The cowboys find their way in North America. Those that shoot from the hip, embrace the unknown with confidence and fearlessly decipher problems on intuition alone can find success. North American Counter-Strike has long been defined by the loose play that stems from the individualism of a ‘Wild West’ mentality. It seems as though NA was home to the most self-proclaimed superstars in the world, but the least top twenty ranked players internationally relative to their resources.

Early NA teams earned a reputation in CS:GO for being the home of explosive talent given the freedom to exercise their skill. IGL’s that could idealise structure like Dazed and seangares were few and far between. Stable, tournament-to-tournament, middle-of-the-pack workhorses like Skadoodle or 2015 tarik even less-so. Potential international stars, however, always have been in abundance. There’s been no shortage of promising top-fragging world beaters to float to the forefront of the communities consciousness. There have been few tested systems or balanced line-ups though, to justify or shape the clear talent at the murky underbelly of semi-professional NA play.

As a result, we’ve seen throughout the last three years, NA sides consistently field impressive international calibre star power, but fail to leverage it into rounds to claim results. I’m sure roca has an impressive highlights video floating around on YouTube, as koosta could one day become a world-beatin talent, but it’s not as though they have a Blad3-style system in their region. At least, haven’t historically.

Team Liquid are the side that’s most moved against the grain in this sense. Harbouring the services of one of the most structured coaches in the world in zews, a willing cast to follow his will and a yearn for consistency, Liquid are the team NA has always wanted.

EliGE Team Liquid Jonathan Jablonowski

Liquid push a brand of CS that’s defined almost by its rigidity and structural integrity than actual output of results. Each piece of their system has a clear role, that role makes sense when analysed on the mini-map, the pieces move together, and everyone is on the same page. Nitr0 calls well, but not spectacularly and is fortunate to have the likes of Elige and NAF, two aware mid-round minds to assist him.

The structure exists seemingly because zews himself can’t micromanage the round and has to have the echoes of his oversight reverberate constantly in Liquid’s play. Making their game so watertight and structured is almost a trust thing in that Liquid’s stars simply don’t have the room to make individual mistakes. They’re moulded into being great players through a crucible of systemic pressure and necessity to give up the self for the system.

But CS isn’t built on the Eastern philosophies of self-sacrifice. The West and its outlets for competition glorifies the individual and Liquid’s structure has to have those counter-intuitive pieces of explosive volatility. While they are likely the most structured team in NA history, and the side that goes most against their regions roots, they still have to harness that soul of the cowboy.

TwistZz and Elige are that.

Twistzz Team Liquid Russel David Van Dulken

Both players form two-thirds of the fragging core with the more reserved, yet individually less-talented TACO being a looser second entry. Elige wants to open the round, TwistZz wants to close it fast, and NAF is the safety net if all goes to hell.

Both TwistZz and Elige have that classic NA trope of play internalised into their playing psyche’s but have given themselves to the zews-Liquid system. They are the unpredictable affordances in the almost monochromatic, cookie-cutter style of CS Liquid often lean towards. They give the punch and spice to the Liquid stew.

Elige remains one of the most consistent aggressive T-players in the world. Leaning on spray and positioning more than nasty first bullet aim, Elige can find multi-kills as the tip of the spear. He isn’t a glass cannon stud aimer that finds a headshot and over-extends in the pre-plant. Elige is a tried and tested domestic star who knows how to pressure a lead and dominate the rhythm of an execute. He is a crucial, surgical component for the Liquid system which would otherwise inefficiently grasp at either tactics or late-round talent for their ‘in’ into a round.

TwistZz, by contrast, is playing the role Elige rose to prominence in nearly three years ago - the ‘third-man in’ superstar.

Walking into an already fractured bombsite, TwistZz can be seen applying the post-plant pressure, hunting for the big multi-kills to close out a round or finding the trades to equalise manpower. He is afforded the opportunity to top-frag and often does so. Despite being 18 years old, TwistZz has the confidence of a seasoned veteran when entering engagements. His pressuring, duelling style shuts out top European competitors. When combined with his active, very aware game sense, you get the bridging player between NAF’s late-round ability and Elige’s early round dominance.

Both of these volatile stars have been moulded seamlessly into the Liquid system as well. While they might be pressuring for engagements at the pace of a pug side, it’s done within calculated executes or cohesive mid-rounding. The explosiveness of Liquid’s cowboys is tamed, shaped, and effectively deployed within its foreign system.

While Liquid might be the side that most goes against the NA stereotype and what the region is known for, its pulse is uniquely American. The consciousness and danger of the roster stems from the NA pressure and rhythm that Elige and TwistZz brings. Without it, they lack the sting behind the punch; the spice to the brew; the Western without a cowboy.