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The new age of Counter-Strike in-game leaders

As some of the most storied in-game leaders hang up their mice, the new generation of IGLs in CS:GO are looking to raise their teams to the top and etch their names into the history books.
The new age of Counter-Strike in-game leaders

At a time where many legendary names take a step back from the keyboard, new names are stepping up as leaders.

These players are not the oldest or most experienced, but have either gained the necessary experience to be considered great themselves or are in the process of establishing themselves among those names.

BLAST Premier Spring Season’s Group B teams all had this concept in common.

Land among the stars

Gla1ve leads the best CS:GO team in the world and quite possibly the best team of all time in the game, but his path to iconic in-game leader was primarily a road to redemption.

While leading Copenhagen Wolves back in 2014, gla1ve was banned and fined by GDK for behaviour at its LAN Finals.

Astralis formed in 2016 with Finn "karrigan" Andersen at its helm. The addition of gla1ve to replace karrigan that October marked the second departure of an experienced player following Marcus "Kjaerbye" Kjaerbye being swapped in for Rene "cajunb" Borg.

Since 2017, Astralis have been a formidable opponent, winning four Majors and claiming the last three back-to-back.

It would be hard to claim gla1ve was anything but one of the greatest in-game leaders in CS:GO and that it is a title he has worked hard to earn while only 24 years old. His domestic counterparts have their own strengths, but only gla1ve has all the trophies.

The setback of having to go through the BLAST Showdown is unlikely to keep Astralis down for long.

Crème de la crème

For a significant portion of the two years he spent on LDLC, Alex "ALEX" McMeekin played under Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans who is widely regarded as one of the greatest in-game leaders not just in his region, but of all-time. He was also in the presence of experienced Swiss player Mathieu "Maniac" Quiquerez who has now moved into an analysis role.

When Ex6TenZ was benched and ALEX took up the mantle of IGL in LDLC, many were skeptical about the Brit’s potential to live up to the reputation of the one before him. A miracle run at IEM Chicago 2018 saw LDLC almost beat FaZe in a close 16-14 Mirage brawl, before a Lower Bracket run that left Renegades, North and NRG Esports stunned.

Team Vitality recognised his talents and recruited ALEX to join the team when Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer was removed at the end of 2018.

The summer of 2019 might have been dominated by Team Liquid’s wins, but Vitality secured victories of their own. Wins and cs_summit 4 and ECS Season 7 Finals also saw Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut show exactly what he was made of.

In the wake of Team Vitality’s victory at the ECS Finals in his hometown of London, many began to appreciate the impact and leadership of ALEX.

While ZywOo is the undisputed key factor in Vitality’s success, the impact of ALEX on the team cannot be denied.

Lead to win

Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov was part of the infamous Quantum Bellator Fire roster that surprised everyone by making the playoffs of the ELEAGUE Boston Major in 2018.

It wasn’t until his time in Winstrike Team that he took up leading, remaining as the only player not benched by the organisation that September as they sought to rebuild around a trio holding a spot in the second Major of 2018.

Natus Vincere was on the lookout for a player to join with its own veteran IGL Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko playing on borrowed time and in the face of widespread criticism.

Boombl4 played under Zeus for around three months before the latter retired, leaving the skilled lineup in new hands.

With further changes coming with the quick return then benching of AWPer Ladislav "Guardian" Kovács, Syman Gaming’s Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy is another change for the team that will require some stability and consistency to allow Boombl4 to show his full leadership potential.

Brain and brawn

The second week of BLAST Premier’s Spring Season saw the juggernaut come to life, taking down Astralis in their opening match and Vitality in the first semifinal.

Benjamin "blameF" Bremer is a name many would not have recognised at the start of 2019, but he comes into 2020 as the leader of Complexity Gaming in the organisation’s quest to become one of the best teams in the world.

He joined the team alongside Will "RUSH" Wierzba, no stranger to international teammates after his time with Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas, who has also been recently released by Cloud9.

With impressive young talent in Owen "oBo" Schlatter, a superstar seeking redemption in Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and North America’s second Bulgarian AWP import Valentin "poizon" Vasilev, Complexity’s roster is a powerful one at blameF’s disposal.

The current hurdle of the Europe Open Qualifiers to earn a place at the ESL One Rio Major later this year will be the next step for the juggernaut to conquer after taking impressive scalps over the BLAST weekend.

Recurring theme

Group B isn’t the only set of teams with young in-game leaders working to establish themselves in the scene. The final weekend will see Group C, featuring promising IGLs of its own.

Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen, now on OG, led the Finnish underdogs of ENCE to a surprise Major grand final at IEM Katowice 2019. His efforts were rewarded with exile, benched from the roster to make way for Miikka "suNny" Kemppi which has been an underwhelming change so far.

Banding together with other Europeans cast down from their own teams, OG’s debut into CS:GO will be looking to step up a gear in London following their own lacklustre ICE Challenge 2020 result.

G2 Esports have broken from tradition, retaining a French core while bringing in a Serbian in-game leader in the form of Nemanja "nexa" Isaković, alongside rifler Nemanja "huNter-" Kovač. While past French IGLs have led to a drop in firepower, nexa is more than capable of holding his own while letting the stars shine on G2.

The future is bright

Counter-Strike celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and more of the names that defined the earlier years and a prominent span of the franchise’s life will inevitably start to make the decision to retire.

We have indeed already seen some of the most experienced in-game leaders retire over the last year such as Zeus, Fatih "gob b" Dayik and Ex6TenZ, but there are still numerous legendary IGLs still doing impressive things on different teams as well as newer in-game leaders who are securing their own places in history one result at a time.