Written by: Duncan "Thorin" Shields
Justin "jks" Savage is not just the star of Renegades, but also the closer. When the tactic breaks down or the bomb-site has been taken, all eyes are upon him to figure out the puzzle and apply the requisite skills to secure a difficult round. As the first hope Australia has had of having their own Counter-Strike super-star, jks carries a burden that extends beyond merely his own team's expectations that he win them games.
Clutch round situations, typically when a player is alone against one or more opponents, carry a distinct and unique type of pressure. There are many all-time great players whose talents did not particularly extend to those components of the game. On the other hand, there have been fantastic clutch round players who were very much specialists and made their name from overcoming those situations, but perhaps did not shine in other aspects of the game. The defining characteristics of a good clutch round player are poise under pressure and intuition.
When most professional players are faced with a 1v3 situation they immediately lose much of their confidence, knowing the odds are stacked against them and they will need either a little good fortune or excellent focus to have a chance at still winning from such circumstances. jks does not look as if he knows losing is an option. His expression remains the same and he sets about the task of understanding the parameters of the problem facing him and then quickly deciding upon the first step of the solution.
Breaking the round down into a chance at taking the next kill, players like jks thrive in clutch round situations due to their poise and ability to withstand the pressure without letting it skew their judgment. To call their actions intuitive may seem to invoke some sense of the mystical or supernatural, but it is more that they seem to have intelligent decision-making encoded in their DNA. For such players, it is not that they are super-computers who calculate every possible move and then select the best course of action, but rather that they have an intuitive sense of where to go and how to make quick but effective decisions.
Born for Success
Upon joining VOX Eminor (the old organization which housed the now Renegades team) at only 18, it was outlined in the statement from VOX's manager that jks had been recruited for his "ability to multi-frag early and win one versus X situations late in the round". It would take around a year and another roster move before the world would really come to realize jks's potential.
At Gfinity Spring Masters II, VOX should have had no shot at progressing from the group stage. They had been placed in a five team group with FNATIC, the best team in the world; Na`Vi, a very dangerous dark horse team; and NiP, veterans who had been and done it all in Counter-Strike. jks would deliver one of the best individual performances of the tournament, putting his team close to a play-off berth. Against FNATIC, the most dominant team in the world, he had a monster dust2 performance and went 52:36 in kills to deaths. Against NiP, his train performance showed he could battle even legends of the game. While a bad series against Na`Vi cost VOX their tournament lives, it was clear he had been the primary factor behind them being in position to move on in the first place.
The problem for fans of the team and Renegades themselves is that they have not been able to perform at that level again. Thus, questions are asked as to whether they over-performed or caught the European off-guard and have since had their opponents adapt to their style of play and neutralize them. Regardless, jks continues to deliver quality clutch round performances, even if he is not the fragging monster he was in that tournament in London.
jks is not a player who puts huge numbers on the scoreboard from map to map, a role more suited for fellow Renegades star Azr. Instead, jks's strengths lie in his cool temperament and his aptitude for winning clutch rounds. His aim is not spectacular, but it is consistent and precise. The Brisbane boy uses terrain well to find the right duel opportunities and chop up the round. Interestingly, one of the few teams he has consistently had difficulty against was the old Luminosity line-up, prior to their recruiting fnx and TACO. When one considers that the Brazilian team in question was famed for their smart decision-making in power-play situations, when they have the numbers advantage, it makes sense that jks would have more trouble winning from his typical comfort zone of being alone.
The Weight of Expectations
Azr has the skill to be Australia's star, but has had a number of poor tournaments internationally and previously carried the reputation of being a choker. jks stands out as the primary candidate to become a great player from the Oceanic scene. When he failed to perform in the final of the PGL KeSPA Asian Regional Minor, his team was narrowly edged out by the fiery TyLoo. Renegades need jks, Australian Counter-Strike expects jks to succeed and the world waits to see more performances of the level of that Gfinity outburst. In the first season of ELEAGUE, jks is the player to watch for Renegades and the man who will make the impossible happen when the situations are at their most difficult.