Number eight on our top 20 ranking powered by EGB.com belongs to Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, who returns to the list after debuting last year. The Ukrainian prodigy makes the cut due to his exceptional fragging prowess and impact all year long, even in Na`Vi's weak tournament runs.
|Top 20 players of 2017: Introduction|
Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev burst onto the competitive scene in early 2014, when he helped a Ukrainian/Russian mixture called Hashtag, led by Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy, win the Voronezh Cup, which, among others, featured a HellRaisers.mix with Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow at the helm and with current Gambit duo Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov and Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev on their ranks.
After that success, a 16-year-old s1mple realised that he would eventually become a professional CS:GO player. But it would take him a few months before such an offer came he landed such a deal as it was only in October, after plying his trade for Courage and Amazing Gaming, that he joined HellRaisers, who were looking to replace AdreN after a run of poor results.
With HellRaisers, s1mple put in above-average ratings in every tournament in which he competed, including at ESWC 2014 and at the DreamHack Winter Major, but he still found himself out of the team at the start of 2015 because of two things: the ESL ban that dated back to his 1.6 days and that would rule him out of IEM Katowice, and his infamous on-stream comments about German people.
Just days later, s1mple joined dAT Team, who would later sign for FlipSid3 Tactics. The Ukrainian continued to show his credentials as one of the most talented rising talents in the scene, averaging high ratings at big events like Copenhagen Games, DreamHack Open Tours, DreamHack Open Summer and the SLTV StarSeries XIII Finals - despite the team’s shortcomings.
As months went by, everyone realised that he had grown too big for the team - including s1mple himself. In the summer of 2015, the youngster took to Social Media to reveal that he would not play for FlipSid3 again following the team’s semi-final exit at ESWC, an event which they attended with Spencer "Hiko" Martin as a stand-in.
That marked the beginning of a rough patch for s1mple, who linked up with two other Ukrainian players, Vladyslav "arch" Svistov and Ilya "fix" Golovko, on a team called Evolution, without any notable results. Itching to play on LAN again, the youngster joined HellRaisers ahead of the DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015 Major Qualifier, where he had the second-highest rating of the tournament at 1.28 despite the team finishing 9th-12th. After the event, talks between s1mple and HellRaisers broke down, with the player being released from his FlipSid3 contract shortly afterwards.
2016 brought s1mple a spell overseas as he reunited with Hiko on Liquid, with whom he attended his first Major, MLG Columbus, where he led the team with a 1.17 Rating in their semi-final run. However, he ended up stepping down from the roster in April due to homesickness and issues related to his role within the squad. After attending a StarLadder Invitational event with Worst Players, the Ukrainian returned to the Liquid roster for two final events: the ECS Season 1 Finals and the ESL One Cologne Major. After a disappointing outing at the British event, Liquid came out with all guns blazing at the Major, with s1mple inspiring the team to reach the final with a 1.18 Rating - the perfect ending to a troublesome stint abroad.
After the Major, the Ukrainian returned to more familiar grounds as he linked up with Natus Vincere, stepping into the shoes of veteran ingame leader Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko. Many had tipped the new Na`Vi roster for greatness, but a first-place finish at ESL One New York, which earned s1mple an MVP medal, was the only remarkable achievement of what was an otherwise forgettable four months for the team, which, however, did not keep him from securing the fourth place in our top 20 ranking of 2016.
For Na`Vi, just like for most other top teams, 2017 began with the ELEAGUE Major, in Atlanta. The Ukrainian team seemed to be in prime position to win the event after losing just 12 rounds total in the Swiss stage, in which they thrashed mousesports, EnVyUs and SK, but then they were thrown a curve ball in the shape of Astralis, who had barely made it to the playoffs. The Danish team ended up prevailing in a three-map series, with s1mple finishing the event with a 1.19 rating - second to Egor "flamie" Vasilyev’s 1.36 - and a high +24 KDD.
