Ranked fourth in our top 20 players of 2016 is Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. The Ukrainian star made the list for the first time due to his exceptional fragging and high impact on his team's wins this year.
Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's rise to fame started at the beginning of 2014 when he took the title at Voronezh Cup with Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy and Georgi "WorldEdit" Yaskin playing under the name "Hashtag". The team became Courage Gaming shortly after that and competed in the SL StarSeries IX online group stage. The team didn't impress, ending up 14th, but young s1mple, who recorded good matches against the likes of fnatic and Titan, was already turning some heads.
"My first victory was with Courage Gaming, that had b1ad3, z1, worldedit and pr1zrak - at Voronezh Cup 2014 three years ago. That was when I understood that I was going to become a professional CSGO player."
"I really want to take this moment to say thank you to my former captain - B1ad3"
Kostyliev joined Amazing Gaming for the next season of the lower division of StarLadder - ProSeries - and took the title over Vadim "DavCost" Vasilyev's 1sh0t before departing to his first professional team in September of 2014 - HellRaisers.
Playing with a team of former stars and superstars in Yegor "markeloff" Markelov, Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov, Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow and Emil "kUcheR" Akhundov, s1mple was quick at establishing himself as the main carry, both online and at LAN events. However, the young Ukrainian's inexperience still caused troubles understanding some of the team aspects of the game. As a result, his best showing in 2014 came at his first Major, DreamHack Winter 2014 - where HellRaisers employed B1ad3 to control the team from the coach-IGL position.
s1mple playing his first Major with HellRaisers
That combination led to HellRaisers beating both fnatic and Cloud9 in the groups before being eliminated by in the quarter-finals by NiP. At this point, s1mple's talent was evident, but the 17-year-old was still released from the team at the start of 2015 due to two things that haunted him throughout his career: a bad attitude toward teammates and his ESL ban.
The ban - which came as a result of cheating in Counter-Strike 1.6 before s1mple's endeavors in the professional scene - was extended due to ban evasion and was set to expire in February of 2016, which would see him barred from two out of the three Majors in 2015. That fact combined with what he himself referred to as "bad reputation" made s1mple a free agent once again.
"[about the ESL Ban and the effect on his career] I felt really bad, I didn't play a lot of tournaments, not even talking about Majors, but I never gave up in my job. That what I want to say to people - always follow your goals and dreams."
s1mple wouldn't be free for long, though, as he would accept the offer to join B1ad3 again - this time in FlipSid3. The team managed a lower-bracket run to the fourth place of Copenhagen Game in their first showing at a LAN, with Kostyliev leading his team with an impressive 1.28 rating.
FlipSid3 would attend a few more LAN's in 2015, but were struggling to make a big result, and it was already apparent that s1mple was at times frustrated with his team. In July, at ESWC 2015 in Montreal, the FlipSid3 used Spencer "Hiko" Martin as a last-minute stand-in for WorldEdit, whose visa was denied. With the North American player in their roster, the CIS side managed to defeat NiP in the quarterfinals, one of their biggest achievements as a team, but went out to Natus Vincere after a one-sided semi-final match. The 3-4th place finish didn't satisfy s1mple though, who was livid at some of his teammates after their 16-1 defeat to Natus Vincere on Inferno - stating that ESWC would be his last tournament with FlipSid3.
Frustration at ESWC 2015, from s1mple's time with FlipSid3
And so it was, at least as a full-time player. s1mple then spent a couple of months playing in Evolution.Dark who later became Worst Players, a roster similar to his Amazing Gaming team from 2014 composed of Vladyslav "arch" Svistov, Ilya "fix" Golovko, Roman "CyberFocus" Dergach and Vladimir "ROBO" Neskey.
s1mple had short stints in HellRaisers and FlipSid3 before the end of the year, standing in for the former at the Major qualifier DreamHack Stockholm and the latter in some online competitions such as the ELEAGUE Road to Vegas Qualifier - both with limited success team-wise.
A new chapter in s1mple's career started in the beginning of 2016, six months after his official departure from FlipSid3. With his ESL ban about to expire and the upcoming Major in the hands of MLG, the Ukrainian star was a desirable commodity on the market. However, with Natus Vincere in great shape and not looking for a change at the time, and other CIS teams already behind him, s1mple decided to make the leap across the Atlantic - signing for Team Liquid.
And the decision paid off almost instantly, as Liquid qualified for MLG Columbus and went 2-0 in their groups of the main event, beating FaZe and fnatic for a spot in the playoffs. s1mple was instrumental in their overtime victory over the Swedes, finishing 37-27 (1.26 rating) and continued his great play against CLG in the quarter-final, where Liquid easily dispatched of their North American rivals.
Reaching the semi-final, s1mple's Liquid already equaled the best North American Major result (compLexity at DHW 2013), but were looking good to go even further in their, now historic, match against Luminosity. After leading both 15-9 on Mirage and 15-6 on Cache, Liquid were unable to close out either map, finishing 3-4th after a 2-0 loss.
"It was a very sad game for us, it was 15-9, 15-11 on both maps. I don't really care about jumping 4k [by coldzera on Mirage] (HELLO VALVE), we lost because of our mistakes."
s1mple played very well over the course of the tournament, including the heartbreaking semi-final, getting an EVP award for his 0.83 kills per round, 70.2% KAST, and team-leading 1.17 rating. In addition to that, he was also the PotM in three out of six maps Liquid played.
