OpTic’s Ascent to the Top of North America

OpTic's rapid rise to the very top of NA, and how mixwell, their catalyst, played a role in it.

Esports organizer DreamHack has announced their first Canadian event! As part of their expansion into North America, the traditionally European organizer will be hosting DreamHack Montreal from August 12th to August 14th.

On January 4 of this year, it was announced that OpTic Gaming would pick up the five players who formerly made up the team Conquest. This was the first team to play under the American organization, and six months later they have secured their spot at the upcoming Cologne Major Tournament. There has been one clear point in the team’s brief history that has completely changed the way the team looked and how greatly they performed at events: the addition of Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas.

When OpTic first announced their team, the roster was entirely North American. Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan, Damian “daps” Steele, Keith “NAF-FLY” Markovic, Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz would play under the name OpTic in their first game, which would decide qualification for the ongoing ELEAGUE. The Canadian-American lineup would take the series 2-0 against the Polish team Lounge Gaming and netted themselves $35,000 and a spot at Season 1 of ELEAGUE.

While the roster had a good start in winning themselves a place in the televised ELEAGUE, OpTic struggled at the Minor Championship of MLG Columbus. A best-of-one win against Winterfox sent the team through to the playoffs, where OpTic lost to Splyce. Having failed to win the Minor Championship, OpTic’s only hope to qualify for the first Major Tournament in North America was to win the Last Chance Qualifier in their region. In the unforgiving format where one loss would deny a team qualification, OpTic could not defeat Winterfox in a best-of-three, meaning the team that started off so well under their new banner would not compete at MLG Columbus.

OpTic Gaming had a string of underwhelming results for the following months after the Last Chance Qualifier. It was not until April when OpTic would begin to show a revitalisation to their results, which coincides with the arrival of their Spanish talisman. The ex-gBots player mixwell joined the American organization on April 13, and was the highest fragger on the server in his debut against Echo Fox a few days later. The Spaniard managed to drop 46 frags in 56 rounds during OpTic’s 2-0 win over Echo Fox, marking the beginning of OpTic’s rise from failing to make the Main Qualifier for MLG Columbus to qualifying for the Major in Cologne next month.

Mixwell continued to provide a spark to his team’s play, contributing heavily to wins in the ESL Pro League and the first season of ECS. In a 2-0 win over Team Liquid, the AWPer proved his mettle again when it came to frags, picking up 55 in a 60 round series. Cañellas demonstrated his proficiency with the AWP when left in a 1v4 on Train against Liquid, clutching the round and picking up an ace.

While mixwell was providing insane online performances for OpTic Gaming, he and his team had to prove themselves on a large scale LAN. The CEVO Gfinity Season 9 Finals was the arena for the Spaniard and his teammates to prove that they could battle with high calibre European teams. OpTic’s first match in the offline finals was disappointing, losing two out of three maps to HellRaisers.

OpTic’s second match of the tournament was against Splyce, the same team they lost to at the American Minor earlier this year. This game provides the perfect opportunity to compare OpTic with ShahZaM and OpTic with mixwell. While Splyce were victorious in January at the Minor, the improved side of OpTic were too strong for history to be repeated. OpTic managed to score the important 16 rounds on Cobblestone and Mirage at the CEVO Gfinity Finals, which were the two maps that Splyce won off OpTic back in January. With such a similar matchup taking place between the two teams, the factor that suggests OpTic’s success at the offline finals was mixwell. He and his team put in a stellar performance, with not one player ending the series with a negative Kill/Death ratio on OpTic.

After moving past the Americans in Splyce, OpTic met Virtus.pro in a best-of-three that would decide who would stay in the tournament. The veteran Poles swept past OpTic, winning the series 2-0 and before the American organization could even pick up 15 rounds. Despite OpTic’s performance as a unit not being great, mixwell continued his electric form against Virtus.pro. The young AWPer was the only player on his team to finish the series with a positive Kill/Death ratio, as well as having the second highest average damage per round in the game, including the damage put out by Virtus.pro. 

