After three consecutive top-five finishes in our yearly player rankings, Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski just barely made the top 20 list in 2017, with his early-year highs earning him the #20 spot.
Even though he was playing in the upper echelons of the Polish scene since 2010 and even represented his national team in 2011 and 2012, Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski had to wait for CS:GO to kick off to make a real mark on the scene. As 2013 was coming to an end and the legendary Polish side featuring Filip "NEO" Kubski and Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas wasn't able to live up to their old heights with the lineup they had brought over from CS 1.6, Snax, 20 years old at the time, got the opportunity to join UniversalSoldiers.
Snax had a good individual showing at DreamHack Winter 2013, where he was by far the best player for the Poles, finishing the event with a 1.22 rating, but due to his team going out in the group stage, his performance didn't get that much attention. It was only at the first Major of 2014 that Snax really made a name for himself.
The young Pole was only the third-best rated Virtus.pro player in their victory at EMS One Katowice, but some of his memorable plays, such as the sneaky triple against NiP, would make him a favorite of CS fans from all over the world. As the year went on, Snax became the main star of Virtus.pro, with his clutching prowess and great play in big matches and at the Majors earning him a #4 spot in our top 20 rankings in 2014.
Virtus.pro were not able to pick up another Major win in 2015, but Snax did continue putting up the numbers at the biggest events of the year. He started with a 1.16 rating at ESL One Katowice (3rd-4th place finish), continued with a 1.11 at ESL One Cologne (3rd-4th) and finished it off with a 1.29 at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca (5th-8th). Alongside that, he was the MVP in three out of five of Virtus.pro's tournament wins, topping the charts at the ESEA S18 Global Finals, the CEVO Professional S7 Finals, and the ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational. What also came into play in earning him his second consecutive #4 spot in the yearly rankings was his impact in terms of opening kills, which was the basis for a lot of Virtus.pro's success.
Even though he was known to pick up the gun from time to time before, in 2016 Snax really embraced the AWP and became the main sniper for Virtus.pro. That didn't stop him from finishing as a top-five player once again, with his big event play maintaining a high level, as well as his exceptional clutching—with 57 1vXs won, Snax was the best clutcher of the year. Another thing that Snax added to his game in 2016 was a high level of consistency, as he had an above 0.85 rating in 84% of the maps he played.
Virtus.pro started the year by being one of the few top teams to attend WESG 2016, which by default made them the favorite for the $1,500,000 event. It must be said that the lack of premier opposition made it easier for Snax to look good in the tournament, but a 1.27 rating over 18 maps, with only one game being a below-average rated one, can't be taken lightly. Interestingly, Snax's worst map of the event came in the semi-final against Kinguin, who featured Grzegorz "SZPERO" Dziamałek and Michał "MICHU" Müller—two of his former teammates who at the end of 2016 he had tipped to be potential up-and-coming players.
After an EVP at WESG, Snax came into the first Major of the year with guns blazing. The Pole was the best rated player in all three of Virtus.pro's tight group stage wins, averaging a 1.48 rating over them despite each of OpTic, G2 and Gambit reaching double digits. Once again, Snax had only one below-average rated map throughout the event, Cache against North, but went 27-10 against the Danes on the map before that, Overpass.
Had the Polish side been able to close out Train against Astralis in the grand final, Snax would've been the obvious choice for the MVP of the tournament as he topped the charts for his team in six relevant categories: Rating (1.24), ADR (83.7), KPR (0.83), DPR (0.59), Impact (1.38) and KAST (74.1%). However, an EVP and a second-place finish were what he had to settle for in the end.
Following the Major, Virtus.pro headed into the third tournament of the year, DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. Snax was showing up from the start, putting up good numbers in his team's group stage matches against Misfits, Gambit and especially the group decider against fnatic. After helping his team to reach the playoffs, Snax stood out in their match against mousesports, with that win setting up a semi-final rematch with Astralis.
Even though he wasn't the main instigator, Snax had a solid game in Virtus.pro's dominant revenge over Astralis. The Pole wasn't able to keep up on that level in the grand final against SK, but Snax's inspired performance on Train allowed his team to steal away the Brazilians’ map pick and push the series to the decider, Mirage, where Virtus.pro were able to close it out and pick up their first title of the year.
Snax wasn't in hyper-carry mode throughout the whole event, but still finished DreamHack Masters Las Vegas with a 1.24 rating, 10% above the average of his team, and scored a high round-to-round consistency with 75.9% KAST while maintaining a high Impact rating of 1.23. That earned him an MVP award to go along with the two EVPs from the earlier tournaments.
"We had a great start to the year, I think we were ready because we managed to get out of the slump that we had. I didn’t think about [if this would be Virtus.pro's year then]. I’m always trying to focus on the tournaments in the same way and I think all the guys from my team have the same point of view. Just focus on the next event and be ready for it, doesn't matter if it is going to be a good or bad period of time."
