Number 19 in the top 20 ranking powered by EGB.com is FaZe's Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer. The 25-year-old had an underwhelming start to the year with fnatic, but his contribution to FaZe's success in the second part of 2017 helped him keep his place in the top 20 for the fourth consecutive year since breaking out in 2014.
Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer started his career in Counter-Strike 1.6. In the last four years of the previous version of the game, from 2009-2012, he was seen playing alongside names we now know well, like Richard "Xizt" Landström and Markus "pronax" Wallsten. While he enjoyed smaller successes in some of his stints, the Swede never proved himself a top-tier player until CS:GO came around.
Putting himself on the radar in his first big team, LGB, who placed 5th-8th and 3rd-4th at the first two Majors, olofmeister would go on to join fnatic in mid-2014. Throughout the rest of the year he became a star, helping his new team reach new heights with four titles in six tournaments to earn his first entry into our Top 20 ranking with a 12th place.
fnatic picked up where they left off in 2015, dominating with 11 titles including back-to-back Major wins while olofmeister made a step up to superstardom as the best player of the year. 2016 wasn't as successful for the now 25-year-old, however. After getting off to an amazing start, he was struck with an arm injury in March just before the first Major of the year, MLG Columbus, and took a break to rest after going out in the quarter-finals in the United States.
"It's hard to say if we would have won MLG Columbus [had my injury not happened], but I'm 100% certain that we would have been a lot better. Even if we won that major, at one point or another we would have disbanded, because our team chemistry was really bad and it showed as soon as we started to get bad results. We did not understand what a good team we really had and took it for granted, which we all understood later on…"
"From the start I just thought I would play the same way I always did, but it's hard when the arm isn't 100%. It's something I'm still trying to fix, but it's not that easy. After playing a while, of course I had to think differently and it still something I try to do today."
Unable to go back to winning ways after his return, fnatic broke into two pieces before 2016's off-season and olofmeister was tasked to create a new team with Dennis "dennis" Edman at his side. The Swedish scene suffered instead as neither of the two parts could return to their former glory, but thanks to the great first portion of 2016, olofmeister came away with the eighth place of our ranking.
"First of all, we were stuck in a bad situation. We had to make a team fast because of the roster locks and we didn't really have that many players to choose from, which led us to a few lineup changes during the season, so we never really had the time to get good teamplay in.
"We lost three (one came back [laughs]) world class players with a lot of experience, which is super hard to replace. But the biggest challenge was not having an IGL and that was the biggest challenge for any Swedish team at that time, there was a real lack of leaders. It's starting to come now with Golden etc., but we need more!"
Like many others, fnatic kicked off 2017 at the ELEAGUE Major. It had already been decided well ahead of time that they would make changes after the tournament concluded, with Jesper "JW" Wecksell and Robin "flusha" Rönnquist set to come back and revert the changes fnatic had made in mid-2016. Perhaps it helped the struggling team relieve pressure, as the Swedes placed third-fourth — well above expectations — after a 3-1 record in the Swiss group stage and a successful quarter-final against Gambit. Save for the fairly one-sided semi-final versus Astralis, olofmeister was a consistent presence throughout the tournament.
"We decided to be honest with both our teams and just said the truth one month before the event. Everyone took it really well and understood why we decided to get back together, and after having a team talk we decided not to practice at all before the Major and just go there to have fun and do our best.
"I'm sure that we would have done worse if we had practiced with that team, because without practice we just went there with zero pressure and the freedom for all players to do whatever they wanted. Super hard to read for the opponents but also nothing that would have worked in the long run."
Then came the official roster change, as the late 2015 to mid-2016 version of fnatic came back together after the two sides realized they had made a mistake, a disappointing several months in both camps later. Apart from natural gameplay changes, the team also revamped their map pool, with Cobblestone making its way out after Nuke was reintroduced, despite the older version of fnatic having been one of the best on the map:
"We had our differences on Cobblestone, whether it was a good map or not and if we really were good on it, and we thought we had to mix something up with putting Nuke in the map pool.
"I'm pretty sure that we weren't as good as we used to be on it, but I was one of the players saying that we should play it more, the reasoning being that we used to be really good on it. Also for myself it's hard to to the same moves as before as pretty much everyone is ready for it and obviously I don't have the same confidence in doing it as I once had."
The move didn't have the desired effect, though, as the new-old squad exited DreamHack Masters Las Vegas in the group stage at the hands of Gambit and Virtus.pro, and the struggles would only continue as the months went on.
Despite olofmeister's valiant effort at IEM Katowice, where the Swede stood head and shoulders above the rest — especially excelling at opening up rounds for his team as the best player of the event in that regard —, fnatic were faced with another early departure after disappointing to finish off close affairs against Astralis and Immortals; the latter in spite of a 12-3 lead after the first half.
