In late June, mousesports celebrated the summer solstice by replacing STYKO with snax. It was a bold move, and it was met with heavy skepticism. With the removal of TACO and boltz in SK and now STYKO in mouz, the stock of the role player hasn't been high of late. Once again, a team chose to cut a support for more firepower, a trade-off seldom met with optimism among pundits.
We should, however, overcome this initial discomfort and judge each move on its own merits. While 'support versus star' is a valid lens of assessment, a player is more than one of these labels. So, in an effort to judge the STYKO-snax move fairly, let's dive into the new mousesports now that it has two events under its belt.
First, the results. ESL Cologne was the team’s first event, and with it came series losses to G2 and ENCE. Here, a best-of-one win against Gambit serves as no consolation. ELEAGUE Premiere was kinder to the squad, who managed series wins against FaZe and Fnatic; losing only to Na’Vi and Astralis. Overall, there was a marked improvement from the first event to the second. This roster has already achieved notable series wins, suggesting that they’ll be at least decent. Remaining a solid team was no guarantee, so the improvement is sufficient to call this start a positive sign for mouz.
Now, the meat. Stylistically, mousesports has fancied individual plays more than it did before. There’s been a lot of standing in smokes, and not just by snax. Once the tempo of the round rises, mouz goes straight for the jugular, flexing their firepower on their opponents. Interestingly, these plays mostly manifest in the mid-round, especially on the CT side. They’re using individuals plays not to instigate pressure, but to respond to it. Playing this way is chaotic, but it complements the roster very well—snax, sunNy and oskar were born for this style of play.
When it comes to opening up a round, however, mousesports has a bit of a hiccup. In their previous roster, the team’s entry attempts were divided evenly ~22% between chrisJ, oskar, and sunNy. At this time, albeit with a smaller sample size, chrisJ has 30% of mousesport’s entry attempts, and amongst the other players, only oskar is above 20%. Fortunately for them, chrisJ also boasts a 59.6% success rate on entries, earning him a (hilarious) 1.36 entry rating. But while mousesports have one of the best entries in the game, they rely on him much too much to create space — a strange thing to say for a team with oskar as well.
On T side, it’s rare to see anyone but chrisJ initiate the first duel, something that makes their strategies very linear. In most of their T-side strats, mousesports only have one way into the round, and success depends solely on chrisJ. When he fails to open things up with a multi-kill, mousesports have a hard time. Trading kills have been an issue for them, and they haven’t thrived in clutches either: they won 7 clutches in Cologne, and 19 clutches were won against them. That’s a -12 round difference based on 1vX’s alone.
As was the case with the previous roster, mouz relies heavily on breaking open a round to win it. Their fundamentals aren’t as strong as the likes of Astralis and Liquid, and superstar talent can’t steal rounds for them like it does for FaZe and Na’Vi. Consequently, mousesports has historically relied on clever set-pieces built around early aggression and well-crafted executes. Turn it into a 4v2 and try not to throw has always been their implicit motto. With only a single initiator, mouz’s engine loses a lot of horsepower. What’s strange about this is that their aggressive potential hasn’t gone. While STYKO did do some entry work for mouz, sunNy and oskar simply make fewer aggressive plays than before. As of yet, this hasn’t explicitly bit mouz in the ass, given chrisJ’s ridiculous entry success. Implicitly, however, it has limited the win conditions the team has. To be fair, this may be a consequence of an as-of-yet limited playbook that relies heavily on brute-force. Much of the subtlety of mouz’s play is gone, and that could be because they are integrating a new player, and more elaborate set-pieces come later in the team’s development. It’s worth remembering that the previous mouz roster wasn’t great to start with—it improved steadily over the course of many months.
So what’s the pulse here? Is this roster move going to be a success?
Depends on what we think composes success.
Primae facie, I thought this team would be at the bottom of the Top 10 with Fnatic, North, NRG and G2. With this forethought in mind, this lineup should exceed my initial expectations. Their match against Fnatic, very much in this low Top-10 range, was very close — but despite poor team-play mouz won through dominating their opponent in the firepower department. The progression of the previous lineup suggests that mouz will become more polished over time, sanding the (very) rough edges that kept Fnatic competitive in that series. Taking into account this improvement, mousesports should be better than a Fnatic or a North on the back of their talent, as they were before. Given my expectations, the move has turned out well.
My expectation isn’t the ultimate barometer of success, however. To be as fair as can be, we should measure success with the expectations of the team in mind. Interestingly, high expectations served as the impetus for the roster move in the place. In an interview with HLTV, chrisJ describes the thought process behind the decision:
OK, we are going to the playoffs again". It became a normal thing, we should always reach the playoffs and we want to do even more. We want to go and play in the finals again, at least, every tournament... we just felt that with that roster it is not going to be possible
It’s the ambition to become a Top 3 team in the world that drove mousesports to add snax — and this should be the criterion of success by which we judge this roster. With this in mind, it’s hard to see where the upside is with this team that was missing in its previous incarnation. With STYKO, mousesports had a reliable anchor, a good clutcher and a capable entry when need be. While snax brings pazazz, that counter-pressure we spoke of earlier, he hasn’t brought much of those other three qualities thus far. And since snax hasn’t out-fragged STYKO, pazazz is the only upside he brings as a player. This would be a net negative if it were not for the fact that mouz was in dire need of a reinvention, especially given their tired form on Mirage. The move is fine, but snax doesn’t bring enough to elevate mouz to Top 3 status—at best, it will be more of the same.
Photo Credit: ELEAGUE