Big performances in big games and a number of individual awards see Håvard "rain" Nygaard finish fourth on our Top 20 ranking of 2017, powered by EGB.com.
|Top 20 players of 2017: Introduction|
Håvard "rain" Nygaard's first noted steps in the Counter-Strike competitive scene date back to 2013 on a Norwegian team called partyastronauts. An 18-year-old at the time, rain attended the famous Finnish LAN series Assembly Winter alongside Halvor "vENdetta" Gulestøl, placing third behind local teams featuring well-known Finnish players such as Joona "natu" Leppänen, Aleksi "allu" Jalli and Timo "REFLEX" Rintala.
The Norwegian would stick around with partyastronauts for over a year, with other notable players such as Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad, Kristoffer "Mystic" Michelsen and Sebastian "ensa" Aas shuffling in and out of the squad at different points in time. After attending another Assembly Winter at the start of 2014, partyastronauts tried their luck in the EMS One Katowice 2014 qualifier, in which rain would first cross paths with Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and his Serbian-based team GamePub. In what seemed as an unimportant match at the time, the Norwegian side took a tight victory which caused NiKo's team to split up, and, in a way, forced him to search for international options later on.
After failing to make the first Major of the year, rain climbed the domestic ladder and moved from partyastronauts to London Conspiracy in June, where he would play alongside the likes of Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel and Pål "Polly" Kammen. The team was successful right from the start, and that marked the start of rain's appearances on the international scene.
London Conspiracy qualified for DreamHack Summer 2014, but rain didn't hit the ground running in his first international outing. His side was eliminated straight away, losing big to Virtus.pro and fnatic, with rain recording the worst event of his career to this date. In Jönköping, the Norwegian finished with just 13 kills over two maps, and a 0.44 rating.
"I think I was nervous at that event and it didn’t go so well. My best weapon was the Deagle at that point. I think I had nine Deagle kills out of 13 and they were all against Virtus.pro. I knew that I was better than what I showed there so it didn’t really matter that much to me. It was a fun first event and we kind of got crushed on both maps. "
With a rough welcoming to the big leagues behind him, rain and his team went on to have a phase of good online results, during which they qualified for Gfinity 3 and the ESL One Cologne 2014 Major. The latter qualification came down to a memorable upset win over Natus Vincere, which, together with London Conspiracy's performance at the Gfinity 3 LAN, put the Norwegian side on the map as an up-and-coming team.
The team wouldn't achieve much more in 2014, though, with the rest of the year mostly limited to playing online competitions. With a combined online and LAN rating of 0.98, rain was the best performer for his side alongside RUBINO that year, but neither really stood out too much on what was a quite balanced team.
After an underwhelming ending to 2014, rain and RUBINO would start off 2015 in LGB, joining up with jkaem, Morten "zEVES" Vollan and, though at different times, ensa and Polly. After being outshined by RUBINO at the Inferno Online Pantamera Challenge, as well as at the ESL One Katowice 2015 Major Main Qualifier, rain would finally step into the limelight at the Major itself.
Stunning performances against one of the strongest teams in the world at the time, Envy, as well as PENTA, earned rain a 1.27 rating at the Polish event. In the end, rain ended up being the second-best rated player of the tournament, but his team didn't make it past the group stage after losing the decider-rematch to PENTA.
"I think that in the Norwegian lineups I got set up more as the lurker. I was always alone on bombsites or on the other side of the map as Terrorist. I was more of an aggressive lurker, I always tried to open up the sites without my team doing anything. Other than that, I played in different positions."
"I think that was my moulding period, I didn't know how I was going to play because I came from a mix team, we just played. So when I joined LGB back then, or London Conspiracy, I think it was just me trying to figure out how I'm going to play the game and I think I finally found out—by being an aggressive entry fragger."
The Norwegian had another impressive LAN performance at Copenhagen Games 2015, where he had a 1.33 rated showing, but his team only finished 5-6th. And just as rain was thinking of shifting his priorities, a career-changing opportunity came knocking at his door. A project that would band together lone stars from different countries under one banner, with significant backing by Kinguin, would snatch rain out of the Norwegian scene and set him in an international squad.
