A strong point of CS:GO’s open circuit is that the sheer number of events the top teams play at means there are so many opportunities to see the best in the game showcase their skills that it is not required that one rely upon a few key memories to decide who impressed the most over the calender year. Here are my top 10 CS:GO players of 2016.
10. Swedish streak shooting – Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg (NiP)
2016 was a very up and down year for NiP, not least since despite winning a number of notable titles, the team was unable to make any headway at the majors. f0rest has always been a streaky player throughout CS:GO, still displaying a high skill peak level, but this was the year where NiP very much rode his hot runs of form to their titles. GeT_RiGhT was not the same stable rock of yesteryear, so most of NiP’s big performances came down to carry play from the 1.6 GOAT candidate.
As much impact as THREAT’s structure brought, pyth’s stability and Maikelele’s impact AWPing, f0rest’s return to elite level play, at least in a few key events, helped NiP most of all in 2016.
9. The machine hits top gear – Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom (G2)
ScreaM spent most of his career in the “failed genius” category of player, where his raw skill was clearly immense but he failed to implement it in a meaningful way with the regularity and impact expected of a super-star in Counter-Strike. Stuck on G2 as one of the rejects who would never see a call-up to EnVyUs, ScreaM’s best days looked to be very much behind him. Instead, 2016 has now proven to be the best of the Belgian’s career. shox was the primary star and so versatile in his impact that he takes the lion’s share of G2’s streaky runs of form, but the fire-power end of the equation was very much a two man effort and ScreaM was the other half of one of the year’s most explosive duos.
2016 was the year when ScreaM found his niche as a player, began to deliver with consistency and reminded fans why he has always been considered one of CS:GO’s most skilled players.
8. He’s back – Kenny “kennyS” Schrub (nV)
2016 was a miserable year for EnVyUs, but the bright spot was the return of kennyS as a super-star AWPer. The player who once had the title of best sniper in CS:GO history locked up found himself early on trailing GuardiaN by a considerable margin. A few flashes here and there, notably at the Game Show Global eSports Cup and Dreamhack Malmo, gave fans hope, but it was the latter part of the year in which kenny truly returned. The carry AWP performances, the ridiculous flicks and the drive to be the best AWPer are all back for kennyS and he finishes the year legitimately battling FalleN and s1mple for the title of world’s best with the big green gun.
7. The all-rounder comes around again – Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski (VP)
Snax was not the monster carry he was in 2015, but with a skillset as diverse and deadly as his, the Pole still found a way to be one of the world’s best. His struggles early in the year coincided with some lacklustre finishes from Virtus.pro, losses to eventual champions aside. Once Snax fully returned, Virtus.pro began to motor again and finally captured the elusive world number one spot for the first time, displaying consistency in the era of immense parity amongst top teams.
Snax is still Snax in many senses, with his phenomenal intuitive sense seeing him winning impossible clutches and making it appear as if he can see through smokes. What changed in 2016, though, is that he added the dimension of AWPing in the latter part of the year, showing his talents to be seemingly endless and adding in that element to a VP side which had lacked for it since pasha’s decline as their star.
Snax remains a player whose abilities extend beyond the boxscore in a manner which cannot be quantified but are clear to discerning eyes watching his team’s games.
6. Impact and versatility – Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo (LG/SK)
Thanks to coldzera’s stats over the year and MVP performances at the majors, many will look at him as the hard carry of his team and imagine the rest of 2016’s best team to be merely the system surrounding and elevating the Brazilian star. That would be a severe disservice to the play of FalleN, though. From being a role-player within his team in 2015, FalleN has emerged as not just the world’s best AWPer and IGL, but also legitimately one of the world’s best players across any category.
FalleN’s AWPing is both devastating and essential to SK’s strong CT sides. Think back on SK’s play on train and overpass, their two best maps and rocks over the year, and it’s the play of FalleN rather than coldzera which often produces the flashy plays. He is the core of their defensive prowess, which begins with him gathering information with his AWP and early peaks and then transitions into making intelligent reads which the rest of the team can play off of.
FalleN is the flashy impact kill player and coldzera is the grinding consistent fragger. So many great duos in Counter-Strike history have operated with one at each end of the spectrum: HeatoN and potti, f0rest and GeT_RiGhT and Sunde and trace.
5. Consistency no matter the circumstances – Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz (Ast)
This year was not much fun for device, who largely overcome his regression into a player who disappeared in the big games. What made his team a nightmare machine for him was that while he excelled in deciding maps and over series, the rest of the Danes fell apart and could not support his super-star performances. With the addition of gla1ve and Astralis’ ascension back to being one of the world’s best teams, many are now recognising at last that device has had the quietest star performance of the year. He may have disappeared in a couple of big series again, but those stood as the exceptions rather than the rule over 2016.
device has had a statistical run over the year which only coldzera can match and exceed. Add in that he accomplished most of that with a team accomplishing sub-par results, in contrast to the Brazilian, and it shows how strong and stable device’s play has been. Always one of the best hybrid AWPers in the game, device has experimented with the weapon throughout the year to find a home as the primary AWPer on his team and as such increased his impact with pick-off play to unlock Astralis’ T halves.
