"Who is the best Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player in the world?"
Fans ask the question in forums and among friends every year. In today's CSGO landscape, many would immediately answer with Natus Vincere's Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, but it turns out that the true answer might be a little more complicated.
The problem lies in that fans only remember the flashy plays, like s1mple's famous flying no-scope double kill during MLG Columbus 2016.
Counter-Strike's team-based gameplay and the need for tactical communication makes its players highly dependant on one another, sometimes making it difficult to discern each individual player's true impact on a team.
Step one in determining the best of anything is setting the criteria. Does a player have to have the best individual stats over a certain period of time? Is it the player that always comes through when their team needs them the most? Is the "best player" in the world just the "most impactful" one?
In the quest to determine 2019's best CSGO player, it turns out that there can be more than one right answer. And there likely should be.
Team Vitality’s Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut is the best player of 2019, but only if fans just look at the raw statistics. His overall numbers are better than s1mple's. To add more to ZywOo's case, the young star has managed those stats on a poorer team. s1mple's Na'Vi is in contention regularly, while Vitality is lately hit-or-miss at every tournament.
s1mple's leads ZywOo in only one category: kill to death differential or the difference between a player's number of deaths and their number of kills. But there's a mathematical reason for this that has nothing to do with skill.
ZywOo's 1.4 kill to death ratio is better than s1mple's 1.23. Since they both have more kills than deaths on average, s1mple's longer career makes his +5511 differential higher that ZywOo's +3532 based purely on time played.
Other than that differential, ZywOo leads s1mple in every other major statistical category that ends with a 1.30 career rating for ZywOo compared to s1mple’s 1.23.
While ZywoOo’s stats may eventually level out as he continues to compete, he is currently the best statistical player in CSGO. So it seems pretty cut and dry that he's the best player in the world.
But being the best CSGO player in the world isn't only about stats. Sometimes, it's a player’s performance in high-pressure situations that can set them apart from their peers.
Casters, analysts, and fans all call him " the clutch master” for a reason. Xyp9x has the incredible ability to overcome situations stacked against him.
The Astralis rifler has a +175 record in clutch situations over the course of his career. With Xyp9x on the server, opposing teams can never let their guard down, even if they have a numbers advantage. Fans got to see one of Xyp9x' trademark clutch plays earlier this year at the StarLadder Berlin Major.
Ask any pro player the one person that they wouldn’t want to be stuck in a one versus one with and the majority would probably answer Xyp9x.
Xyp9x spoke out about what he feels when he's caught in one of these high-pressure situations earlier in 2019.
"When I’m on the stage, I can find another level of focus that I can’t really access elsewhere. I like to make the comparison to a rock climber that doesn’t have himself clipped to the rock with ropes. In that situation, they cannot just 'try' to succeed, they just have to climb the rock or their life is in danger. Counter-Strike is slightly less dangerous than that, but the principle applies," Xyp9x said in a piece that he wrote for The Player's Lobby.
It doesn't matter exactly how he's able to do it. What’s important is that Xyp9x can bail Astralis out when things go awry. It’s a skill that only Xyp9x posses to this degree, and that's a huge asset when the rest of his team could also make lists of the world's best players.
But what if Xyp9x's clutches only mattered twice a year? Who would take takes the top spot then?
Marcello “coldzera” David has the honor of being the highest rated performer at CSGO majors. Over 72 maps played in Valve-sponsored Majors, the Brazilian has posted a 1.25 rating. For the sake of comparison, the average rating of Astralis' five players is 1.05, and the Danish team just won their third consecutive Major in a row.
None of that seems to phase coldzera.
He reached his peak in 2017 at the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta with a 1.28 rating and a +64 kill to death differential. At the following PGL Krakow Major, cold ended the tournament with a 1.40 rating and a +62 kill to death differential over only six maps. Those are fantastic statistics.
There’s something about coldzera that seems to feed on the atmosphere and he is consistently in the right place at the right time for the big play. If that happens once, it's luck. If it happens all the time, the player is making it happen.
This clip from MLG Columbus 2016 is a classic example of what coldzera is capable of.
Although coldzera's performance at the 2019 Katowice Major was his third-worst, teams have always counted on him to perform in the most important CSGO tournaments of the year.
There are more options, of course. But the reality is that a truly perfect Counter-Strike player doesn't exist. There are just a whole list of "bests."
Arguments could be made for Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and his ability to balance in-game leading while also making a big impact on the scoreboard. It all depends on the criteria.
Despite CSGO being a team game, big names still dominate the news cycle even though super-teams have rarely panned out. Even if an organization signs the five best players in the world, it won't necessarily win them many tournaments.
CSGO isn't about having the one best player. At its core, the game is one about how a squad works together, how they complement one another, and how they come together as a total package.