The EVPs of IEM Cologne 2022
The conclusion of another event means the handing out of another nine EVP medals.
A week after its thrilling finale, the dust is settling on IEM Cologne's latest iteration. Counter-Strike's return to the LANXESS was rewarded with a thrilling and attention-retaining best of five final between the two best teams in the world, a stellar underdog run from Movistar Riders, and another peerless performance from Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev.
IEM Cologne's MVP medal is s1mple's second of 2022, taking him to 21 in total — now two beyond Nicolai "device" Reedtz's old record. And, despite two uncharacteristically poor maps in the final, s1mple came away from Germany with the highest KPR (0.84) of all participants and the highest rating (1.25) of any of the grand finalists.
Behind s1mple, as ever, there was a chasing pack featuring several strong performances deserving of credit. That credit comes here, in the form of Exceptionally Valuable Players (EVPs) awards.
HLTV.org's EVP picks of IEM Cologne (by order):
Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken
Håvard "rain" Nygaard
Benjamin "blameF" Bremer
Helvijs "broky" Saukants
Denis "electroNic" Sharipov
Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski
Alvaro "SunPayus" Garcia
Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut
Robin "ropz" Kool
Twistzz barged into the MVP race late and, had s1mple's grand final performance lacked its two 1.30+ maps, he might have snatched the medal at the death. The final rounds of Nuke, and FaZe's call to quicken the pace with back-to-back 'Canada' executes, have already gone down in history, and for good reason. Named after his country of origin, 'Canada' is a variation of an A rush that relies Twistzz to fly off silo and have some impact. Nobody, though, would have expected Twistzz to deliver round-winning multi-kills at 13:14 and an even more spectacular opening at 14:14 using the same strategy.
It evoked a similarly enthralling final from five years ago, Twistzz's late charge resembling Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye's historic grand-final performance, and the back-to-back A rushes echoing Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander and Astralis' A rushes at 14:14 and 15:14 against Virtus.pro on their deciding map.
Twistzz had that highlight moment, but he also backed it up over the entire final; after negative ratings in maps one and two, Twistzz delivered a 1.32, 1.42, and a 1.40 rating in the final three — a jump in performance necessary for FaZe to edge past Natus Vincere in a photo finish.
Recording an excellent 1.22 rating on T-side (4th) and a 1.17 rating in the LANXESS (joint 3rd), Twistzz' 76.3% KAST (4th) rating proves that his impact was delivered round-after-round. In a team with stars as passive as ropz and broky, Twistzz' intelligence and spacing in-game is particularly important — a key reason FaZe are so deadly in late-round scenarios is just how often Twistzz is traded (27.3%, 1st). Even in death, Twistzz was often improving FaZe's position.
He may not have got his first MVP in FaZe's colours, due to a fairly quiet tournament before that explosion in the final three maps, but make no mistake: it was Twistzz who made the difference in the grand final.
rain, like Twistzz, peaked just in time for FaZe. His 1.24, 1.31, and 1.20 ratings in the last three maps of the tournament were his 4th, 3rd, and 5th best maps of the tournament respectively, a feat that should not be downplayed given the strength of Natus Vincere and rain's difficult roles.
In fact, the same should be said for Twistzz and s1mple: They may not top the overall rating charts but no other players had to endure five exhausting maps against the first or second best team in the world. A FaZe or Natus Vincere member's 1.16 rating, as rain had, is far more impressive than a higher number from a team that bowed out beforehand.
Ever the dutiful entry-fragger, rain actually struggled slightly on T-side this event, with a 30% success rate in — his very tricky — opening duels. Yet, there were no such problems on CT: 0.16 OpKPR, at 81.8% success (tied 1st with Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov), is a ridiculous statistic for a rifler, and it was not just at the start of the round that rain dominated the defensive half. His 1.49 rating on defence is the highest of anyone, the Norwegian locking down spots like outside on Nuke and cave on Ancient as well as he ever has.
blameF is a statistical machine; there is no other way to say it. He posts huge ratings on T-side (1.25, 3rd) , CT-side (1.33, 6th), opening kills on T (0.12, joint 7th) and CT (0.18, =6th). He had the highest damage differential of anyone at the event (+21.7 per round), recording a kill in 54.2% of rounds (2nd only to s1mple), and even threw in 7 clutches (0.70 per 30 rounds) to boot.
No matter his role, he is a phenom; there is nobody a player like Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke or gla1ve would rather have behind them ready to trade. His leaderboard-topping 0.18 trade kills per round corroborate that, adding another tie to his bow.
And yet, it is impossible to end the discussion here. blameF is posting similar numbers to Nikola "NiKo" Kovač did at the back-end of last year, but you would have a hard time realising that on an eye-test. Where NiKo ripped through defences single-handedly, blameF is naturally a slower player. It might be unfair to compare the two, but blameF's numbers demand that comparison — and it remains one where he falls short.
0.57 kills per lost round was the second highest of the event (to sh1ro, who has an AWP to save). blameF survived 18% (3rd) of Astralis' lost rounds, only 2% less than Dzhami "Jame" Ali. blameF has tremendous impact — only a fool argue otherwise — but a player of his talent and skill can still do more.
