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allu and Magisk: The OpTic into their Future

The international lineup of OpTic Gaming from August of 2017 to February of 2018: Photo courtesy of Liquipedia

At the IEM Katowice Major in February of 2019, there were two different distinct runs and storylines during the New Champions stage of the tournament.

One would be the confirmation of a dynasty: Astralis’, which was built on the foundation of being the third team in CS:GO history to win back to back majors. This was another expected, but miraculous run made by the Danes. They played beautifully constructed CS, so much so that during every match any player has the chance of being the “star” of the Danish line-up. Some even consider it “boring CS”. In fact, it was the very first time in history that all 5 players of any line-up in the game, would make the top 20 HLTV rankings of any respective year. An unprecedented feat, but a believable one that was achieved by the deadly and unwavering perfect Danes.

On the contrary, the other would be a Cinderella run that may never ever occur again in the history of CS:GO. This was the miraculous run of the all-Finnish team ENCE. They would go onto to not only upset one of the favourites to win it all, Team Liquid, but also take-down Major semifinalists, Natus Vincere (FACEIT London Grand-Finalists). During every single match in the playoffs, ENCE would be unfavoured. Yet, time after time they proved their naysayers and haters wrong. This run echoed the run made by Brazilian side, Immortals, at the PGL Krakow major of 2017; where they would go on to meet Gambit esports (another underdog run) in the Grand finals. ENCE, the meme in song form , was turned into a hard and cold reality and have shown to the world that anything is possible, with time, dedication and passion.

When all the chaos settled, there are two interesting and amazing players’ whose journeys have been tumultuous, shaky and outright legendary in their own respective state.

Those two would be the Major Grand Final MVP (Katowice), Emil “Magisk” Rief and Finnish veteran AWPER in the scene (ENCE), Aleksi “allu” Jalli. A year ago, allu and magisk found themselves signed to the International Optic Gaming team, which was known as a budget FaZe Clan at the time.

However, if I told you that they would meet in the Grand Finals of a Valve Sponsored Major, of all places, exactly one year later, would you believe me? To be honest, I would have thought that I was on some form of illicit drug or trolling. Yet, here we are - about two weeks have passed since the Major Grand Final. An anti-climatic one, albeit one that showed to the world that ENCE was not simply a meme team. Instead, they are someone who can clearly beat the best of the best. They can rival, compete with and beat tier one teams who are at the top of their games. Something that was clearly too easy for the team.

Magisk during his time with North: Photo courtesy of DreamHack

Magisk found himself onto the Danish team, Astralis, following the departure of Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerbye. A move that would skyrocket Astralis’ chemistry and overall team dynamic to the highest reaches of the sky, the stars. In 2018, Magisk would unknowingly place himself in a situation like none-other. A position on the greatest, most dynamic and talented team in all of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive history.

During Magisk’s 2018, he found himself being involved in Astralis’ second Major run at the FACEIT London Major. They faced CIS super-power and Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko led-team in Natus Vincere (Navi) in the Grand Final. They would dominate Na’Vi in two consecutive maps. Magisk’s run as an individual would also involve a 1.18 HLTV rating.

This was a magical run for an individual who was once benched from the second best Danish team in the scene, North. To give you a bit of context, this occurred back at PGL Krakow 2017 Major. Merely days after North was sent home packing in the quarter-finals of the Major, following a 2-0 defeat to semi-finalists, and Polish plough, Virtus-Pro, Magisk was kicked from the team. In the past, Magisk would play for several different organisations, including “stfu nerd”, team123, SK Gaming, Team Dignitas and most notably North. These were all Danish sides in which he never quite found his home and the right footing.

Magisk with teammate, Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz and coach Danny "zonic" Sørensen of Astralis: Photo Courtesy of ECS

In fact, after a 36 and 37 kill and death ratio and a valiant attempt to carry North to their first semi’s in history, it was reported by the Virtus Pro players that he could be seen crying in the lobby of their hotel. This is indicative of Magisk’s absolute passion and love for the game. This was due to the fact that he had found out that he had been kicked from North, just days after their loss. So, the Virtus Pro team, Kuben (coach included) and co, invited him out for a drink. Kuben stated, “not to worry about that, because this was only the beginning and that he has a bright future ahead of him”. He would continue to say, “You can recognize strong players character in the moment of failure… Some are surrendering with failure acceptance, other are bracing up and start working even harder than before. Magisk is a good example for young players who are starting esport careers and proof that hard practice and self-believing can bring up biggest trophies.”

Kuben saw into the future, almost as if he was a time-traveler - and he was damn right.