"It wasn’t until I joined Kinguin in March 2015 that I realized I could make a living out of CS. That summer I was about to stop playing and focus on school, but I got an offer from Maikelele and Kinguin that made me want to play. I don’t think it changed me that much, I still played a lot before I went full time."
"I think I wanted to stay with Kinguin for the long run. I quit my job. One day I had to leave early and I said I wasn't coming tomorrow because I was going to DreamHack Summer. Back then my boss was mad at me, I got like fifty phone calls because I didn’t show up. I told him I couldn’t come to work because I wanted to give everything to CS and leave everything else behind."
"I was set to play on an international team because we didn’t really know how to do a professional team in Norway. Whatever team I was on was not that serious, we didn’t go anywhere except Copenhagen Games and the Major qualifier. When I went to Kinguin, I went all-in and that was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
"There was no support in Norway for top teams, I remember the first time I was offered to go back to Norway was for ESL One Cologne 2016. That’s when some investors finally came to Norway and said that they wanted to make a good team. Other than that, there was nothing back then. I think I had a $100 salary in a four-year contract with LGB, so I was kind of stuck."
Kinguin officially came together in May 2015, with the player from Norway once again not being the focal point of the team, rather slotting in as a strong roleplayer behind Mikail "Maikelele" Bill and Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom. The team started their campaign with a group stage exit at DreamHack Summer, but, shortly afterwards, Kinguin would attend the Gaming Paradise Closed Qualifier where they would field a stand-in, NiKo, who was at the time benched in mousesports, The Bosnian, still pretty inexperienced, tore through the opposition and finished as the best player at the tournament, further impressing rain, who took note of him a year earlier.
With their full roster back, Kinguin headed for DreamHack Valencia, where the FACEIT Stage 2 Finals took place. Even though the event was just a barely above rated one for rain and his team finished 5-6th, the tournament would go down in history due to the 16-0 victory Kinguin secured over Virtus.pro on Cache. That match earned the already popular squad new fans from all over the world, and rain would gain some more attention over the year with his highlight-worthy clutching ability. One of the most memorable moments was the 1v3 against PENTA at the ESL One Colonge 2015 Major Qualifier, the first event after Valencia.
"I think that my decision making and clutching came naturally, I don't really study other people, I didn't look up to anyone before I started playing. When I watch a stream for example, when I see a play, when someone uses a position or an off-angle or anything, I might steal it and do it in the game myself. Other than that, I don't watch anyone or anything like that. I might, if we lose, go through my own demos to see how I got killed sometimes and if I did something really bad, but other than that it's just by playing"
rain would make the playoffs of the two remaining Majors in 2015, but the lack of a leadership in the squad led to a tough period for the Norwegian and his team. Aside from at the Majors, the team that made the switch to G2 before the end of the year didn't have a lot of success, and their LAN events more often than not finished in group stages, even though the team was capable of more on paper. Looking at rain's stats, one could think that he had a good year, but his 1.07 offline rating was heavily inflated by tournaments such as Gaming Paradise, the DreamHack Summer BYOC and his LGB showings. It was apparent that the in-game leader burden, something that he was at the time forced to take on, was hard to deal with for rain.
2016 is the year in which rain started showing more and more signs that he could be a star player for the side; however, even his beastly performances at IEM Katowice 2016 (1.26 rating) and MLG Colombus 2016 (1.27) weren't enough for FaZe to make it out of groups. Those two tournaments weren't the only blunders the team made in 2016, though. After switching to the new organization, the squad would end up going out in groups in nine straight tournaments, spanning from January to September.
"Of course, not making playoffs and not getting out of the groups made me frustrated. That period was kind of a mess. We started with SKYTEEN calling in Kinguin and then two days into practice we said: “No, Maikelele is going to call”. Then it just kept going for a while. Then I said I would call during DH Cluj-Napoca and some period before and after that event."
"I had never called before that, so it was my first time. It was a new experience and it made me think more about how I play as well because I was also thinking about my teammates. It changed me a little bit as a player."