"Individually, I felt OK, because I’m doing my job and the team is working well. In my opinion, it was the best setup for the team, I think that everyone felt good and fit well in our strategy and overall game."
Snax wasn't just OK, though: at this point, he had averaged a 1.26 rating over three events, a medium sized one, a big one, and a Major, making him the best player in the world over the first two months. It seemed like he was destined for another great year and his fourth consecutive top-five finish, but things were, however, soon to change.
"The dark period started one day after Vegas, not before and not after. We didn’t talk like we should inside the team, we had some problems and the way it went was horrible, but there is much more to it... Anyway, it was kind of a good lesson for all of us."
IEM Katowice 2017 followed, a special tournament for the Poles, but Snax started it abysmally. In the first two games of the round-robin group stage, Snax was dead weight for his team, finishing matches against North and Natus Vincere with a cumulative -20 K-D difference.
Snax picked it up individually in the remaining games of the tournament, helping his team defeat Cloud9 and SK, but even with him being the best-rated player in the Nuke game against Heroic, Virtus.pro weren't able to take the win against the Danes and advance to the playoffs. Snax's absence in the early games proved costly, and in the end, left the Poles without a chance to play in front of their home crowd.
With a 0.98 rating, Snax was Virtus.pro's worst player in Katowice, but if that failure was down to him, the next tournament group stage exit, at SL i-League StarSeries S3, was surely a team effort. After a comfortable win over MVP Project, Virtus.pro suffered three devastating losses—16-2 to SK, 16-5 to NiP and 16-2 to fnatic—that eliminated them from the Swiss system group stage. Snax didn't have a good event, finishing with a 0.91 rating, but was still the best-rated player on his team, showing the team-wide struggle Virtus.pro suffered at the time.
"I took over the IGL role after StarSeries S3 and stopped after ESL One New York. The role never bother me at all, the experience was okay, and before, in past teams, I was doing it full time. I had led the team before as well, but not for such a long period as this time. I had to change most of my game, I switched the AWP to pasha and started to be more aggressive and be an attacker."
"So the change was massive for me, I just left the freedom I had before behind and focused on my team more, because that is what the IGL needs to do."
Despite Virtus.pro having a new player at the helm, a similar story to StarSeries repeated at ESL One Cologne. Snax's 0.93 rating was enough for him to top the scoreboard for the Polish team, who once again exited a tournament in the group stage, making it the third time in a row—and a third below averagely rated tournament in a row for the 24-year-old.
Coming into the second Major of the year, one on home soil, in poor form individually and team-wise, things were not looking great for the Poles. But in classic Virtus.pro, fashion, the team got it together and out of nowhere made a deep run at the event. Snax played well in the group stage, finishing only one out of five maps with a below average rating, even though he wasn't the main man behind the wins that got them to the playoffs.
Snax's level was a bit lower in the playoffs, in which they faced North and Immortals, but he was still a consistent contributor in Virtus.pro's 3rd-4th place finish, which is shown in his low DPR (0.65) and high KAST (69.6%) across the nine maps played. Snax admitted that the dreaded thought of bombing out of the Major early and having to go through the qualifiers next time gave them extra motivation to do well in Poland:
"First thing is—everyone knows that qualifiers for the Major are so hard and very exhausting, so that was a kick for us to play better for sure, no one wants to struggle there and waste time. For me, the tournament was also was very important because it was my hometown."
DreamHack Malmö followed after the player break, and when many hoped that Snax was on a path of recovery, the Pole hit a rock bottom. Virtus.pro were eliminated after just two maps, a 16-4 loss to Natus Vincere and a 16-7 loss to Renegades, with Snax finishing the event with a year-low 0.81 rating.
Even though it is considered a medium size event, Virtus.pro faced decent opposition at ESG Mykonos. Snax was in great shape in the group stage, helping Virtus.pro to get the top spot in their group, but had just an average playoff showing as the Poles fell to mousesports and then SK in the third place decider. Overall, it was a decent event for Snax who again stood out with high KAST and low DPR.
The mediocre result at the event in Greece was just a short break from the big event disappointments for Snax and co. Following next was ESL One New York, where FaZe and Liquid proved to be too much for Virtus.pro, leaving them with another group stage exit from what was another very poor event for Snax. That event prompted changes in the team, and Snax dropped the in-game leader role after venting his frustrations on Facebook.
"About my Facebook post, before that, I had heard some bad words, not insults about me or to me, but just the words that shouldn’t be said at all. I was mad a bit and emotional there, but I’m a fighter, I want to fight—I want to be on the top and be among the best ones, not only individually but also with the team, so I sacrificed my own play style and other things to make our team great again. I tried but it didn’t happen, so I stepped down from the role of the IGL and I think I won’t be taking it up again in this lineup."
