The story of mantuu, the AWPer who is reinventing himself
Exactly a week ago, OG finally went public with one of the worst-kept secrets in esports in recent history: their expansion into Counter-Strike. The famed Dota 2 organisation, the only to boast a two-time — and back-to-back — champion of The International, house a star-studded line-up assembled by Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen and Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt, who were joined by two other players with international pedigree in Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså and Issa "ISSAA" Murad.
The final piece of the puzzle proved to be more challenging — with Elias "Jamppi" Olkkonen unable to compete at Majors due to his alleged ties with a VAC-banned account and Valentin "poizon" Vasilev having favored a move to Complexity, OG turned to mantuu, a relatively unknown player outside of Germany, where he made a name for himself playing for PANTHERS and ALTERNATE aTTaX. But who is this Polish-born player who has lived in the United Kingdom since the age of five and has been turning heads in the Counter-Strike scene?
Inside the game, no one knows mantuu as well as Dustin "DuDe" Großmann. The pair played together for over four years and would probably still be on the same team if OG had not come knocking. After getting to know each other online through a mutual group of friends, they decided to team up, initially just for fun, attending their first event together in March of 2016, in the BYOC qualifier for Copenhagen Games. When it came to top-flight Counter-Strike, n0_0rg were as green as they come, but mantuu still held his own during the early stages of the qualifier, even against an Epiphany Bolt team led by veterans Jon "DaY" Thomas Rudstrøm and Kristian "KORN" Hokland, before his team were overrun by the Swedes of Plantronics.
As fate would have it, mantuu and DuDe would be donning Plantronics’ colours the following year in the Danish capital after winning the Team Plantronics Challenge. By the time Copenhagen Games came around, the team had already amassed some experience through competing in online qualifiers, ESL Meisterschaft and ESEA Main, and it showed. Despite going out in the groups, Plantronics raised eyebrows by pushing iGame.com to their limit and taking a map off NRG — two results that put the team on the map and opened many doors.
mantuu left Copenhagen with an impressive 1.20 rating, even making the tournament's stats leaderboards for opening kills per round (0.19) and opening duel success (67.6%). Many were surprised to see a rather unknown player perform so well at this level, but not DuDe, who had been seeing first-hand his friend's steady growth. "I noticed incredibly quickly how gifted mantuu was," the German player tells HLTV.org. "He had never played in a CS:GO team before and had no experience to show for, but mechanically he stood out instantly and, to be honest, I was convinced he had to be cheating when I first played with him just because he was so much better than anyone else we played with.
"The more I got to know him I realized his disciplined mentality and how hard he was working to improve and started acknowledging that he was just really really good at the game. I realized pretty quickly that he had the skills to compete on way higher levels, especially after seeing him perform just as well or even better on LAN compared to online."
Not long after Copenhagen Games, the players were offered the chance to represent PANTHERS, an organisation with a long history in Counter-Strike. Pursuing a career abroad was a natural move for mantuu, who, in an interview with esportmania.pl, admitted that the British scene "is not great" after getting a taste of local CS during his early playing days.
The team brought home a title within a few months of joining PANTHERS, winning the ESL Meisterschaft Summer 2017 Finals, but they struggled to replicate that success during the rest of the time that they spent in the organisation, especially when mantuu stepped down from the roster for nearly five months in order to complete his studies. "He was still studying at university and he finished his degree while still playing a lot with the team, along with managing many other responsibilities at the time," says DuDe. "He’s always been working very hard to make everything work."mantuu's work ethic is also highly praised by Niclas "enkay J" Krumhorn, who coached the player for almost eight months on ALTERNATE aTTaX. "He is eager to learn and to improve, and, most importantly, he is an absolute team player," says the current Sprout coach.
mantuu's transition to ALTERNATE aTTaX, in January 2019, was seamless, in no small part because he continued to operate in a system crafted by DuDe, who joined him in this new adventure. After a year in which he had found LAN opportunities very hard to come by, mantuu exploded on the international scene in 2019 and became a name on many people's lips as he averaged a 1.18 rating in offline tournaments, helping ALTERNATE aTTaX to win three domestic trophies and an international title, at the four-team Esportal Global Finals, in Stockholm.
"He would most of the time single-handedly carry us through the German leagues, and in international competitions he would constantly be our best performing player due to his versatility," enkay J says. "Back then he was not the primary AWPer, he would only pick it up when we were running double AWP setups as CT. We would leave him on one bombsite as an anchor because we knew he would be locking down that bombsite. On the Terrorist side, he would a lot of times function as an entry."
As impressive as his versatility for ALTERNATE aTTaX was, that was not the trait that saw him land on OG's radar. As NBK- and Aleksib were searching for a dedicated AWPer for the team, they were forced to go into unfamiliar territory after dropping their interest in Jamppi and missing out on poizon. mantuu's name came up on the recommendation of enkay J himself, who had worked with NBK- during his time as an analyst for EnVyUs and G2. "I kept mentioning mantuu's potential to him, that they should at least give this guy a shot," he says.
The early signs have been positive, at least judging from an interview conducted by VaKarM with NBK- in which the French veteran admitted to being impressed with mantuu's impact in practice. But the question stands: with a 0.17 AWP kills/per round ratio on LAN in 2019, will he be able to keep up when the going gets tough, considering his lack of experience against tier-one teams and the fact that he has had to make considerable adjustments to his game to fit the profile of the team's needs?
"It is obviously going to be hard for him in the first couple of months, as he was not the primary AWPer for the last year or two," enkay J says. "He will have to work harder in order to catch up with other top AWPs, but with the right guidance and full support of his teammates he can do that. CT sides will definitely not be the issue right away, but T sides will be a challenge for him as he used to function as an entry for quite some time. On some maps, the Terrorist AWPers have to play a pretty passive style and simply hold angles, while on other maps they can do whatever they want, so he has to find the perfect balance.
"He needs to find his own groove as a 'full AWPer' and he needs to work on his decision making as OG will probably play a heavier individualistic playstyle than what he was used to."
mantuu's first test in an OG jersey will come this Thursday, in California. Beyond The Summit's laidback atmosphere will take some of the pressure off the team, making it the perfect debut tournament for a player still trying to find his feet. At 22 years old, he is still a young, developing player who should have no problem to reshape his game once again after playing a variety of roles before. He is willing to sacrifice his jack-of-all-trades skill set, all in the pursuit of the dream he set out to achieve at the start of this year: to finally reach a Major. And what better place to do it than in a team with players who have a collective 22 Major appearances between them?
As the action begins in Los Angeles, all eyes will be on the young Brit, including those of DuDe, who confessed that it was with mixed emotions that he parted ways with his friend and longtime teammate. "Obviously it was a bittersweet situation for me," the ALTERNATE aTTaX captain says. "I’m extremely happy for him but after over four years I will definitely miss playing with him in a team.
"We will not try to replace him with a player with the same qualities. I don’t think that would be very realistic and we’d likely end up with a budget version of him. Instead, we will try to find a player who excels in other areas and perhaps fits the system better to improve the team in aspects we might have been lacking in the past.
"I wish him nothing but the best moving forward and I’m really excited to see what the future holds for him and for us as a team, as well."