Virtus.pro has been a middling, to bad team for a long time. Since their fall from grace at the start of 2017, Virtus.pro have struggled to reconfigure effectively. It feels as though that in their attempt to rekindle chemistry, the scene simply passed them by. With occasional bouts of success but overall struggle against teams on the rise, they have long had classic symptoms of legends fading.
Unsurprisingly, they made a move. The veteran and historical voice of the team, 36 year-old TaZ, was removed for former stand-in and regional star MICHU. But simply swapping out pieces to a systemically faulted system of play doesn’t suddenly make the system itself function at an elite level. For all of VP’s failings, as we come to the four month anniversary of this MICHU-imbued roster, clearly TaZ wasn’t the sole problem. The hype of this ineffable roster finally shifting pieces has subsided, and once again we can take in their mediocrity for all its worth.
The Polish plateau is humbling to say the least, especially for its former stars. So for the first time in the rosters history, one of their players is making a move ‘upwards’ to try and escape. Snax is eschewing the suffocating comfort of his domestic comrades to chase a potential second chance at greatness. He is doing what many would deem impossible months ago, replacing STYKO on the international mix-side Mousesports.
A lack of results and a frustrating return back to the status quo will always promote change in sides who were once massively on the rise. As Astralis, FaZe and Na`Vi have all increasingly found their feet, the once placeholder number one team in the world in Mouz has been forced to reevaluate internally. This is far easier said than done though given the fundamental way Mouz looked to win games.
Mouz was a team built on the idea of balance and cohesion. On-paper, they were a perfectly tuned machine, and every piece had a totally rational role. From the superstar AWPer in Oskar, to his two dogged, aggressive riflers in ChrisJ and Sunny to the supporting, late-round, structuring passive play of ropz and STYKO. Each member fed off the space or lack of it afforded to them by each other. Their win conditions were only limited to the form of their individual players, fortunately of which are world-class fraggers. Mouz only lose to the best teams in the world - something most sides are content with, but fuels their need for change.
STYKO makes a lot of sense, but only within the context of who he is being replaced with. STYKO is the typical support player who remains unexceptional in favour of being remarkably consistent. He’ll play the bitch roles, bait for teammates and fast rotate in situations where someone like ropz might prefer to stand and bang. It’s an overused statement, but STYKO is the CT-side glue that holds Mouz together. He might make mistakes within their system, but rarely will he throw away momentum to try and make individual plays.
When we think about players to swap into his role, we have to think on this level if we want Mouz to remain successful in their current configuration. In this sense, names like NBK, Pimp, Kioshima, Deadfox, RUBINO or even jks make logical sense. Snax, however, doesn’t fit so cleanly into our STYKO-idealised mould.
Snax is someone renowned for having the special superstar ‘feel’ for the game. At his peak, he would blend a rare ability to work openings through timings and positioning with an insanely deep level of talent across the AWP, rifle and pistol. Being able to open rounds, clutch, dominate pistols, AWP and rifle as a site anchor saw snax become a strange type of ‘glue’ to Virtus.pro’s system that constantly gave them a win condition.
"Actually, I don’t feel like I do the most or I’m the best, it depends on the year. Like in 2014 I was the best clutcher and in 2015 I was the best entry-killer, so… It doesn’t matter. Now I’m playing the AWP a lot more, and like I said, it’s about what we need. If I need to adapt to playing with the AWP, I’ll do it; if I need to clutch, I’ll do it; and if I need to entry, I’ll do it." - Snax
In this sense, snax had the STYKO-levels of flexibility and adaptation to team conditions but at a superstar level. We’ve also seen him briefly IGL, but take more of a backseat to the integration of MICHU in VP’s system in-game. Snax clearly demands space within a team to play to his own strengths, but is also flexible enough to play a role like STYKO. But do Mouz want to ‘waste’ the potential upside of having a formerly great, international superstar in a STYKO type role?
While the chemistry and balance of Mouz has yielded incredible, ‘greater than the sum of the parts’ results so-far, a player like snax doesn’t leave a team like VP to play bitch spots. Snax is making a run for trophies once again and wants to be taking his internationally mixed teammates alongside him.
Mouz represents a chance for Snax to unshackle himself from the slowly sinking ship of VP. This will likely see Sunny and ChrisJ play more selflessly on T-side and ropz having to tighten up his CT play as well. Mouz’s stars will be forced to dim down when the imposing superstar force of snax looks to reignite. This will give Mouz a full five players who can all single handedly carry games should their individual form allow it. Man-for-man, this Mouz roster can stand toe to toe with any side in the world.
The key for Mouz will no longer be a question of firepower, but how cohesively they can align the Polish giant into their system. The top five is a crucible of some of the best teams in CS:GO history. It’s one thing to have a legend in your midst, but it’s another altogether in how this piece fits into a tapestry of macro moves and individual transitions.
The real question for Mouz won’t be as much whether moving snax specifically was the right move, but rather how this move will alter the team chemistry. For snax himself, he’ll do his best to work within whatever structure the mix-side lays before him. The form of VP prevents him from doing anything else.
On one side it’s a veteran, ex-star launching at a second chance, and on the other, it’s a potentially great team trying to quickly hit an equilibrium with the different weight jumping on board. Potentially, the move could kill two birds with one stone, but just as easily we could see the rebirth of snax and Mouz.
Likely, I think we’ll see Mouz struggle in their first handful of outings as they adjust to the changed internal dynamics of their side, but they won’t completely bomb out. As we saw with n0thing at ESL One Belo Horizonte, the Mouz system lends itself to plug-and-play if the fresh addition is one the same page.
Mouz now have all the tools to spark a new blaze of form amongst the best teams in the world, potentially reviving a once great player in the process.