Number nine on our top 20 ranking powered by EGB.com goes to Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, who makes the cut for the fifth time in a row after a year with five EVPs at big events and consistent high numbers with the AWP.
|Top 20 players of 2017: Introduction|
A proven player in CS:S, Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács made the jump to CS:GO late in 2012 with a Czech-Slovakian roster that played for myDGB.net and 3DMAX. It didn’t take much for GuardiaN to make the jump to international play, though, as that regional lineup was unable to achieve much in the new game.
"The Czech and Slovakian scenes did not have that many good players back then, so I felt like the only way to improve individually was to leave the home scene and join the international scene. That worked out quite well."
After a short stint in the international mix TCM-Gaming with the also teamless Richard "shox" Papillon, GuardiaN joined Virtus.pro with the likes of Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov and Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow in mid-2013, getting top-four finishes at DreamHack Summer 2013, RaidCall EMS Summer 2013 Finals, and StarSeries Season VI Finals.
"I joined Virtus.pro, probably a top 2-3 team that year, which gave me a lot of experience and understanding of how the pro scene and pro CS work. After that I was asked by Overdrive and hooch to join them in one of the StarLadder seasons to play in their mix team, and that helped me to improve much more.
"I was able to play against the best teams and prove myself. After that, Overdrive and hooch invited me to play the first Major BYOC qualifier with them and of course I couldn’t refuse. Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify for the Major."
Despite good results, that Virtus.pro was eventually disbanded as several of its players went to Astana Dragons. That left GuardiaN out in the cold, but after attending the DreamHack Winter 2013 Major qualifier with Alexey "OverDrive" Birukov’s Nostalgie mix which featured the likes of Martin "STYKO" Styk and Dmitry "hooch" Bogdanov, GuardiaN was asked to join—with his Nostalgie teammate Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev—the organization he would play for all the way until mid-2017, Natus Vincere.
"When I joined Na`Vi, I knew it would be very hard at the beginning, until I learned the language, at least on a basic level to be able to communicate in the game. It took some months, but I think we did pretty well even without me communicating perfectly. If I remember correctly, it took approximately six months to win the first event with Na`Vi, in Kiev, a StarLadder LAN. Before the flamie for starix swap we had very random results. We could be good or a complete failure.
"After we changed our lineup, we had a pretty good start. Winning EPL felt like a good start. But yet again, we had some issues, which made us to fail at the next Major 2 months after winning EPL. I think losing to fnatic at that Major was one of the worst feelings during my stay in Na`Vi. A year after we picked flamie up, we managed to make it to the finals of the major in Cluj-Napoca, where we unfortunately failed."
With a steady team, GuardiaN was now able to grow as a player, and after putting in decent performances, which garnered him an 11th place in the Top 20 players of 2014, it was in 2015 when GuardiaN really unleashed the beast. His +222 opening kills speak of the style he abused, as an aggressive AWPer, in a year in which he had his highest Top 20 rank to date, #2.
In 2016, GuardiaN was able to still make the top 20, #17 concretely, despite a rough year which saw him sustain a hand injury that hampered his play. That year, GuardiaN won DreamHack Leipzig, Counter Pit Season 2 and also ESL One New York.
"We knew we were close to winning a Major with that lineup, and making the second finals in a row just proved that we were strong enough to win a Major, but, yet again, we failed. Most likely because of me, but that is something nobody can change. That moment, the MLG Major, was the beginning of the downfall for this lineup, from there we were struggling to play good again as a team, it felt like something died inside the team and the lineup change last year just proved that point."
GuardiaN kicked 2017 off playing the ELEAGUE Major with Natus Vincere, where the CIS team got a 5-8th place, falling in the quarter-finals against the eventual winners of the tournament, Astralis. The Slovakian player had only his team's fourth-highest rating (1.07), but he still put in respectable numbers in terms of DPR (0.63), Impact (1.07) and KAST (74.1%) - all of them at least 5% above the team's average.
Following the Major, Guardian went on to play at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas and IEM Katowice, where Natus Vincere went out 5-8th and 5-6th respectively. There, the Slovakian AWPer had discrete 1.06 and 1.04 ratings respectively, in what proved to be a slow start to the year for his team.
The StarSeries Season 3 Finals was GuardiaN’s first good big tournament of the year. In Kiev, GuardiaN was the second best rated player on the team with a 1.23 rating, and earned his first EVP of the season in his team’s quarter-final run, which came to an end following their encounter with Astralis.
DreamHack Tours, a medium tournament, was once again cut short for Natus Vincere as they went out in 5-6th place after losing to Misfits. There, GuardiaN had what was by far his worst event of the year, with a 0.80 rating, and his only event of the year with a negative KDR. Following it was another one of his not so strong events, albeit this time with a more respectable 0.97 rating—the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, where his team went out in groups.
After his small "slump", GuardiaN was the best rated player in his team at at ESL One Cologne, where he had one of his highest ratings of the year (1.24). In Germany, Natus Vincere made it to the semi-finals for the last time before the roster changes. Guardian played his last tournament with Natus Vincere at the PGL Major in Krakow, where his team went out in 12-14th place after a single win against FlipSid3 and three losses to G2, Immortals, and fnatic, with the Slovakian averaging a 1.03 rating.
"I think my downfall started with the downfall of the old Na`Vi lineup and it continued during 2017, too. We got to the point where we questioned ourselves, if we want to stay like that or not. I think we did not have very good chemistry in the end, and we did not get along well anymore, it felt like there was always someone to blame. I think we got bored of each other and everyone needed a change to make it work. I joined FaZe to try a different “journey” in an international team and it gave me joy to play the game again and to have fun playing. That is the only thing that helped me to get back on track.
