In a recent episode of Writer’s Block, we spoke critically of mousesports’ current state, feeling that they had stalled and lost their way. Guest moses, amidst the negativity, made an important point about this criticism: it was a consequence of our heightened expectations.

Truth is, when this lineup was originally assembled in August 2017, expectations were quite low. Sure, oskar was a good AWPer and ropz was talented, but with chrisJ as a new in-game leader and STYKO as a bit of an unknown factor, this lineup seemed destined to be mediocre, lurking around the Top 10 much like Hellraisers, NiP or RNG currently.

As we now know, mousesports far exceeding expectations, at one point contending for the #1 spot during the chaotic period between Boston and Marseille. Steady improvement was the name of the game for mousesports, as they gradually improved over the second half of 2017, peaking right after the Major to win V4 and StarSeries Season 4

Rise of mousesports in HLTV’s world rankings over the past 12 months

That championship team is now in shambles. STYKO is reportedly about to be removed, and the team’s best performance in months came without their superstar AWPer oskar. The identity of team seems confused, stuck between being a well-balanced team focused on finding picks by setting up the AWP and a skill-stacked roster with star riflers. The two identities seem incompatible, with both ropz and sunNy thriving in oskar’s absence. And while oskar can take a step back in terms of focus, he’s likely to then receive the draken treatment and get kicked shortly after, having been stripped of his primary quality: aggression. Who knows where this roster will end up, but before it expires it’s worth looking back on the surprising factors that lead to mouz’s rise to the top.

  1. chrisJ adapted to the in-game leader role swimmingly

In that episode of Writer’s Block, moses dubbed him “one of the most improved players of the last year”, and chrisJ is more than deserving of this title. With the help of coach LMBT, chrisJ developed a versatile stratbook for his team that lead to much success on two rather tactical maps, Mirage and Train. While some (including me) question chrisJ’s ability to call mid-round, there’s no question that he far exceeded what could reasonably be expected of him, both tactically and individually, as he continues to be one of the best fragging in-game leader in the world.

If I had to pick the first person to get kicked from the lineup when it was formed, I would’ve picked chrisJ. An erratic AWPer turned in-game leader didn’t inspire much confidence, especially given the transition of seized, AdreN and the like in the past few years. Transitions from player to in-game leader out of necessity rarely work, which makes chrisJ’s current play all the more remarkable

chrisJ NiKo Dreamhack Mousesports Counter Strike

2. sunNy grows into the fer/rain archetype

It’s rarely mentioned that sunNy’s playstyle coming into mouz was that of more passive lurker, something that needed to change given the team’s two passive riflers in STYKO and ropz. There’s an archetype I call the “control player”, a label for players that play aggressive T-side roles without being entries. Usually playing areas like Underpass/Connector on T-side Mirage or Apartments/Brackets on Inferno, these players try to find soft spots in the CT default to open up the round. This role was made famous by fer, and was copied by rain midway through 2017. In the right hands, the style is so effective that both players ranked Top 5 in HLTV’s player rankings. Playing this way requires a keen sense of timing, since you are pushing into the waiting arms of the CT side. Successfully pushing Connector requires moving forward at the right moment, something many players in the role struggle with. Gamesense then is key, and it isn’t obvious that any old aimer will thrive playing this way.

With mousesports, sunNy proved he isn’t any old aimer: he’s an elite control player. An aggressive force on both sides of the map, his gamesense and his impressive first-bullet aim has made him a staple on this roster despite being a relative unknown coming into the team. Not only did sunNy adapt his playstyle, he thrived in his new role and became the most consistent fragger on mousesports. He may have not won an MVP medal, but sunNy’s development has been crucial to mousesports’ success in 2018.

SuNny Miikka Kemppi Mousesports CSGO

3.  Ropz succeeding in anchor positions

Playing professionally for the first time when he first joined mousesports early in 2017, ropz gradually developed into an important player for the team. Not only has ropz showcased incredible skill, but he’s learned to support his team as well. Many of ropz’s positions, such as being the B anchor on Train, require poise and in-game IQ more so than aim. And while he rose up because of his talent, the 18 year-old has proved to have brains as well as brawn. More of a passive rifler, ropz is born to be a stable anchor. He’s grown to be much like Flamie in his prime, a supremely talented player that thrives under T pressure. Any top team needs at least one excellent anchor, and for mouz that turned out to be an 18 year old pugstar. Who wouldn’t thunk it.

ropz Robin Kool mousesports Counter-Strike

4. Oskar becomes the best aggressive AWPer in the world

Oskar’s position in the scene as always been...strange. Rarely under heavy fire for his poor matches yet just as rarely celebrated for his unreal peaks, the AWPer has always been one of the most understated superstars in the scene. And yet, oskar remains a superstar, for good or for ill. Whether or not you think he lives up to the billing, there’s no question that he’s set up and relied on to be the best player on mousesports. “We have only one star,” to paraphrase chrisJ, “and that’s oskar”. He earned the MVP medal at two of mousesports’ most impressive runs, Mykonos and V4, and he’s maintained a 1.16 HLTV rating over 2018, the highest rated player on his team. Oskar’s impact stems from his relentless aggression and his team’s ability to support him when he’s unleashed. Often used as an entry with the AWP, he has a knack for opening frags.

When he’s in the team, mouz live and die by oskar. Their gradual rise to the top was made possible by superstar performances from oskar, and recent stutters in form shouldn’t lead to revisionist history: oskar’s AWPing prowess was a necessary condition to mousesports’ title wins.

oskar Tomáš Šťastný CS:GO AWPer

These four surprises, from chrisJ’s in-game leading, to the rise of sunNy and ropz, and finally oskar’s ascension to superstardom, lead mousesports to becoming one of the best teams in the world in the first half of 2018. While their growth eventually stalled and the roster is on the verge of change, we shouldn’t forget the extent to which mouz defied and surpassed expectations.