After weeks of speculation and a failed trial under the leadership of Stewie2k, Nitro has been benched by Team Liquid. With Liquid in complete disarray following so much hype and promise last year, who is the best-placed player in the CS world to take Liquid back to where they need to be?
The former Team Vitality IGL is, probably without a doubt, the best British player to ever touch the game of Counter-Strike. Emerging as one of the surprise packages over the course of 2019, ALEX led Vitality to a second-place finish at ESL One Cologne with a win over four-time Major Champions Astralis. He would actually lose the final to Team Liquid 3-1 with the North Americans sweeping to their famous Intel Grand Slam win, but Vitality continued their good form under ALEX with another Grand Final appearance against Fnatic at DreamHack Malmo in October.
Vitality never dropped out of the HLTV top 10 in their world rankings under ALEX, something that has recently plagued Liquid, and he remains one of the most recognized and respected in-game leaders CS has thrown up in recent times. He helped ease in the transition from NBK to Shox in Vitality, helped developed ZywhOo into the top player in the world, and, despite the fact he has only ever played for foreign-speaking sides, has the benefit of already speaking English and being open to a move to North America.
2019 was the surprising breakout year for Azr and Oceania’s Counter-Strike scene. First playing under the Renegades banner, Azr helped mold a talented roster together and climb up the rankings enough to qualify for the year’s StarLadder Berlin Major. It was at Berlin that the Australians really began to flex themselves and stun the CSGO odds for the competition and Azr established himself as one of the world’s best leader.
Renegades recovered from two opening losses to Avangar and NRG to win three on the bounce against the much-fancied forces of Mousesports, Dreameaters and G2 on their way to the stage. Once again led by Azr, they beat 2019 Katowice Major finalists ENCE to end the tournament with a surprising 3rd-4th place finish.
Renegades were then taken over in a lucrative deal by 100 Thieves, and Azr has continued to play a keep role in keeping his roster firmly nestled in amongst the best in the business.
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When it comes to building up a North American roster filled with talismanic personalities, is there anyone more qualified than Daps? Taking over NRG when they were on the floor, he brought in the likes of Ethan, Brehze, Stanislaw, and Tarik and completely revolutionized the way they played. Wins at CS_Summit and IEM Shanghai were undoubtedly the highlights, and Daps would go onto to play for the likes of Cloud9 before settling down with Gen.G along with Major Champion Autimatic.
There he has once again built up an entire roster from very little and helped turn this one-time outsider force in the region into one of North America’s most fancied sides.
At the time of writing, Gen.G is the dominant force in the NA Road to Rio qualifying rankings and, under the leadership of Daps, look set to upset a couple of rosters by beating them out in the hunt for a place at the Rio Major later this year.