Ahead of the WESG World Finals, which are set to kick off tomorrow, we have compiled a list of five interesting players to watch.
The WESG 2017 World Finals, with a $1.5M prize pool, are ready to get begin at the Haikou Exhibition & Convention center, in the Chinese province of Hainan. Six days of action, beginning on March 13, lie ahead before the champion lifts the trophy and takes the grand prize of $800,000.
With almost 30 teams in attendance, split into eight groups, we have made a list with five players who have been showing a lot of promise in the last few months and will be worth watching in this action-packed tournament.
Sonic has been one of the biggest talents in South Africa since he started to catch people’s eye in 2015. That same year, at the age of 17, Sonic signed for the country’s most successful team, Bravado. When he put pen to paper, Bravado’s captain, Dimitri "Detrony" Hadjipaschali, stated that the team's sights were on competing internationally, something the South Africans are now doing after moving to the United States to try their luck in North America.
When he joined Bravado, Sonic was a crowd-pleasing youngster full of potential with a flashy AWP who became the team's point man when Robby "bLacKpoisoN" Da Loca left the squad in 2017. However, Sonic is not alone as Detrony and the even-younger Johnny "JT" Theodosiou are also capable of putting up solid performances to help the team close matches. In the end, though, it is Sonic who has been leading the charge, especially offline, going above and beyond more consistently than his teammates. In South Africa, Sonic was always a dominating player statistically, only dipping below the 1.00 rating mark at the ESL African Championship Finals, which his team lost to bLacKpoisoN's eNergy.
Internationally, Sonic hasn’t always had the same level of success—particularly on LAN—, making the WESG World Finals 2017 the perfect scenario for him and his team to show they are capable of punching above their weight. Bravado struggled at events like ESWC 2016, Sonic's first international LAN, and the ESEA MDL Season 23 Global Challenge LAN, one of only two events where the South African youngster was not able to score 1+ ratings. But since the team’s move to the USA, he has been in great form, boasting a 1.27 rating across the ECS North America open and closed qualifiers, the ECS Challenger Cup, and the Pregame Launch Tournament 2018.
This year’s WESG World Finals will be an opportunity for Sonic, a hybrid player who can take up the AWP whenever necessary, to show he has grown and that the jump across the pond he and his team made is paying off. In Haikou, Sonic will have the chance to prove he can keep putting up the consistent numbers he does against North American Pro League/Premier teams online, but this time against an equally strong or even stronger opposition, on LAN. Despite an easier start to their journey as Group E's favourites, Ukraine, dropped out last minute, Bravado will need Sonic to be at his best to be competitive.
GruBy is a player who has been around for a long time in the CS:GO scene, playing for several teams who were always trying to break out internationally but who, for one reason or another, could never make the leap. It was finally last year, when a ragtag group of players got together to form AGO, who have been showing that, with hard work and dedication, it is possible to step out of Virtus.pro's shadow —so much so that they now sit 20th in the ranking, only two spots behind their struggling compatriots.
GruBy and Damian "Furlan" Kislowski gained a lot of experience in 2015 when they qualified for two Majors, ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, under eBettle and Vexed. Despite the team not putting up big fights, these events gave the players something they could apply when forming this new team. After not getting the wanted results at the time, GruBy ended up in AGG, where he played until mid-2016 with not much success in a dark time for any team in Poland with the exception of Virtus.pro. After that failed stint, GruBy tried his hand at streaming, but then an opportunity came along when Kinguin's signing of Bartosz "Hyper" Wolny resulted in Furlan creating a new team.
The 23-year-old Pole has started to show more of his capabilities with AGO, being set up by his team with some of the more frag-friendly positions such as pit/balcony on Inferno or connector on Mirage. The most spectacular thing was the difference in GruBy’s play between his early career and his 2017 form, particularly on LAN. Online, GruBy had a 1.14 rating last year, but the Pole’s numbers went up to 1.19 offline, and he has been particularly hot in the past three months with an even better 1.30 LAN rating.
With a group consisting of BOOT-d[S], GODSENT, and Swole Patrol, the Poles are the favorites to top the table and move on to the second stage with a high seed. AGO placed 5-8th at the EU & CIS Qualifier in November, where GruBy had a team-high 1.21 rating and was crucial to his side’s victories over Limitless, RESISTANCE, fnatic, and Fragsters. He has also been doing well in offline events lately, like the back-to-back 1.40 rated LANs he had at P2W Cryptomasters and ESEA MDL Global Finals, both of which his team won - making his stock rise in February. As AGO look to further cement their international credentials, GruBy will need to produce the same level of form shown in recent months.
One of the more obscure players to watch on this list is NikoM, the main pillar of Isurus, one of the teams that have risen in the region after the departure of a handful of Argentinean players last year to the United States, with the 20-year-old from Buenos Aires—known for a fiery temper that his team's captain, Nicolás "Noktse" Dávila, has been working to tame—taking that opportunity to become one of the best entry fraggers in the continent.
