Thorin’s Top 10 CS:GO Players of 2017

The ten best players in Counter-Strike over 2017 according to Thorin

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Robert Paul

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 2017.

10. An AK and a pair of brass balls – Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke (North)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Pierre Yves Laroche

k0nfig began to develop into a legitimate star player late last year, but was somewhat over-shadowed by the momentous rise of magisk and his whole team looking like a contender for a few months. With Dignitas, as the team was then called, dipping to close the year, k0nfig found himself the lone star performer on deck. Despite magisk’s issues in 2017 and North’s gradual peaks and valleys, k0nfig has made 2017 his best ever year and even gave device a tough time for the title of “Best Danish player” by the latter part of the year.

Playing as aggressive and aim-heavy a style as k0nfig employs is a clear indicator of the young Dane’s incorrigible confidence and has found him solid success even when his team has not always been able to follow suit. k0nfig’s fragging has been world class for the majority of the year and he has emerged as the true star North has always needed, at least since the departures of Kjaerbye and aizy, in times gone past.

9. All-around greatness to a point – Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev (Gambit Gaming) 
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

Gambit began to piece together their climb to becoming a legitimate top 10 team late in 2016, but AdreN’s impact was clear long before that. Even during the dark days of hooch and spaze, when the team were far from even dreaming of winning an international tournament of any significance, AdreN had rehabilitated the star in himself and showed his all-around class in fragging, clutching and poise against better teams.

2017 seemed to be all of the above but further emphasised, as AdreN finally got a good team around him, with HObbit show-casing some consistently high level fragging and Zeus bringing a leadership component AdreN has never had in CS:GO or his career in general. For the first half of the year, as Gambit scored upsets and put some solid placings on the board, AdreN looked set to be fighting for a top five spot on a list like this one, culminating in his MVP performance at PGL Krakow – the major, which Gambit unexpectedly won.

Alas, AdreN’s struggle to take over Zeus’s leadership mantle after the IGL returned to Na`Vi began the unravelling of his to-that-point spectacular year, especially for a player who had been on a team that barely ever touched top five status. The latter months of 2017 were somewhat depressing and added to that Gambit did not play that many tier one tournaments, with fairly crap fields at events like ROG Masters lowering the competitive AdreN was playing against.

8. Star numbers without a starring role – Håvard “rain” Nygaard (FaZe Clan)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

Recency bias might tell you rain was one of the very best players of the year, as he lit up the a whole handful of tournaments with monster numbers and huge impact for FaZe after their player break roster move. Nevertheless, the first half of the year was much more muted, with a good level of consistency fragging and the odd tournament of note, but generally far behind NiKo in any kind of an internal FaZe MVP pool.

Perhaps the most interesting component of rain’s emergence has been that it has occured under the circumstances of being part of a team which has even better players than in the first half of the year and with him forced to take more of an role within the team rather than being catered to in any context as a star. rain wins clutches and holds his position intelligently as a CT and entries, at times without much help, on the T side. That’s how the Norwegian is crafting those monster tournament numbers.

rain has always been an all-around talent and one of the better players in any team he played in, but this is the year where he had the squad and run of form to showcase his talents as one of the game’s best.

7. Counter-Strike’s most under-stated star – Abay “HObbit” Khasenov (Gambit Gaming)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Jennika Ojala

HObbit and his impact upon Gambit’s fortunes is one of the prime factors why I bristle at any suggestion that it was overwhelmingly Zeus who took Na`Vi to the major title and their solid results over the first two thirds of the year. While AdreN was the best player in the team, for most of the year, and Zeus helped formulate the style and map pool which laid the foundation for Gambit’s runs, HObbit was the consistent fragging force that never left them at seemingly any point in time. After AdreN began to spiral down, HObbit remained as the only true star in the team, with mou as apt to fall flat as carry from game-to-game.

For a player unknown until late last year, HObbit stands as one of the best new-comers to top tier Counter-Strike we have seen in many years, needing seemingly no run-up to get going as a big game performer. Coupled with AdreN, he gave Gambit one of the strongest duos in CS:GO for the first half of 2017.

