Esports News

Luci Kelemen
Written By: Luci Kelemen

Telling tales of esports, one word at a time, six years and counting

January 13th, 2021

There’s no shortage of rumors about karrigan’s return to FaZe Clan after a topsy-turvy stint on mousesports, with the player himself apparently still undecided about what are no doubt just two of many offers for someone of his caliber. Now on the wrong side of thirty from a CS perspective, the Dane who was the first to get a girlfriend in high school may be looking at his last chance of securing a Major title and to bolster an already impressive legacy with it – so one has to wonder, if this is the end of the show with this mouz side, how should one rate their results and his contributions?

The mouz and the motorcycle

It’s safe to say that both parties were in need of a new beginning around the time when karrigan was picked up by mousesports. The in-game leader’s tenure on FaZe Clan disintegrated around him in spectacular fashion just as mouz were still reeling from the failure of the Snax pickup and their shock elimination from in the European Minor.

Couple this with their shared history – the Dane has already worn the mouse-adorned jersey during the early years of the previous decade, though still before the CS:GO era kicked off in earnest with the Majors – and the pairing made a lot of sense. There was quite a lot to be excited about here: though the team fell on hard times, they still possessed same core that briefly topped the world rankings off the back of two big event wins just a year ago in the early part of 2018. There was also the memorable comeback they pulled off against Team Liquid in the grand final of ESL One: New York 2018 with the Snax-burdened iteration of the lineup.

Still, that tournament victory came off the back of an early elimination at the FACEIT Major, and mousesports were merely treading water for the rest of the year, with Snax leaving for shortly thereafter and prompting the return of STYKO to the active roster. They couldn’t recapture the magic though, and a set of failures culminating in a shock elimination to VALIANCE (the future CR4ZY squad) led to a compete revamp of the lineup as karrigan joined the picture.

The changes were swift, with both STYKO and sunNy getting the axe and woxic and frozen coming in to replace them. A team comprised of young and therefore quite moldable talent, an explosive AWPer plus long-term veteran chrisJ to augment karrigan’s calling? It was a promising mix, but no guarantees of success.

A different kind of honeymoon

It’s been often said that karrigan’s rosters are the best early on during his tenure, with a well-established honeymoon period slowly but surely turning sour in the case of TSM/Astralis and FaZe Clan alike. Here, perhaps due to the inexperience of a few players on the squad, it took longer to get the machine going. A straightforward win in their ESL Pro League group was a good start, the lackluster loss to MIBR in the playoffs of IEM Sydney less so.

Like many other promising teams, their detour to a DreamHack Open event meant to kickstart their winning ways, and though their 6-16 loss to Valiance in the group stage winners’ match at Tours was a major concern to fans, they did end up getting revenge over their nemesis from the Minor with a 2-0 win in the grand final.

The team then comfortably navigated the next European Minor and made it to the semis of the ESL Pro League Season 9 finals, losing to a red-hot Team Liquid. Though an early exit at ESL One Cologne followed, they did rally in time for the Major, barely missing out on a playoff spot due to a punishingly tough slate of opponents (a loss to FaZe Clan followed by wins against North and Na’Vi, with defeats to Vitality and, again, Team Liquid scuttling their run). It was deemed a creditable performance by the side.

A string of poor results followed in the autumn, making it all the more surprising to see how strongly karrigan’s men closed out 2019. A win at the CS:GO Asia Championships over the Aleksib-free ENCE was followed by an incredibly impressive run at the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals, beating EG, Astralis and Fnatic in the playoffs to cap a marathon lower bracket run. A win at cs_summit 5 (with karrigan infamously skipping out on the end of the grand final to sort out some visa issues) and a runner-up finish at EPICENTER 2019 suggested there’s more to come from the team.

Instead, the eventual drop-off arrived, and it was much more pronounced than usual, even if you take into account the many additional trials and tribulations brought along by the hellscape that was 2020. Their win over Na’Vi at ICE Challenge 2020 back in February was their only trophy in the cabinet last year, with a silver medal in ESL Pro League Season 11’s European bracket soon thereafter serving as an early highlight of the year. Sandwiched between these two was a poor performance at IEM Katowice, losing to 100Thieves in the lower bracket decider.

From then on, it all fell apart rather quickly, starting with the first RMR event: multiple joint-bottom eliminations and hardly any playoff showings eventually triggered woxic’s slow-motion departure. Though there was an uptick in results at the end of the year with the victory at the BLAST Premier: Fall 2020 Showdown and a second-place finish at DreamHack Masters Winter 2020’s European bracket, a joint-last finish at the BLAST event they barely qualified to (courtesy of back-to-back 2-0 losses to Vitality and Astralis, so admittedly a tough draw) showed that they are nowhere near back to being consistent contenders.

As for karrigan’s individual performances, the numbers are not good, but they never really have been in the first place. Apart from a big spike in 2014, his ratings on HLTV have always stayed below the iron barrier of 1.0, which makes his teams’ performances all the more incredible. Indeed, there is a good argument to be made that whatever the limitations of this mouz squad may be, it could be due to the doubled veterancy aspect and the massive loss of total firepower that comes with it considering what chrisJ’s been bringing to the table recently – it takes a legendary talent like s1mple or ZywOo to keep a squad competitive under these circumstances.

Still, the fact that his summer 2020 ratings equaled the career lows of late 2018 (the tail end of his FaZe tenure) also seem to suggest that this lineup has ran its course, at least as far as he is concerned. He has left an enduring legacy when it comes to the youngsters, most notably revitalizing ropz’s flagging displays, vindicating the org’s Moneyball-esque approach to recruiting fresh and unproven talent over the last few years. As for the issues with woxic, no matter how unclear they remain, his troubles in Cloud9 suggest there’s no reason not blame karrigan for that one in the grand scheme of things.

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Counting the score

So all in all, should one consider the Dane’s tenure on mouz a success or not, were it to end once his contract is up? It’s true that the team did return to winning ways at some of the most high-profile events at the tail end of 2019, and the top-level competition is arguably tougher than ever with Astralis’ well-known strengths coupled with the ever-present threats of Na’Vi and Vitality, plus the emergence of tactical sides like Heroic and BIG in the online era, making those achievements all the more notable. However, the team never really found consistency and even though it’s a credit to karrigan that the team is already looking like less than the sum of its parts just by virtue of these rumors, it also makes one question the prospects of legacy.

A high ceiling with frustrating inconsistencies featuring a squad of youngsters: it’s tough to imagine anyone else doing a significantly better job with this side. It’s tough to envision a straight swap for another IGL making mouz any better than they are right now, and at the end of the day, it’s no surprise that karrigan holds all the cards when it comes to this particular negotiation – but by the same token, with what’s likely his last big contract in CS:GO, no doubt most neutral fans would like to see what he could do with another superteam.

Photo credit: HLTV