Following this benching in 2017, Magisk joined a budget FaZe lineup in Optic Gaming. A change that occurred following the departure of Tarik “Tarik” Celik and Will “RUSH” Wierzba. This killed off that iteration of the Optic line up which slowly but surely combusted because of Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz’s departure to the thirst of greater promise: Team Liquid. That iteration of the Optic line up was done for good once they failed to find a consistent fifth player. Therefore, it was time to reshape the entire team.

This new lineup would consist of both allu and Magisk. Overall, it consisted of great individual pieces to the puzzle. However, what they made up for in terms of individual brilliance, they lacked in team chemistry. It was almost as if the lineup was too talented, something that the 2018-2019 FaZe Clan line ups faced. There was no one that seemed willing to give up their share of the pie, to allow the pie to be consumed by those who rightfully deserved it. Those that would be the shining light in a pool of lights.

Today, Magisk finds himself on the greatest team of all time in the 2018-2019 iteration of Astralis.

allu back to his home-country side team, ENCE eSports: Photo Courtesy of Liquipedia

allu, coincidentally enough found himself being replaced in FaZe, as they added the best AWPer (subjective) in the world at the time. They added the guardian of the game and Slovakian beast, Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács. One hell of addition was going to occur every day of the week. Imagine the Michael Jordan of AWPing being available as a free agent and not picking him up.

From that time forward allu, exactly like Magisk, was phased into a new era of his career: the main cornerstone and AWPer of Optic Gaming. After efforts failed to make the team successful, Optic transitioned into a weird Danish and North-American mix team, but that’s a story for another day.

Allu playing for ENCE: Photo courtesy of ESL

In all of this chaos and movement, allu was not turned away from his dreams and ambitions to find his place in the scene. Instead, he persevered and decided to go back to his roots. As the biggest name that Finland had ever produced, he pursued something to give back to his home country by joining, Finnish Organisation ENCE gaming. This was a team that he had previously played for during the period of September 2013 till June of 2014. Before joining mousesports in that same year. Following that stint, allu jumped from Swedish organisation Ninjas in Pyjamas in 2015 for a period of 10 months, where he would develop his love for Red Bulls. His journey even took him to Team Liquid where he trialed for a week for the NA organization, something that even shocked me. Subsequently, the journeyman, once again found himself in Déjà vu land, as he had rejoined the ENCE team for his second stint. During this period, he spent 7 months in 2016 on ENCE, before he was courted by FaZe Clan. I like to compare allu’s career to that of a world-travelling circus: always consistent and well produced but always temporary in regards to location.

On the 12th of March last year, allu found himself again on ENCE, the third time being the charm. He would act as a mentor to the young and developing Finnish talent on the team. He attempted to build the line up to be a world beater and be capable of beating the best of the best. Something that occurred at Katowice, when ENCE made a playoff run no one and their grandmother could have ever predicted. They would make the playoffs and unexpectedly make a run to the grand finals of the whole Major! A run that involved upsetting Liquid in the Quarters, and beating previous Major finalist’s in Na’Vi during the semis. It was absolutely spectacular to watch this transpire and for a meme to become a reality.

In the Grand Finals, a literal David and Goliath event would transpire. Instead this time Goliath would literally beat David’s skull into dust, except for a close second map by ENCE. When all this chaos was still happening, there simply were two men on both sides of the server. Men who had a career of being a journeyman and attempting to find a home. Two men who would finally find their place in Counter-Strike for the long-term. A home at last, for two players who have an absolute passion and lust to win at all costs.

If I were to tell you that this would have happened a mere year ago, how would you respond? Would you consider me insane, absurd or even an absolute idiot. I would have thought the exact same thing to be perfectly honest. Hindsight is a damn strong drug. However, the truth is that it did occur and I’m grateful for it. They finally found their home. And that’s what we love to talk, watch and write about CS.

Simply because of humble and wholesome stories, just like this one, in which these players found their identity. Whether it took a period of about 10 years for allu and 5 years for Magisk, is not the point. The point is that they finally found a place to harness their brilliant and amazing use of talent.

The ultimate showdown for the two players who were on the same team just one year ago at the grandest stage of them all: IEM Katowice 2019 - Photo Courtesy of IEM

No matter what, success in CS is achieved by hard work: hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears. The fact is that these two individuals have persevered through the struggle of the often volatile and sporadic CS:GO scene. They have made it, but to this day must never relent. They must always remain hungry as they have been for the past year, and only by doing will it prevent them from becoming complacent.

To conclude I would like to paraphrase one of my favourite CS:GO players’ motto, “you would really hate to see that” - Tarik Celik.

William “willy2k” Egerton