6. Brazilian Beast breaks all the rules – Fernando “fer” Alvarenga (SK Gaming)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

This Brazilian player seems to be creating a legacy of greatness by a circuitous route the likes of which we have never seen before. In 2015 he showed us Brazil had a strong mechanical player who could frag with some of the best players the game had to offer, even if his team couldn’t win a series. 2016 had fer taking a back seat, sacrificing his star power so coldzera and FalleN could shine and the team had a strong team-play base surrounding those impact players. This year, fer broke out with even more force and flair than 2015, but in a team winning big international titles and vying for historical levels of greatness.

What makes fer’s performance this year so outstanding is that it cannot ever, practically, be acknowledged as fully as it should via traditional means. When fer has a super-star performance and dominates the game in impact and frags, odds are coldzera is fully fed with the kills that escape SK’s aggressive maestro and SK are likely champions of the event, a formula which typically leads to coldzera receiving the MVP award, especially in this era of stats-obsessed analysis.

coldzera is the best player on SK Gaming, but fer has been the heart of that team in 2017. His unceasing aggression, impossibly large balls in engaging contact with the opponent and ability to still rack up super-star numbers make him one of the game’s most compelling and exciting stars. It’s telling that this year it was FalleN who had to take more of a back-seat, working to integrate felps and bringing his AWPing back on line gradually, yet SK won more tournaments than they ever did during the glory days of 2016.

Every super-star the game, role allowing, wishes they had someone like fer as a running mate. The Brazilian beast did slow down as the year went on, notably finding some issues with his form around the time the felps line-up hit their road block, notably losing on a number of occasions to Team Liquid, but what he did for the first half of the year and at the end made 2017 a legendary year in the career of fer.

5. Consistency all around – Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz (Astralis)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

As the year began one could have been forgiven for imagining device would be in hot contention for the number one spot on a list such as this. In 2016 he had been a lone bright spot on an ailing and dysfunctional Astralis team, at least prior to gla1ve’s arrival, and had delivered some epic carry performances in heart-breaking losses for his team, seemingly putting behind him the days of choking away the big game. 2017 began with Astralis the world’s best team and device posting numbers which had him in position to be the game’s premier player.

The ELEAGUE major final should have been device’s crowning glory, winning the title, the MVP and posting one of the best statistical campaigns we’ve seen from a great player. Instead, his collapse until just before the end of the third map saw the MVP stolen away from him, in many people’s eyes, and from then on began the narrative that Astralis was a team of shared efforts, rather than one with a super-star player.

Nevertheless, device’s numbers far exceed his team-mates’ and his impact has been the primary factor keeping Astralis a world class side, even after their gradual slide from world number ones to a solid but unspectacular top three side. Certainly, Astralis are one of the most well-rounded teams, who win thanks to structure and team-play, the Danish way, but device and his AWPing have been the most notable player-based contribution to the team’s success.

Consider how few of the names on this list are primary AWPers and how many of the best AWPers, often with many more years of dedication to the role than device, have approached his numbers this year. While device had his regression back to disappearing in big games, at times, the Dane delivered an entirely different kind of consistency and excellence in 2017, contrasted against his fabulous play from 2014-2016.

Considering he is only 22 years old and at a sweet spot of experience and developed ability, one wonders what 2018 could hold for Denmark’s finest, good health willing.

4. The best AWPing is back on broadway – Kenny “kennyS” Schrub (G2 Esports)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Jennika Ojala

2016 was a year of fallow for kenny, who saw his nV team fall from the top tier and in the face of their downwards spiral began to slowly put back together his AWPing game, despite playing for an IGL who both seemed to have little respect for it and even took on the AWP himself. 2017 promised so much, with the potential of a super-star combo of shox and kennyS the French scene had dreamed of for many years, but G2 was up and down in a manner which excited but frustrated as much if not more.

In amongst all the issues of G2, kennyS was there as their rock and a true super-star talent in the server. While their force-buys were erratic and made the team streaky, kennyS could be relied upon to rack up sniper kills and was back to his very best with insane flick shots and noscopes abounding. G2’s map pool bloomed thanks in large part to kenny’s impact: becoming a legitimate thread on the likes of overpass and nuke, the latter being a map which was and still is often an AWPer’s graveyard.

Barring an AWP nerf reversion, it is unlikely the world will ever seen kennyS, or any other AWPer, at the level he displayed in early 2015, but 2017 can go right up there with some of kenny’s other superlative sniping seasons. The AWP king is back, even if he doesn’t have the team to support his talents with as many trophies as one would expect from a super-star weilding what some consider the game’s most impactful weapon.

