After less than a year and a half of playing in the professional scene, Emil "Magiskb0Y" Reif makes his first appearance in the top 20. His incredible match-to-match consistency in the second half of the year and high level of play in SK and dignitas earned him the 14th place on the list.
At 18 years old, Emil "Magisk" Reif is one of the youngest players at the top of the CS:GO chain and also one of the least experienced. His semi-professional career began in May 2015 in the King of Nordic series, where he played in various Danish mixtures alongside players such as Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså and Christian "rezex" Bjerregaard.
"I started playing CS 1.6 when I was around eight years old, so I started playing CS at a very early age. CS has always been a part of my life since my cousins and their friends were always playing it together. Already at that time, many were surprised to see how good I was despite my age, but I never thought about CS as something I would play competitively."
After short stints in MTW and Epiphany Bolt, the then 17-year-old got his first chance in a professional team, SK. He was initially brought on as a stand-in for ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 and other online competitions, but he later on attended his first LAN, Fragbite Masters Season 5 finals, and helped his team reach third place there after a win over questionmark (the original version of Astralis).
"I was playing KoN as a mix team together with valde, SandeN, INX & rezex, so it was more for fun than serious when we were playing KoN, but I remember I was still more nervous playing those KoN matches than playing the EPICENTER finals, since those were my first matches on HLTV and at that time that was big for me.
"But I think the main reason I got to play with SK despite being so new on the scene was because of Friis & karrigan. I was playing together with karrigan in ESEA pugs, where many would say I carried him pretty often ;) At that time it was always Friis and karrigan who were fighting to win ESEA-S and I was always pretty good in pugs."
"So after k0nfig left SK and they needed a stand-in to play ESL ESEA Pro League with them, they decided to give me the chance to show myself with them. I luckily ended up playing well and we somehow managed to stay in the league after being down 0-11 and finish the season 6-16 after I joined. I think playing those online matches was where I realized I could actually play well against the very best teams in the world. At least online :)"
At that tournament, Magisk recorded a performance that to this day remains as one of his best ever, a 1.78 rating which carried SK to win Overpass against fnatic, who then went on to become the best team in the world.
"I was really excited to finally play on LAN with SK, because at the time everyone was calling me an onliner. But it was my first LAN ever, I had not even played any Danish local LANs before that. So I was really nervous, I didn't even know how to setup my settings properly and I was afraid to ask my team for help since I thought it was embarrassing. So in the first match against NiP, I was almost playing on default settings. But beating questionmark and the guys I have been looking up to for such a long time was a really awesome feeling.
"The match against fnatic, who at the time probably were the best team in the world, made me want to prove myself on LAN even more. I had a great match on Overpass, where I was finally playing with some confidence and playing as I would have online. It also helped that the first map was Overpass, since it's my strongest map for sure."
After the last season of Fragbite Masters, Magisk got signed by the German organization alongside Andreas "MODDII" Fridh (who had been standing in for an extended period of time as well) and Jacob "Pimp" Winneche to create a new version of SK officially.
2016 didn't start well for the new SK, who faced Natus Vincere and Luminosity at DreamHack ZOWIE Open Leipzig and exited the tournament in last place, with Magisk finishing well below the average in every category.
The Danish-Swedish squad continued to disappoint over the next two months, as they failed to qualify for MLG Columbus following losses to Vexed and CLG in the Main Qualifier, and finished 5th-8th at Copenhagen Games with Space Soldiers ending SK's journey in quarter-finals.
Something clicked just in time for the CEVO Gfinity Professional Season 9 Finals; the trio of MODDII, Magisk and Pimp powered their team to the second place, only losing to Tempo Storm on both occasions (in the group's best-of-three opener and in the best-of-five grand final). The 18-year-old put up an incredible performance in SK's convincing victory over dignitas to advance to playoffs, and then played his part in the HellRaisers semi-final, earning his first ever EVP award.
When it looked like SK found a way to success with the silver medals in London, they finished last at two consecutive events, the European Minor prior to ESL One Cologne and SL i-League Invitational #1, and another Major eluded Magisk.
The community's expectations of Michael "Friis" Jørgensen's lineup had dropped before the team crossed the Big Pond for the first season of ELEAGUE. However, Magisk and MODDII and combined once again to create a powerful concoction, taking maps off CLG and Astralis and defeating NRG for a second place in the round-robin part. The group's semi-finals saw them falling short to CLG despite Magisk's valiant effort, but SK's results in the round-robin secured them a place in the Last Chance Qualifier.
"Having disappointing results at the European Minor and SL i-League Invitational was obviously not what we had hoped for. I felt like we were playing bad as a team, which is why I tried to focus on my own performance.
