Coming in at number 13 on our top 20 of 2017, powered by EGB.com, is Astralis' Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth, who proved throughout the last year that playing a support role doesn't mean one cannot have a significant impact on a team's play.
|Top 20 players of 2017: Introduction|
Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth is the outlier on Astralis as he is the only player on the team to come from CS 1.6. There, his first steps came in Wikipediots under the wing of in-game leader Timm "ArcadioN" Henriksen. That was mere months before CS:GO was released, though, and the team only played a few events before the Dane made the jump to the new game.
"There have been lots of teams, but I guess my first big step into the professional scene was when I joined Wikipediots/Xapso in 1.6 with ArcadioN, zanoj, turkizh, and COLON. This was just half a year before the CS:GO release and we only played two or three tournaments tognoether (an invite event in Stockholm and Copenhagen Games), so we weren't really tested as a team. I was pretty much the only one who wanted to change to CS:GO from the lineup so we decided to split up; some kept playing 1.6, and some stopped completely. Before that I hadn't really been playing at any top level, I was mostly a gather-hero, what you would call an FPL hero today. So that was a big first step for me, and while I was kind of sad we didn't go to CS:GO together as a team, I was confident that I could translate my talent to CS:GO."
In a scene weighted heavily towards ex-CS:S players, Xyp9x made the jump late and ended in a mediocre CPLAY roster with players who had come only from the aforementioned game. The team was a downgrade for him, but they still managed to place fourth place at NorthCon 2012, ahead of the likes of Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen’s 3DMAX and Markus "pronax" Wallsten’s Absolute Legends.
"In Denmark there was a lot of hate between the 1.6 and the CS:S scenes, because one scene always thought their game was the best and vice versa. For me, personally, it was also weird that I hadn't been playing gathers or anything with the guys I was about to play with, but I think we did very well and even got fourth at Northcon. That same LAN I did an ace with the sawed-off. Looking back, I knew at the time that team probably wasn't going to be the end destination, and that many of the other teams would probably change players as it was a whole new game so some players would probably quit precisely for that reason."
It was at the beginning of 2013 that Xyp9x finally got the call to mix with the upper echelons of the Danish CS:GO scene when he was invited to join fnatic. There, he connected with the likes of Michael "Friis" Jørgensen and Martin "trace" Heldt, and later Andreas "MODDII" Fridh and Finn "karrigan" Andersen. With fnatic, Xyp9x went on to get second places at RaidCall EMS One Spring 2013 and Mad Catz Birmingham.
"I had strong ties to some of the players at that time, and they had their eye on me even before I joined CPLAY, but I wasn't ready to take the chance at that time. I guess what I remember the most from fnatic was what my role was, and how much times have changed. Not just for me personally, but the game and the meta. I would say I was the star player in Fnatic. I guess the competition back then wasn't as fierce, and I also didn't have the mindset/brain or was in the position to be a support player back then. I also guess at that time support players weren't really a thing. Roles weren't really defined, and tactics were not as complex, so it was mostly just run and gun. Eventually we split up."
After the summer, Xyp9x and Friis joined Henrik "FeTiSh" Christensen, Nicolai "device" Reedtz, and dupreeh in CPH Wolves, making it a proto-core of the current-day Astralis, although the team was still very far from becoming what it is today.
"Something was not right in that team. We were struggling with taking practice seriously and it was mostly just a sh*tshow, with roster changes and no stability or structure whatsoever. We ended up changing organisation to dignitas."
After the stint in CPH Wolves came to an end, with mostly 5-8th place finishes and a semifinal run, the team signed with Dignitas going into 2014 and René "cajunb" Borg came on board for Friis. That team was the beginning of the emergence of Danish Counter-Strike, as Dignitas went on to make it to four semifinals in 2014 and was known for having one of the best CT-sides in the game.
"It became a little more serious and we had a really good relationship. The infamous CT-sides were because we were pretty good at standards and playing off each-other, but when it came to T-sides we didn't have too much depth and I guess we were easy to read. So when it was like that in the back of your head, and you start losing round after round, then it's hard to cope with that situation mentally, and I guess it also created a lot of mistrust within the team, which just made those situations worse."