During the period of struggle, FaZe did go throughsome changes, adding Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström as a coach, swapping Maikelele for Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey and finally adding allu, but to no avail. The potential of the roster was only unlocked when FaZe seized the opportunity and scooped Finn "karrigan" Andersen of Astralis' bench to finally solve their leadership issues.
"karrigan coming in helped me a lot because it meant I could focus on my game and fully do what he wanted me to do. It was a lot easier to play with him because he always had a tactic. Even though he only had one day with us before we went to play the ELEAGUE Season 2 group stage games, we passed the groups and in IEM Oakland we passed the groups again. Having him in the team is a big factor in our success.
With the Dane taking charge of the international squad, FaZe managed to turn things around instantaneously, getting out of groups at three tournaments before the end of the year. Even though 2016 as a whole was a struggle, rain improvements from 2015 were apparent as he scored an above-average rating at 14 out of 18 events he attended, even though most of those performances were limited to group stage action.
"Where do I fit in FaZe, role-wise? We have a term in Norwegian—potato, because you fit everywhere. I think I can be used to do anything except AWPing. I can flash for people, I can go in first, I can do most of the stuff."
"I personally like to go in first and that’s made me better, especially on the newest roster. That’s what I’m comfortable with, it just makes it a little bit easier for me.
With the whole team trending upwards after the addition of karrigan, FaZe attended their first event of 2017, the ELEAGUE Major 2017. rain was impactful in all of their group stage wins—over FlipSid3, Liquid and Envy—, and the team made another playoff, but were stopped there by SK, even though the Brazilians were playing with a stand-in. With Philip "aizy" Aistrup getting a call-up to North after the Major, FaZe were once again looking for a new member.
"Me and NiKo talked for a very long time before the switch even happened, we talked back when I was in Kinguin about wanting to make a team one day, because I played with him in the Gaming Paradise LAN Qualifier and I played against him in the partyastronauts game that was pretty close, in the EMS One Katowice 2014 Qualifier. We always kept talking about it but it never really happened until FaZe came in, because other organizations couldn't afford him. We knew that we were going to be good, we just didn't know that we were going to be that good that fast."
"We approached NiKo right before Vegas and we discussed that he was going to join after playing DreamHack Masters Las Vegas with mouz, that was going to be his final event. So I think that one or two weeks before Vegas we figured out that he was going to join. I remember that we were watching him playing at that event, he was in shadow and just one-shot everyone. We were like: "Ok… We are going to be good." (laughs)"
With the addition of NiKo already settled, FaZe played DreamHack Masters Las Vegas with a stand-in, which obviously took a toll on their performance. For rain individually, the lack of chemistry was apparent in his Death Traded statistic, which was at a mere 10%, by far the lowest of the whole year.
Rating-wise, rain didn't shine at the first two events, finishing with 1.04 and 1.03 at the Major and in Las Vegas, and he would add another average tournament in his first showing alongside NiKo. At IEM Katowice 2017, FaZe made their first run to a grand final, in which they were stopped by Astralis, while rain once again finished with an average 1.04 rating.
Following three mediocre events, rain got into his groove at the SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals. The 23-year old had stand-out maps against SK in the group stage (1.50 rating on Train), G2 in the playoffs (1.49 rating on Train) and Astralis in the grand final (1.31 rating on Nuke). rain, who especially stood out on the CT side, finished with an EVP distinction, with his side not only defeating Astralis to settle the score, but also setting the tone for this particular matchup for the rest of the year.
"The first time we played Astralis [at IEM Katowice] was a learning experience. We had NiKo for just a few days before the tournament so we didn’t have much practice. We came in, prepared, and kind of played on the fly. At the later events, karrigan had the upper hand, he had some insane calls when we played them. It was also the mentality, and we know that maybe the Astralis guys don’t have the strongest mentality, I think we got into their heads a little bit."
"Winning StarLadder in Kiev against Astralis—my first big win—, that was my favorite moment of 2017. It was a close game and it felt so good winning on the map that they had defeated us at ESL One Katowice."
A streak of good tournament placings and great performances from rain, which were in the end stopped by SK, then followed. The first tournament in question was IEM Sydney, where, after passing through the group stage, FaZe again took down Astralis. rain had impeccable games in that series, dominating on Cobblestone (115 ADR) and Train (105 ADR). He stood out with a 1.18 rating overall, but after losing to SK in the grand final, had to settle with an EVP mention.