"We really didn't have any high expectations at ELEAGUE, but we knew we could do some upsets in that group. I was playing out of my mind, even in the games we lost, so for me personally it was a great tournament where I showed that I could compete with some of the best teams on LAN as well. It was my first tournament on LAN where I felt confident and not as nervous as I used to, which is really important to play well on LAN."
After ELEAGUE's group stage, the SK organization decided to exchange their squad for the world's best team Luminosity. That resulted in ELEAGUE's controversial decision to disqualify both teams from the remainder of Season 1, citing that neither Luminosity or SK could field the lineup they provided at the start of the season.
"We heard rumours that SK were trying to sign ex-LG already in April, but they assured us that it was not true and that we should just focus on playing. Right before the ELEAGUE groups and schedule were released, SK told us we had lost our spot in ELEAGUE due to "not being competitive enough".
"Four hours later the groups and schedule was released and we knew they had lied to us. Looking back at the whole situation now, they probably said that because they were trying to bring in ex-LG, but I think the whole situation was handled very poorly by SK as we were never updated on anything. Instead, we were left in the dark by SK.
"At the beginning I was frustrated by ELEAGUE, but after attending Season 2 and the Major Qualifier, they showed how professional and organized they really are. They have been treating us players really well, and I'm looking forward to play the Major with them as organizers."
Magisk and his X couldn't show what they had in store for the Last Chance Qualifier, but the youngster had already proven that his match-to-match inconsistency was gone, recording positive ratings in all nine maps throughout the group stage for a grand total of an incredible 1.34 rating.
After departing from the organization, the team's era with Magisk ended, as he decided to leave altogether and later on replaced Jesper "TENZKI" Plougmann in dignitas, shortly before the off-season kicked off.
"I had just finished my exams, and cajunb called me and told me they would like to have me on the team. I didn't even hesitate, I accepted the offer immediately. I had many different offers from EU and NA, but I had no doubts that dignitas would be the right choice for me."
dignitas tested the new roster for the first time at Power-LAN, where two of Magisk's former teammates in Heroic prevailed in the grand final. dignitas then traveled to Ukraine for their first big event with the new player, SL i-League StarSeries Season 2 Finals. Despite a not showing up in the opener, a 3-16 blowout against GODSENT, they advanced from their group after beating HellRaisers and taking revenge on the Swedes, as Magisk put up a carry performance on Overpass. René "cajunb" Borg and Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke outshined him in the close Heroic quarter-final afterwards, while against G2 his and k0nfig's efforts on Dust2 weren't enough to push the semi to a third map.
With a semi-final finish in the bag, dignitas attended DreamHack ZOWIE Open Bucharest on the next weekend. Once again, they kicked off the tournament with a loss, this time to FaZe on Dust2 where Magisk dipped slightly below the average. From there on, however, his performances were immaculate. Defeating FlipSid3 and FaZe, dignitas advanced to the semi-finals to face Virtus.pro. The Poles blew them out of the water on Mirage before Magisk made the difference on a 30-round Cobblestone. VP then prevailed on Overpass at 16-13 in spite of another beastly showing on Overpass by the 18-year-old, as dignitas added another 3rd-4th place to their name.
Magisk explained why he feels so comfortable on Overpass, which is statistically his best map (1.29 rating on LAN in 2016):
"Overpass is a map where I feel very confident, you can do so many different things. I also think my playstyle fits very well on the CT side where I can push, take info peeks, do risky plays and at times play defensively. It's probably the only map as CT where I feel like my playstyle fits very well."
WESG Regional Finals Europe followed, which dignitas had to attend with Philip "aizy" Aistrup instead of Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel due to the event's rules stating that teams need to field five players from the same country. Facing mostly lower-tier competition, the Danes clinched their first trophy with Magisk, who powered them through the event alongside star sidekick k0nfig.
After another local event called League of Sharks took place and dignitas took revenge on Heroic for Power-LAN, EPICENTER: Moscow was around the corner. Like everyone else in Group A's best-of-two round-robin, Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen's five exchanged maps with all three teams, Natus Vincere, NiP and G2, and finished third due to round difference. Passing fnatic and Natus Vincere in the playoffs, the Danish-Norwegian side had the chance to get back at Virtus.pro in the grand final and did just that, after losing Nuke and dominating the Poles on Cobblestone and Mirage on the way to their one and only big title. Magisk was incredibly stable throughout the entire tournament, although he barely missed out on the MVP, which went to the other half of the star duo, k0nfig, who had the lower rating overall but more impact in the nine maps dignitas won.
"The biggest moment for me personally in 2016 has to be winning EPICENTER. It's something I have always been dreaming about, and winning such a huge tournament is something I will never forget. The feeling to lift that trophy and see how much it means for a guy like cajunb to finally get that "big win" was a really fantastic moment."
