Every Counter-Strike fan knows that the most important time of the year is at hand, but only a few understand what this particular Major means. If Fnatic wins, it would mean Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson is back to peak form and that connoisseurs of Counter-Strike may continue to watch someone who is perhaps the best player ever. If Na’Vi wins, then it would be about time. Na’Vi has made it to the finals of the last two Majors, and with their impressive legacy left in 1.6, they have left much to be desired. Since Majors are the most important events of the year, there is great meaning in who takes the title and the placings of teams. There is one team whose victory in particular would mean a great deal, and that is G2 Esports.
Recently, I wrote an article about Na’Vi and their failure at Majors. A reader mentioned how G2 has been a even more of a “Major” letdown. G2 and its predecessors had good players and results, but only one time did they make it out of the groups of a Major. That Major was also the very first Major, and as every Major has become even better than the last, their performance means less with the passage of time.
With only that information, one might be able to excuse G2, but they have attended every single Major except one. There are many excuses surrounding the French team as to why they have yet to live up to their reputation from Source, but the time has come and gone for them to perform; G2 has run out of excuses. What is the real reason why they have not performed?
One of G2’s problems at Majors has been Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans. Ex6TenZ was a great fragger in Source, and as time went on, he realized that the French scene did not need a fragger but a leader. Ex6TenZ is a very important kind of leader; he is not a leader of men or some epic hero, he is the nerd who sits in a windowless office coming up with the best ideas. When it comes time for this fellow to show what he has come up with in front of many people, he gets nervous and is unable to express himself. This is just an analogy, but for all intents and purposes, that is really who Ex6TenZ is.
Ex6TenZ is no longer a part of G2, but it is important to understand who he was to the team in order to understand what his removal means. His removal means that there will be no more clever tactics, but it also means there will be no more chokers. Ex6TenZ is also the only choker in the French scene. NBK, Happy, apex, SmithZz, shox, and KennyS have all won a Major title, and ScreaM, though yet to win a Major, has done better than Ex6TenZ has at Majors.
Some say that a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, but when that weak link is your leader, you have some problems. The players on G2 have recognized these problems and acted accordingly. There is a time and a place for someone like Ex6TenZ, but not on G2. However, Ex6TenZ was definitely not the only problem on G2. Chain metaphors have some relevance, but truthfully, one man cannot hold an entire team from victory. G2 and its predecessors ought to be examined closely as well.
The first iteration of G2 played under the organization VeryGames. VeryGames had brought the best French players from Source into CS:GO. VeryGames, like Ninjas in Pyjamas, were very quick to move onto CS:GO, realizing that the older versions would soon fade away and their competitive careers in those games along with them.
Right from the get go, VeryGames was a great team. They made it to the final of every CS:GO tournament they played in, yet they never won any of those tournaments. Every tournament, NiP was waiting for them in the finals, and every tournament was another second place finish for VeryGames. At the start of 2013, VeryGames’ results and standing changed. They were able to win tournaments, but their results varied much more than in 2012. In the second half of 2013, VeryGames pulled things together. They were looking like the best team with their many top finishes and even beating NiP in the finals of a tournament.
Going into DreamHack Winter 2013, they were expected to be the best but had flopped. They had a good start and all was well. They made it out of groups and beat Copenhagen Wolves in the quarterfinals, not a crazy team but things were going well. In the semifinals, they encountered NiP. VeryGames fans thought that their team would win. They were the best team in the world, and they had already overcome their NiP problems at EMS Fall Season 1. The fans were proven wrong. Dust II was a close NiP win, but VeryGames gave no sign of struggle and crushed NiP on the second map. When it got to Nuke, though, VeryGames completely lost it, and that map goes down in history as one of the most memorable Nuke games ever. VeryGames would go home in failure, and their reputation as losers would begin.
Use this graphic to keep track of the numerous roster changes.
After Dreamhack Winter 2013, VeryGames sold their team to Titan. Between Dreamhack Winter and EMS One Katowice 2014, there were only a few tournaments, and that was because of the one to two month break that teams take at the end of the year. Despite the heartbreaking defeat at DreamHack Winter 2013, Titan still looked like a top team. If it were not for NiP, many people forget, Fnatic would not have won the Major because VeryGames would have taken the title instead. Who knows what that would have done for the French team; they certainly would not have been known as a “Major” failure.
When it came time for the next Major, it seemed as though VeryGames would not fail again. They were in a manageable group with Virtus.Pro, HellRaisers, and mousesports. It would have been easy to get out if it were not for Virtus.Pro playing the tournament of their lives and taking the final away from NiP. Even then, they should have been able to come out second in the group and make it to the semifinals where they would face NiP like they did last Major. Instead, EMS One Katowice 2014 would begin the string of group stage failures for Titan.
As Titan headed into EMS One Cologne 2014, they were no longer contesting for number one. There were other, and better, teams that took their place, such as Virtus.Pro. Titan had few notable results leading into the Major, and as expected, they failed to get out of their group. Except this time, they had an even easier group than the last, containing Cloud9, Dignitas, and Vox Eminor. Titan was not even the best French team at EMS One Cologne, as both Epsilon and LDLC moved onto the bracket stage. After DreamHack Winter 2013, they fell, and just when everyone thought they would stop their fall from grace and recover to be the team like they were from Source and early CS:GO, they fell even further.