"SK’s playstyle kind of countered ours somehow, at least in the beginning of the rivalry. The same mentality that Astralis had against us, we had against SK. We go into the game and want to win it so much more than other games and we get stressed and it gets out of hand. And then when fer pushes us, we just collapse. It’s hard to play against them."
The next tournament in line was the ECS Season 3 Finals. rain had above-average ratings on all of the maps his side played en route to the grand final, beating OpTic, G2 and Cloud9 along the way. He began the grand final against SK on the right foot as well, with 27 kills on Mirage. After taking the first map, FaZe would go on to lose the other two in overtime, with the Norwegian's impact dropping off as the series went on (0.78 and 0.85 ratings). However, with a 1.13 rating overall, rain was once again an EVP in London.
"I regret not getting my glasses before the grand final at the ECS Season 3 Finals against SK. My eyes were really dry, especially on Train. I had an infection or something, so my lenses kept falling out, bubbling up, so I couldn’t see during the game. I lost the game for our team. We did a comeback from 13-2 to 15-14 and I couldn't even see, it was 4vs5. That is my biggest regret of 2017."
ESL One Cologne was the third and final tournament in the pre-Major series of events where FaZe were knocked out by Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and co. The European side had a rough start to the tournament, as did rain individually, but the he stepped up in the deciding match against North, getting his side through to the playoffs. rain continued with great form against Liquid in the quarters and had a monstrous performance against SK on Cache (108.1 ADR, 39 kills), but even that wasn't enough to force the series to the third map.
"We had some problems within the team, especially at ESL One Cologne. I think we had our first big discussion that something was wrong there. It wasn’t as much in-game, I think that was fine. But out of the game we were arguing and people couldn’t fit together. It wasn’t the right setup for people that played together."
It all came down at the PGL Krakow Major, where the second best team in the world at the time crashed out of the groups with three straight defeats to BIG, mousesports and FlipSid3. With the majority of his teammates underperforming, rain's 1.13 rating was 28% above FaZe's average and, interestingly, marked the first time that the player from Norway scored higher than NiKo.
"We pulled the trigger when we went 0-3. People were talking about leaving, even before the Major people didn’t want to play here. After the Major we said we would try to make it work, but we had some opportunities to get olofmeister and GuardiaN so we made the changes."
With the addition of Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, the FaZe roster was stacked with star potential, and many thought that rain could be forced into a supportive position that would lessen his impact. The truth was quite the opposite, though, as the second half of the year went significantly better for him. Not only did his overall rating go up, but he was also better within his team: rain finished four out of eight events after the break as the best-rated FaZe player, while the same had only happened twice—in group stage exits—before olofmeister and GuardiaN joined.
FaZe didn't get off to the same flying start they had enjoyed with NiKo after adding olofmeister and GuardiaN, going out in groups at DreamHack Masters Malmö, but got on the right track shortly after that.
The European side got through their group at the ELEAGUE Premier before smashing the competition at ESL One New York to win one of the most one-sided championships in CS:GO history. FaZe didn't drop a map and allowed their opponents to get more than six rounds on just one occasion, with rain and NiKo leading the charge. Even though the Norwegian finished with a 1.61 rating, the MVP medal was snatched away by his teammate NiKo.
rain would get the first MVP of his career just a week later, as FaZe returned to Atlanta to take part in the ELEAGUE Premier playoffs. The European mixture once again went undefeated and didn't really look threatened at any point, something that was made possible by the rifler's strong CT play and overall great showing—he had a 90.9 ADR, 1.37 Impact and 77.1% KAST.
"I have no idea how we [went undefeated] since we didn’t do anything special, we just played. I think for the first two tournaments, we didn’t do a single tactic. Everybody was on fire; there was a fire running through everybody that made us want to win so bad. Especially GuardiaN and olofmeister, it had been some time since they won, so when they came into the team they had that extra fire and it brought everybody up. I had the best events of my career when we started that run."
