent “glue” players on other top teams (NBK, Xyp9x, TACO, Edward), Cutler's stable play was integral to the team’s success, and the idea that he might need to be replaced within CLG never seemed like an option until recently.
Unfortunately, Cutler’s play began to drop off when the team replaced FNS with Fugly in December of 2015, a time when he was called upon to become the team’s in-game leader. Compared to other North American strat-callers, Cutler was still one of the best in terms of fragging, but it clearly became difficult for him to maintain his personal skill level. He was still considered to be a potential pickup for an NA super team should one have formed around the time (as another shuffle swapped rosters around) and even a potential pickup as a new in-game leader for Cloud9 after seang@res's departure. None of these roster swaps came to fruition, and Cutler’s play continued to drop from just average to near abysmal; his play has been a liability for CLG in recent LAN showings.
This decline culminated into his terrible performances at both the ECS Group Finals against Astralis and the Group Stage Play at ESL One Cologne. Of course, CLG was playing with their coach as a stand-in at both events, and had the new addition of Koosta at the latter event, but that should not affect a true support like Cutler as profoundly as they did. Maybe he gets moved out of his normal spots a tad, plays a different role in T-Side strategy, or has to worry about more factors, but the fundamentals which seemed so deeply ingrained in his play vanished too. Cutler was clearly incapable of performing his duty to the CLG lineup, and the decay in his play reflects that of the team on the whole.
Cutler at his best represented something that most NA teams desperately need: consistency. Aggressive, raw-aim, “PUG Stars” are a dime a dozen in every region, especially NA, and intelligent players like Cutler represent the sort of fundamental CS which can be practiced and refined extensively while still holding up well on LAN. For the sake of NA teams not called Liquid, players like what Cutler once was will need to make a name for themselves if the region wants to reach their current pacesetter; a team who proved at the major they have the right balance in superstars and role players.