Following their victory in Moscow, dignitas flew all the way over to São Paulo for ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals, which took place on the next weekend. Only Magisk showed up to play in the groups, where he recorded one of his best performances all year (2.28 rating vs. NRG on Mirage) and earned another PotM award in a 16-14 win over NiP on Nuke, but it wasn't enough for the Danes and Norwegian to advance to playoffs, as otherwise, they lost all of the remaining matches.
After a turbulent couple of weeks, dignitas had more than a fortnight to prepare for ELEAGUE Season 2 groups before their crazy amount of travel started all over again. With two victories in Atlanta, one of which was a close Cobble against EnVyUs and the other a one-sided affair on Overpass versus a Dennis "dennis" Edman-less fnatic, RUBINO and company returned to Europe for DreamHack Winter.
"It's not a secret we have been attending way too many events in the last three months. It's tough to stay away from family and friends for such a long time, but with time you get more used to it.
"Travelling so much doesn't really affect my personal play, but of course it affects the team play because you don't have time to prepare new stuff for each tournament. When you travel this much you actually end up playing way less, so before every match I always wake up early and play as much as I can before our matches."
That turned out to be one tournament too much; dignitas exited the event in Jönköping in last place due to close losses to Kinguin and FlipSid3 and flew right back to Atlanta for ELEAGUE playoffs. There, an unlucky draw put them up against SK, who edged their way past the EPICENTER champions after two one-sided affairs and a close decider on Overpass.
Because Magisk skipped the ECS Season 2 Finals due to school commitments while dignitas used valde, his next (and last) event of 2016 was the ELEAGUE Major Main Qualifier. On their way to a Challengers spot at the upcoming Major, dignitas defeated Spirit, CLG and G2 with a loss to GODSENT in between, and Magisk returned home with an other-worldly performance against the North American squad (29-10, 2.02 rating on Mirage).
When we asked Magisk about the expectations he set for himself and what he improved on in 2016, he highlighted communication:
"I think my biggest improvement is my communication with the team. In SK I was just doing what people told me to and talking very little. Today my communication with the team is much better, I come up with ideas when we're trying to mix up our playstyle, which is something I would never have done in SK.
"So taking the initiative and trying to help the team more than I used to in SK is my biggest improvement. I had never expected that I would improve this much, but playing with so many good and experienced players has helped me so much individually."
He didn't have much to regret last year, although he wishes he would have listened more to his teammates' advice:
"I don't really have anything to regret, 2016 has been amazing. I do, however, feel like I should have listened more to people when they were trying to help me improve as a player. I had a tendency to "defend" my mistakes when I should have listened and learned more from those mistakes. Every player has their problems, and for me, that was probably the biggest one."
Magisk also talked about the areas of his play that he wants to work on in 2017:
"Every player will always have something that they can improve on, even the very best. For me personally, I would like to be better at adapting quicker in-game when something isn't working for me. I will still work on communicating better with the team, but I will also put more focus into helping the team more if I'm not playing well myself. It's something I have had problems with in the past, it's gotten better with time, but there's still room to improve on it even more."
Why is he the 14th best player of 2016?
Throughout 2016, Magisk was recognized as the EVP three times, at two medium-sized events (CEVO Gfinity Professional Season 9 Finals and DreamHack ZOWIE Open Bucharest) and more importantly at EPICENTER: Moscow, where he was very close to getting the MVP.
"I would say my best tournament where I felt most "in form" has to be EPICENTER. I played really well individually at that tournament. I was really surprised by myself that I was capable of consistently playing well against the best teams in the world. I think it's really tough to talk well about myself, but my performance at EPICENTER is something I'm really proud of."
At eight of the ten events he attended that were considered for the top 20, he finished the tournament as his team's best-rated player, including all five big events he played and three medium-sized ones.
Thanks to his incredible consistency from ELEAGUE Season 1 onward, Magisk was the best-rated player out of everyone considered for the top 20 list (1.16 rating). In fact, he was also the best-rated player at the big events with a 1.22 rating, which goes on to prove that he excelled against the best teams.
To explain his impact in even more numbers, he was ranked fourth highest in kills per round (0.79), fifth highest in ADR (85.4), and second highest in rounds in which he had a kill, assist, survived or was traded (73.6%).
However, what hindered him from placing higher was the fact that he didn't get far at most of the big events he attended and as such a significant amount of his big event numbers come from group stages. It is also worth noting that he has the lowest amount of big events played out of all players in the Top 20 and he missed both Majors, meaning he wasn't tested at the big stages as often as most other players and it cost him a higher spot in his first appearance on the list.
"Nowadays there are so many great talents who people don't know about yet. But I think frozen is an insanely skilled player despite his young age. Taking frozen's age into consideration and how much time he puts into the game, I think he can become one of the best players with time and the right chance to prove himself.
"I'm not sure he will be able to make the Top 20 players of 2017, but no one would have taken me as a candidate for Top 20 at the beginning of 2016. So who knows!"