In his first appearance in the Top 20 list PGL Major MVP and ELEAGUE Major EVP, Gambit's Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev, snatches the 17th spot of our Top 20 players of 2017 powered by EGB.com.
Despite being a rookie in our Top 20 players ranking, Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev is a veteran who has been around for over a decade, as he became known in Counter-Strike: Source in the game's first year of existence, placing second at World Cyber Games 2005 with a Kazakh team called K23.
After having gone missing for two years, he found his home in that organization again in 2007 when he emerged in Counter-Strike 1.6. While the Kazakh squad rarely appeared on international soil they were able to make playoffs at WCG — one of the game's most prestigious tournaments — twice in a row and take down two of the world's best teams, SK and mousesports, in the group stage at IEM IV Global Challenge Chengdu in 2009.
Later that year, AdreN was among the players creating a team called UNiTED (also featuring Dmitry "hooch" Bogdanov), backed by Kazakh millionaire Murat "Arbalet" Zhumashevich, who stood at the creation of Natus Vincere and hosted several local (CIS) and international tournaments at the time.
"[the Kazakh scene] would not be who we are now, if it wasn't for Murat Zhumashevich aka Arbalet. He made significant contributions to our esports community and I'm really thankful to him!"
However, the Kazakh-Russian squad ended up being a dead end for AdreN as they were unable to live up to the expectations and folded in 2010. Shortly afterwards he announced his retirement due to plans to study in China, although he didn't do so before returning to K23 for ASUS Open Summer 2010, where he eliminated the then-undisputed world's best team, Natus Vincere. In 2011 he reappeared in a Kazakh team NEXT.kz to play his last WCG and pick up fourth place at the event, one of the biggest achievements of his career in the older version of Counter-Strike.
AdreN truly returned to activity in CS:GO in late 2012 with Virtus.pro, who then featured Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow, Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov, Emil "kUcheR" Akhundov, and Sergey "Fox" Stolyarov. The CIS-based team would quickly prove themselves one of the best teams in the world and became the David to the Goliath, famously putting an end to NiP's 87-0 streak at StarSeries V, as AdreN hoisted his first international trophy.
After departing VP in June 2013, he was part of another stab at making a CIS superteam, Astana Dragons, alongside Dosia, Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev, ANGE1, and Yegor "markeloff" Markelov, whose core ended up staying together for a long time without much success, later under the HellRaisers banner.
It wasn't until late 2015 when he disconnected from HR to form what would become Gambit in 2016 alongside some of his former teammates, Rustem "mou" Telepov, Dosia, and hooch, as well as Jan "wayLander" Rahkonen. While AdreN slowly started evolving into a star player again at 26 years of age, Gambit made it into the Major circuit and worked their way up before eventually bolstering their lineup with Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko and Abay "Hobbit" Khasenov to end the year with smaller titles at Acer Predator Masters 3 and DreamHack Open Winter.
"Zeus showed me that I don't play enough to win world championships. Personally, I am thankful to him for making me more hard working and disciplined."
Individually, AdreN got the best start to the year he could have wished for at the ELEAGUE Major. He put up one of his three EVP-worthy performances with a fantastic 1.34 rating, pushing his team to the playoffs thanks to great consistency, perhaps most notably with a 1.65 rating in a 30-round Overpass match against FaZe. While Gambit exited the tournament in quarter-finals following a loss to fnatic, the first Major of the year was quite possibly the Kazakh's best tournament of his CS:GO career up to that point.
"For me a Major is above everything else. It's like a dream that you have to work your ass off to achieve. At other tournaments I feel that many players are under psychological pressure. I can sense it and it makes playing easier for me."
AdreN continued with solid play at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas as Gambit's best player, carrying his team to a big win over eventual champions Virtus.pro in the groups, even though Gambit once again fell in the quarter-final stage, that time after a close series with North.
His match-to-match consistency then faltered at StarSeries, where the 27-year-old played well in two of the team's four matches in the Swiss group stage but dipped to subpar performances versus fnatic and CLG — with the latter match, a 14-16 loss, putting an end to Gambit's 9-0 LAN streak on Cobblestone — as Gambit finished 12th-14th.
Traveling across the pond for two American events, cs_summit and DreamHack Open Austin, the AdreN we had seen at the first two tournaments of the year was back. Two more EVPs went his way in Gambit's runner-up finish in Los Angeles and the title-winning campaign in Texas, with only SK being able to stop the CIS team at summit. By then it was already clear that AdreN had evolved into the star of his team for the first time in his CS:GO career, over four years after he returned to activity.
"Before I started playing CS:GO I had stopped playing CS 1.6 for a year to study in China. As a result some of my skills deteriorated. At the beginning of CS:GO it wasn't the same AdreN as in 1.6. I didn't have a specific aim to be among the best players, like it was back when I played in k23 and UNiTED. My role in the game was more supportive. When we assembled Gambit, I thought to myself: 'What the hell? I've always been a star player.' That's when I set a goal to become one of the best. That's the way it went."
It was at that time when something went awry in Gambit, who went out in groups at DreamHack Open Summer following close losses to CLG and fnatic while AdreN wasn't among the three best players of his team for the first time in 2017. Zeus & co. began ESEA MDL Season 25 and barely broke even in their matches against teams well below their level, and practice ahead of PGL Major Krakow didn't go any better according to the players' interviews later in Poland.