Going into 2015, Xyp9x & co. took karrigan in as their in-game leader, and, after a third-place finish at MLG X-Games Aspen 2015, they signed with TSM in a year that would see the Danes explode into the top of the scene with five first places and six second place-finishes, although a Major title still remained elusive. All of this happened as the team was growing, and several of its players were still in school.
"In some way being in school made me more motivated to play CS. On the other hand, it was very stressful and sometimes I didn't get that much sleep. I was sitting in school waiting to get back home and play. I was also delivering newspapers on my bicycle and later on I had a job at an IT-store. I had lots of stuff to do, but at that time the schedule wasn't nearly what it is today. You cannot have an education while playing at the level we do anymore."
After a very successful 2015, TSM were once again at it in 2016 albeit under a new organization, Astralis, but a string of playoff exits at events like DreamHack Open Leipzig 2016 and IEM Katowice 2016 saw the team change cajunb for up-and-coming talent Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye.
"It really didn't affect us that much [creating Astralis], a lot of people speculate if that was why our results were bad the first year. But I think it was mostly bad luck and poor timing."
The results weren’t quite coming, as the team failed to win any events, and towards the end of the year karrigan was benched and Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander brought on to lead the squad. With this change, Astralis were finally able to win a tournament, the last one in the year, the ECS Season 2 Finals. For Xyp9x, personally, this year was one of stability and consistency, with only two events witha rating below 0.94.
Having won the ECS Season 2 Finals and come into 2017 with a fresh outlook, the team found new motivation, and with the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta about to take place, it was the perfect time for Astralis to finally take home a trophy from the biggest event in Counter-Strike.
"Lukas [gla1ve] had just joined the team, and I felt we were really motivated and determined. If we manage to get the same mindset and preparation as last time, we will be in a good position for the next Major too."
And take the trophy they did. Despite being the lowest rated player on the team at the ELEAGUE Major (1.02), Xyp9x averaged a 1.10 rating in the playoffs and was crucial, despite not getting an EVP, in that title run, with above-average ratings on 5 of the 6 maps his team won in the knockout stages. He also ended the tournament with seven clutches—six of which came in the playoffs—, his third highest of the year, foreshadowing a renewed ability to close out rounds.
After a 3rd-4th place at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, where Xyp9x had a year-high 26% traded deaths and a 1.35 CT-side rating, came IEM Katowice 2017, his best event of the year. There, Xyp9x was the highest rated player (1.21), had an 81.3 ADR, and a year-high 1.24 impact rating, which earned him his first MVP medal. He also cemented his newfound status as a clutch player with a record-breaking 13 clutches, which were immortalized in the following video:
"To be honest, I don't really know what clicked for me to play like that. I had a good group stage run with a lot of clutches, which sparked my confidence. Everything felt easier, but, at the same time, I think I left my support role during that tournament. So it's a fine balance and I'm not sure we can be as stable with me leaving the support role."
After his shenanigans in Katowice, Xyp9x was once again the highest rated player of the team at their next two events, the StarSeries Season 3 Finals, where he was an EVP in Astralis’ second-place finish, and IEM Sydney, where the team went out to FaZe in the semi-finals. When asked about his rise in notoriety, Xyp9x had this to say:
"I guess I made some highlight clutches, that's what people like, so that's what I give them, and knowing how to handle the support role and to stop playing the ultra passive role. I believe we, as a team, have done a lot of improvements, which has helped me and made me more stable. I like stability in our play and in general I like to know what my teammates do. That's probably why my brain works 50% more when everyone else is dead, because then I can focus on my own game."
After this spike, Xyp9x went back to having more regular numbers, being the 3rd-5th rated player in the team. Astralis started to slow down, and got 3rd-4th place finishes at the ECS Season 3 Finals and the PGL Major, in Krakow, where the Danes fell to the eventual winners, Gambit.
The team then took a dip, going out 5-8th and 5-6th at DreamHack Malmö and ESL One New York, respectively, with the latter being the second lowest rated event for Xyp9x all year - still a decent 0.95 -, while the former was a bit brighter for him individually (1.15), despite his team’s shortcomings.
