Number two in our Top 20 Ranking of 2015 powered by EGB.com goes to Natus Vincere's Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács. No other player had such a tremendous impact in a team over the year, and the big numbers he put it on a regular basis helped the CIS team to win some international events and finish second at the final major.
Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács is one of the rare cases of players who have competed at the top in all three iterations of Counter-Strike. He took his first steps in the franchise in 1.6 before making the switch to CS:Source, in which he really made the grade. 2009 was a particularly successful year for GuardiaN and his then team, Reason Gaming, who won all three iSeries events on top of DreamHack Winter and UKeSA Premiership Season 1.
When CS:GO was released, GuardiaN continued to play alongside Slovakian and Czech players in a team called ex-BEASTS, who would win the first big event in the region, MCR 2012, over nEophyte. But it was under the wings of myDGB that GuardiaN would show himself to the international CS:GO community for the first time as the team finished third to Ninjas in Pyjamas at the AMD Sapphire CS:GO Invitational, in Prague, with VeryGames coming in second place.
After internal problems swept through the team, GuardiaN had a brief spell in TCM-Gaming, but despite some promising results the roster fell apart when Richard "shox" Papillon signed for VeryGames to replace Kenny "kennyS" Schrub. For the Slovakian talent, motivation had hit an all-time low, making him consider retirement. One month later, he would join Virtus.pro's Russian/Ukrainian mixture, but his tenure there was extremely short-lived as the organisation would soon cut ties with the players.
Months went by, and at one point GuardiaN flirted with the idea of creating the first big international roster, together with players like Martin "STYKO" Styk, Ricardo "fox" Pacheco and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire. But it was in Na`Vi that the Slovakian found his home, right before the end of 2013. Despite all the problems throughout the year, he still managed to secure the tenth spot in our Top 20 Ranking, mostly because of his contribution to the success of his teams.
In 2014, GuardiaN proved that he is indeed one of the finest AWPers in the game, but he seemed unable to perform to the best of his abilities at big events, which landed him just the 11th spot of that year's Top 20 Ranking. 2015 would truly be GuardiaN's year, but first he would require some weight to be taken off his shoulders by a soon-to-come recruit…
For Na`Vi, 2015's LAN journey kicked off with nothing less than a major, ESL One Katowice. After finishing second of their group with a 7-16 defeat by fnatic sandwiched by convincing victories over FlipSid3 Tactics and Vox Eminor, Na`Vi were thrown out of the tournament by EnVyUs in a three-map game, with GuardiaN putting in 29 frags on Dust2 when his teammates were underperforming to take the game to a third map. Despite Na`Vi’s disappointing 5th-8th finish, which fell shy of their semi-final run at the previous major, GuardiaN was still the second-best performer of his team on a 1.19 rating - the fifth-highest of the entire event - and had the highest AWP kills per round (0.55) ratio.
Upon returning from Katowice, Na`Vi underwent a roster change, with Sergey "starix" Ischuk stepping down from the active lineup and Egor "flamie" Vasilyev being recruited. The then 17-year-old was widely regarded as one of the finest talents in Eastern Europe, but the new Na`Vi team would show at the StarSeries XII Finals that they needed some time to gel. After raising eyebrows with a 2-1 victory over TSM, the CIS side fell short against EnVyUs and Titan and had to settle for a 5th-6th place. GuardiaN had no positives to take from the event as he scored a 0.93 rating (-8 Kill/Death) difference - with this being one of the few times where he had a sub-1.0 tournament rating.
But GuardiaN redeemed himself weeks later during Na`Vi's title run at the ESL Pro League Winter Finals. In Cologne, the team showed incredible composure and went all the way after losing their first match in the tournament against dignitas. The Slovakian did not have the best rating of his team - he finished tied-second with Denis "seized" Kostin at 1.13, behind flamie's 1.16 - but he was still the MVP of the event as he contributed in most round wins, dominated in several other categories - including KD difference, AWP kills per round and entry kills - and had a better performance in the final than the 18-year-old.
Next up were the FACEIT League Stage 1 Finals, where Na`Vi were sent packing in the group stage with two defeats - both against TSM - and a comfortable victory over eLevate. GuardiaN was one of the two Na`Vi players to finish the event on a positive rating (1.17) - the other one being seized - but his numbers, just like those of his Russian teammate, were clearly inflated by the match against eLevate.
Weeks later, Na`Vi travelled to London for Gfinity 2015 Spring Masters 2, where GuardiaN had one of his best tournaments of the year, putting in positive ratings in every match except during a 0-2 group defeat against fnatic. After topping their group, Na`Vi were downed 0-2 by Virtus.pro in the semifinals despite GuardiaN carrying his team with 65 frags (1.12 rating), including 40 in the 22-25 defeat on de_inferno. Overall, the 24-year-old posted a team-leading rating of 1.24 and he excelled in many other metrics, including AWP kills per round, opening kills and clutches won.
With the start of the summer season came Na`Vi's most successful period of the year, but the CIS team would have to wait some more time before they could get their hands on a trophy again. Na`Vi came in third place at the fragbite Masters Season 4 Finals and finished runners-up at DreamHack Open Summer 2015, with GuardiaN leading the team on both occasions, with ratings of 1.12 and 1.16 respectively.
