Leadership is a nebulous concept and a whole lot more goes into it than making calls at the beginning of a round. The work of an IGL often doesn’t show up on the stats sheet and it’s always easier to keep the firepower and ditch the brains when things don’t work out.
The community has always been harsh on low-fragging high-planning players, but the phenomenon seems to have reached new levels recently. Orgs also often tend to follow suit, and this season should prove an interesting benchmark for how teams will do without their previously respected but currently maligned in-game leaders.
Fortunately, pro CS:GO never turned into a pure fragging game, despite the best efforts of, well, karrigan in 2018. As the levels of play continue to rise, no team can assemble a level of aiming talent – not even FaZe 2022, destroyer of worlds could make the game about outfragging instead of outplanning.
Just look at how much went into that insane Nuke round in Cologne:
Still, big-brain tactics won’t get you far if you’re essentially playing 4v5: the times of pronax the predator are long gone. Except, of course, if it’s a 4v4. Looking back at Katowice, when neither FaZe nor G2 had well-established protocols (the former because of a parade of jks stand-ins, the latter because of recent roster moves), and the difference in the individual fragging output between karrigan and Aleksib was a big part of why the series went the way it did:
The slight uptick in karrigan’s individual form over the past year of CS:GO matches made a huge difference. Before ropz’s arrival, the setup was all too often about his suicidal entry attempts and an ensuing 4v5 that was not realistic to turn around even with the information gain.
Which brings us to HooXi. G2’s new in-game leader was greeted with a lot of skepticism based on his past fragging output against teams lower down the ladder. While this is entirely fair, the overblown reaction to two poor series and a decent one is not. The protocols are not in place and the roles are not yet fully set. It’s not like any of the parties just happened to realize that “wait, this plucky little Dane is not that good at shooting people”.
Besides, decoding the performances of an IGL is near-impossible by just watching a game or looking at the stats page. Leadership is all about soft skills, the ability to earn your teammates’ trust, to get the most out of them and to forge them into a well-oiled machine. Be it a shouting hype man or a voice of calm influence in the chaos, a good leader diminishes the tilt factor and keeps the spirits high, and has enough respect of his teammates to ensure that his decisions are respected.
We have no idea so far whether HooXi will nail down these intangibles on G2 – and whether they will be enough to compensate for any lack of a fragging output. What we do know is that Aleksib hasn’t, and didn’t.
One of the overlooked storylines of this summer’s rostermania is how two of the most highly-valued IGLs of recent years are both falling down the pecking order. Though it was tough to evaluate ALEX based on nothing but his time on Vitality (and the same goes for Aleksib’s stint with ENCE), the available dataset just keeps growing and growing. Are they officially overrated, or was it all a set of really bad circumstances that led them where they are today?
Looking back at their preceding stints, an interesting pattern seems to emerge. ALEX failed to reach a consensus with kassad (which is just much of a spectacular failure on the part of Cloud9 as on either of the individuals) and didn’t mesh well with the Swedish contingent of Fnatic. Meanwhile, Aleksib lost the trust of the ENCE squad and failed to tangibly improve the OG squad over his tenure, while tilt and disagreements were clearly visible by the end of his time on G2.
Also, he aged like a US president. Contrast and compare Cologne '18 and '22:
Both of them are benched now, with no realistic chance of participating at the Rio Major, and no matter where they go next, it seems like the interpersonal aspects of the job are the ones that need shoring up, not the tactical playbooks. In this new season, their absence will be just as interesting as the presence of their replacements.
Sometimes, the game just passes you by. For fraggers, it’s easier to chart a decline or a necessary change in roles: with in-game leaders, this can be more difficult to accept. It’s tough to get recognition in the role, but once you do, your credit lasts for a long time. Also, much like Napoleon, top IGLs face a unique challenge where their innovations are adopted by everyone else.
They can still be decent but they lose that aura of greatness unless they manage to innovate again. Today, gla1ve and FalleN are still around but no longer challenge for trophies. The only people who managed to climb back to the top with vastly different rosters? A certain Dane by the name of karrigan, and a plucky Swede known as pronax.
Quite a challenge to meet.
Images via HLTV