A similar fate would befall Natus Vincere at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas as the Ukrainians were sent packing in the quarter-finals, this time after meeting SK. s1mple was the main driving force for the team, whom he led with an average 1.12 rating.
"We practiced a lot before the Major, but after the easy group stage we lost because of our low mental game. I am pretty sure that there was only one team who had a chance to stop us, and that was Astralis.
"At DreamHack Las Vegas, we were close to winning our match as well, but we lost ourselves again. Personally, I thought that, with more practice, we would bridge the gap to the top sides."
IEM Katowice was s1mple’s lowest point of 2017 as it featured his only below-average tournament rating (0.99) of the year, in addition to a low ADR (74.2) and Impact (0.94). Curiously, 20-year-old got off to a fantastic start, with high ratings against both Virtus.pro (1.34) and SK (1.37). But then Danish teams proved to be his kryptonite as he was in the red in the single-map games against North and Heroic, and in the relegation series against Astralis.
In true s1mple fashion, the Ukrainian star bounced back from that disappointing outing with one of his most memorable events of the year. At the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3 event, in Kiev, he averaged a tournament-high 1.36 rating - one of the seven stats categories he led, the others including KDD (+48), Damage per round (99.1), kills per round (0.91) and percentage of rounds with at least one frag (59.2%). Natus Vincere still fell short in the semi-finals against Astralis, but s1mple was rewarded for his efforts with an EVP mention.
After such a dominant display, s1mple brought in his second-lowest rating of the year at DreamHack Tours, 1.01, as Na`Vi crashed out of the tournament in the groups. s1mple had just one positive rating over five games, but it was such a dominant display (1.80) that he was still able to end the event in the green and with a rating that was 12% higher than the team's average. This speaks volumes about the squad’s struggles - which continued at the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, where they once again were sent packing in the group stage, with two victories from five games. s1mple was ranked second in the team with a 1.14 rating, raising eyebrows for his dominant display against NRG (2.23 rating, +23 KDD).
"After every game, every tournament I practised a lot in many ways. As time went by, I understood that all problems are in your head, and I understood that you can solve them quickly if you find your personal strength.”
ESL One Cologne provided s1mple with his second EVP mention of the year as he put in a 1.17 rating in Na`Vi's semi-final run. He had 1+ ratings in all but two of the seven maps he played, peaking against mousesports (2.05 rating, +12 KDD) and topping the scoreboard in the quarter-final match against G2 (1.32 Rating and 97.5 ADR) before the team came up short against Cloud9.
"Everything was great before we took on Cloud9, I had not seen a North American team in such great form in a long time. Their own style was really hard to predict, beautiful tactical play with great individual performances, and it surprised me a lot."
PGL Major Krakow marked the start of a series of events in which s1mple was Natus Vincere’s main contributor, regardless of how well - or how poorly - the team did. At the second Major of the year, Na`Vi went out in the groups - the first time it happened since EMS One Katowice 2014 - but it certainly was not because of s1mple, who averaged an impressively high 1.43 rating - the highest of the tournament and 34% above his team’s average -, and dropped 30 bombs in the defeats to G2 and fnatic. No one apart from s1mple excelled in the tournament, with the next closest player being flamie at 1.07.
"Everyone was really sad about this, everyone understands that, without a lot of practice, especially before a Major, you cannot really go far. The atmosphere was professional, but we could not find our game anymore.
"I was getting frustrated, of course, ratings like that mean nothing if your team is still losing. I was blaming myself after every game, I was trying to find my own individual mistakes and trying to fix them as quickly as possible."
After the end of the Major, Na`Vi finally decided to stir things up a little bit, bringing Zeus back to replace FaZe-bound Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács. The return of the Ukrainian veteran was expected to revamp the team’s tactical approach, but they struggled to make an impact at their first LAN outings. As expected, s1mple took up the AWP a lot more frequently, posting AWP kills per round ratio in the region of 0.40 when his previous best had been 0.19 (PGL Major Krakow).
