Number five on our top 20 ranking powered by EGB.com goes to Nicolai "device" Reedtz, who makes his fourth consecutive appearance on the list. As one of the most consistent and impactful players at big events, the Danish AWPer was a force to be reckoned with in 2017.
|Top 20 players of 2017: Introduction|
Just like most of his Astralis teammates, Nicolai "device" Reedtz took his first steps in esports in the CS:Source scene, in which he was one of the great young talents to come out of the talent factory that was Denmark. He quickly established himself as one of the rising talents in his country, but it was only after a knee injury that he decided to really develop his skills as before that he used to split his time between his studies, badminton and Counter-Strike.
Shortly after CS:GO was released, device joined POPPERS, curiously a team featuring former 1.6 players including veteran Danny "BERRY" Krüger and current Heroic leader Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer. It would not last, however, as the 22-year-old quit the team just weeks later to return to Copenhagen Wolves (whom he had represented in CS:Source).
Motivation issues kept device in and out of the team several times throughout 2013, but it was still a positive year for him as the team garnered high placings at events with him on board, including top-eight finishes at DreamHack Summer and at the first Major, DreamHack Winter.
With no organisation to represent after parting ways with Copenhagen Wolves, the team signed for dignitas at the beginning of 2014. Under the UK-based organisation, device & co reached the semi-finals at the first two Majors (EMS One Katowice and ESL One Cologne) and the quarter-finals at DreamHack Winter, but an offline title continued to elude them. Still, device managed to break into the top 20 ranking, mostly due to his impact at smaller events like Copenhagen Games, DreamHack Stockholm #2 and ESWC.
Just one month into 2015, the team bid farewell to dignitas and jumped ship to TSM, under whom they would be able to break their title drought. The Danes established themselves among the elite as they won five international titles, with device being named the third best player of the year.
As 2016 rolled around, the Danish players parted ways with TSM, playing some events under the name “?” before forming Astralis. Now part of an organisation in which they were involved in every decision-making process, the Danes were tipped for greatness, but they could only hit peak form in the final two months of the calendar year, after replacing Finn "karrigan" Andersen with Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander. That change brought immediate results as the team placed second at the ELEAGUE Season 2 Finals and won the ECS Season 2 Finals, the latter providing device with his only MVP award of the year, in which he was once again named the third best player in the world.
"Looking back, when we won ECS and claimed the No.1 spot in the world, we obviously felt really great as a team. It was only after a few tournaments with gla1ve and the atmosphere therefore obviously was really great. I was feeling very confident in the beginning of the year and I was not that worried that the pressure of being the best team in the world would interfere with our performance at the Major. Our goal was to go to the final, at least."
Astralis’ journey began in Atlanta at the ELEAGUE Major, where the Danish giants confirmed their status as the No.1 team in the world at the time. But it was far from an easy ride: they had to go through all five rounds of the Swiss stage to make it to the playoffs despite great performances across the board from device, who finished the group stage with an impressive +50 KDD.
The 22-year-old carried that form into the playoffs, putting in a 1.37 rating against fnatic and a team-leading 1.38 rating against Na`Vi. But his level dropped considerably in the final against Virtus.pro as he sat at the bottom of the scoreboard with a 0.89 rating - which ultimately cost him the MVP award. Even though he had acquitted himself really well for most of the tournament, he was still left with mixed feelings after the final as a result of his below-par display in the title decider.
"If I speak for myself I would say that us having a TV crew with us, announcing Audi as a partner and just generally having to focus on a lot of things other that the game threw me off for the first part of the Major. But after some days I felt like I could adapt and shut out all of the things that I did not feel were productive for my performance, and the same goes for the team.
"To be fairly honest, I was feeling happy with my performance in some matches, it was still very early in my full time AWPing career and I had a rough time against some playstyles, but in general I was happy with most of the games except the final, in which I felt like I hit a wall with my every move. That is also why I had a hard time really being happy after the game, since it was a frustrating to an otherwise great tournament run. Kjaerbye stepping up in that game made me really happy, obviously, since he was a big part of why we succeeded in the last two games, together with the rest of the team."
It did not take long for Astralis to return to the United States after Atlanta as they attended the second big event of the year, DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. This time, device was the second-best rated player of his team at 1.22, putting up above-average ratings in all games but one - a 16-3 beating against Virtus.pro in the semi-finals.
IEM Katowice brought Astralis their second title of the year and device his second EVP mention. The 22-year-old performed at a very high level in every game he played up until the final against FaZe, in which he was once again at the bottom of the scoreboard. device finished the tournament with a 1.16 rating, 3% above the team's average, and with an admirable +60 KDD, seven clutches won and 0.40 AWP kills per round.
