Was NRG’s Roster Swap Worthwhile?
Last week, it was announced that both Justin "just9n" Ortiz and Samuel "SileNt3m" Portillo would be benched from NRG’s starting roster in favor of Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz and Jacob "FugLy" Medina. This article will attempt to evaluate the performance level of the team leading up to this change while also trying to assess the overall efficiency of the swap itself.
On Jan. 23, a month after NRG’s public conception, the neonate organization announced their starting lineup in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which consisted of former mousesports members Fatih "gob b" Dayik and Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić, ex-method teammates Justin "just9n" Ortiz and Samuel "SileNt3m" Portillo, and ex-CLG and Luminosity awper Peter "ptr" Gurney. The formation of this roster came at a fairly fortuitous time for NRG as the North American scene was in the midst of one of its periodic shuffles which had thrown NA’s middle-tier teams into disarray.
Despite this advantage, NRG started off their time together fairly poorly as they did not advance through the Last Chance Qualifier for MLG’s North American Major in Columbus, losing 0-2 to OpTic in the first round. Over the next two months, NRG had some wins across various online leagues, but again they failed qualify for an international LAN in DreamHack Masters Malmö 2016 on Feb. 21. By mid-March, NRG reached a crucial turning point for their roster via two critical strokes of fortune. First, NRG were able to secure a spot in the Counter Pit Season 2 LAN finals, but soon afterwards they lost their best performing player in Ptr after a bizarre turbulence related injury sidelined him before the start of the event. To compensate, Gob b and Legija recruited former teammate TabseN to join the team as a stand-in, despite the fact that TabseN was not an awper himself, meaning his inclusion would further warp the established team dynamic.
In their first match of the tournament, NRG faced EnVyUs’s brand new lineup featuring Timothée 'DEVIL' Démolon in a best of three series. On the first map, NRG upset EnVyUs 16-13 thanks in no small part to an uncharacteristically dominant performance by TabseN who ended the game with 30 frags. NRG were then thoroughly embarrassed on Cobblestone 4-16, but clawed it back on Mirage where they won in a 22-19 barnburner due to a smattering of miraculous individual plays. While NRG would get outclassed by Astralis in their following match, their victory over EnVyUs for better or worse would be a seminal moment for this lineup which almost certainly influenced their recent roster move.
Despite the promise shown at Counter Pit, NRG’s online results remained lackluster once they returned to North America. While their own play did not appear to degrade over time, the rise of new mid-tier competitors in North America such as Selfless and TSM prevented NRG from reaching a high standing in CEVO Gfinity Professional Season 9, ECS Season 1, and ESL ESEA Pro League. In May, NRG were able to attend two LANs: DreamHack Austin 2016 and the MLG Regional Minor Championship Americas. In Austin, NRG lost to the upstart Brazilian powerhouse, Tempo Storm, on Cache before losing to Selfless 1-2 in the elimination match. At the Minor, they had a very similar showing as they defeated Kaliber in their first game before losing to Tempo Storm on Mirage and TSM 1-2 in the elimination match. Instead of moving up, NRG were falling further and further down in the pecking order online while only managing to win five out of 14 maps offline over the cource of their four months together.
A change was in order.
Who to cut?
While Ptr made a name for himself by putting on the occasional superlative performance as CLG’s awper, including his 32 kill game versus LDLC in MLG X Games 2015, his boisterous personally and inconsistent play forced him to relocate several times within the past year and a half. On NRG, Ptr’s performance has been noticeably improved. While mostly static on CT sides, he has been an integral component of NRG’s T sides as rotations and executes will often revolve around Ptr ability to find picks mid-round. NRG did have their best results while Ptr was out of commission, but Ptr has consistently been the team’s top performer while on the active roster.
At present, Ptr is central to the team’s sucess, and should only be considered for replacement if a star or superstar level awper became readily available.
Like SileNt3m, Just9n is a lesser known player whose previous experience entirely consisted of play on mid to low tier North American teams. Individually, Just9n started to look much improved towards the end of his time with Method becoming one of their best players overall. During his time in NRG, Justin9 has been the second best performer behind Ptr statistically, but has undoubtedly been their best rifler. Just9n has not had any trouble converting his online performances into LAN play as he competed exceptionally well in their Counter Pit match versus EnVyUs and maintained his solid but not stellar form in other offline matches. The only visible sticking point for Just9n is the fact that TabseN, despite usually being an average to slightly below-average player on international level, managed to eclipse Just9n at Counter Pit.
Just9n’s level of play did not warrant removal, but Just9n surely could be surpassed by other high level riflers if NRG made the right signing.
Gob b is known for his star level individual play while also in-game leading during his tenure on mousesports lineups in the later years of 1.6. In CS:GO, Gob b has never found a similar level of individual play,but has retained his reputation as a top level in-game leader. After his removal from mousesports on the Dec. 16th this past year, he was reportedly a highly sought after commodity by numerous North American organizations due to his proficiency as an IGL. Since joining NRG, Gob b has continued to struggle as an individual player putting up the worst numbers on the team alongside SileNt3m, but under his system NRG has looked like a disciplined team able to compete with far more talented rosters.
