Counter-Strike: Free Agent Targets

Written by: Richard Lewis
Twitter: @RLewisReports      

With the group stages of ELEAGUE in the books, and the tenth major looming large in January, some teams will be looking to make some roster moves to either improve on a disappointing year or bolster their chances of victory. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the better free agents likely to find their way to new teams before the end of the year. Let’s start with the Europeans.

 Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad

       Although still contracted to the FaZe organization (and therefore technically not a “free agent”), it does seem that Myrbostad has been deemed a “surplus player”, as the support work of French player Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey is preferred right now. The Norwegian’s last few months in the starting line-up for FaZe were miserable. His last twenty team matches saw him only achieve a positive score on four occasions, a shocking statistic for a player who was such a huge prospect coming out of his performance at the major in Cluj Napoca. There, he was statistically a top ten player, rubbing shoulders with the likes of GuardiaN, Snax, KennyS, coldzera and NiKo. He has been on a downward trajectory ever since.

       In his defense, FaZe has been a mess for that same period of time, a collection of high-performance machine parts without a blueprint or grand design that says where to put them. This made the team wildly inconsistent, and it was rare that the team’s many stars could sync up and deliver at the same time. His raw talent hasn’t left him, and at 22, he is entering a phase of his career that should be his peak time. This player should be at the top of anyone’s wish list if they are looking to add rifling firepower.

Mikail "Maikelele" Bill

       A player who seemingly can’t catch a break, Bill was most recently brought in on a bridge contract for three tournaments with Ninjas In Pyjamas. In his second stint with that team, he was cast out again once Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi recovered from injury. Possibly the most decorated player in free agency right now, he was instrumental in NiP’s surprise win in the StarSeries Season 2 finals in September. His plain speaking earned him an undeserved reputation as a difficult teammate, but his second chance with NiP points to that being a thing of the past, if it was ever true to begin with.

       The definition of a confident player, Bill is a prime example of the “Jack of all trades, master of none” conundrum. A competent if rarely spectacular AWPer, Bill can also use rifles when he has to, and has a decent average when it comes to clutching. Although he doesn’t like to lead in-game, he is a solid motivator and has shown leadership qualities when he assembled the G2 Esports team that went on to become the skeleton of the current FaZe. At 25, it would be unthinkable to see a player of this caliber having to go back and “prove himself” all over again in a tier 2 team, but it’s also unlikely Bill will want to build his own roster from scratch again.

Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný

       Oskar is a player fans have been willing into a big team since his emergence as CS:GO talent in FaceIT’s Pro League, which appeared to have happened when Šťastný was brought into Mousesports. Having already proven himself too big for Hellraisers, where he rubbed shoulders with at least two other world-class players, touted as the answer to their firepower problems. Clearly though, for all his skills on the server, it was a bad personality fit and one that couldn’t be overcome. What seemed like a complete team breakdown at Gfinity’s CS:GO Invitational in September, was bizarrely explained as being mostly to do with practice schedules, left him back at square one.

       He has expressed his desire to get back into a team, although it’s not hard to imagine that he would technically still be under some form of contract with Mousesports, who has shown they won’t cave under pressure to sell in the past. That exact thing happened to then substitute and now star player Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, but the fact that clearly Šťastný has been deemed surplus to requirements (they’ve already replaced him on the roster with promising Spaniard Christian "loWel" Antoran) might work in his favor.

       A small subsection of fans believe his online performances greatly exceed his LAN performances, although that seems to be the result of a small and mostly recent sample size. Any team looking for an explosive AWPer who can also rifle should certainly be asking about this player’s buyout.

Christian "rezex" Bjerregaard

       It is no secret that Denmark, despite its population of only 5.6 million people, has probably the deepest talent pool overall in professional Counter-Strike. With Astralis, Team Dignitas, the majority of Heroic and Jacob "Pimp" Winneche over at Team Liquid, you can see that they are well represented at the highest level. It’s easy to understand how a few names could slip from memory, especially if a player had never played at the highest level. There’s a lot of tier two Danes and former pros who could come back floating around, but Bjerregaard probably has the highest potential out of any of them right now.