Next up for Astralis was the StarSeries Season 3 event, where device finished second in his team in rating (1.15 and a +43 KDD) but first in terms of KPR (0.76) and Impact (1.26), adding another EVP to his collection as he helped his squad to reach the final, in which they would crumble against FaZe.
That ended up being the last final in a while for Astralis, who crashed out of IEM Sydney in the last-four stage after taking on FaZe. Two below-par games against the European mixture saw device finish the event with a 1.13 rating - only the fourth-highest of the team -, despite his relatively high 1.17 Impact and 70.3% KAST.
Back on European soil, the Danes attended the ECS Season 3 Finals, where they made it out of the groups thanks to a solid display from device in the decider match against Liquid. Paired with SK in the semi-finals, the 22-year-old put up solid numbers on all three maps but could not prevent the Brazilians from running away with the series. In London, he returned to being first ranked in his team, finishing with a 1.14 rating - 12% above the team's average -, five 1vsX won and a 1.26 Impact, and securing his fourth EVP performance of the year.
The last two events had shown that Astralis had stopped being at the top of the food chain as they now lagged behind SK and FaZe. With the Major looming, Astralis decided to skip ESL One Cologne as they looked to rekindle the fire that had burned brightly at the start of the year.
"I definitely feel like at one point their “hunger” was bigger than ours. It affected everyone on our team that we had a lot of media focus, that we had tried to win the "big one" and been the best team in the world for a while. This is actually the toughest place to be in, since everyone has their eyes on the team to beat, and the team at the top usually does not have so many places to look for inspiration/motivation. We have learned a lot from this period, and I only think it has made us smarter as a team on how we are supposed to deal with this in the future.
"We should have been hungrier after our first loss at DreamHack Las Vegas, I think that should have been our wake up call regarding feeling content with what we’ve achieved. Other than that I feel like we did everything in our hands (not going to ESL Cologne as an example) to get back to being number one."
At PGL Major Krakow, Astralis looked on course to win the title after enacting revenge on SK for their Swiss stage loss, but then they were taken aback by Gambit’s style in the semi-finals and left the tournament empty-handed. device, who was his team's best player in the quarter-final match against SK with an impressive 1.62 rating and +23 KDD, picked up an EVP distinction in the tournament after averaging a 1.17 rating, the second-best in his team.
"When we lost the Swiss stage match against SK, I felt like we almost solely lost to coldzera, he was a beast in that game and it was honestly the most impactful I have seen anyone be against me. So beating them in the quarter-finals while FaZe could not go through the group stage felt really f*cking great. We knew that we weren’t close to winning yet, but I think in some way it’s hard to mentally reset after beating the best team in the world. Going from being the underdogs to being the clear favourites, we didn’t bring our A-game against Gambit, and they punished that.
"The loss against them at the Major was really heartbreaking because it felt like the moment we could get closer to solidifying what other great lineups had previously achieved by winning two Majors in a row. But no, I wasn’t that "surprised" that we could not beat them since they were a really good team with nothing to lose in that game, but it was still the toughest game mentally that I feel like we lost in 2017."
Astralis came from the break player a little sluggish and placed 5th-8th at DreamHack Masters Malmö, this way ending their streak of top-four finishes. device got off to a great start in the Swedish tournament, delivering a 2.05 rating against Renegades, and he followed that up with two solid maps against Na`Vi in the group winners' match. But then the Danes ran into the Gambit wall and lost, with the 22-year-old averaging an unimpressive 0.77 rating - which did not stop him from ending the tournament as Astralis' best player with a 1.17 rating and a +22 KDD. Things then went from bad to worse for the Danes, who bowed out of ESL One New York in the groups following defeats to FaZe and Liquid despite device’s efforts, the 22-year-old delivering a 1.14 rating - 13% higher than the team's average.
ELEAGUE Premier was the tournament where Astralis came closest to winning a title in the second half of 2017. The Danish team comfortably topped their group, which featured an SK team in crisis, before moving past fnatic and an in-form Cloud9 in the playoffs - only to be defeated in the final by FaZe, who continued to be an Achilles heel for gla1ve's men.
device finished all maps but one with above-average ratings and was again one of the main reasons Astralis went as far as they did as he put in a Man of the Match display in the series against Cloud9 (1.43 rating, 96.7 ADR) after being the team's second best player against fnatic (1.57 rating, +32 KDD). The Danish AWPer ended up with a 1.27 tournament rating, first in the team, and an extremely high 1.36 Impact, picking up his sixth EVP mention of the year.
"I respect Finn [karrigan] a lot, and I like the history there is with the games between us. The rivalry probably existed a little bit more around the IEM Sydney/SLTV Kiev times, where we faced each other more often, and it was closer to the time when we changed lineup. His way of calling and the way that their team plays is in general an annoying playstyle for us since they rely a lot of individual performances and unpredictability, whereas we enjoy playing against more tactical teams like SK.