Na`Vi returned to winning ways at the offline finals of StarSeries XIII, in mid-June. The team's campaign in the group stage was extremely disappointing, winning three out of five matches, but their playoff run was incredible as they eased past FlipSid3 Tactics 2-0 before beating EnVyUs 3-1 in the final. GuardiaN played an important role in his team's campaign, posting the second-highest rating of the tournament (1.22, +68) and staying in the green in all but three maps played in Kiev.
GuardiaN and his teammates were able to carry that momentum into the ESWC finals, in Montreal, as the team topped their group on a perfect 3-0 record before beating Renegades, FlipSid3 Tactics and Cloud9 in the playoffs while conceding just one map along the way. Once again, the Slovakian turned in performances in line with his pedigree as he was the top performer overall in Montreal (1.36 rating, +81), leading the charts in seven different categories.
Spain was the next destination for Na`Vi, but this time around the team were unable to extend their winning run. At the FACEIT League 2015 Stage 2 Finals, Na`Vi finished 3rd-4th, with GuardiaN being the second highest rated player on the squad at 1.05 (+15). Before the end of July, Na`Vi flew to Columbus, Ohio, for the CEVO Season 7 finals, and it was business as usual for the Slovakian, who posted a team-leading rating of 1.14 to help his side to clinch the silver medal.
ESL One Cologne was the next event on the calendar, and it was another low-point for Na`Vi, who repeated the top-eight finish from the previous event, and for GuardiaN himself. The 24-year-old was the top performer of his team at a rating of 0.97, but there were no smiles coming from the Na`Vi camp and morale was extremely low.
Na`Vi responded to rumours of unrest within the team by placing second at their following event, Gaming Paradise, where GuardiaN was the second-best player of his squad, with a rating of 1.12 (+33). But poor form saw Na`Vi finish last at the ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational, in Dubai, following 10-16 defeats against TSM and Titan. For GuardiaN in particular, this was a tournament to forget as he put up a 0.75 rating - the second worst of the team.
DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca came up next, much to the relief of Na`Vi, who were finally able to get their game together. After powering the team to the playoffs with 100 frags across five group matches, GuardiaN continued to impress and posted team-leading ratings of 1.25 against Luminosity and 1.84 against NiP. EnVyUs proved to be far too hot for Na`Vi to handle, but still the Slovakian continued to pick up kills left and right, finishing the match – a 0-2 defeat – with a 1.25 rating. He ended up with a 1.30 event rating, the highest of all players in attendance, and was in the top 5 in a whopping 13 stats categories – making him the second-best player of the event, only behind kennyS.
Next up were three trips to the United States, for the CEVO Season 8 finals, IEM San Jose and the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals. The former proved to be a disaster for Na`Vi, who went out after two matches despite GuardiaN putting up the sixth-highest rating of the tournament at 1.12 (+14). But Na`Vi made up for that with a fantastic run at the IEM event, which they won without dropping a single map. With positive ratings in every match, GuardiaN finished the event ranked first in Na`Vi (1.16, +31) and with the title of MVP to his name. Finally, the CIS team ended the year with another impressive campaign at the Pro League Finals, beating Luminosity twice in the group stage and then EnVyUs in the semi-finals but losing to fnatic in the grand final in a five-game thriller. GuardiaN was in great form up until the match against the Swedes, with his grand final performance bringing his event rating down to 1.06.
Why is he the 2nd best player of 2015?
The first thing that comes to mind when addressing GuardiaN's year are his fantastic AWP stats over this period. He was first in terms of total AWP kills (1686) and second in AWP Kills per round (0.42), losing only to Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, who, however, had over 1000 AWP frags fewer than the Slovakian.
Despite not performing to the best of his abilities at ESL One Katowice and ESL One Cologne, GuardiaN was still the best AWPer of the majors, with an average 0.48 AWP kills per round, and had the best record in opening kills per round (0.18) at Valve-sponsored events.
With a +222 record in opening duels, GuardiaN had by far the biggest impact at the start of rounds, on both CT and T sides, although more so on the CT side. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that 22 per cent of Na`Vi's round wins came on the back of an opening kill by GuardiaN, who also boasted a 1.11 rating in round wins - the highest within top 6 teams.
And finally, the 1.59 ratio of rounds won after his opening kill to rounds lost after his opening death speaks of the effect his early aggression had on Na`Vi's success.
A key part about GuardiaN's placing is his consistency - he had a positive rating in 64 per cent of the maps he played and a rating higher than 1.15 in 49 per cent of the maps. He finished 15 out of 18 tournaments with a rating of 1.00 or above and 17 as one of the top performers in his team.
On top of being the MVP at the four different events (ESL Pro League Winter, SLTV XIII, ESWC and IEM San Jose) which Na`Vi won, he was among the top performers at several others, including the major in Cluj-Napoca, Gaming Paradise and DreamHack Summer. And even though the tournaments of which GuardiaN was the MVP were all relatively small, no player was more impactful to their team's title runs and good placings over these 12 months.
What did you think of GuardiaN's performances in 2015? Where would you have rated him? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
There is just one player left in our Top 20 players of 2015 ranking powered by EGB.com. You can keep track of the list over at the Introduction article.