3. Too good for a team that was too bad – Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev (Natus Vincere)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

kennyS in 2015. NiKo in 2016. s1mple in 2017. Perhaps it is a sign of the evolution and burgeoning depth of the CS:GO scene that every year of competitive play finds a player stuck in team circumstances which prevent him from the kind of consistent deep tournament finishes that provide the platform from which to potentially be named the world’s best player, yet everything else about the individual in question’s play screams that he is indeed at such a level of play.

Fan theories and excuses aside, s1mple performed with a weakened Na`Vi in a manner which is outrageous when put into context. The team had some good but ultimately not great results in the first part of the year only to fall into near irrelevance for most of the rest of the calender. Despite this, s1mple was there every tournament posting fragging numbers which should, on the face of such context, be near impossible. Watching the games to see behind the numbers, one encounters a player taking an AWP and applying the aggression fer forces with a rifle, yet coming away with even better results and enormous impact. That Na`Vi could not capitalise on such impact to convert it into more map, series and tournament wins, is a failing which must be placed at the feet of the two in-game leaders and two coaches s1mple played under this year.

The eye test tells me s1mple could legitimately have been the best player in Counter-Strike this year, but it seems unfair to grant him such status when the players ahead of him were also super-human in their efforts and yet over around twice the number of maps played and thus more matches against the very best competition. Of course, that is unfair to s1mple too, who can only go as far as his team allows him to, but someone was going to get the short end of this stick.

Perhaps electronic is now online for Na`Vi and Zeus will find the secret to unlocking his squad’s potential, in which case 2018 can be the year s1mple legitimately guns for the top spot on a list such as this.

2. The stars shine brightest under the big lights – Nikola “NiKo” Kova? (FaZe Clan)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

Where are those throngs of people who were excusing away NiKo’s numbers in mousesports last year with theories that he “played selfish” or “got so many kills cos his team-mates couldn’t get any”? Hopefully back under their rocks where they belong. 2017 saw NiKo given a legitimate platform in FaZe and immediately showing the world that his numbers were no fluke or matter of bizarre circumstance. NiKo is a prodigy of Counter-Strike and when you give someone with that level of ability an even more powerful vehicle for success you will see something special, as the world did in 2017.

FaZe played in nine finals this year and NiKo was an enormous reason as to why, especially during the run that constituted the first four appearances. He did all of that playing in a team with players from backgrounds sharing practically nothing in common with his own, culturally or in terms of CS:GO experience, and forced to speak in his second language. You would never have known as much looking at him in a server, though, as the Bosnian excelled and excited seemingly on a daily basis.

Equipped with strong team-mates and a world class IGL, NiKo’s glory days are upon us and he has already put four big trophies in the cabinet. For a player only 20 years of age, this could well be only the first chapter in a legacy of greatness and championship success which could last many more years to come, including the one now lying before us.

1. Too good, mate – Marcelo “coldzera” David (SK Gaming)
Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

coldzera’s 2016 was a masterpiece painting with details which still have yet to reveal themselves to all but the most diligent and nuanced analysis. Yet it came in the context of a team which was number one ranked in the world, with fantastic team-play and one of the deepest map pools. It also came as the scene was falling apart, with the top tier adapting to a world of contracts limiting roster moves, super-star names being struck down with injuries and coaches being removed almost entirely.

2017 afforded coldzera the opportunity to showcase his greatness without any of those caveats in sight. The top tier made the big roster moves they all hoped would elevate them to the top of the rankings, SK themselves has many more troubled campaigns in which they did not proceed as far as a team of their calibre should and the major trophies did not end up anywhere near Brazil. None of that mattered to cold, though, as he arguably elevated his game further and gave us fresh genius of a kind that was more infuriatingly simple than explosively flashy in nature. coldzera was a meat grinder into which opponents were slowly forced and whether his team won or lost the game, he got his numbers and created opportunities for SK victories.

As the two time Grand Slam tennis champion Lleyton Hewitt said after being soundly thrashed by rising-tennis-maestro Roger Federer in the 2004 US Open final: “Too good, mate”. What else need be said?

Not every thought or point makes it into an article or video, so I’m sharing the rest exclusively at my facebook page.