Written by: Richard Lewis
With Team Liquid showing that they once again have the drive and the financial clout to assemble what should be the best team in North America, their geographic counterparts have been slow on the uptake. Cloud9 saw their in-game leader Alec “slemmy” White replaced by Timothy "autimatic" Ta from TSM. Slemmy undoubtedly improved them tactically, but was well below the standard of the rest of his team when it came to firepower. It might be an upgrade, but it won’t generate a lot of excitement. Then again, there wasn’t much excitement when they signed Jake "Stewie2k" Yip either, and he has proven himself as a genuine world star.
Meanwhile, over at CLG they decided to gamble on two unproven players in the form of Ethan "nahtE" Arnold and Yassine "Subroza"' Taoufik, which will certainly raise both eyebrows and questions about their long term chances of success. Still, this unremarkable acquisition wasn’t as humiliating as the situation over at Selfless. Their latest addition, Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte, had been accused of cheating by the team’s founder and manager Steve "Ryu" Rattacasa, and not without good reason. That roster change came with an apology and a slice of humble pie.
There hadn’t been much else to shout about until it was announced that Optic Gaming would bring Tarik Celik in for Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz. Jarguz going out is a blow, given his competency with pistols. He got the short end of the stick with the move coming just as roster locks were being finalized. Still, hard to argue Celik isn’t an upgrade, and signs point to Optic Gaming starting the climb up the slippery ladder of NA Counter-Strike.
If you don’t think of Celik as a big pick-up, I suppose you could be forgiven. He has already crammed more than his share of bad luck into a relatively short professional career. When he joined the mousespaz team, he was touted as a future North American star. While Celik seemingly never got in sync with his teammates, he showed flashes of brilliance when the team underperformed. Then, he slumped as his teammates would peak. It was a frustrating cycle, but not for potential suitors. It was no secret he wasn’t happy with his deal and seemed to have found an exit when Cloud9 expressed interest in December. That move became public after he accidentally showed a Skype conversation on stream and all parties seemed relatively pleased with the prospect.
The move never panned out, as Cloud9 and CLG were unable to agree on a reasonable buy-out fee. Celik had to continue playing with a team of friends, unhappy with the organization. This period saw his personal nadir at the GameShow Global eSports Cup finals. There, he failed to deliver even his usual standard despite CLG picking up some decent results against top European opposition. The pundits, myself included, wasted no time reminding him of the duties of a star player.
As rude awakenings go, it started to work. He clawed his way back to some semblance of form and, alongside Joshua “jdm” Marzano, was a big part of CLG powering their way into the quarterfinals of the Columbus major. There they finished on the same level as fnatic, Virtus Pro and Ninjas In Pyjamas, much better company than they usually kept. Any joy felt by CLG fans, and indeed by Celik, would prove to be short-lived. Marzano’s performances put him in the frame to join Team Liquid and by the time ELeague came around it was no secret the team was coming apart at the seams. Celik had even stated he would likely retire and focus on becoming a full time entertainer.
Thankfully, Optic has rescued him from that fate. It’s an ambitious pick-up for an organization that had given time for their team to improve before any knee-jerk decisions were made. Having made a smart pickup of Spanish import Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas, the team now looks to have distributed talent somewhat more evenly and take some of the pressure off their last acquisition’s shoulders.
There are no real grounds for hyperbole. The Tarik pick-up isn’t going to make them world-beaters overnight. This isn’t s1mple to Team Liquid. It’s a fine-tuning of the engine, not a nitrous injection system. Since his pick-up, they’ve recorded two losses to Cloud9 and Team Liquid in the North American Pro-League, maintaining the status quo. Unfortunately, those games came around too soon, before the team has had time to practice and get settled in to their new, recently unveiled team-house. They’re serious about wanting to improve and don’t look like the American rosters of days gone by, seemingly content to cash the checks and phone in sub-par performances.
That ambition seemingly aligns with Celik’s own, but he’s under pressure here. He’s Optic’s first truly marquee signing, and he has spoken of his desire to improve and win multiple times. At CLG, dealing with losing was easy because that was a team of genuine friends all comfortable with one another and secure in their position. Here, Optic is already receiving flak for taking it too easy on the team they acquired from Conquest, taking a lenient approach when a player slept through a LAN qualifier. It seems they’re ready to be a bit more forceful in their expectations. Tarik needs to match that attitude and show he’s capable of delivering on his promise.