The end of ENCE’s run coinciding with the removal of their in-game leader Aleksib is one of the most discussed topics in world CS:GO today, with every big name weighing in on the issue at some point in the last few months, and the vast majority viewing it as a mistake. Seeing the massive downturn in sergej’s individual performances since then, one has to wonder whether Vitality’s young star will end up in a similar situation as he has to navigate a crumbling support structure after their IGL’s departure.
It’s not just ENCE’s fall which suggests how important Aleksib was to the puzzle: we recently heard Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields discussing OG on an episode of By The Numbers, where he essentially confirmed the Finnish IGL is mustard, and was not being carried by his team. Of course, he has already overtaken ENCE with his new side in the HLTV rankings. If more proof were needed this move was a mistake, the image below was posted on Reddit recently, showing that ENCE have won just two of their last fifteen maps, and haven’t exactly faced world-beaters in that time.
if anything, this confirms what many have suspected for some time, that the IGL of a team is probably the most important part in 2020, unless you’re a calibre of s1mple at Na’Vi, a man who is not only supernaturally brilliant but also increasingly influential when it comes to the strategic side of the game. Most teams know the hardest piece to replace is the head, and try to keep their captains if possible.
That was not an option though for Team Vitality, with the recent news breaking that their British-abroad Alex "ALEX" McMeekin had decided to quit the team, citing the pressure of travel and professionalism. As an org in possession of possibly the greatest CS talent since s1mple (and arguably the best France has ever produced) in ZywOo, this is a worrying time for Vitality. Not just as a group, but also specifically for the team’s star man.
For those who didn’t follow the ENCE story, the team was never as focussed around a player as the aforementioned CIS supergroup, but the closest their setup had to star was v Jere "sergej" Salo. When he joined ENCE, he was too young even to wear the same top as his teammates due to rules around gambling sponsors, but from day one it was clear he was a generational talent, and the jewel in the ENCE crown.
That is, until the day Aleksi was cut. Prior to the fallout between the team and their leader, Sergej had achieved some massively impressive statlines, with a 1.24 rating at the Starladder Major, a 1.23 at Dreamhack Masters Dallas and a very respectable 1.10 at ESL One New York. Since then he’s not broken the 1.1 mark, and his last three events saw him dip below 1.0, to .75 at the ICE Challenge.
Though there are obvious differences between ZywOo and Sergej – and many would point out that while one is very good the Frenchman is on another level to pretty much anyone not playing for Na’Vi with a name that rhymes with “pimple”. However, it does serve as an illustration of how fragile form can be in CS:GO, and shows why orgs are so loathe to break up teams that have seen success when they fall on hard times.
For the sake of the fans we should hope ZywOo survives the changes – and what may or may not end up being Vitality’s shox era – as he is a special talent who should have a long and decorated career. However, the ENCE case shows what a massive moment this might be not just for the team, but also the star man depending on the influence ALEX had, and should give French fans more than a moment’s concern for the future of Vitality and 2019’s #1 player.
Photo credit: HLTV