Moving on from the CEVO Gfinity Finals, the boys in OpTic attend a tournament with the biggest teams in the world. The ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals hosted the best teams in the world, so OpTic had little to prove at this event. Nevertheless, the American-Canadian-Spanish lineup managed to come in third in a group of heavy hitters that featured themselves, Astralis, G2 and Luminosity Gaming. In a best-of-one upset against the Danish side Astralis, OpTic secured a win in the groups and exceeded the community’s expectations. OpTic failed to make the playoffs though, following losses to G2 and Luminosity, the world champions. While they only beat one team, OpTic showed a strong side by taking a win at such a talent-heavy event.

Following a reasonably successful campaign at the ESL Season 3 Finals, mixwell and his team attempted to secure their spot at the Cologne Main Qualifier by coming in the top two at the America Minor Championship. OpTic stormed their group, topping it 2-0 and only losing three rounds across the two games they played. OpTic then faced the second seeded team from the other group, which resulted in a best-of-three against Team SoloMid. As their current form warranted, OpTic took the series 2-1 and moved on to face the Brazilian side Tempo Storm. Coming into the tournament, the Brazilians were one of, if not, the favourites to qualify for the Main Qualifier. Despite this, OpTic beat Tempo Storm and secured their place at the Cologne Main Qualifier after only two maps.

The two teams met again in the Grand Final, where the winner would claim the larger share of the prize pool on offer. Admittance to the Main Qualifier was already guaranteed for both teams, but OpTic cemented their dominance over the exciting Brazilian side by winning the Grand Final 2-1. By the end of the three map series, mixwell was the top fragger for OpTic once again, having the most kills in the game and the highest average damage per round.

The month of June has been successful for OpTic Gaming so far, with a decent ELEAGUE performance and a great result at the Cologne Main Qualifier. In Group B of ELEAGUE, OpTic had a tough group to get out of as it included G2 and NiP. Due to the skill level of their group, OpTic only placed third, a result that was expected of their roster due to the heavyweights that were in their group.

Last weekend, OpTic claimed their spot at the next Valve sponsored Major Tournament, ESL One Cologne. Going 3-1 at the Main Qualifier was enough for the American Organization to secure their place at their first Major as an organization. The whole of OpTic performed well in their three wins, with mixwell living up to his current hype and not having a negative Kill/Death ratio in their victories. Canadian captain of the team daps also had a great tournament, and the whole team helped in advancing to the million dollar tournament. The Cologne Major will be the first Major Tournament that any of the OpTic lineup have attended. 

OpTic’s status in NA

With Cloud9 failing to qualify for the Cologne Major but OpTic progressing to the prestigious event, it raises the question if OpTic can consider themselves one of the best teams in NA. With the trio of Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), Team Liquid and Cloud9 being the undisputed powerhouses in NA over recent competitions, the hierarchy of North American teams could be reorganized as a result of OpTic’s form and results.

With CLG and Team Liquid recently swapping their AWPers between each other, it is unclear how either team will fare at the upcoming Major. With both teams obtaining legend status at the Columbus Major, they will now have to compete with a new face at the Major tournaments, OpTic. As OpTic have displayed an inspired form of late, it will be a challenge for CLG and Liquid to hold their positions at the pinnacle of North American Counter-Strike with the likes of mixwell and NAF-FLY trying to dethrone them.

OpTic’s organised and coordinated terrorist sides certainly seem good enough to challenge other top NA teams. The team’s exceptional trading at the Main Qualifier was too much for less skilled teams. The terrorist side of OpTic on Train against FlipSid3 and Fluffy Gangsters was too good for either team to handle, with the OpTic roster picking up 11 and 9 rounds against each team respectively. Starting most rounds slow before progressing into a well rehearsed execute onto a bombsite was the main way that OpTic picked up a hefty amount of Terrorist rounds. On their defensive side, they showed coordinated retakes not unlike those from higher tier teams, proving that OpTic are not just another puggy NA team. 

Another team in bad shape in NA is Cloud9. The team who was considered the best team in NA just last year failed to qualify for the Major, despite having three of the five players who dominated the American scene. Although it is only one Major that Cloud9 didn’t qualify for, should their poor results and OpTic’s strong results continue, Cloud9 could lose their place among the elite NA teams to OpTic Gaming.

OpTic Gaming have risen from an average team to an exciting and skilled set of players capable of toppling any team. With the firepower of star player mixwell at their command, OpTic are sure to be a dark horse to watch out for at the upcoming ESL Major.

Photo credits here.

Article by: @clootch_cs