Titan going into DreamHack Winter 2014 was just a mess. It was horrible, and to devoted fans of Counter-Strike, it was beyond words. KennyS was in peak form. Things were going to be great again. Titan could finally show that, a year later, they were still relevant and could contend for being the best in the world. As all of that is being said, a bombshell hit, and Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian was VAC banned, which not only eliminated Titan’s second star but also disqualified them from the Major. Titan would have to hope that Kenny “KennyS” Schrub could continue in his peak form and that Ex6TenZ would be able to find a suitable replacement.
Ex6TenZ searched far into the depths of the French scene for Titan’s fifth, and that fifth was Cédric “RpK” Guipouy. RpK had not played competitive Counter-Strike for two years, so many analysts had forgotten who he was and were surprised by his return. He was a good player in Source and early CS:GO, but why Ex6TenZ took him remains a mystery.
Ex6TenZ had worked insanely hard to make this team work. He micromanaged RpK and literally told him everything to do. This was revealed to the greater CS:GO community after Thorin had Titan comms from early 2015 translated from French and talked about it in a video. Ex6TenZ was the puppet master of RpK and also had to make sure that the rest of the team was functioning properly around KennyS. Ex6TenZ may be a choker, but that is a lot of weight on one person’s shoulders.
At tournaments before ESL One Katowice 2015, Ex6TenZ was holding the team up quite well. Titan had made it to two finals, though not the most stacked tournaments, and faced off against teams like Virtus.Pro, Team EnVyUS, and Fnatic. Despite all of the promise, they failed again in the group stage of the Major.
Leading into ESL One Cologne 2015, Titan was not looking so good. They had some decent results after Katowice, but they quickly became rather poor results. They were not looking like a top team; they were failing to make it to tournaments, and at the tournaments they attended, they were losing to teams like Gamers2. The Gamers2 that they were losing to was not the all-star team with Mikail “Maikelele” Bill in it, but it was the team that is now Dobry&Gaming. When it came time for the Major qualifier, somehow, Titan was able to do well and qualify. But with more bad results against bad teams than last Major, they had even less of a chance to make it out of groups at Cologne 2015, and they predictably failed again.
DreamHack Cluj-Napoca was the same story. Titan had bad results outside of the Major, so what hope was there for them to do well at Cluj-Napoca? To no fault of Ex6TenZ or the team, there were more and more excuses made for Titan, like “they have not had enough time to adjust to the new lineup” and that “Titan has no hope of picking up good talent because of EnVyUs’ vast supply of money.” When it came time for the event, Titan would not make it out of the group stage, and that would be the last time it happened.
Due to some financial troubles with the organization, Titan had to shut down completely. It is hard to blame the organization, since they were sold a team that was number one in the world, but once acquired, the team had a whole string of problems. For a while, the former Titan team had to play without an organization, but due to Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago business skills, he was able to make a profit on the situation.
First, ocelote sold Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom’s contract to Titan for a massive $250,000 transfer price. He then sold the rest of the mixteam that came from Kinguin to FaZe Clan. Finally, after recently selling ScreaM’s contract to Titan, he acquired ScreaM and ex-Titan for nothing except for the cost to pay their salaries.
The business aspect behind the team was more interesting than watching G2 play. There was nothing but last place finishes at small to medium sized tournaments, so it seemed that a roster change was inevitable. However, G2 had given fans hope for a few hours in a close series against Virtus.Pro. They were actually close to making it out of their group and stopping one of the most consistent Major performers ever.
Close was not good enough for G2. They would not accept going out of the groups again. It was decided, like many times before, that Ex6TenZ does not work in the current climate of CS:GO. He had to leave. Richard “shox” Papillon, though mostly known as a rockstar personality and one of the best players ever, was revealed to have a tactical mind as well and took over as the in-game leader. Similar to Ex6TenZ, he is able to wear many hats, but shox was able to bring G2 a victory.
This feat was no small matter. G2 had to play against Luminosity Gaming in the final and Fnatic in the semifinal on two occasions. The first was the eye-opening performance at ESL-ESEA Pro League, where they achieved a second place finish in an extremely close best-of-five series. The next time they faced Luminosity, they were prepared. At ECS, they squashed the reigning Major champions 2-0. How was this possible? How could a perpetual failure beat the number one team in the world and now be a contender for ESL One Cologne?
G2 now looks like a completely different team. Since kicking Ex6TenZ, they have a looser, faster style of play, which has been more successful in the current meta. Although Ex6TenZ had been improving in the fragging department, the addition of Alexandre “boddy” Pianaro is absolutely an increase in firepower. Ex6TenZ’ style of leading was simply not as useful as it had been in the past, and because he could not frag very well, a replacement was in order.
I know calling G2 “changed” makes them sound like a guy out of prison or an alcoholic just out of an AA meeting, but the thing that sets G2 apart from these two sorts of “ changed people” is that G2’s results have already materialized. Regrettably, performance in tournaments before Majors does not guarantee that G2 will perform as predicted. However, this is a different G2. The days of Ex6TenZ are over, and maybe, shox is not up to the task of leading a team on the biggest of stages. Even so, G2 is my favorite for ESL One Cologne 2016.
Photo credit: HLTV, Dreamhack, and ESL
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