FaZe's invincible streak was stopped at EPICENTER 2017, after they had reached a 17-0 map win record. The event was also the first and only one in 2017 where rain had a below-average tournament rating, and the group stage elimination that followed showed FaZe's dependency on the rifler to do well. Later on, it was revealed that rain was struggling with illness during the tournament in Moscow, something that hindered his play significantly.
"I felt really off. I had a fever so it was really hard for me to play. I had played tournaments with a cold or a small fever before, but this time it felt really weird. My head wasn’t in the right place, I couldn’t focus. I kept missing easy kills all the time and that got into my head. Doing badly on a couple of maps doesn’t affect me, but doing it in two best-of-threes got into my head a little bit."
"If I had not been sick, I think we would definitely have made it out of the groups. We wouldn’t have played the way we did. It was the first time in a long time that I lost to Virtus.pro. We might have played better but I don’t know, the teams we lost to were SK and VP which had good runs there."
That the EPICENTER was just a one-off thing would be proven shortly, as rain went on to finish the year with four more individual accolades from the same number of events.
IEM Oakland was the first one in question, and with SK— FaZe's kryptonite at the moment — eliminated in the semi-finals, it seemed like the Europeans would snatch another title. It didn't happen, though, as NiP edged them out in the BO5 grand final, leaving rain with an EVP from a 1.21 rated event.
At BLAST Pro Series, despite beating SK in the group stage in a match in which rain dropped 30 kills, FaZe didn't make the grand final and couldn't get a shot at the title, leaving the rain to settle with an EVP distinction after averaging a 1.27 rating, the second best in the team.
FaZe and SK would meet one last time at the ESL Pro League Season 6 finals, after both teams had had relatively easy routes to the title decider. rain had particularly notable games against Astralis and fnatic, and once again performed well in the grand final against the Brazilians. Still, victory eluded him and his team once again.
To finish the year, rain and co. attended the ECS Season 4 Finals in Cancun, Mexico. Even though his team struggled at certain points of the tournament, such as in the grand final against mousesports, rain was consistently dominant (74.2% KAST, 94.5 ADR), picking up the MVP award over his teammate NiKo for the second time in the year.
"I’m happy with what we accomplished in 2017 because we went from going out in the group stage of every tournament to making playoffs, grand finals, and winning them—even though we also lost a few of them. Making the grand final still matters to me because it shows we know how to get there. Now it’s just a mental game against SK."
With a satisfying 2017 behind him, rain looks towards taking the team to the next level in 2018:
"I don't have any personal goals for 2018, the only thing I want is to improve the team, make the team better. Even if it means that I have to change roles or whatever it is. I want to improve individually as well, play more, I didn't play that much in 2017, so this year I want to put in more hours."
Why was rain the fourth best player of 2017?
The main reason why rain is ranked so high in 2017 is his play in big matches. The Norwegian recorded a 1.20 rating in the playoffs of big events, which makes him the third best player of the year in that regard, and he also played a lot of those maps, 5th most out of all top 20 players.
Playing well in playoffs netted him two MVP medals in 2017, one at ELEAGUE Premier and one at the ECS Season 4 Finals. rain also picked up seven EVPs, which, combined with the two MVPs medals, makes him one of the most decorated players of the year. It's also worth noting that, even though he didn't get an MVP for it, his showing at ESL One New York ranks as the second-best LAN performance that any player had in 2017.
Stylistically, rain is an aggressive player, and he more often than not gets the job done. He took an opening duel in 24.5% of the rounds his side played (6th highest) and recorded an average of 0.13 opening kills per round (ranked 6th). He had the most average headshots per round at 0.44, which to some extent allowed him to deal a lot of damage— his 84.4 ADR ranks him fourth in 2017.
However, rain didn't have the best start to the year—he averaged a 1.04 rating over the first three events played—, and also recorded a big dip at EPICENTER 2017. Those two things were the main reasons why the Norwegian couldn't be ranked any higher in 2017, along with the top three players simply doing a bit more over the course of the year.
"I'm going to go with frozen. I've been watching him in FPL and stuff like that and he seems really talented. I think he is going to be top 20 this year if he gets to play some tournaments."