"I got the offer to join FaZe during the player break after the Major. Obviously, it was a hard decision whether to join the team or not, because I did not know what to expect from a new team, with new players, and I felt it was a very risky move. But, on the other hand, I knew that change was a must, and that was probably the deciding factor.
"Adjusting was quick and easy, that’s how I would call it. I joined a very talented, skillful, and experienced team, where everyone understands the game, and I had more freedom as a sniper, and I could be more aggressive than I had been in the past. Everyone has their role set, so it is really easy to play in this team."
GuardiaN’s first event with FaZe, DreamHack Masters Malmö, was a fiasco, as the new team had not yet had time to mesh after the transfers and went out in 9-12th place. The silver lining for GuardiaN, at least, was that he started his journey with a 1.18 rating.
"Of course when you go to an event you want to win. But we were a new team and we did not have time to practice much because the deal between fnatic and FaZe involving olofmeister took some extra time, So we were not setting high goals for the event. When we lost to Gambit we just went back to the hotel, had a team talk and we watched our games right after we lost them. That gave us a lot of experience and we knew what we needed to work on and the hard work paid off the next two events."
Things could not have changed more drastically, however, as FaZe travelled to New York after going out in the group stages in Sweden and put up a performance for the ages. At the Barclays Arena, GuardiaN ended the event with a 1.32 rating and got his second EVP of the season in one of the most dominating shows from a team in CS:GO history, winning every single map all the way to the title and giving up no more than six rounds in all maps but one.
"ESL New York was probably my most memorable tournament of the year. I became the only player to win the ESL New York two times in a row with two different teams.
"I think we started to communicate much better. When olofmeister and I joined, the communication was not really good. We were not used to it because we both joined from teams that spoke different languages. That was one of the main problems, which we were working hard on. Then we added some team tactics and started to play much better, we started to understand each other, both in game and outside of the game."
After New York, FaZe travelled to Atlanta to play the ELEAGUE Premier Finals, and, keeping up a high level of play, the international team was able to win its second tournament in a row, with GuardiaN was picking up his second consecutive EVP. At EPICENTER, FaZe surprisingly failed to impress, going out in 5-6th place following defeats to SK and Virtus.pro. In St. Petersburg, GuardiaN was able to get a 1.25 rating, the highest of the team.
Traveling back to the United States for the 2017 edition of IEM Oakland, FaZe once again made it to a grand final, although it was NiP who eventually came out on top and took the trophy. At the Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors, GuardiaN had another EVP performance, ending the tournament with a 1.15 rating - only the team's third best, though.
At BLAST Pro Series, FaZe took third place, behind SK and Astralis, in what would be their last tournament of the year without reaching the final. There, GuardiaN was ranked fourth in his team (1.08 rating, 6% below the team's average, and a 0.93 Impact, even though he had the highest KAST of his squad, 75.9%), just like at the ESL Pro League, where FaZe made it all the way to the last match, but finally fell in the final to an incredibly strong SK—by this point their archnemesis. In Odense, GuardiaN put in a 1.12 rating, just 2% below the team's average.
With SK nowhere to be seen at the ECS Season 4 Finals, in Cancun, FaZe were finally able to get back to winning ways, even though they still had to work hard to beat mousesports in the final. In the Mexican tournament, GuardiaN had a discrete showing (1.04 rating and 69.6 ADR) before heading to the Christmas break.
"To be honest, I did not expect to be in the top 20 this year. I had no idea that I had actually played well in 2017. After the first six months, I felt like this was the worst year in my career, that I did not perform well or showed anything, so I was very, very surprised, when I got to know that I had been chosen as the 9th best player of 2017. The only secret behind consistency [year after year] is to not give up and to always believe that you still have it inside you, that you can be the player you were before. Everyone has bad times in their life or career, but the good things can come come back if you still try hard and do not give up."
As far as goals for the future go, GuardiaN has the following:
"For me individually it’s about becoming the best player in the world, retiring with only #2 in my career is not enough [laughs]. As a team, I am pretty sure every one of us wants to win more titles than SK did in 2017, beat them every time we meet them, and be the best team in the world the whole year."
Why is GuardiaN the 9th best player of 2017?
GuardiaN stood out throughout the year as one of the best AWPers in the game, or perhaps even the best, when taking his 0.44 AWP kills per round (#1) and the consistency with which he put these numbers up (0.40+ at 11 of his 16 events) into consideration.
Another area in which GuardiaN stood out was the number of EVP performances he displayed, five—all at big events. Two of those came from his Natus Vincere days, at SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 and ESL One Cologne, and three with FaZe, at ESL One New York, ELEAGUE Premier, and IEM Oakland.
There are two other statistics GuardiaN excelled at, which concern opening and closing rounds. He was one of the best clutchers of the year, with 41 1vsX situations won (10th highest in 2017), and was one of the most successful players at getting opening kills, with 56.8% of opening duels won.
What set GuardiaN apart from some of the players he is ahead of in the list are his performances at big events, where he has a 1.14 playoff rating—the sixth highest overall at events of this stature. What keeps him from placing better, however, are some of his poor performances during the Na`Vi days and his lower impact within FaZe, where everyone shines brightly.
When enquired about who he thinks is an up-and-coming talent who could make this ranking next year, GuardiaN tipped compatriot David "frozen" Čerňanský, currently playing for eXtatus, to be a big hit, although 2018 may come too soon for the 15-year-old, who is still too young to play certain leagues and tournaments.
"He will probably not make it to the Top 20 players of 2018 due to his age, but I am pretty sure once he turns 16 he will get plenty of offers to join a pro team and that will help him grow individually even more. Now he is limited, but in the future I am sure we will see good things from him."