"I remember that everything really felt good for me individually at IEM Katowice and that the arm felt really good, which led to a lot of confidence. At the same time, I probably never had a worse loss than the one we had against Immortals in my entire career."
fnatic seemed to be making good strides when they advanced to playoffs at StarSeries in April following a month free of tournaments, but the Swedes took a step back again in May, falling short in the group stage of ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals. In Dallas, fnatic won three out of five matches in the round robin, but it wasn't enough to push them to playoffs on its own due to three teams tying for second and third place (with SK and EnVyUs). The trio played a set of mr3 tiebreakers to decide who goes through and fnatic didn't make the cut in the end after two losses.
Between the two events, olofmeister's role within the team changed, as he toned down his aggression and was much less involved in opening duels, although it didn't seem to have a lasting effect on fnatic.
"It's a mix of the things I said above and also the roles you get in the team. We tried a lot of different things to make it work, both as individuals and as a team."
Staying in their home country that time around, olofmeister & co. attended their only smaller-sized tournament with this lineup, DreamHack Open Summer. After hitting a bump in the form of a quintuple-overtime loss to CLG on Train, where olofmeister did his best to keep his team in the match, fnatic survived a close decider with Gambit and took down Immortals in the semis, but SK were too strong to handle in the final and snatched the trophy after a 2-1 win.
Throughout the first portion of 2016, olofmeister kept an above-average form despite mostly poor finishes, with the exception of DreamHack Masters. However, he then went on a decline and played two of his worst tournaments of the year, ECS Season 3 Finals and ESL One Cologne, with the Swede recording a measly 0.74 rating at the former due to an underwhelming elimination match against Liquid.
"I don't remember anything from the Liquid game at ECS and I don't want to either, to be honest. We always for some reason struggled against Liquid in fnatic and that was just a shit game."
It was then time for the second and last Major of 2017, PGL Krakow, which would become olofmeister's last tournament in the black-and-orange jersey that he had donned for three years. He played a pivotal part in two of fnatic's three wins in the groups, against FlipSid3 and G2, to finish 3-2 in the Swiss stage and schedule another Gambit rendezvous in a Major quarter-finals — the third in a row. That time, olofmeister & co. came up short and left the tournament in 5th-8th place.
It was clear that fnatic hadn't been able to replicate any of their form from late 2015 and early 2016 despite fielding the exact same lineup, with confidence being a key factor, as olofmeister put it:
"The main reason I would say is confidence. Back then everyone in our team had super high confidence and everyone was scared of us no matter the result, likewise no matter the result we never lost our belief and confidence that we would win. That takes a hit in both the individual play and the teamplay.
"The team chemistry was good, though, everyone really tried hard to make it work, but it never really worked without a leader. Also having the history we had had, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves that we wouldn't accept anything else than a win. If we didn't win we basically came last, no matter where we actually placed."
It turns out that the former best player in the world got an offer from FaZe during the Major alongside Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, but olofmeister wasn't sure whether to accept it or not at the beginning.
"I got the offer during the Major and at first I didn't really know what to do. FaZe was a better team than us during that period, and I also knew that it was pretty much a guarantee that if we didn't win the Major we would make changes in fnatic.
"Even if it maybe was an obvious choice for some people it was a hard decision to take because of all the history I had with fnatic and the organization as a whole, they always did everything by the books and treated us the best way possible. Also, I owe them a lot because they are a big reason for me going pro. After the major was over I told them I needed a few days do think about the decision and to talk it through with my family and friends. I'm super happy with the decision I took and I think it was good for both teams!"
The very beginning of the new FaZe was slow, as was olofmeister's among his new teammates. DreamHack Masters Malmö at the end of August ended up being just a learning experience for the fresh lineup, who then went back to the drawing board to prepare for two tournaments in the U.S., ELEAGUE Premier and ESL One New York.
"We didn't have that much time to practice before Malmö as the negotiations between the two organizations took longer then expected, and we couldn't practice before it was a done deal. We wanted to do better there, of course, but we learned a lot from each other that event and had a long talk with each other while watching the vods."
"I can't and don't want to take as much space as I did in the old team, we have "new" and better players for that (for now [winks]). Also it takes a while for me to become really comfortable in a team, in the first half a year or so in fnatic I was pretty much the same I am today. It takes a time to gel with your team! And the other players are super easy to play with, everyone just wants to win but sometimes it can be hard because people are too nice... I mean, we can argue about who should take the drop, as nobody wants to take it because they think someone else should take it [laughs]."
Little could we have known that we would witness two of the most dominant runs of the game's history. Something simply clicked in FaZe, who started their mission in Atlanta in the second week of September with 16-9 and 16-6 wins over Renegades and Na`Vi in the group, respectively, and proceeded to grab the title in New York not only without losing a map, but also averaging less than six rounds lost per map throughout the entire tournament. The streak wouldn't stop there, as the European squad traveled back to Atlanta in mid-October for the ELEAGUE Premier playoffs and took down EnVyUs, North, and Astralis to grab their second consecutive title and go 15-0 across the two events.
