Håvard "rain" Nygaard has been increasingly lauded as massive firepower threat. Moreover, by continuously drawing an equivalence between FaZe’s starpower and the likes of G2 and Astralis, his stock as a player is at an all-time high.
But while everyone knows he’s a good player, there’s no clear consensus about the kind of player he is. In fact, when the time comes to develop on his ability, most will talk about him as a quiet but consistent player. This exposition goes to show that people have a limited understanding of what makes rain effective, and how effective he is at performing that role.
In hopes of shifting the consensus closer to reality, let’s dive into how rain plays: his playstyle, his consistency, his aiming, and his capability as a star.
1. Rain as a passive player
Strangely, though most consider rain a passive player, the opposite is true. The best way to judge the aggressive tendency of a player is through their positions in defaults. A passive player like coldzera, who shines later in the rounds, will play positions without much risk of contact with opponents. On Inferno, he’ll stand in bridge, jiggle-peeking apartment windows. Or he’ll crouch in underpass, waiting until his team has set up a B execute. Here, given his characterisation as a passive player, one would expect rain to play in similar fashion to this kind of mid-round player. However, rain plays defaults quite aggressively on nearly every map. On Inferno, he’ll jump into balcony and jiggle-peek boiler and then patio. On Mirage, he sits under window as T, waiting to push into connector. On both counts, rain is dangerously extended, isolated, and forward. He’s likely to meet an opponent, and if he doesn’t, he’ll push onwards until he does. In fact, in both instances given, rain plays the same position as fer: the most aggressive player on any top team. He’s put in forward positions where he’ll be the first point of contact for his team. That means lurking or entry-fragging, depending on the situation. In most defaults, rain is set up to make aggressive plays, surprise the enemy, and open up the map for his team. This distinguishes rain from the typical portrayal of him as a passive player, but one shouldn’t go too far the other way. He isn’t quite as aggressive as k0nfig or felps, however. His playstyle is most like Kjaerbye’s, as they will both take 1-for-1 trades, take seemingly risky fights and serve as entry-fraggers for their teams, but neither will regularly push through smokes without information as to what may be on the other side.
2. Rain as a consistent player
The second aspect on rain’s play that’s misconstrued would be his “consistency”. Though there is no perfect measure for this, some statistics can paint a general picture of who’s consistent and who is not. In this section, the percentage of maps with an HLTV Rating over 1.0 in LAN games played in 2017 will be used. The unduly faith in HLTV’s rating is acknowledged, but very rarely will a decent performance fall under a 1.0 rating, and consequently the statistic will be approximately precise.
Rain finishes with a 1.0 rating or higher in 64.8% of his maps. Two of the greatest in this statistic are fer and coldzera, who both score at a ridiculous 81.8%. Device, another famously consistent player, finishes at 78.4. In terms of comparables, rain resembles most felps and Stewie2k, 65.6% and 64.3% respectively. Neither of these two players are considered to be particularly consistent, which suggests rain is not either. But his skill ignites often enough to keep him in good company here, and while he might not show up as often as other players of his caliber, like Kjaerbye, his distance from TACO illustrates that he’s certainly no slouch as a player. Considering all factors, he resembles the likes of felps and stewie: a good player who runs hot and cold.
For rain, his inconsistencies have manifested itself in big moments in recent times. In the second map of their series versus SK at Cologne, rain was by far the best player on his team, earning a 39-21 scoreline and a 1.62 rating. However, in the first map, he fell flat with with a 5-17 scoreline and a 0.31 rating. At the PGL Major, he was 33-23 versus Mousesports, again the best player on his team. The following match against Flipsid3, he was 10-20. Both recent instances show that rain lacks the game-to-game consistency of a stable player, repeatedly following a great match with a dreadful one, and vice-versa. There are high-highs and low-lows.
|2017/LAN||Maps with a +1 HLTV Rating|
Numbers are not ranking of top players in this statistic but rather rankings according to the players chosen to contextualize the statistic
Rain is likely thought of as a consistent player because, for a long time, not much was expected of him. The fact is, he was the only bright spot on a terrible FaZe team in 2016. Consequently, when he was performing poorly, people would shift the blame away from him and onto his malfunctioning team. On the other hand, when he was playing well, everyone would praise him as the only one performing well. On the most recent FaZe roster, the attention has been on NiKo, and therefore his under-performances, go unnoticed, much like Kjaerbye on Astralis. If rain goes 5-17, it’s not as likely to be noticed as if NiKo had the same score, as it should be, since NiKo is a more important player to the team. Nevertheless, the perception of rain as a consistent player seems to be without foundation.