Success came shortly after joining Liquid - making the semi-final of MLG Columbus
The period after Columbus was a tough one for s1mple - playing from Liquid's League of Legends team house, separated from his family, friends and even teammates, the haunting way they lost to Luminosity and the poor showing at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2016, the team's first tournament with Kenneth "koosta" Suen - it all became too much to handle for the Ukrainian.
That lead to s1mple taking a break from Liquid shortly after their tournament in Sweden, heading back to Europe to play with his "friends team" Worst Players once again. With the Chinese team Born of Fire withdrawing from SLi Invitational due to visas, Worst Players got the opportunity to attend the LAN tournament and had a good showing in Kiev. As a team no one was expecting anything from, Worst Players defeated the Danish SK Gaming team 2-0 and took maps off GODSENT and the champions-to-be Virtus.pro.
Even though the event was a medium sized one, s1mple impressed with remarkable numbers and against solid opposition: 0.97 kills per round, 97.1 ADR and a 1.30 rating - 30% above his team's average - yielded him another EVP award.
s1mple went back to playing for Liquid after that event though, attending ECS Season 1 Finals. The team's debut with "" went similarly to their debut with koosta - poorly for both s1mple and his team. After winning to G2 in the opener, Liquid couldn't get out of the group stage due to losses to Luminosity and G2 in the decider.
The next event on the schedule was ESL One Cologne, though it had already been public that Liquid had signed Jacob "Pimp" Winneche to replace the Ukrainian after the Major. Another weird situation in the North American team didn't stop s1mple from performing well in Cologne, who picked up his third EVP award of the year for his 1.12 rated run to the grand final. Liquid's deciding match against the Brazilians was the only underwhelming series for s1mple, who was otherwise brilliant, especially in series versus Natus Vincere and fnatic.
His two AWP kills against fnatic at ESL One Cologne made Counter-Strike history
Out of Liquid and with the summer break in full effect, s1mple returned to Europe - but he wouldn't stay teamless for long. The dream move to the elite CIS team Natus Vincere realized before the end of the break as he replaced the longest standing player of the team Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko.
The new Natus Vincere roster was referred to as a super team - with capable individuals in all positions, many have expected them to take the scene by storm. However, they crashed out of their debut tournament with the wildcard youngster - SLi StarSeries S2 Finals - after just two group stage maps. The event on Natus Vincere's home soil was a cold shower for s1mple who recorded his worst showing of the year - a team-low 0.71 HLTV rating.
"Everyone thought we would win [SLi StarSeries S2], but we didn't have that much time to play with each other before the event - that was the main problem."
But as it often went for s1mple in 2016, he redeemed himself at the next tournament - ESL One New York. Taking over the secondary AWP role from Denis "seized" Kostin, s1mple showed what he was capable of in the yellow-and-black jersey by putting up high numbers on a consistent basis throughout the tournament and against teams such as Liquid, SK and Virtus.pro. All in all, he was the main driving force behind Natus Vincere's first big tournament win of the year with 0.86 KPR and 72.1% KAST - rightfully claiming the MVP award as well.
s1mple - the MVP of ESL One New York
s1mple was in form at the upcoming EPICENTER: Moscow, finishing with an above average rating in eight out of the nine maps Natus Vincere played. With the rest of team lagging behind the Ukrainian a lot (s1mple's 1.25 rating was 25% above his team's average), the CIS side had to settle with a solid 3-4th finish after a defeat to Dignitas.
The end of the year went poorly for Natus Vincere, as they were eliminated from the group stages of both ELEAGUE and IEM Oakland, with the latter tournament being particularly disappointing considering the defeats that came from teams such as the slumping Liquid and underachieving Immortals. Even though s1mple's rating wasn't really low at the two mentioned events, his ELEAGUE rating was inflated by a series against ALTERNATE aTTaX, and his round-to-round consistency (KAST%) was pretty low at both competitions - 62.4% and 63.5%.
"It was not bad or a good year for us. We lacked preparation due to a lot of tournaments, we changed a lot of positions, our captain [caller], had to adapt to the new coaching rules - all of that affected us a lot"
"I see my roster as the one of the best rosters in CSGO, I expect everyone to work hard and we will be champions together."
There is still a lot of work in front of Natus Vincere
Why is he the 4th best player of 2016?
s1mple earned a number of individual awards, with most of them coming from big tournament and Majors. He was the EVP and best-rated player in his team at MLG Columbus, ESL One Cologne and EPICENTER: Moscow, and also picked up the MVP in Natus Vincere's only big win at ESL One New York.
Kostyliev attended only one medium sized event - SLi Invitational #1 - but the combination of his other-worldly stats while playing against solid opposition with underwhelming teammates still got him an EVP and benefited his year overall.
In terms of his stats, he was the best pure fragger of 2016 with 0.82 kills per round (ranking 1st), and was also the most impactful player among the top 5, with 112.9 ADR in his team's round wins and a multi-kill in 22.4% of the rounds played (1st).
s1mple's impact could've landed him a higher finish in this year's rankings, but he was limited by his inconsistency both on a round-to-round basis (he was one of the least consistent players out of the top 20 with 69.1% KAST) and tournament-to-tournament basis (out of his ten events, three were poor showings).
We asked s1mple to name someone that he thinks could end up in next year’s top 20 of 2017 ranking, and he went with two CIS players:
"They have already showed up, and both have won MVP awards from tournaments."