Building a Budget Superteam: The Ever Unlikely Mousesports

A deeper look into Mouz's surprising StarLadder victory

MAR 02, 2018

Mousesports, with their victory in Kiev taken into account, are a top-five team in the world. International memories have not served well to truly appreciate how miraculous this milestone is for Mouz. While we’ve been diverted to praising and mulling over events like Cloud9’s major run, and the ensuing roster-mania, Mouz have over the last five to six months become one of the most unlikely success stories ever.

Mousesports have earned their stripes by becoming a side that is balanced, well-structured, yet dynamic, solid on every scope of the game, and incredibly difficult to put down in a series. Each player is capable of delivering impact individually through their respective jobs and they are flexible enough as a team to adapt and overcome a wide-variance on styles. Given the names on-paper, to put it bluntly, it makes no sense at all how they’re able to achieve this or how this line-up was ever going to be perceived as successful in the first place.

When we analyse sides like Mousesports that ‘play more than the sum of their parts’, generally that equation will follow a degree of logic. For example, Gambit in their prime with Zeus ‘made sense’. Zeus proved himself a world-class IGL. He could at once give AdreN the space to dominate as a star while managing the rest of his fragging core and adjusting CT set-ups at a world-class level. We look at how Gambit played in-game, how the names balanced on-paper and could see a world wherein absolute peak-form individual form, this lineup could at least, potentially, find some success. And they did. AdreN defied expectations as an international star over his 2017 run with Zeus; Hobbit cemented himself as one of the most talented and consistent rookies in history, and Mou developed his skill, especially against the grind of elite competition, alongside them.

Mousesports not only transcend their on-paper potential like Gambit on an individual level but somehow have continued this transient performance in areas like macro, roster balance and mentality. They don’t have a storied Zeus-like IGL, they don’t have a naturally cohesive playing unit, and they sure as hell don’t have the international tenure of Gambit’s core. In spite of this though, Mousesports rise and continue to challenge legends successfully in series. While FaZe is lauded for their cheque-book fuelled star-roster, Mousesports have quietly put together a line-up with a similar underlying philosophy but on a budget. Mousesports have used all the freedom that picking from a wide-pool of talent affords mixed-sides and created an inescapably interesting, and at times, confusing roster when it’s in-form.

To start with the least surprising elements of their game. Oskar and his AWPing prowess is the crucial ingredient of firepower in the strange alloy of Mousesport’s team structure. The rest can and do frag, but none with the same level of consistent round-defining force as oskar. The Czech sniper has a long and checkered past with being a driving, carrying force and on Mousesport he slides into a similar role, but with a different structure.

Unlike his result-barren run of form with Hellraisers, amidst misfit talent, Oskar has found new life, surprisingly, through a balanced dynamic. Unlike certain struggling stars who might need a new IGL to funnel their skill, Oskar seems to find his ceiling unlocked through being able to effectively play off of him. He’s so independent a fragger and tenured a carry-force both on LAN and online that a strong leading presence isn’t as much needed as almost inhibitory onto Oskar’s skill.

One of the key pieces around Oskar in this sense is STYKO. Having come from the same mediocre breeding grounds in Hellraisers, but joining the mousesports lineup at a later date, STYKO is the glue which holds the side together. While Oskar’s impact is felt in the post-match highlight clips and can be played alongside bass drops, STYKO is the contrasting role-player that allows these plays to occur. A clutch rifler at heart with a well-rounded and selfless understanding of the game, STYKO is quietly one of the most integral pieces of Mouz’s success. Even if his more subdue impact in the side might make him the first point of change down the line, especially if free-agents like dennis are floating around, in the present, his calming nature is key to balancing the rest of team.

While the addition of Oskar’s former teammate in STYKO to join makes sense, the rest of the line-up looks completely left-of-field on face-value.

One of the most overlooked, but strange additions to Mousesports relative to their success, is ropz. Ropz perfectly filled the CS archetype of a classic enigmatic, rumoured prodigy with no exposure on a big LAN stage but dominate results online. He had no significant experience on a professional, or even, semi-professional team and used FACEIT as his primary platform to showcase his skill.

Upon joining mousesports, ropz filled NiKo’s positions. With four matches at a small Latvian LAN as his only recorded experience on-stage, he was filling the shoes of a legend and looked for round-opening impact immediately. The side realised ropz’s more passive tendencies and looked to transition him more and more into the late-round, safety-net, closing clutch force he is today, especially in the very flexible, post-NiKo mousesports period.

Rather than being told to run to a site and frag or play to his veteran teammates like fitch or electronic have done, ropz is an integral win condition in mousesport’s game. He is the more passive component along with STYKO who act as a foundation for the rest of the side. One can imagine that few teams in the world would be as willing to give a player with as small a resume as ropz a Coldzera-esque role.

The strangest, yet outside of Oskar’s pivotal carrying firepower, maybe the most important ingredient in the mousesports stew is chrisJ, both the entry-fragger and IGL. From being a more washed-up primary AWPing, long-lauded star player prior Oskar’s inclusion to become a rifling leader from the front. chrisJ has been forced to make one of the biggest transformations of style in history to enable the incredible amount of exposure and success mousesports has gotten.

While lmbt, the coach, does most of the leg-work in terms of developing strategies and preparing for opponents, chrisJ can call a solid mid-round game and transitions off the default. Even though elements of their macro aren’t as clean as a lot of the top-10 teams, Mousesport’s game-plan isn’t structured to be an immaculate, textbook to server style-of-game, it’s simply meant to structured around their strengths. This makes it streamlined enough not to bog down chrisJ’s relatively limited calling capacities but dynamic enough to allow individual freedom and adaptations on-the-fly. The teamwork and natural cohesion of this roster which somehow exists despite the differences of age, culture, and experience between the sides, further supplements any lapses in Chris’s macro game.

ChrisJ will often work with the serially underrated and forgotten SunNy to find early advantages in rounds. SuNny, who joined the roster from the ever brooding lower tiers of EU mix-team play, boasts the least known namesake of the bunch. However, in terms of role balance, he is the final, key part of the puzzle. SunNy is that final tipping aggressive element alongside Oskar and chrisJ that gives mousesports their unpredictable punch. Without him, you’d have a team of three more passive components supporting two - at times - unreliable volatile forces. SunNy’s consistent individual form paired with his aggressive tendencies is that X-factor that pushes Mousesport’s above and beyond.

Mousesport’s have struck gold with this team. They’ve utilised one of the best elements of being a mix-team, which is being able to source talent from anywhere, and have created an extraordinarily dangerous top five darkhorse side. There’s no name on this list that would’ve seen play on a traditionally ‘elite’ core before their results together, save, maybe Oskar. They represent one of the most unlikely, yet magnificent results of the evolution of CS:GO as a game while their individual form maintains. While this honeymoon run can’t last forever, the synergy of a team riding peaks of form in a truly unique way is always worth attention and praise. There are lots of teams with the same goals, yet bigger chequebooks than Mousesports, and they represent a potential new-wave in the space.

Photo Credit: StarLadder