Winning a CS:GO major is an incredible accomplishment by itself: getting to the summit twice is something only a select few have managed since the introduction of the system in late 2013. In that sense, pronax’s performance is unparalleled – winning three majors with three different rosters is nothing short of incredible. Still, many have questioned how much of these wins had to do with his in-game leading prowess, especially off the back of his later adventures. With hindsight, is the jury still out – or can we determine the Swedish starlet’s place in Counter-Strike’s hall of fame?
It’s been five and a half years since the major cycle kicked off with DreamHack Winter 2013, marking the first time that Valve has teamed up with a tournament organizer to buff the prize pool and the prestige of an event. By all accounts, it was NiP’s to lose – the titans were fresh off their unparalleled 87-0 streak and were widely considered to be the favorites. Best of all, they had a documentary crew with them throughout the entire event: it was pure hubris, but it seemed more than justified.
Their match against VeryGames was treated as an early final in the semis, and the only thing the analysts could realistically say in Fnatic’s favor is that domestic matchups like this give an underdog a decent opportunity to get a scouting edge. Their head-to-head stat against Fnatic was 15-2 at the time over the last few months.
pronax’s men barely eked out a 16-14 win on Dust 2, making the first of their many trademark comebacks on the biggest stage after a 12-3 half before getting stomped on Inferno by a 16-6 margin. Train was coming up, and it seemed like a done deal. It was indeed a thrashing, but not the one the audience expected: it was a 16-2 masterclass to cap off perhaps the most impressive title win of Fnatic.
After finishing as quarter-finalists at Katowice, the original roster was blown to smithereens. They’ve picked up KRiMZ and olofmeister from the imploding LGB Esports – the team that stopped them in Poland – to make up for znajder’s departure and Devilwalk’s swap to a coaching role. After finishing second behind NiP and abandoning the tournament after the controversial “olofboost” at ESL One Cologne 2014, they’ve returned to the top at the next Katowice event in style, only dropping a single map throughout the entire event. Next up: ESL Cologne 2015, a tournament where they defied destiny in multiple series, making incredible comebacks against both Virtus.pro and EnVyUs along the way.
Shortly thereafter, pronax has left the line-up, and Fnatic hasn’t managed to win a major title since. Some of the arguments about his input make little sense: “just having the right players” is an odd one to bring up if you consider both their first title win and the team’s continuous presence at the top despite the multiple roster changes. Keep in mind that they’ve been always there or thereabouts at the non-major tournaments as well during this period – not to mention the fact that no one has managed to make something like this work with a multitude of lineups over such a long period of time.
Then again, there are other, better reasons to give other players the credit for that golden era.
To this day, it’s tough to tell how much of Fnatic’s titles from that period can be attributed to their in-game leader. It’s certainly true that the team has gone on to even greater heights after his departure, going on their famous six-event LAN streak, and it also can’t be argued that pronax himself has never found a way to rediscover the magic despite the many different roster configurations at GODSENT. To date, his adventures at GODSENT, Chaos Gaming and the like also failed to deliver any meaningful results, and one has to wonder why FaZe opted for AdreN instead of a dedicated IGL after his tryout. There’s no reason to suspect that the Ancient reshuffle with disco doplan, grux and Plopski would turn out any different.
Is he a genius or a fluke then? Realistically, the truth lies somewhere closer to the changing expectations of an in-game leader in Counter-Strike. Even his biggest fans would admit that pronax has never been very good at fragging, but his tactics and strategy often made up for his shortcomings in the shooting department. Nowadays, if you look at someone like FalleN or gla1ve from Astralis’ current period of dominance, it’s clear as day that the current top teams’ IGLs are much more competent in gunfights than the Swede ever was. Even if his tactical prowess could still provide the edge in a scene that is deeper than before – a generous supposition –, his lackluster K/D is close to impossible to make up for anymore in the top tier. No matter how many 400 IQ plays you can generate, playing four-versus-five against the best opponents is infeasible. It’s not a contradiction to say that he was both a pioneer and also at the right place at the right time – or if you want to look at it another way, he was exactly what a collection of good players needed in that early period of CS:GO’s major circuit to break away from the pack.
pronax’s accomplishments will never be taken away from him. To me, he remains the only in-game leader who could conjure up specific rounds that live long in the memory, even when they had no impact on the larger scale of things. There’s one round on Inferno that ended with a 5v5 after-plant after he completely juked the other team who were then forced to save – no one even got damaged before the round has ended. Then there was that one time on Cobblestone in one of the minors where he put all CT players below the archway on A, no doubt watching with joy as his opponents all ran past them. The individual games and the VODs are long lost in my memory, but these little tricks stuck over the years.
There were many others who have outmaneuvered their opponents and gained a massive edge thanks to mid-round calls, but he remains one of the very few who sometimes made it seem like he’s playing a completely different game than the nine other players on the server. That, coupled with his unparalleled achievements, makes him worthy of all the plaudits in my mind.