Astralis caught a break at ELEAGUE Premier, where the Danish squad was able to go all the way to the final after beating fnatic and Cloud9 the playoffs. However, a FaZe on the rise was too much for the Danes to handle, as the international superteam was able to take the final 2-0. Xyp9x, with a +38 DKK and a 1.15 rating, was awarded his second EVP of the season.
Despite coming close, Astralis couldn’t quite go back to their winning ways, and Xyp9x and the rest of the team were unable to make it past the semifinals at EPICENTER. Despite ending as the fourth highest-ranked player on the team, before the third-place decider Xyp9x was actually leading the charts for the Danes. Astralis then went out in groups at IEM Oakland, an event device where missed the first match, and the team lost an opportunity to make another deep run in tournaments.
With device on the sidelines, Astralis used Dennis "dennis" Edman as a stand-in at BLAST Pro Series, an event hosted by RFRSH in Denmark. The perfect setting for Astralis, who made it all the way to the last match, to once again lift a trophy, but an incredibly in-shape SK snatched the final from under their nose in overtime of the last map. At BLAST, Xyp9x received his third and final EVP of the year, thanks to a 1.14 Rating, a +23 KDD and a 1.20 Impact.
"dev1ce's illness complicated things (practice, preparation, etc.), but ultimately I think it was a lot of factors, and of course having to play with two stand-ins. The uncertainty of if and when dev1ce would be back is never a good state to be in. But taking everything into consideration, I think we managed to do very well."
The final two events of the year, which closed out the ESL Pro League Season 6 and the ECS Season 4, didn’t go that well for Astralis, who now had Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel standing-in for the still sidelined device. In Odense, Astralis did not get to play in front of the home crowd as they went out in the group stages after losses to Liquid, FaZe, fnatic, and HellRaisers. That event was a heavy blow for Xyp9x, who ended up with a year-low rating of 0.91. In Cancun, Astralis fared a bit better as they made it to the semi-finals, but then they were bested by mousesports, with Xyp9x ending the year with a 1.11 Rating and a year-high 1.43 Terrorist rating.
"I don't think that we really had anything going really bad, everything was pretty justified. But if I have to mention a tournament, then ESL Odense was a bummer—not being able to play in front of the home crowd again and disappointing a lot of fans [was the low point of the year]."
Why is Xyp9x the 13th best player of 2017?
Despite sitting at a 0.67 KPR, the lowest in this year’s top 20, Xyp9x earned his place in the ranking thanks to several other factors—his ability to provide clutches (52 1vsX situations won, the third highest), his consistency (12 of 15 events with 1.00+ rating), and contributions in practically every deep run Astralis made throughout the year.
In addition to his record-breaking 13 clutches at IEM Katowice 2017, where the team ended up winning the tournament and Xyp9x getting the MVP, he also put up EVP performances at the StarSeries Season 3 Finals, ELEAGUE Premier, and BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen. Moreover, there is a lot more to his contribution to Astralis’ Major win than the stats show as he stepped up immensely in the playoffs and almost reached EVP level, just like at EPICENTER, where his numbers dropped in the third-place decider match.
"We really want to win the Major again. Having a streak and having the feeling of being unbeatable is amazing. The feeling we had during the start of last year, I want that again. Winning the Major, nothing tops that! :)"
Xyp9x ended the year with a very solid 1.09 playoff rating at big events, the 11th highest amongst all of the players on our top 20 list. Besides, he showed he excels in the support role, as evidenced by his high assist rate (0.16 APR, 7th highest in the game), low death count (0.62 DPR, 5th) and +7.3 damage difference per round (#9).
For his bold prediction, Xyp9x went with a fellow countryman, picking North Academy’s Daniel "mertz" Mertz as one of the young up-and-coming players to watch, and one with the potential to even make it onto a top 20 list.
"There is actually a lot of mentionable talented young players in Denmark, but if I have to choose one, I would go with Mertz. He is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. It is only a matter of time before he climbs the list.