During the two tournaments, olofmeister played some of the best Counter-Strike we've seen from him for over a year, for which he earned two of his five EVPs (Exceptionally Valuable Player) in 2017.
Fans and pundits alike could only wonder for how long the streak could go, but it didn't take much time. FaZe kept it during the EPICENTER Wild Card qualifier against TYLOO later in October to make it 17-0, but the main tournament proved to be tougher than expected for Finn "karrigan" Andersen's squad as well as the Swede himself. While at the previous two tournaments olofmeister rarely dipped in the red numbers, it was the other way around in Saint Petersburg. He finished the event with a 0.90 rating — the lowest in the team for the first and only time — while FaZe exited the tournament in groups after a narrow win over Gambit and losses to SK and Virtus.pro, the eventual finalists.
"Everything just felt off at EPICENTER and I don't know why, I'm pretty sure I had a lot of hours going into the tournament, but it just didn't click. Being as rain was off as well and he had basically never been "off" since me and GuardiaN joined the team, we just played badly. Also, we always try to do something as a team almost every day we are away, but for some reason we just didn't do anything at all and I think that affected us as well."
The team dubbed super quickly recovered and so did olofmeister, who was once again a consistent contributor throughout the groups and semi-finals at IEM Oakland, helping FaZe make the grand final. That time it was NiP who stood in the way and outlasted their opponents after a grueling best-of-five, however, as the FaZe Clan went back across the Atlantic disappointed.
FaZe looked to be on their way to another final appearance at BLAST not a week later, but tight losses to North and Astralis in the round robin put them just outside of that realm of possibilities. Nonetheless, olofmeister added another solid performance to his resumé, mainly thanks to marvelous play on the offense (1.40 rating on the Terrorist side) en route to third place overall.
ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals, the last event of the year containing both of the top two teams, SK and FaZe, followed and — to the delight of all fans of good Counter-Strike — the two met in the grand final to settle who the best team in the world is. The Brazilian team confirmed their edge over the European squad, who had been unable to take down SK in series even in the previous iterations.
"The first time we played SK I felt a difference in the communication and that we were a little bit more stressed than usually, but in the other games I felt like it's been more close. And of course they are the team to beat and have a mental advantage.
"However, I have been on the same side they are on and all it takes is one or two wins and that mental advantage is going to go away, so hopefully we can beat them and make it a more even match-up during 2018!"
To end the year on a high note, FaZe traveled to Cancun for the SK-less ECS Season 4 Finals. Astralis once again bested them in a best-of-one in the winners' match, but otherwise the No.2 team in the world encountered little resistance, passing Cloud9 and fnatic in series before squaring off against mousesports in the battle of two multinational mixtures. FaZe had been the clear favorites, but the final proved to be a massive challenge, as all three maps went to at least 30 rounds, with the last two going to overtimes. olofmeister was up and down during the Mexican event, but he stepped up when it mattered most, pushing his team over the edge with a superb 1.50 rating on the last map, Mirage.
Needless to say, FaZe's attempt to create the best team possible out of scattered European stars back in the off-season seems to have succeeded, which may lead to more teams venturing the same way in the future, olofmeister believes:
"I'm not sure about this superteam name as everyone is calling it, but I'm sure that more and more teams will try the multinational way!"
The moment when he joined FaZe is also the main memory from 2017 he will keep for years to come.
"My main memory will be joining FaZe Clan and being happy that I took the right decision."
Why is he the 19th best player of 2017?
While his last seven months in fnatic resulted in little success aside from second place at DreamHack Open Summer for which he got an EVP, olofmeister's level of play in the second part of 2017 helped FaZe secure three titles, ESL One New York, ELEAGUE Premier, and ECS Season 4 Finals, and earned him four more EVPs.
Although his overall 1.08 rating is the lowest out of all the top 20 players, unlike most players' olofmeister's numbers didn't drop in the playoffs or in the grand finals he played last year (averaging a 1.08 rating in both regards). In the six grand finals he was part of during the year he always recorded a 1.00 rating or better, which speaks to his impact on the big games and ability to deal with pressure.
Other than that he was a good all-round presence as usual, as he put up above average numbers in opening kills (0.11 per round) and clutches (43 in total, ranked seventh best), with over half of his clutches coming from events where his team made a deep run (DreamHack Open Summer, ELEAGUE Premier, IEM Oakland, and ECS Season 4 Finals).
However, a lack of standout performances prevented him from placing any higher, as did a number of poor showings at events such as ECS Season 3 Finals, ESL One Cologne and EPICENTER.
When asked to name a player who has yet to make a name for himself and could skyrocket to success in 2018 to even earn his place in the next Top 20 players edition, olofmeister picked one GODSENT's newest additions, 15-year-old Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin:
"There is so much talent out there so it's hard to take just one, but I would like to say some Swede so I say Brollan!"