The past few months have served as an immense trial for OpTic Gaming when it comes to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The stress on the team has been taxing ever since the departure of Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz back in February. The team had been through several potential fifths, and various coaches had also come and gone. It seemed as though OpTic was cracking under the pressure of relentless instability.
The images of OpTic Gaming hoisting the trophy at ELEAGUE Season 2 are a distant memory. That chapter of OpTic’s story has come to a close, solidified by the fact that only one piece remains of that victory: Óscar "mixwell" Cañellas. With one era coming to an end, the Greenwall hopes to begin a new one, rebuilding itself around the key brick that is mixwell. After considering transferring Mixwell for some time, a win-win scenario arrived allowing OpTic to retain their best player but also enabling him to return home. Thus, a new international team was born, a mixture of veterans and youth, stars and the struggling. OpTic has begun to refocus their efforts in CS:GO with a shift overseas.
Óscar "mixwell" Cañellas
Mixwell remains as the only returning member from the old days in this new version of OpTic Gaming. Cañellas joined the team back in April of 2016 after catching the eyes of former IGL of OpTic, Damian "daps" Steele. What daps saw at the ESL Barcelona Invitational was a player that was willing to take initiative, to be aggressive, and to be able to do so in a versatile fashion with either an AWP or a rifle in his hands. Mixwell immediately began to make an impression on the North American region with his assertive yet intelligent play making abilities. Whether it be nightly pick-up games or online league play, Mixwell was turning heads. His debuts for OpTic at the 2nd MLG Americas Minor and ELEAGUE Season 1 weren’t a bad starting place, but he wouldn’t truly hit his stride until a bit later.
Once the next season of ELEAGUE rolled around, Mixwell had firmly established himself as a star player. In an incredibly historic moment, Mixwell of Spain led OpTic to a huge title during Season 2 of one of the biggest leagues in the game. It would be only the second time a majority North American team had taken home a big international trophy with Mixwell being instrumental to realizing this dream. Mixwell and the rest of the team continued to play well heading into the ECS Season 2 Finals where they took home a 2nd place finish. Even later when OpTic began to spiral into instability, mixwell held up his form with solid showings at cs_summit, EPL Season 5, and more recently ESL One Cologne.
It bodes well for OpTic that mixwell will stay behind to help craft the team’s new identity. He has shown a knack to have a substantial impact on the game on a consistent basis. There is certainly a risk that taking on a new role may affect his game, but he has proven the ability to rifle on many occasions. There were often times where mixwell was used as an entry rifle alongside RUSH and Tarik. In those moments mixwell impressed with his precision and impact.This new OpTic will also afford mixwell the ability to still take some reps on the sniper, forming a dangerous double AWP set up with allu. Only time will tell if a shift in roles will pan out alongside the rest of the moving parts of the team. However, there is no doubting that mixwell has the potential to carry on as a star level player for OpTic going forward.
Emil "Magisk" Reif
The next key piece to discuss is none other than Emil "Magisk" Reif. Magisk came on to the scene as part of one of the older, majority Danish, SK lineups in 2016. After a few bumps in the road in earlier events, Magisk really found a great rhythm with SK at the time of the CEVO Gfinity Pro League Season 9 Finals and Season 1 of ELEAGUE. Soon afterwards, Magisk joined dignitas, which later became North. During his time under the dignitas banner Magisk consistently put up big numbers on a run that led to top finishes at the Starladder i-League Season 2 Finals, DreamHack Bucharest, and eventually a trophy at Epicenter Moscow. Even when the results began to wind down, Magisk seemingly always got his numbers up until IEM Katowice earlier this year where he began to slow down. This cooling off period for Magisk coincided with the addition of Philip "aizy" Aistrup to North. The addition seemed to take some room away from Magisk, particularly on the CT side. It also has been noted that personal differences began to plague a team that was struggling to build upon the accolades of the previous year. This all culminated in the benching of Magisk for Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså.
Despite his drop in play in recent times, Magisk has shown to be a solid peripheral role player and bombsite anchor. He has a proven track record of being able to perform on a top international level and under OpTic he may be able to get back in top shape. He should also have more room in this lineup and therefore have the tools around him to perhaps once again shine as one of the star players. OpTic’s hopes for success strongly depend on mixwell continuing to prosper as well as Magisk returning to form.
Aleksi "allu" Jalli
Another familiar face joining OpTic in this transition is Aleksi "allu" Jalli. Allu has been around the game since its conception in some of the first Finnish lineups for teams like Curse and ENCE. He began to gain notoriety playing with mousesports as a hybrid player at Gfinity 3 in late 2014 with a top 8 finish, putting up great numbers against the likes of VP, dignitas, and fnatic. Allu would later join NiP as their main AWP and aided them to some top finishes which included a 2nd place finish at the Major at ESL One Katowice 2015. He would go on to play for NiP for almost a year, racking up several more top 4 finishes along the way, but a lack of trophies. Allu would depart NiP and spend much of 2016 back in Finland with ENCE, again shifting into a hybrid role until becoming the main AWPer for FaZe Clan last August. While there were some initial hurdles out the gate, once FaZe acquired Finn "karrigan" Andersen, Allu and the rest of the team enjoyed a great amount of success. In quite recent times they went on a streak that included a title at the StarLadder i-League Season 3 Finals, two 2nd place finishes at IEM Sydney and the ECS Season 3 Finals, and a top 4 finish at ESL One Cologne. The run would come to an end with an incredibly shocking last place finish at the PGL Major Krakow. This distressing conclusion also meant the end of the line for Allu on the team after a year of play.