While Gob B’s lackluster level of individual performance could eventually cap NRG’s ability to compete at an international level, within the context of NA his talents as an IGL continue to warrant his involvement as a player within the team. The challenge for NRG should be to build enough talent around Gob b to climb up the rungs of NA. Eventually, it may be preferable for NRG to move Gob b into a coaching role where he could continue to in-game lead.
Legija is probably best known in CS:GO for his tenure in mousesports where he played under Gob b. Following his departure from mousesports in the second half of 2015, he went on to coach Nihilum, Kinguin, and Gamers 2. Legija’s comeback as player in CS:GO was apparently due his friendship with Gob B who turned down many offers in order to play with Legija again. On NRG, Legija has primarily been given the lurk role though he did use the awp on CT sides during their run at Counter Pit. Overall, his indivdual performance has been mostly subpar, relying more on positioning and intelligence over raw aim to earn frags. However as a lurker, Legija has been shown some improvement over the past month, being able to find more and more high impact flanks recently.
Regardless of his recent progress, there seems to be little to no reason to keep Legija on the roster purely on the basis of his own merits. Because of his past experience as a coach and his apparent in-game intelligence, he, like Gob b, could be more useful in a coaching role.
SileNt3m, like Just9n, is known only through his participation in lesser North American teams with no notable accomplishments behind him. During his time on Method, his most recent team, he functioned as the primary awper, became one of the better performing player before the roster’s dissolution at the end of last year. As Ptr had the better awp of the two, SileNt3m was understandably put on the rifle full time following NRG’s inception. As a rifler, SileNt3m’s performance has been noticeably lacking and has been mostly been seen as the worst player on the team.
Given the stagnation in NRG’s results, SileNt3m's replacement seems like a prudent and perhaps even necessary change. One would expect that NRG would easily be able to find a suitable upgrade from SileNt3m.
While removing SileNt3m and Legija from the starting lineup would have been the more beneficial move, the net efficacy of the NRG’s swap of course also depends on the quality of NRG’s new additions.
FugLy is mostly be known for his stints on Liquid and CLG. Early on during his time on Liquid, FugLy functioned as aggressive entry player and looked like one of the standout players on the team along with Nick "nitr0" Cannella. However, after Spenser “Hiko” Martin was added in late summer 2015, the realignment of roles on the team seemed to have had a largely negative effect on FugLy’s individual performance as Nitr0 and Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski were given the more aggressive roles. His gradual decline in play warranted his removal from the team at the end of 2015 when Liquid picked up Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. Following his removal, FugLy moved over to CLG where he was again allowed to play more aggressively. Unfortunately, FugLy continued to turn in average to mediocre performances during his tenure there before being dropped again on the 13th if May.
FugLy certainly has a much higher skill level and skill cap than SileNt3m, but does not match up as favorably when compared to Just9n who was NRG’s more aggressive rifler. Although FugLy has traditionally been seen as one of the better North American players amoung NA pros while Just9n has held the opposite reputation, Just9n’s recent uptick in performance and FugLy’s decline would not justify the roster move if it was a one for one replacement. Also, concerns regarding FugLy’s lack of motivation, which he confirmed in his recent AMA, sour the attentiveness of the move signifcantly.
TabseN has been involved in the German pro scene throughout CS:GO, playing on mousesports in 2014 and 2015 and Penta more recently. While being good enough to participate in the upper echelon of the German scene t in CS:GO, he has rarely stood out as a talented player. While he looks to be a sizable upgrade over SileNt3m as a rifler, his skill level may only parallel or be slightly below Just9n’s current form. What eschews the discussion is TabseN’s unusually strong performance at the Counter Pit Finals versus EnVyUs. If TabseN could consistently perform at that level for NRG, he would obviously be a great asset and an obvious pickup, but the large data sample available to us given TabseN’s long career in CS:GO makes that assumption quite unreasonable. Given that data, we have to assume Tabsen’s performance at counter Pit was a red herring, a fluke performance.
Additionally, TabseN’s installment into the team means that NRG is now majority European which may affect NRG’s eligibility for North American tournaments and competitions.
The removal of SileNt3m and Just9n should be beneficial move overall for NRG despite the loss of Just9n due to difference in skill moving from SileNt3m to FugLy or TabseN. With this change, NRG will in all likelihood be more capable of competing with mid-tier North American Teams such as TSM, Selfless, and OpTic. Nevertheless, the continued lack of overall raw talent should still keep NRG from seriously contesting the better North American rosters in CLG, Liquid, and Cloud9 let alone the two top Brazilian teams in Tempo Strom and Luminosity. Looking forward, NRG’s results will most likely ride on whether or not Legija can continue to improve as a lurker, how FugLy performs given his fallibility concerning dedication, and to what effect the addition of a third European player will have on NRG’s ability to remain within the soft underbelly of Counter-Strike also known as NA.