       Bjerregaard was part of the Cringe Gods team that impressed at PGL’s European Minor Championship in Bucharest. That team would go on to form the core of the Epsilon team that produced Joakim "disco doplan" Gidetun, who recently joined fnatic, but not before Christian was removed due to the Danish / Swedish language barrier. Since then, his talent hasn’t really been put to good use at all, and was last seen representing Spanish organization Wizards, a team that disbanded this past October.

       This is probably the biggest gamble on the list, but he’s certainly worthy of attention. A competent rifler, he also has a solid understanding of support mechanics. Some may draw comparisons with Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth, and he has shown he isn’t shy when it comes to leading a team, with a very stable head on young shoulders.

John "wenton" Eriksson

       I’ve rarely been complementary about Eriksson during his tenure with fnatic. He looked like the proverbial fish out of water and never convinced as being at the level of his colleagues. This was underlined by what might be one of the single worst performances I’ve seen from a professional player. At ESL New York, he went 5-23 and managed only 20.3 ADR against Team Liquid in a 16-12 defeat. Sure, it might have been his lowest ebb, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the black and orange wilting like that in the face of little pressure.

       You might ask: Then, why include him on this list? That opening paragraph is far from a ringing endorsement, but it’s easy to forget that not everyone can fit into a team of stars when its required of them. Forget nerves, the reality is that more often than not, the new addition is the one who fills the gaps, often leaving them in undesirable positions and roles. It’s also easy to forget that while he’s been around longer than you’d expect, having played in a couple of lesser teams at the end of 1.6’s majestic tenure. In CS:GO, he was also a big part of why Team Preparation achieved a third place finish at Pantamera 2.0, putting in a solid performance in the runners-up match against Alternate Attax.

       It’s not clear why he has never really taken off in the big time. He is well-liked by his fellow pros to an eerie degree. He has played alongside some of the game’s household names and, by all accounts, he has a willingness to learn and improve. Maybe then his next move can be the one that allows him to shine, even if it must be away from the spotlight.

Jerry "xelos" Råberg

       Depending on how you view it, this is either a tragic story, or an example of karmic forces in action. In 2012, he was part of a Swedish team called WRTT, which included Jesper "jw"  Wecksell at the time. The team turned heads with a string of insane performances online. When they achieved a 16-0 win over ESC Gaming (now Virtus Pro), followed by a 16-11 win over the then all conquering NiP, the allegations started flying, and a heated community argument started. On one side, there were those who saw these unknown upstarts as obvious cheaters, that the results spoke for themselves. The counterargument was that this was the status quo pushing back against upcoming talent, that the veterans simply couldn’t accept that they could be beaten by anyone whose name they didn’t know.

       The negative attention didn’t stop them getting picked up by Epsilon Esports, although not before one of their players left. Joel "emilio" Mako, who had been part of their show-stopping victories, would later hold the dubious distinction of being the highest ranking player to be VAC banned live during a competitive game in 2014. Over the next few months, with a still-dubious community, they would bolster the roster with players such as Andreas 'znajder' Lindberg and Robin 'flusha' Rönnquist. Looking back, perhaps it’s unsurprising they were doing well, but at the time, fans were still dubious.

       Then, it happened. One month after winning ESL’s first EMS online Cup against n!faculty, Råberg was banned by the ESL’s anti-cheat team. When it became clear this was done not by anti-cheat software, but based on reviewing replays by the admin team, the community who had called for Råberg’s head were suddenly sympathetic, stating a great injustice had been done. The player maintained his innocence, describing the ban as “embarrassing” for ESL, but despite public support, the ban was upheld. It capped off a terrible month for him, as earlier he had been released from Epsilon, while trying to kick-start the WRTT brand again. For those who saw that team and Råberg as tainted, the ban was validation that they had been right all along.

       In the coming years, Jerry has struggled to settle into a decent team, a fact made all the more painful as he’s seen his former teammates go on to far bigger and better things. Either attaching himself to teams that don’t last long, or finding himself kicked from teams that are looking to give themselves a skill boost, as things stand, Råberg may have cemented himself a spot in history as CS:GO’s biggest bust. He’s certainly not a bad player by any means. With versatility and in-game smarts, he may come with too much baggage for a serious team to gamble on. Maybe there’s a happy ending to this story in the pipeline.