While his team came on too late to give him more opportunities to win titles, device delivered the best year of his career and under the most trying of circumstances.
4. He does it all – Richard “shox” Papillon (G2)
shox had shown flashes of top level play in 2015, with his coup detat within EnVyUs and then a few instances in Titan/G2. After commandeering G2 entirely, taking over as the in-game leader, the French Counter-Strike legend broke out with some of the best play of the entire year. Dominant carry performances meant more from shox than many other players, as it impacted his team’s ability to win on the T side, won them pistol rounds, secured them clutches and put numbers on the board time and time again.
One of the most skilled of all-time in a form rivalling his peak was a formula which allowed G2 to make numerous play-off runs and even win a big international tournament, over the best of the year no less. shox was the engine driving G2 at all times and even kept up a good level of form once the team itself had cooled off in the latter part of the year.
3. The fragging phenom – Nikola “NiKo” Kovač (mouz)
Before s1mple took over the mantle of CS:GO’s most impressive phenom, it was NiKo who was turning heads for the first half of 2016. mouz were never close to contending as a team, but that they were flirting with a top 10 ranking for so much of the year was primarily as a result of some of the hardest and most dominant carry play the game has ever seen in the form of NiKo’s 2016 level. Sure, he rarely got to play deep in the play-offs of tournaments and fell apart on the few occasions where he did, but we rarely if ever seen someone dominate offline as much or as frequently as he did in mouz’s other matches.
The Bosnian is a pure Counter-Strike talent, capable of turning his hand to seemingly any weapon and winning out in all scenarios. It is perhaps cruel fate that s1mple had such a break-out this year and with better line-ups, as NiKo can do it all. His rifling was at times untouchable, his clutching was under-rated, his deagle was beyond dangerous and his consistency was frightening. Late 2016 has not been kind to NiKo and he looks to have lost his identity as a player, somewhat, but he showed that while one player can’t win a tournament for you in a team game such as this, they can certainly elevate an otherwise average side and give them chances to win big games.
2. The wandering prodigy – Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev (TL/WP/Na`Vi)
s1mple is a level of prodigy that Counter-Strike has perhaps never witnessed before. As incredible as names like f0rest and NEO were from so early on and for so many years, they have always stayed put and had championship teams built around them. What makes s1mple so startling in his impact on the game is that he has been a nomad wandering from team to team and yet elevating each to their best ever performances, going head-to-head with super-stars in established systems and seemingly playing at a world class level no matter his team-mates.
Put s1mple in Team Liquid’s line-ups in 2016 and you had a player going off and taking an NA team to the semi-finals or beyond in two of two tries. On the lowly Worst Players, he was a beast destroying the StarLadder Invitational single-handedly. Placed as the jewel piece of a failing Na`Vi he carried them to a big international title at ESL One New York and a top four finish at EPICENTER.
s1mple can and often does do it all. Capable of delivering the kind of monster stat lines for events that are usually the pattern for consistent but more passive stars, s1mple can do so while also being the player who has the most impact in the game. Nobody’s carry games are more deadly than s1mple’s. As a team-mate he may well have some distance to go, but with the crosshair there is nobody more dangerous in CS:GO.
1. The consistent monster – Marcelo “coldzera” David (LG/SK)
coldzera already had the number title on such a list sown up after the first half of the year, but what has ensured he took it in emphatic style has been his play over the second half. 2016 began with his team immediately showing themselves to be a legitimate world class side and contender. When they took off and became the best team in the game, it was off the back of MVP level numbers from coldzera and he was deservedly hailed as one of the game’s great players.
What is often overlooked, though, is that coldzera continued to deliver huge performances even in SK’s gradual decline back to being contenders but who didn’t win titles, providing a level of symmetry to the year. The system has ensured SK were always going to break top four at events, but the consistency of coldzera has been a core component in ensuring that system continued to hang together, while names like fer and fnx had their ups and downs.
coldzera is a perfect piece to build a championship team around in that he combines consistency to big fragging performances. Comparable to early CS:GO GeT_RiGhT or current day device, coldzera will both consistently put up numbers and be one of the best performers in the server. What has set him apart in 2016 is how clutch he has been with such performances, rarely turning in a bad map which cost his team a title. Indeed, at IEM Oakland he was arguably the MVP and yet his team were unable to secure the title in the final.
In 2015, coldzera was a consistent and rising talent. In 2016, coldzera and his current position as the center-piece of SK make him a strong candidate as the most valuable player in the game.
Photo credit: Dreamhack, EPICENTER