The complexity of CS:GO as a game forces your understanding to gradually widen and deepen rather than come in a series of 'penny-drop' moments. Learning about the nuances and depth of mechanics and macro concepts only serve to show you all the more you don't know. In this way, as fans of CS:GO, we slowly work our way up to appreciate the great players through an evolution of reference points. We learn more deeply what is 'right' or 'wrong', how to traverse the grey area in between, and importantly, what the qualifier of 'legendary' truly means.
Coldzera is one of a few players whose individual play demands leaps, not gradual growth, in knowledge and refinement of our analytical models. Across every measurable criterion of what makes an elite player, Coldzera's recent play is raising the bar of what we expect from the best player in the world tournament-to-tournament, not era-to-era. To slowly come around to the magnificence of Coldzera's play right now is to risk missing one of the most legendary periods of form in CS:GO history unfolding in front of you.
The change-up of bringing Boltz to replace felps in this SK roster has only transformed Coldzera into an even more monstrous player. Since the change, Coldzera has an average rating of 1.29. This rating has been achieved over the most amount of matches relative to any other elite, international LAN player, and also against the best opposition the scene has to-offer right now. Arguably the greatest player to ever touch CS:GO is not only looking for more trophies to bolster his position amongst the other Gods, but he's actually improving on an individual level.
Looking at these averaged stat lines and the broader scope of his achievements is disingenuous when talking about Coldzera though. Every fan of CS knows about Coldzera and that he's the best, but many are only familiar with the tip of the iceberg. Coldzera's highlight clips are impressive on the surface, but miss the real beauty and artistry of his play. Like any great piece of literature, one can't simply read Coldzera's game on face-value or by skimming over the details. Coldzera's individual play is something that should be studied, savoured, used as a platform to jump forward your understanding of the game - not simply timed to a bass drop; such is the magnitude of his mastery.
The initial framing of Coldzera's game should start with his place within SK. Coldzera, in a broad sense, is the round-closer for SK. On T-side, we generally expect Coldzera to be sitting further back in site hits or off holding rotations/lurking. On CT-side it’s harder to define, but, again, generally, he’s rotating into retakes, baiting off of teammates or commanding integral parts of the map like short on Mirage. This sees Coldzera - and by virtue of role as well, FalleN - operate in situations where individual choices and mechanical ability matter the most. Think 1vX retakes, defending post-plant from tough situations, clutching in-general or mid-round impact plays.
In short, Coldzera is the safety net and bedrock for the best team in the world. Not an easy task, but as his stats might suggest, it is one he excels at.
SK is structured such that Coldzera and fer are the primary superstars, FalleN the primary AWPer and backup star, and TACO/Boltz as maybe the two most elite role/utility players in the world. Fer makes his superstar impact through forward pressure, calculated volatility and unrelenting confidence to win an engagement from any angle, with any weapon, and at any time. Coldzera, on the other hand, wins SK rounds through a disgustingly well-rounded and consistent skillset paired with maybe the fastest, most intelligent decision making and positioning in the game.
This divergent pairing of stars has only come about since the removal of felps. With felps in the side we saw fer positioned in more of a pairing than as a sole star; his famed calculated aggression, in a sense, tempered by the ability to rely on a second man to trade and work off of. Boltz more consistently provides a high-level foundation than the oscillating impact of felps for both fer and Coldzera to work with. This has seen both of them - alongside FalleN recently at BLAST - fully reclaim the spotlight as SK's superstars. Because of the playstyles of his teammates, Coldzera is allowed to exercise more aspects of his impossibly well-rounded skillset where it consistently will matter the most.
To actually look at Coldzera’s individual play, one has to look at every element of CS:GO on the whole.
In terms of movement, you're dealing with one of the most dominant and aware players of all-time. He is an expert at seamlessly integrating the entire breadth of what is possible through a keyboard into each of his duels while under immense pressure. Whether it be through subtle crouching and jump-peeking or being comfortable in manipulating seemingly any angle in the game, finding an easy duel with Coldzera is a tough task. This is even more true when Coldzera is afforded space in a late-round situation where the mental game is just as important.