"For me, there really is nothing mentally towards Finn or FaZe in general that makes me want to beat them more than any other team, other than the fact that they are ranked above us, right now."
EPICENTER was a very frustrating event for Astralis, who got slaughtered in their opening match, against G2, but still managed to go through from the groups following 2-0 victories over Liquid and North. The Danes were then outplayed by SK in the semi-finals and also lost the third-place decider against G2 despite an incredible performance from device (1.36 rating, 94.0 ADR and +27 KDD). The 22-year-old ended with a 1.18 tournament rating - 16% higher than the team's average -, six clutches, a +39 KDD and a commendable 82.9 ADR.
device had his worst performance of the year at IEM Oakland, where he put in a low 0.97 rating - the only time he finished a tournament in the red -, after missing the team's first match of the competition. This ended up being his final event of the year as he sat out of Astralis' last three offline tournaments due to his persistent health issues.
"To be honest, I never should have boarded that plane to Oakland, I was dealing with a stomach infection that I thought was not that serious, and putting my body under severe stress with the jet lag, landing 1,5 hours before our first game, etc., just made the trip really unpleasant for me and I ended up going to the hospital there before being sent home.
"I felt like I would let the team down if I did not go, and I am the only one to blame for going, so I am very disappointed that I did not listen to my body and waited before I got better. I do not really feel disappointed with my performance in the tournament because of the condition I was in.
When asked about his thoughts on 2017, device stated that he was happy with the level at which he played for most of the year, but admitted that he regrets not having taken better care of himself, which could have prevented his two-month spell on the sidelines towards the end of the year.
"I am a bit disappointed that I did not take time to focus on my illness, because now I already feel like a new person going into 2018, and I feel like I could done a lot better in 2017 if I had done that. I can’t really be too harsh on myself, since I obviously did something right; otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing this interview. I am proud of what I achieved in one year being the primary AWPer, and I have proved a lot to myself by winning the Major and not feeling the pressure the same as I did earlier in my career.
"Collectively, we have been reflecting together after the winter break, and we all feel like we have more in us as a team, both strategically and individually, but we can’t not be satisfied after achieving the goal of winning a Major and overall being at the top throughout the year.
"My favourite memory? Winning the major, lifting the trophy with my best friends and achieving the ultimate there is in Counter Strike."
"We feel really great. The two-month sick leave worked wonders for me, and the winter break gave us all refreshed motivation going into 2018. Our expectations are still high, but there is not much pressure outside of the team.We kind of feel like we have that honeymoon period that new teams have since it has been so long since I last played with the guys. The goal is to reclaim the No.1 spot in the world as a team, and afterwards prove that we learnt from 2017 by keeping that spot as long as possible.
"Individually I want to grow a lot, I want to be more creative ingame strategically and stay out of the “autopilot-zone”, meaning that I constantly want to develop my playstyle and also my individual training methods. Being regarded as a top-five player three years in a row is something I am so proud of, but I really want to go for the top spot this year."
Why was device the fifth best player of 2017?
A key factor behind device’s 2017 rank is his consistency: he kept himself in high regard with tournament ratings of 1.13 or higher right until his final event of the year, IEM Oakland.
The 22-year-old only attended big events, averaging a 1.18 rating (fifth highest overall). When it came to the Majors specifically, he had the fourth-highest rating of all players at 1.24. And while no MVP awards came his way, device had EVP distinctions in half of the 12 events he attended, including at both of the Majors and in every final appearance from his team.
He was one of the best fraggers of the year with 0.77 kills per round (ranked seventh) and one of the hardest players to kill with 0.62 deaths per round (sixth). His 1.25 Impact Rating ranked him seventh in the world in this category, with his presence being especially felt in the beginning of the rounds as he had the third-highest entry kills per round ratio (0.14) and won 57.9% of his opening duels (ranked fourth).
Over the year, device was a big performer in big-event playoffs, in which he averaged a 1.13 rating, but he tended to vanish in the grand finals, delivering a mere 0.96 rating, which ultimately made room for other players to overcome him in the ranking.
"I do not feel I had a mental block in 2017 at all. It might look like that, but, in fact, I was affected by my illness a lot more and I tried to ignore the pain I was in instead of taking my time to fix it. I pushed my body harder, which often led to me being really drained in the deeper runs of tournaments. All I really remember from IEM Katowice specifically was the 12-hour group stage day, the Hardwell show and the pain I was in after the final."
"I think this one is hard this year. There are so many to pick, and I feel like our scene is getting bigger and bigger every year. The one guy I really feel like has the star potential and has been developing ever since having the chance is ropz, but it is not really that much of a “bold” pick since I am fairly confident that, if he continues doing what he is doing, he will be doing one of these interviews at the end of this year."