Written by: Richard Lewis
In this week’s column, I planned to write about something focused on the new-look Na’Vi team securing ESL One New York, and the resulting tears of Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács. That can wait though. It’s not every week you to get to talk about a team throwing away a star player just six weeks after the supposed dream move.
You’ll remember our In Focus feature from a few weeks ago, Tomáš "oskar" Štastný joined mousesports from Hellraisers, and it should have been a perfect marriage. It rescued him from a stint in Hades, the ring reserved for talent far superior to their teammates, and brought him into a team that seemed to be ascending. Mousesports was criminally low on firepower and ultra-reliant on the pairing of world-beater Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and the reliable Chris "chrisJ" De Jong. With Štastný, equally comfortable with AWP or rifle added to that mix, the two Germans simply had to play at the level of average pro players and mousesports could be among the top ten teams in the world once more.
The understanding was this was a safe bet. After joining, Oskar had some impressive performances online, and the team picked up wins against decent teams like Dignitas, G2 and FaZe. Their losses were a lot closer in terms of the discrepancy in rounds. You didn’t need to have any deep understanding about the game to see the immediate positive benefits from the move, especially if you had become accustomed to the team’s trademark awful play, even in victory. They hit a nice equilibrium in September, losing only one from eight maps in the ESL Pro League, a split series against Na’Vi. They went into the UK based Gfinity CS:GO Invitational looking like they could even be contenders.
Next, they pummeled GODSENT in their first best-of-five there, and (as it turns out) everyone is doing that at the moment. Yet it put them in a final against a team that was having problems of its own; the fallen French of EnvyUs. Few envied them of late and certainly I didn’t envy their fans. While G2 put together one of the most exciting teams in world Counter-Strike, they had lost that mantle and watching the likes of new recruit Timothée "DEVIL" Démolon definitely sent pulses racing, just not in the way his employers would have liked. This was a team for the taking. Mousesports was legitimately in it with a chance across five maps.
What happened next defies explanation. EnvyUs won in three straight maps, but the score lines were relatively close, one map going to overtime, another a 16-14 win. That isn’t so strange, but the manner of the defeat definitely was. Štastný missed so many routine shots you’d be forgiven for thinking he was playing blindfolded. It got so bad at one point that he was even refusing to take the AWP when it was dropped for him , something the commentators noticed and were baffled about. It was a terrible showing from a player who was supposed to be the missing piece in a puzzle most believed could never be solved.
It must be said the mousesports team is certainly volatile. It’s not uncommon to see them shouting at each other or to get emotional, and I’m not necessarily against this. With a team that has been together for a long time, bickering can be part of the process. It certainly hasn’t done any harm for Virtus Pro who has always had an edge to them, making them more akin to a family than a team. If you’re the new guy though, maybe that can be a tough dynamic to try and fit in to, especially if your perception is immediately rebuffed as being incorrect by a group of four who are more inclined to stick together.
Certainly, some of their former teammates don’t have great things to say about the way they handle any dissent. The forgotten man of German Counter-Strike, Kevin "kRYSTAL" Amend, still calls them traitors after they left him behind in PENTA when they moved to the more prestigious mousesports. You’ll notice this dynamic in most CS teams. There’s a “core” group that has longstanding relationships with each other. This group ultimately controls who plays with them. Then you have the people who they try out for prolonged periods of time. Should any changes need to be made, you know who it is that will have to make way.
And so it was with Štastný. Nine days after signing him, the organization announced they would be “benching” the player as he had “personal issues”, and hoped he could return soon. Perhaps there was indeed something going on in his personal life that would require him to take a short break. Perhaps this explained why he had been unable to focus in those finals in Birmingham. Embarrassingly, they had to use him as a “stand-in” for their ESL Pro Series matches against Virtus Pro and Heroic due to roster rules. Things didn’t seem irreparable. They took three of four maps against superior opposition, proof that things could still work once the specter of real life had been laid to rest.
The same day though, multiple reports started to surface that Oskar was never going to return to the line-up and that the players refused to play with him ever again. The term “personal issues” increasingly looked like a substitute for “personality issues,” which of course isn’t the same thing at all. Undoubtedly, there are financial reasons that prevent Štastný from speaking out, but in the absence of doing so, most have already arrived at the conclusion that he blew his opportunity to be on an elite-level team, and might not get another for some time. At 25, his career is already way behind where it should be, and this latest setback most likely means his next opportunity will be in North America, provided someone will meet what will no doubt be a sizeable buyout. If no-one is willing to set him free, he could be doing little more than playing pick-up games for a year.
While mousesports didn’t confirm the multiple reports in word, they did so in action. Despite having a more than competent replacement on the bench already, Johannes "nex" Maget, they went out and signed a permanent replacement, the Spaniard Christian "loWel" Garcia Antoran. His debut saw him drop 39 frags in two maps as mousesports comfortably beat fnatic. If that continues, Štastný will be little more than a fleeting memory.
It is a reminder of the brutal realities of being a CS pro. I’ve followed his career for many years. I watched him slog away in under-sponsored Counter-Strike 1.6 teams from the Czech Republic for years. In CS:GO, he was a standout in the poor lineups he played in, reduced to the occasional win in small online cups. When he finally got his chance in Hellraisers, everyone believed he deserved it and that sentiment was echoed when he joined mouz. For it to come undone so quickly – literally, a matter of weeks - is crazy. We might never learn the reasons, but it’s unlikely we’ll see him in ELeague this season. That’s unfortunate for all concerned, even if he did something to deserve it.