While it is accurate to state that allu slowed down a bit after the StarLadder title, he remained pretty stable for FaZe Clan throughout his tenure with the lineup. In joining OpTic, allu will be in a position where he doesn’t need to be the main star of the team but can be a luxury if he goes off. His steady play should certainly be able to add to the team in the AWP role. While he has often been pigeon holed as a passive angle holding sniper, allu has at times shown the ability to be a bit more dynamic. As long as he can maintain the level of play he showed on FaZe and perhaps even build on it more, he should be a great addition to help OpTic navigate the times ahead.
Adam "friberg" Friberg
The most surprising move in all of this is the addition of Adam "friberg" Friberg. Friberg is a rare figure in that he has spent his entire career with one team up until this point: NiP. He was with the team since its birth in CS:GO in 2012 and was a big component in the team as a pure entry fragger throughout the entirety of NiP’s domination in the early years of the game. While things began to quiet down in mid-2014, Friberg and NiP still managed to find great form in NiP’s first and only Major victory in August of 2014 at ESL One Cologne. There were many ups and downs for NiP from that point forward as the team head into 2015 though they did manage to have several great finishes at events such as MLG X Games Aspen and ESL One Katowice among several others. However, Friberg’s form really seemed to fall off and never truly recovered starting with the FACEIT Stage 2 Finals at DreamHack Valencia in July of 2015. There were still a few patented moments of magic which led to some trophies such as at DreamHack Masters Malmo, the SL i-League S2 Finals, and IEM Oakland 2016, but NiP’s status as a consistent contender diminished greatly. With that in mind, Friberg would depart NiP, marking the first time NiP made a more drastic move instead of simply swapping their fifth.
After a brief period off doing broadcast work, relaxing, and likely some deep reflection, Friberg now finds himself in a new team with OpTic Gaming. Not only is Friberg in a new home for the first time in CS:GO, but he also has a lot of added responsibility taking on a new role as an IGL. A lot of questions marks loom over the head of Friberg heading into the next phase of his career. Will he be able to rise to the occasions of being a leader, a roles he has never really played? Can he return to the form of his glory days or at least approach it? Can he make this team of players from different countries work? A lot of weight will be on Friberg’s shoulders and a lot of OpTic’s success will depend on the answers to these questions.
Kevin "HS" Tarn
The final player to round out the starting lineup for OpTic is Kevin "HS" Tarn. Tarn has only recently rose from obscurity thanks to his performances in FPL as well as his play in the lower tiers of Europe during his tenure on OnlineBots, Publiclir and a brief stint with the initial Rogue lineup. His numbers on said teams certainly merited an opportunity to take the next step which we saw when he joined PENTA. On PENTA, HS showed mixed levels of form when it came to the PGL Major Krakow Main Qualifiers and the Major itself. While he has shown some potential in some matches, HS is still largely an unknown value when it comes to top international play. His success on OpTic will largely come down to how he develops with more exposure to top competition. It was likely a worthwhile gamble for OpTic to take given the current climate of contracts, buyouts, and the subsequent availability of players, but there is no real telling of where the chips will fall on this move.
Chet "ImAPet" Singh
Alongside an overhaul of the lineup for OpTic comes a new coach in the form of Chet "ImAPet" Singh. Chet received praise for his time on CLG as an analyst and later coach for the team. According to players on the team, namely IGL Pujan "FNS" Mehta, Chet brings great value when it comes to scouting opponents, coming up with counters and new tactics, and self-critique. However, Chet will be up to a whole new task with so many moving parts and an IGL in Friberg who has little to no experience running things despite his years of experience playing the game.
All in all there are a lot of obstacles in the way of OpTic Gaming as they move forward. For one, there are a lot of moving parts, each with their own pros, cons, and win conditions. They must deal with several players who are in slumps or who have yet to prove themselves again. OpTic must also fight though the growing pains of some players adjusting to new roles and responsibilities. On top of all of that, OpTic Gaming faces the same challenges as all international teams before them when it comes to language barriers and cultural differences. This lineup certainly has some talent, and there are some veterans involved who definitely know what it takes to win. At the end of the day it will come down to how the bricks fit together, “trusting the process” as OpTic’s owner HECZ would say. Piece by piece OpTic will look to rebuild the Greenwall that once demanded the world’s attention. The times ahead will not be easy for OpTic, but then again, they never have been.
Photo Credit: ELEAGUE