3. Rain as an aimer
Part of rain’s label as a consistent player carries over to the common conception of his aiming style, though it is seldomly discussed. A consistent player is assumed to have consistent aim, which normally involves steady spray control guaranteeing easier kills, making frag output more reliable. Part of what makes rain erratic as a player is that he shines in upper-middle and long range aim duels. This makes him particularly strong on maps like Cache, which has many long-range angles. Rain consistently takes duels from B Main to Generator, or A Main to Truck, serving as an entry-fragger for the team on those sites. This particular skill allows him get many frags others simply couldn’t, but only if his aim is on point. And since he doesn’t have the backbone of excellent spray control, a bad game for rain can be disastrous. The combination of frequent entry-fragging and streaky aim leave him as a potentially dominant, potentially lackluster aimer, and a fundamentally streaky one.
4. Rain as a star
The biggest question about rain: is he a star? More specifically, is he a second star?
The role is relative, of course. A ‘second star’ on a top 10 team is a superstar in the 20th best team in the world. But, since FaZe is a contender, we should compare rain to the second stars on other contending teams: Astralis, G2 and SK. We shouldn’t expect FaZe’s firepower to be of the caliber of SK’s. As a consensus, coldzera is the best player in the world, and though fer is the team’s second star, and they are both top 5 players in the world, perhaps even top 3. Thinking that rain could become a top 5 player in the world alongside NiKo is beyond unrealistic. Let’s look at Astralis, and Kjaerbye. Kjaerbye and rain have often been compared in this article, and in almost every metric, including style and firepower, they are nearly identical. But there is one metric which makes Kjaerbye an acceptable second star for a contender, and rain not: consistency. Kjaerbye is at 71.2% of Maps with a 1+ rating, more than 6% above rain. That’s not to say that the former doesn’t have his shortcomings. He has had a few, including ECS in recent times. But his lulls are less frequent, and the drops in performance are less steep. A second star needs to be a backbone of firepower for the team, unless the roster is so deep that it’s guaranteed that someone else can pick up the slack. Teams like G2 are inconsistent in part because, behind kennyS, they’ve got no consistent second star. A contributing factor to FaZe’s multiple Top 2 finishes was a great run of form by rain, who seemed to have improved massively since the addition of NiKo. Unfortunately, rain’s play has deteriorated in the last two tournaments , and as a result so have FaZe. His performance at Cologne was quite poor, but it was propped up by an incredible Cache performance against SK. He had two poor maps at Krakow, but they were overlooked due to his great match against Mouz.
The fact of the matter is that when rain underperformed, FaZe didn’t have enough firepower to push through it. In reality, he underperforms too often for his team to rely on him as a second star.
The good news is that rain may not need to be FaZe’s second star anymore. With the addition of GuardiaN, he will share the second star’s burden with someone else, and the usual, “rain is on fire,” won’t be an almost necessary condition for FaZe to win a title. If GuardiaN can thrive under karrigan’s leadership, the added firepower he brings to FaZe could make up for rain’s streaky play. If rain’s on a cold streak, the star power of a refreshed GuardiaN would be able to push FaZe through it. Relieved of that pressure, rain would be an incredible wildcard, with unreal and frequent peaks of form. On top of that, an aggressive AWPer will give FaZe more tools to find opening picks. While rain’s aggression is important for his team, he’s been pushed beyond his limit, bringing his opening ratio down to 0.95. That’s because entry-fragging, when a player’s aim is not on point, is a death sentence. With another playmaker on the team, FaZe won’t need rain to always play positions where he needs to rely so heavily on his aim. If he’s having a bad game, he can take a step back and let GuardiaN and NiKo make plays. Consequently, while his peaks will be just as high, the under-performances won’t be so pivotal. It’s an ideal position for FaZe, who will be able to win without rain’s top form, and are sure to win when he’s on point. While rain isn’t the player many thought he was, with the addition of GuardiaN, that might be a good thing.
Photo Credit: Adela Sznajder / DreamHack