Since the creation of the original Team KinguinCS:GO roster in 2015, the concept of mix-teams has gained a lot of popularity, resulting in organizations such as mousesports, HellRaisers, NRG, and Splyce following their example and building a team with players from different corners of the world.
While on paper, these teams may look promising, there are usually a lot of issues that bottleneck the roster from achieving the results expected from them. Having a mixed team without a dedicated in-game leader comes hand in hand with issues such as bad team communication and a poor tactical structure.
FaZe Clan can be considered the poster child for mix teams, with their history of trying to create a well-functioning international roster. Communication issues, role conflicts, and tactical weakness were all struggles that they had to face whether playing under the banners of FaZe, G2 Esports, or Team Kinguin.
By adding Karrigan to their roster, thereby finally securing a dedicated in-game leader, FaZe seems to be climbing out of their rut and have finally become a team that is capable of much more than just group stage upsets.
Mousesports have also started to follow in the footsteps of FaZe. Changing the language of their comms to English—they are now an international roster with players from Bosnia, Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany. As expected, they also have to deal with the same complications that FaZe did.
Despite having Nikola "NiKo" Kovač on their team (a player who was hailed as the world’s best player at one point), the team struggled to consistently secure meaningful results and often had heartbreaking exits from important tournaments. After Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný’s short debut on the team, the Czech star was sent to sit on the bench alongside Johannes "nex" Maget and was replaced by the young Spanish Christian "loWel" Antoran. The change improved mousesports, however, a lot of their old predicaments are still present.
When talking about mousesports, there is no one better to ask questions from than Janko "YNk" Paunović. I reached out to Janko to ask for his insight on what mousesports can do to improve as a whole.
Janko explained that mousesports desperately need an in-game leader who can utilize the players properly and create a proper tactical structure for the team. He thinks that most of the time, mousesports are “beating themselves” by repeating similar mistakes or playing poor Counter-Strike. This often leads to the game snowballing out of their control. This phenomenon can be closely connected to not having a roper leader who can “rally the troops.”
Even though NiKo is a very skilled player and a jack of all trades, having to IGL will just bottleneck his performance and due to his emotionality, might result in him getting overly frustrated when things aren’t working out. But the question remains... who would have to be replaced to bring in a leader for the team?
Janko believes that if mousesports truly wants to be a top contender, they have to replace denis, as he has been given plenty of time to improve and the team needs a new spark. He suggested the addition of Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz who plays a similar role to denis. He emphasized that the core of mousesports is the trio of NiKo, chrisJ and loWel, while denis and Spiidi are the ones who would be on the chopping block if the team wants to bring in new players. Surely enough, the two are frequently criticized by a large portion of the community and there are a lot of people who are calling for their replacement.
But are they really as underwhelming as some believe? If they really are, wouldn’t mousesports have already replaced them? As we can only guess as to what is happening in the inner workings of a roster, we need insight from a person who has already worked with the players and can give us a perspective on what is happening.
Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović was the coach of mousesports between June and September of 2016. With kassad, Mouz reached a semifinal finish at the first season of ELEAGUE, beating G2 Esports, FaZe and Astralis in the process. The top four finish was one of their best offline results to date.
He answered my questions and shared some of his thoughts on how mousesports can become an elite level team. Kassad shares our opinion on NiKo, stating that having to IGL bottlenecks the performance of the superstar and that the team would be better off with having a dedicated caller who can take that burden off NiKo’s shoulders.
How long has this been an issue, though? Mousesports didn’t have a proper in-game leader since they have released gob b.
Kassad explained that these problems were present even before he joined the team. Their plan was for him to slowly become the in-game leader of the team (Similar to how Dignitas wanted to turn their coach ruggah into their caller) after the first season of ELEAGUE, but their plans were thwarted by Valve who announced the new coaching rules.
When I asked him about who mousesports would need to replace to bring in an in-game leader, Kassad wasn’t that keen on replacing Spiidi or denis. “Regarding Timo (Spiidi) and denis, they have specific roles of a support player and entry fragger. They are doing their job well, especially Timo on that support role. What people don't understand is one little simple thing: your support player doesn't have to be as good as your star player for your team to work, he just needs to be good at his role.”
Searching for a Solution
We can conclude that the solution to mousesports struggles boils down to adding a proper in-game leader who can relieve NiKo from the calling responsibilities and have a grip on the emotional state of the team. The resounding question now is... who?
Karrigan would have been great for mousesports, seeing that he has already improved FaZe by a large margin, but we can be pretty sure that not only does he not want to join mousesports, his buyout is probably more than mousesports would be willing to pay for.
Coincidentally, Fatih “gob b” Dayik’s NRG roster just imploded, leaving the former mousesports in-game leader as a free agent. At a quick glance, it would make sense for mouz to pursue him again, however, would Fatih be willing to play with them again? We have already seen him play in the DreamHack Las Vegas qualifiers with nex, LEGIJA, tabseN and stfN, which might mean we will see his return in a new german “superteam”. Due to the circumstances of his departure from mousesports though, I am not sure if Fatih wants to play with them again.
Interestingly enough, another distinguished in-game leader in the form of Sean Gares has been left teamless after getting cut from Team SoloMid due to the recent PEA events. While his teammates still on TSM have displayed solidarity claiming that they are unwilling to play without him, the future is still uncertain for Sean and considering mousesports is an English speaking team now, he could be an interesting "hail mary" choice for them. The truth is that the decision comes down to Sean, since I doubt he would be willing to move out to Europe to play with the team. For mousesports to give Sean a competitive offer, they would have to make it possible for him to remain in North America and I doubt that is a project that they would like to pursue.
In his Reddit AMA a few days ago, CS:GO analyst lurppis also weighed in on the topic, explaining that due to the scarce amount of proper leaders available, the best option for mousesports would be picking up a coach that puts in so much work that calling becomes easy for one of their smarter players.
In the end, we can see that there is no simple solution for mouz. They have given us some hope by qualifying for the ELEAGUE major and smashing Immortals, TyLoo and Team Spirit in the process, but we can't be sure if this form will last or if it will slowly fade away, reverting mousesports to their former state.
If that happens (and hopefully it won't), mousesports will have to make some very hard decisions if they want to become an elite team.
Image credits: Adela Sznajder, ELEAGUE
Blaze 'Draulon' Lengyel
Blaze is a student who currently lives in Europe and has a great interest in Counter Strike and competitive games. He spends his time hitting the gym or working on various game dev projects where he has a role in management or 3D graphics. You can follow him on twitter @draulon
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