Get You a Man Who Can Do Both - The Rise of ChrisJ
Back in 2016, HLTV handed Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David his first #1 rank in its annual top 20 players list. The impervious Brazilian had multiple MVP performances at huge tournaments; but it was In-Game Leader, Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo who had many people - myself included - convinced he should have taken the top spot. FalleN was fragging at a ridiculous level, and was arguably the best AWPer in the world over that 12 month period; but what made that more impressive was his ability to lead his line-up to tournament wins as a leader, calling on the fly and also opening up rounds more often that coldzera, a primarily late-round player.
What came was a debate of what makes the best player - is it pure impact in terms of frags and clutches, or is it how much your place on the team improves the team? Do we underrate IGL’s because we don’t truly understand their impact?
What made FalleN so good was that he, to some extent, created the SK team. Every round they won, of course, was down to the players who got the kills, but to some extent, FalleN was responsible. Not only that, but he was a truly elite fragger as well - which in my eyes, made him the best player in the world.
Two years later, and the title of #1 team in the world is Astralis. The star-studded line-up of FaZe currently reside in second place, but not only is the team notorious for losing finals - notably the major final against the North American side Cloud9 - but they’ve recently had to play without Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer, and his return may cause a few issues as they have been unable to practice with him.
Step forward Mousesports. Having been on the brink of winning tournaments for a while, they finally broke through and won Starseries and then V4 back-to-back. Whilst V4 wasn’t the most stacked tournament, their main competitors for second place - FaZe - were there. On current form, with other big teams like SK and G2 having problems, Mousesports are one of best teams in the world - a pressure they’ve never felt.
The thing that is so surprising about this is that nobody - NOBODY - ever thought this could be reality when the team was put together. It’s a mish-mash of young talent and players who were thought to never be quite good enough. The stars of the team were either yet to shine so bright, or dwindling. Robin ‘ropz’ Kool was a pugstar, a 17-year old Estonian kid who destroyed the pros in FPL but with literally no experience of the pro environment; Miikka ‘suNny’ Kemppi, an erratic but talented star of the now defunct PENTA Esports, who’d shown flashes of skill but never a consistent level; Tomas ‘Oskar’ Stastny who previously had issues with playing on LAN and had been moved from team to team; Martin ‘Styko’ Styk was taken from Hellraisers where he was never seen as a great player; and the protagonist of this story, Chris ‘chrisj’ De Jong.
There is no greater surprise in this team than chrisj. From flashy but inconsistent AWPer to entryfragging, reliable rifler and smart and affable IGL; from benched second star to irreplaceable caller; the rise of chrisj is truly baffling, and on two different fronts.
He’s become an excellent fragger compared to other IGL’s, and much of Mousesports notorious dominance on Mirage is down to him. Taking the second AWP to the catwalk on Mirage on the CT side has helped make Mouz impervious in middle, but on T side he rifles and leaves the sniping to Oskar. He’s no slouch with the AK47 either, with his distinctive tapping style making him quite deadly on the entry to sites. In big games, chrisj has had monster halves when his team mates started to falter. In the final of Starseries, Chris dropped 41 frags to eke out a second overtime win over NaVi on Mirage. As his team were on the brink of losing, chrisj stepped up and took the brunt of the fragging responsibility and ended the map with a higher HLTV rating than Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev; largely considered the best player in the world. Whilst that is an extreme example, chrisj’s fragging - as an IGL - is among the best.
Pictured: chrisj versus selected IGL’s. Ange1 is oft cited as a good example of a good fragging IGL, and FalleN is traditionally a very dangerous player (he also has the AWP a lot, which helps). Zeus is an example of a more 'traditional IGL', one who frags a lot less to show the disparity between a fragging IGL and a traditional one. Huge thanks to HLTV for the stats and their superb comparison tool.
What this shows is that chrisj can play, which we sort of always knew - he was notorious for some flashy clips with the AWP and SSG notably, but his rifling and consistency has been somewhat surprising. However, what makes it more impressive is that he’s had this level whilst learning to lead. Much of the credit will go to coach lmbt, but learning to lead a team is difficult when it’s your first try, and having this mish-mash of a team cannot have made it easy; and yet against all odds, chrisj has led ‘the budget FaZe’ to surpassing the ‘real’ international superteam.
It’s almost certain that chrisj has helped his young stars ropz and suNny both in and out of the server, too. There was a lot of pressure on ropz especially, but just one look at chrisj’s delightfully jovial social media and it’s full of praise for the young guy, and it’s clear an unlikely friendship has blossomed between the two, which can only have helped the young Estonian settle and grow into one of the smartest CT players on the planet. As a leader out of the server, it seems chrisj’s unfaltering happiness makes him invaluable.
His leading in the server seems impeccable, too. Mouz’s T side on Nuke - a famously tough side - is touted as the best in the world and few teams dare pick it against them. On Mirage, he lets Oskar use the AWP wherever he wants and rotates himself and suNny around to great effect, often peeking short with the AWP but sometimes taking over underpass or top mid when their mid lock is in full effect. When the game calls for some aggression, it comes out from Mouz, and they’re one of the best at getting man advantages.
He’s selfless, too. The MP7 has now become known as chrisj’s signature weapon, as he’s shown some serious aptitude with the SMG - but it’s mainly because he’ll opt for a weaker buy to give his stars their weapons of choice. This isn’t a new concept by any means, but when you’re the second awper and a decent fragger, it might seem unusual to take SMG’s on full buy rounds. One buy that Mouz like a lot is when one player has a lot of money, they’ll pass an AWP to Oskar and buy pistols and just have faith that Oskar will open up the round. What this does is leave one of the players low on money for a full buy - but chrisj always ensures his star AWPer has the big green gun and will take the aforementioned MP7 and yet still put up frags.
If there’s one criticism of chrisj, it’s that his team have a history of choking big leads; and as an IGL it’s often your job to calm down your team and keep them focused. He’s clearly quite an emotional guy, and sometimes the pressure can get to him. However, as Starseries showed, sometimes the best thing to do when the pressure is on, is lead by example - which chrisj did with aplomb.
Is chrisj the most valuable player in the world? For my money, there’s only gla1ve who can do what he can, and even he can’t second AWP as well. Few players are as irreplaceable as he is. You can talk about s1mple, and yes, as a player within the server, s1mple is far and away the best player there is; but in terms of impact on the team as a whole, few players can frag and call like chrisj can. Truly, there are only two players who can claim to be as successful and deadly as De Jong; gla1ve and FalleN are really the only players in 2018 who can compete.
The definitive answer to the question ‘Who is the most valuable player in the world?’ truly doesn’t exist, but as the leader of the best team in the world, chrisj HAS to be in with a shout. An IGL who has helped define suNny, Oskar and ropz as true stars, a fragger who steps up in the big moments and a selfless player who ensures his players have the best chance of winning rounds - surely that’s as valuable as a player who can drop an inordinate amount of kills?