NikoM made his debut outside of the country’s borders alongside Jonathan "JonY BoY" Muñoz while both of them were playing for Perfectionvore and competed at the Games Academy Lan Cup. After that, the Argentinean went to play for Guerreros del Mouse, the team that with some changes—of which NikoM was one—went on to become Miami Flamingos. The young entry-fragger ended up in Isurus after Tomás "tomi" Guardia’s departure to Miami Flamingos, and since then has become the team’s star as well as a force to be reckoned with, earning the title of best foreign player of 2017 in the South American region by Brazil's GamersClub.
With a 1.27 rating in 2017, and just three tournaments with a rating below 1.00 (only one under .85), NikoM has started to establish himself as a star in Argentina. Particularly strong was his showing in the WESG 2017 Argentina qualifier, in which with a team-leading 1.67 rating (+52 KDD over four maps) he was able to propel his team to two victories, over Dynasty and the region’s top team, Gale Force. In the final, against the latter, NikoM had a 112.3 ADR over two maps, which his team won 16-7 and 16-8. NikoM & co. then moved on to the WESG 2017 South America Regional Finals, in which, after winning five matches, they found themselves qualified for the World Finals and faced TeamOne in the final. The Argentinean squad lost the match after three maps, with the two they gave up going to all 30 rounds.
Now, Isurus will face a hard opponent in the shape of Space Soldiers, but they will be fancying their chances against the EU & CIS Regional Qualifier darkhorse Limitless and Indonesian team Recca. If NikoM can keep up the good form he has been showing regionally, and the Argentinean team can show some grit, don’t count them out of the second group stage in China.
Since Brazil’s boom into the top level of competitive CS:GO a few years back, the country has shown a steady stream of talent making it further and further, with teams and players moving to both North America and, to a lesser extent, Europe, to try their luck at making it in the big leagues. While many of the teams have not exploded onto the scene the way SK or the former Immortals and 100 Thieves lineups have, many squads have been making slow and steady progress to make a name for themselves in the minor leagues.
TeamOne are one of those teams, with trk being their star. The 22-year-old rifler has been one of the least talked about hot prospects in the region, but he has been the most impactful player in his team’s recent runs, most notably in the ECS Challenger Cup, in which he averaged a 1.36 rating. In the last match of this cup, the Brazilians were unable to beat Rise Nation, but trk had an impressive 1.46 rating, 101 ADR, and +26 KDD by the end of the third map.
The team's road to Haikou was also one in which he excelled, with a 1.14 rating in WESG’s Brazil qualifier, in which he only had one map in red—one of the two his team played against SK in the final. After that, the Brazilian player also played incredibly in the South American Regional Qualifier, in which he averaged a 1.30 rating and was crucial for his team’s victory, particularly in the final against Isurus, in which he led the charge with an 89.4 ADR and a 1.33 rating over three maps. In a group where he will be facing subtLe, Alpha Red, and MVP PK, trk will have plenty of opportunities to shine and help TeamOne fight for a spot in the second round of the tournament.
The final entry on this list belongs to Sico, who plies his trade for ORDER but will be playing at the WESG event with New Zealand’s Parallax due to the nationality restrictions in place for the tournament. The 23-year-old has been playing since 2013 and has been in some of the more notorious organizations in the region, such as Chiefs, Dire Wolves, and AVANT in Australia, and Parallax in New Zealand. Shaking off the onliner reputation he carried, Sico proved his worth on LAN in 2017, when he won two ESL Championships under AVANT and moved on to Kings, whose core now forms ORDER, one of the top teams in Oceania.
For WESG, Sico will team up with Parallax, and will compete alongside Razmik "RaZ" Bastadjan and Egor "LONSDALE" Baranov, with whom he finished 9th-12th at last year's WESG APAC Finals. He will be joined this time around by Sean "Gratisfaction" Kaiwai, another AWPer, and by Nicholas "n1ck" Shaw, and are considered one of the underdogs in Group C, which they share with home side ViCi, as well as Wololos, and Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans's Belgium. As a mix, Parallax are expected to come out with a puggy style, and strong individual performances will be a must if the team wants to be able to compete.
Sico has been dominating of late in Oceania, boasting a 1.33 rating in the past three months, and keeps setting career-high records for himself. On top of that, the Kiwi showed some potential at IEM Katowice despite his team’s heavy losses, and with a seemingly easier opposition in China he could very well turn up and put in better numbers than his team-leading 0.88 rating at the Polish event. Locally, Sico has been laying down the law, especially online, with 1.57 and 1.44 ratings in the ESL AU & NZ Championship and in ESEA MDL Season 27 Australia, respectively. As far as qualifying for the event in Haikou went, Sico was key for his team’s 5th-8th finish at the APAC Finals, where he averaged a 1.37 rating. Despite the odds being against a New Zealand mix team facing two European teams with stars like Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom and Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas, keep an eye on Sico as he looks to impress with the AWP.