"Also the Facebook post put me in a tough spot, I wasn’t happy about it at all after posting it because I know the guys a quite bit. So I couldn’t focus on the game like before because I was thinking about that post, and that it would make it hard for the other guys. In the end, I think that it was kick in their asses to play better. I think it worked, but in some way, I fell down a bit because of that."
Even if the team didn't feel an improvement from it right away, as the Poles went 0-3 in maps against Envy and NiP at the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier group stage just a week later, there was a difference in Snax's individual performance. He still finished the event with a below average rating of 0.92, but Snax was by far the best player for his team, scoring 28% above the average of his teammates, and also recorded a high impact rating (1.11) for the first time since DreamHack Masters Las Vegas.
The positive impact of the changes was felt at the next big event, EPICENTER, which featured a fierce competition. Despite Snax's somewhat underwhelming group stage showing, especially in the opening BO3 against SK, Virtus.pro made it to the playoffs, and that is where the 24-year-old started redeeming himself. The Pole stood out on the decider map against G2 and performed admirably on the two maps Virtus.pro won in the grand final against the Brazilians, scoring a 1.48 rating on Mirage and a 1.57 rating on Train.
"EPICENTER was different because it was the first tournament after we changed the IGL role after half a year, we were all probably eager to play big matches. I think I made some very good calls in some hard situations and we all had some good moments. At EPICENTER we also had an incredible CT side, which had been a struggle while I was the IGL. I don't know exactly what happened, but for sure it was a good tournament. Also, Virtus.pro are a Russian organization, so it’s our second home now and that's how it works in our team: if we believe and if it’s important we can win."
Even though the event wasn't an exceptional one for Snax, EPICENTER marked an uptick in both him and the squad, and it was, to a degree, taken over to the following small event, SL i-League Invitational Shanghai. Despite a shocking 16-4 loss in the opening map of the series against Flash, Virtus.pro recovered and took the series 2-1, with Snax dropping 30+ kills in their two map victories. Even though he may have needed to do more in the grand final for his team to win the event over Renegades, Snax had a solid event overall, finishing as the best of his team in terms of KPR, DPR, and KAST.
With an up-and-down 2017 behind him, Snax shared his hopes and wishes for the next year:
"First of all, it is to get back to my standard A-game, I will train like I did before, I won’t be calling. I will start to practice more, watch more demos because I never did it before I became the IGL... I just need to focus on myself again and do the best for my team, be a great team player."
Why is Snax the #20 player of 2017?
The main reason for Snax's #20 placing is the way he started the year. The Pole was the EVP at WESG and a standout EVP at the ELEAGUE Major. In Atlanta, the Pole led Virtus.pro to a second place finish with an incredible performance, boasting the best Rating, ADR, KPR, DPR, Impact, and KAST of his team. When the DreamHack Masters Las Vegas MVP performance is added to that, Snax was the world's best player for the first couple of months of the year, averaging a 1.26 rating over the three events.
After that, he fell off massively and had a number of poor events, which make him the least consistent member of any HLTV.org top 20 list ever. Losing the consistency he was known for in 2016 is something that Snax attributed to changing a lot of things to adapt to the in-game leader role:
"The role of the in-game leader took something from me, for sure, probably calmness and focus. I was leaning more on the tactics side, I changed a lot, all of the defaults on maps, added new tactics that we even used at EPICENTER, along with some from kuben, I changed my role from AWPer to rifler as I mentioned before. I was focusing more on my team than on myself, but I don’t regret it. It was a good time and I just recalled how it is. I would do it again, but not in here. It takes something away that it shouldn’t."
That being said, Snax was still solid at the second Major of the year as well, which, combined with his strong showing in Atlanta, helped him end the year as the 6th highest rated player at the Majors at 1.19. Also, despite a terrible start to EPICENTER, Snax stepped up in the playoffs of the event, which allowed him to finish as the 13th highest rated player in Big event playoffs at 1.11.
One thing that remained the same throughout all of Snax's years in CS:GO is his impeccable clutching: with 49 1vXs won, he is ranked 4th best for 2017. In the end, Snax ended up finishing top 20 despite sacrificing his individual game to lead, something he bitterly mentioned in the aforementioned Facebook post:
"I never cared that much about this ranking, it was like a present to me for doing a good job. If our team would be number one I would be 100x more happier than just with this ranking. So claiming #20 is not making it better or worse."
"I also think that, if this was my very bad year and I still managed to be in the top 20, I can easily bounce back. ;) Also, it only means that I’m gonna train even harder, even more and better than before. This year was very different than others, we learned our lessons - and me especially. So now it’s time to move on and focus on goals."
We asked Snax to pick out a player that he thinks could break out in 2018 and join next year's edition of the Top 20 players ranking, and the Pole went for the newest Natus Vincere addition, Denis "electronic" Sharipov:
"It is hard to tell, there are many new players who have been doing really well, but I think that electronic will be in the top 20 in 2018, he seems a bit different from the others. I also hope this is the year some Polish youngsters like MICHU break out."