Against all odds, something clicked at the second Major. AdreN was unstoppable in the group stage, particularly in the matches against G2 and Virtus.pro, playing the biggest part in his squad going 3-0 in the Swiss system. He continued to play at a high level throughout playoffs, as after his teammates surpassed him in the quarter-finals he took over the reins again. mou hit his peak on Overpass against Astralis, but AdreN was the most stable player of the semi-finals series. In the grand final featuring Immortals, the Kazakh played his only bad map of the entire tournament in the 4-16 loss on Cobblestone to start it off, but he quickly got back on his feet and played a pivotal part in Gambit's wins on Train and Inferno, earning his first-ever MVP award — and a Major title.
"Our road to the final [at the Major] wasn't easy and I believe that we played really well. Our practice might not have gone well, but we felt each other completely."
Hardly could anyone predict that Zeus would depart the team during the following off-season, after the other players decided to release coach Mikhaylo "Kane" Blagin who then joined up with Natus Vincere alongside the veteran in-game leader.
"It's impossible to say whether we would continue playing well if Zeus had stayed on our team after the Major. Things that were meant to happen happened. I don't regret it going down this way, because no one can say what would have happened if he had stayed with us."
"I've always known that there are a lot of talented players in Kazakhstan, who just didn't have an opportunity to prove their worth. I was lucky that Murat Zhumashevich took our team under his wing and it gave me an opportunity to blossom and move forward. I attracted players from Kazakhstan whenever it was reasonable, mou was one of them."
That was only half of the problem, though, as there was still the question of leadership hanging over Gambit. AdreN took it upon himself and grabbed the steering wheel, but that impacted his form in return, as he put it when we asked the player whether leadership had a big impact on him:
"Partially, since I had to give up my usual roles. I handed some of my favorite spots to fitch to make him feel comfortable. Perhaps it was a mistake, since other guys were used to me playing these spots the way I did. In-game leadership certainly had an impact on my individual performance. It was rough, since I had never led a team at this level of competition."
The move paid off at the beginning. Even though AdreN was nowhere near the star he had been in the first half of the year, fitch proved himself a very capable player and made up for some of the performance lost at DreamHack Masters Malmö. The Kazakh-Russian squad advanced to the playoffs in Sweden over the at the time new FaZe and repeated their victory over Astralis, but North put a stop to their run in the semi-finals. AdreN wasn't surprised that the team did well at the start but felt disappointed about his own performance:
"It didn't come as a surprise to me, our aim was to go to the final after all, but I was disappointed with my own performance. It wasn't as bad as it seemed though."
Gambit couldn't keep the level they showed in Malmö during the rest of the year, however. AdreN himself showed good form at ESG Tour Mykonos despite a group stage exit, but during EPICENTER, IEM Oakland, and DreamHack Winter he dove well into the red zone while Gambit only reached playoffs at the smallest event of the three. AdreN was unable to change his mindset despite Dosia taking over some of his duties during that time, but he is now determined to work on himself as Gambit set their sights on the ELEAGUE Major.
"We began role swapping, changing in-game leaders, it was time for restructuring so to speak. Now it's finally over and we can calmly prepare and show what we are capable of."
"I wasn't able to change my mindset right after I had begun coordination, as I still felt responsible for the other players. Now I'm back to ground zero and have to dedicate more time to my individual skill. It's time to grind like I used to before."
At 27 years of age, AdreN makes his first appearance in the Top 20, so we asked the player about his thoughts on the topic of age in Counter-Strike and how getting older has affected him in-game:
"I think you should look at it on a case-by-case basis. You can always be young in a game, it's all in your head. Simple psychology. You can convince yourself that you are too old for this game when you are 20 and think that your reflexes aren't as good. On the other hand you can think that you are in your prime and style on youngsters when you are 30. It's a psychological aspect."
Why is he the 17th best player of 2017?
First and foremost, there is a case to be made for AdreN being the best player of 2017's Majors, where he averaged a 1.29 rating (third highest) and earned one EVP (ELEAGUE Major) and an MVP award (PGL Major).
Thanks to that and a few other events where he played at a very high level, especially cs_summit and DreamHack Open Austin which gave him his two other EVPs, AdreN already had his place in the Top 20 secured by the time the second Major of the year came to a close.
The Kazakh star was a highly impactful player when he was contributing, averaging a 1.17 impact rating (12th highest) as a result of his ability to open up rounds on the Terrorist side (0.11 opening kills per T round, ninth most) and put up multi-kills (3+ kills in 5.3% of his rounds, 12th most). ADR was also one of his strong suits, as he ranked 15th best at 80.6, which helped him garner 0.16 assists per round (12th most).
After the lineup change at the halfway point, AdreN's form took a big hit and he ended up having the second most inconsistent year out of the top 20 players after Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski. That kept the veteran from a higher placing in the Top 20 and made him the least consistent round-to-round (68.0% KAST) out of all the players featured in the ranking.
AdreN also lacked notable performances at other big events, in part due to participating in only seven of them, as his only good big event outside of the Majors was DreamHack Masters Las Vegas where he only played four maps.
"I think that qikert from AVANGAR can prove himself in 2018 if he continues playing like he does now. I don't know why but I have a feeling that he can reach a high level if he doesn't stumble over obstacles."