His mind for the game is unlike any other superstar to come before him. If you read Coldzera's interviews, he analytically breaks down all the complexities of how he saw patterns emerge in-game, the strats he suggested to punish them, a solid reasoning for each choice he influenced on a macro level and all in a second language. He is always thinking and always active with maximising impact, whether that be in clutching out a post-plant or directing SK in the mid-round from top-mid of Mirage. FalleN himself replied when asked about bringing Coldzera into the line-up back in 2015: "[Coldzera] is an awesome player and came to make a lot of positive changes on our playstyle. He was definitely a good choice, especially presenting knowledge on strats."
The combination of an intense in-game IQ and pixel perfect movement is the perfect pairing for some of the best positioning of all-time as well. Unless he’s forced into an uncomfortable set-up and/or cleaning up the mistakes of others, Coldzera is someone who demands the most favourable angle to hold in a duel. His conceptualisations of rotations and how best to manipulate them come in a matter of milliseconds and independent of leadership. Coldzera’s movement as a dot on the minimap can at times be as impressive as the action around his crosshair. On top of this, Coldzera is also the secondary AWP for SK, and a world-class sniper at that. Like many of the players looking to chase their place on CS:GO’s Mt Rushmore, Coldzera is comfortable with the big-green and the AK - a true hybrid. This gives the SK roster a hyper-intelligent, secondary AWPing, exceedingly well-rounded, consistent, late-round clutcher who is over the course of the two years since he's joined, likely the best-in-class at all those elements of play.
When we're looking at Coldzera's in-game play, it might actually be easier to describe it by the 'weak-points' rather than the elements of praise. Coldzera is a player who has elite aim but this isn't achieved by virtue of prodigious natural talent like a s1mple or flamie at his peak. For Coldzera to find the flashy one-tap headshots, he has to work hard to elevate his play up to a 'best in the world' level. As such, historically, and as Coldzera himself will admit, we've seen his aim be the key point of failure against other elite players. For example, one of his lowest-performing events, IEM Katowice 2016, saw his aim struggling immensely against an in-form Olofmeister, NiKo, and f0rest.
Yet, despite aim being one of the worst elements of his game overall, he maintains the third highest headshot/round stat line in 2017 at big events and the most headshots of 2017 (so far). When his aim started to placate at around the same time G2 handily beat SK at the EPL S5 Finals, Coldzera decided to reconfigure his practice schedule to be about "13 hours a day" so that he could "have more confidence and [make his] aim good." He grinds to achieve some of the best aim in the world and overcome any potential shortcomings in his play. An obstacle within himself is overcome with force of will and drive to be the absolute best. What else would you expect from the GOAT?
When we watch Coldzera play we are watching at once, a ruthlessly driven competitor and also a master at his craft. CS:GO is, at the most elite levels of play, as much a competitive endeavour as it is an art form. The infamous jumping double no scope from Coldzera isn't what defines an artist of his calibre though. What will define Coldzera as the greatest CS:GO player will be much more subdued and internalised; almost hidden in its subtle impact.
For Coldzera's skillset sees him refine and become the best in areas like, movement, positioning, utility usage, helping with calling, and in-game intelligence. These are the areas that sustain and drive consistency as they can be managed entirely by the dedicated practice of the player. While aim and 'form' can be ephemeral, making the correct choice to peek left or right and knowing when isn't. In this way, Coldzera has opted to try and grapple with the sheer complexity of CS:GO in its entirety. Just like any hardcore fan or analyst, Coldzera is on that same journey of slowly increasing his understanding. The only distinction is that he's leading the way and we are following. So take the time to appreciate the best in the world make the entire scene reevaluate what is possible and what constitutes ‘legendary’.
Photo Credit: DreamHack