By Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen
Imagine breaking up every CS:GO team and drafting players to build a squad that will dominate the scene for the next five years.
Who would you pick first?
As opposed to purely looking at the best players (though the ones listed below surely would place highly in that category as well), you’d want to consider things such as longevity and future potential. Admittedly, that makes this list a little age biased. If you are 25 years old now, it’s unclear whether you will develop further, how many more years of true superstar-level play you have in the tank, etc. On the other hand region is ignored here, as it would unfairly penalize players who play in countries without top-tier teams.
All that said, here’s my take on the five most valuable players in CS:GO.
Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev
Age: 18 | Current team: None | Nationality: Ukrainian
This may be a controversial pick, if only because of the myriad stories floating around about s1mple being a bad teammate. But in 2016, he finally padded his resume to the point where it is impossible to argue against the youngster being one of the most talented players in the game right now.
The Ukrainian prodigy has two Top 4 placings at the majors – one of them a second place – and at each he was by far Team Liquid’s best player. He was also the best player on HellRaisers when they upset Fnatic at DreamHack Winter 2014, his third major.
It will take some time for s1mple to learn how to channel his frustrations better and to become a better teammate. But his personality conflicts are driven more by his highly competitive spirit than anything else; it’s hard to imagine him not realizing within a year or two that he is effectively shooting himself, and his ambitions, in the foot. He may be without a team right now, but within a couple of years he may well rule the CS:GO landscape, leaving organizations perplexed as to how they could have missed the chance to sign him and build a team around him. He is that special.
Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz
Age: 20 | Current team: Astralis | Nationality: Danish
Astralis’ Danish superstar has faced plenty of criticism since the early days of his career, when he famously struggled under pressure and rarely put up strong performances in the playoffs or in otherwise meaningful games. Those days are long gone, however, and today dev1ce is not only his team’s most consistent performer, but one who always puts up big numbers – even when his team as a whole falls short. In fact, he currently sits atop the statistical rankings at large, tier one tournaments.
Fans demand championships from players, but as we have learned in traditional sports, not everyone gets what they deserve. While dev1ce has been the best player on his country’s best team for years, tournament wins have largely eluded Astralis. It is hard to blame someone who always delivers, though, and given the Dane’s youth, he has plenty of years to put together the kind of campaigns that will end with him raising the Sunday trophy. If you were to build a new team, there are few better places to start.
Robin “flusha” Rönnquist
Age: 22 | Current team: Fnatic | Nationality: Swedish
Always praised by teammates, flusha is the in-game leader of one of the most successful teams of all time (though nowadays coach Vuggo shares at least some of the burden). Yet the 22-year-old Swede somehow keeps flying under the radar when fans and analysts talk about the best players in the world. Part of that is because his teammate, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson, was considered the world’s best player for a while, but courtesy olofmeister’s injury, flusha has become Fnatic’s most important part.
His stats are undeniable: flusha has won three major tournaments and has the highest rating across all nine majors worldwide. He’s made the playoffs at every one. He has an MVP award from ESL One Cologne 2015, where his 1.38 rating tied the best-ever statistical showing at the majors. On top of that, flusha has been a key member of the greatest Counter-Strike team of all-time; unlike a few others on this list, his resume also has all the team awards one could ever hope for, and then some. He may continue being underrated (partly because of his villain-style image in the community), but that does not change the facts: flusha is easily one of the world’s most valuable Counter-Strike players.
Marcelo “coldzera” David
Age: 21 | Current team: SK Gaming | Nationality: Brazilian
This star’s rise to the top of the Counter-Strike world has almost no precedent, with perhaps the closest being Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, arguably the most talented player in history, who in a similar fashion rocketed from nowhere to superstardom.
Not only is coldzera a two-time major champion, but he is a two-time MVP – a feat no one else has matched. He is incredibly consistent, with only one sub-par showing in his international CS:GO career since joining Luminosity in July 2015. Aside from IEM Katowice, he has put up superstar performances for a year straight.
While it’s coldzera’s consistency that puts him over the top, with similar peaks as the other top players of today, he also has proven to be incredibly versatile. Though nearly everyone on this list can play with any weapon, few can claim the kind of success with both rifles and snipers as coldzera, who sometimes even AWPs over SK Gaming’s full-time sniper, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, on certain maps. While coldzera is not as young as some of the other players here, he’s still early in his career. I am not sure you can develop much further, but if he is able to unlock any new levels to his game, there may be no one who can match him.
Nikola “NiKo” Kovač
Age: 19 | Current team: mousesports | Nationality: Bosnian
It’s hard to believe NiKo is so young, because he looks like a much more experienced player. He was the in-game leader of mousesports for a while, and as the team’s sole superstar he needed to constantly perform at an insanely high level. For months and months he did just that, day in and day out. The Bosnian comes from a country that has never had a successful team, which has forced him to join an international squad in order to compete for titles. So far his teammates have let him down, but don’t expect a player of this caliber to be down for long.
For the time being, the 19-year-old remains a cornerstone for mousesports, and with former teammate Aleksandar “kassad” Trifunović joining as an in-game leader to give NiKo more freedom in-game, it is likely his game will be freed further in the near future. That’s a scary thought: only s1mple can match NiKo in explosiveness, and his famous Desert Eagle highlights showcase the best pure aim in Counter-Strike right now. NiKo is currently the world’s most valuable player, and it seems his career is only beginning.
Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson, Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo Janusz, “Snax” Pogorzelski, Richard “shox” Papillon, Egor “flamie” Vasilyev, Kenny “kennyS” Schrub.
You can reach Tomi on Twitter @lurppis_