"I wanted this [to use the AWP more] from the start, but I understood that it was going to take a long time for me to become a tier one AWPer. When GuardiaN left, we had no other way to have an AWP player, everyone expected me to play with it."
At DreamHack Masters Malmö, Na`Vi went out in the quarter-finals, in which s1mple was the top performer in his team’s 2-1 defeat to NiP. The 20-year-old was once again the top rated player of his team by quite some distance, boasting an average 1.18 rating, his closest suitor being Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev (1.09). s1mple’s end-of-the-year heroics continued at ELEAGUE Premier, where Na`Vi finished third in a very tough group that included G2 and eventual champions FaZe. The young Ukrainian was, however, unimpressed by such opposition as he delivered 1+ ratings in all four games he played to finish the tournament with a 1.25 rating - 26% higher than the team's average.
ESL One New York was yet another event where s1mple desperately tried to keep his team afloat as he achieved a 1.35 rating (31% higher than Na`Vi’s average), the fourth best overall, a 0.95 KPR ratio and a 1.47 Impact despite one more weak run from his side, who were eliminated in the groups following defeats to Cloud9.
Unwilling to end the year empty-handed, s1mple had his best performance of 2017 at DreamHack Winter, which Natus Vincere attended following the roster changes that saw Denis "electronic" Sharipov replace Denis "seized" Kostin. s1mple was the highest-rated player of the tournament at 1.52 after putting in above-average ratings in all nine games he played, including in his team’s sole defeat, against Gambit (28-31) in the groups, in which he had a +30 KDD. The 20-year-old ended the event with a prodigious +117 KDD, six 1vsX situations won and a 1.76 Impact, topping the charts in ten different categories and also featuring in the top five in six others, earning an MVP medal as he inspired Natus Vincere to win their first and only title of 2017.
"I think that I performed like this because of my team. Without our teamplay, I could not have done it, of course. I knew that we needed to win this tournament, so I tried to play better every game and I understood that my sleep schedule was not good, so I fixed that."
s1mple’s high level of play was not reflected in the number of titles his team won, so we asked the Ukrainian if 2017 had been a bittersweet year for him and also quizzed him on his goals for 2018.
"I did not expect to lose so much in 2017. I always believed in our lineups, but I actually do not know what happened, I did not want this to happen to the team with GuardiaN, we just could not win together, and that was sad for me.
"Our goals are to become the No.1 team in the world. I am happy with the new line-up, I had never had such good chemistry on any team before. Everyone helps each other solving problems, both personal and in-game problems. My personal goals are to help my teammates to improve and to lift trophies together!"
Why is s1mple the 8th best player of 2017?
s1mple was statistically one of the most impressive players of 2017, ranking first in kills per round (0.84) and damage per round (87.4). He also had the biggest influence in a team, having averaged 112.4 damage in the rounds that Natus Vincere won - the highest of all players with at least 50 maps played over the year.
It is true that his impressive performance at DreamHack Open Winter - a medium-sized event, with only one top 10 team at the time in attendance - inflated his numbers a bit, but it cannot be overlooked as it was one of the best individual showings of the year.
Moreover, s1mple put up impressive numbers at big events, where he was ranked fourth overall with a 1.20 rating. He was also a big performer at Majors, where he averaged a 1.29 rating.
At first glance, it seems like he deserves an even higher place in the ranking, but it is important to point out that he was one of the best players at big events only twice - StarLadder i-League Season 3 and ESL One Cologne - as most of his impact came in group stage matches (1.24 rating). When it came to the playoffs, his average rating slightly dropped to 1.12 (11th best), which is what ultimately prevented him from placing higher and saw him land just the eighth spot.
"I would say electronic, of course. He is already playing for Na`Vi at such a young age and he has great potential. I would say that Miikka "suNny" Kemppi should be there as well."