With the first three players all relatively close in terms of order, the step to electroNic is one that goes down a tier. Still, though, broky added another strong event. He actually posted the highest rating of anyone in the LANXESS (1.18), with two strong maps against Natus Vincere on finals-day (1.54 on Mirage, and 1.30 on Inferno) cementing that status.
broky's role has not changed, and as such his radar chart still pales in comparison to the other players here like it has in a few other of these EVP articles. An element of that is a talking point — his 0.94 T-side rating is lower than usual (he has 1.05 for the entirety of 2022) — but we should not look too deeply into his numbers.
He takes the modern 'passive' AWPing style to its logical extreme, with just 13.9% opening kill attempts, but that is something he has done all year without FaZe skipping a beat. It is quite simply not his job.
That is not to say FaZe wouldn't benefit from him using his excellent close-to-mid range combat AWPing style for an extra pick or two, but Finn "karrigan" Andersen knows broky is most dangerous when he's using that skill to hit late-round multi-kills — and sets him up accordingly. Overall, broky had another good showing, if a small step below the first three names on this list.
electroNic, meanwhile, has added another event as an IGL where his fragging barely suffered. As always, Natus Vincere's new captain was at his best in the playoffs (1.17 rating compared to 1.15 in groups), posting all maps above 1.00 in the LANXESS. He nearly matched Twistzz for impact at the death too, posting 1.38 and 1.37 ratings in the final two maps of the grand final.
Another similarity to Twistzz was how well electroNic was traded this event, his figure of 26.5% second only to the Canadian. This is part of the reason for electroNic's 75.5% KAST (6th), a very solid stat line for a member of the entry pack.
Getting 0.05 flash assists per round, compared to 0.02 at Katowice and 0.03 at Antwerp, electroNic is taking his new meta-IGL role in the 'middle' of the action seriously; a captain with as much skill as electroNic will be a tangible advantage for Natus Vincere next season and, hopefully, beyond.
EliGE and Liquid came into Cologne with a fresh burst of life, buoyed by the addition of Damian "daps" Steele as coach and Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis as a stand-in to the extent the team were practising for a "minimum" of "10 or 11 hours a day" in the lead-up to the event.
Despite actually handing some of his T-sided roles to YEKINDAR, it was EliGE who was the most impressive Liquid player statistically — and it wasn't close. A 1.25 rating was the same as s1mple's, and EliGE even posted the highest ADR of the event (91.8) and second highest multi-kills (21.3%) as Liquid finally shook off some of their pandemic ring-rust.
That group stage promise, however, only meant Liquid's loss to Movistar Riders in the quarter-finals stung harder. A playoff run was more than most would have expected before the event but once Liquid arrived in the LANXESS their firepower should have been enough to defeat the well-oiled machine of Movistar Riders.
An excuse might come in the form of how little time Liquid had before the event, after "scrapping everything" that they had before, but Liquid will need EliGE to come into the second half of the year firing on all cylinders if they are to break back into the top ten.
If IEM Cologne is a sign of things to come, EliGE's return to more passive roles might have accomplished just that.
SunPayus has proved his credentials as a defensive and secure AWPer throughout 2022, and his IEM Cologne performance proved he can be just as effective against top-ten opposition. In fact, by average ranking, SunPayus and Movistar Riders had the toughest opponents of anyone in their run at IEM Cologne.
Defeating G2 (#6), Vitality (#5), and Liquid (#13), Movistar Riders only lost matches to FaZe (#2) and Natus Vincere (#1) — all of SunPayus' performances came in games that, on paper, Movistar Riders were not favoured.
After IEM Cologne, we must recalibrate that view; a win on home soil at ESL Challenger Valencia, and a semi-finals run in Germany, represent the best results of any Spanish team in CS:GO.
Although it was Alejandro "alex" Masanet and Galder "bladE" Barcena's system that facilitated this charge to the LANXESS, it was SunPayus who performed the best: 1.46 rating on CT-side (2nd), a 45% survival rate (2nd), and 0.09 flash assists (joint 4th) are figures that simultaneously reveal how Movistar Riders's system and SunPayus' ability combine to elevate both above their means.
ZywOo, like in Lisbon, was back to his best in Cologne. Yet, unlike at BLAST, he could not convert that into a playoff run, let alone a grand-final appearance. He is simply doing everything for Vitality: He has 23.9% opening kill attempts on T-side (highest among AWPers, next highest is Santino "try" Rigal on 20.7%) and 32.8% attempts on CT (4th, including riflers).
77.7% KAST (1st), 1.41 Impact (1st), 0.81 KPR (2nd), 1.31 rating (1st) — these are not usually the numbers of a player who lost more maps than they won at a tournament. Given that group stage exit, ZywOo cannot be placed higher in this list; but that is through no fault of his own. Vitality cannot ask for any more from their franchise player.
ropz' 1.09 rating at Cologne was nothing special, but when you take into account that five of his maps were against then-ranked #1 in the world Natus Vincere you can see how he just creeped into this list.
Despite three poor maps in that grand final, ropz still hit the highs of a 1.50 rating on Mirage against Natus Vincere, a 1.51 rating against Movistar Riders in semis, and was the highest rated player (1.28 over two maps) in the group stage win over Astralis.
He also topped the leaderboard for deaths per round, his 47% survival rate even higher than the many passive AWPers present in Cologne. Ultimately, though, he just did not quite match the impact of his three teammates this event.