IEM Rio Major profile: MOUZ
MOUZ are about to take on the world's best at the IEM Rio Major ready to put their young, green team comprised mainly of academy products through a trial by fire.
MOUZ has notoriously punched above its weight in terms of results with teams a fraction of the cost compared to other established organizations in Europe. The organization's frugality in the transfer market means they rarely spend large sums of money on player acquisitions, and instead rely on intelligent scouting in order to find talent from lower-ranked squads — often from small nations in the Counter-Strike scene. This strategy resulted in nine notable trophies over the last six years, but with the advent of a functional academy system MOUZ has recently added another layer to it.
The German organization has been at the forefront of the second wave of academy development that hit the scene in 2021, deciding to shift their scouting away from first-team acquisitions and instead focus on youth. MOUZ set up the most successful team of the junior circuit, winning the first four seasons of the WePlay Academy League to establish itself as the leader in youth development. That investment is now starting to pay off as three players and the coach of the original MOUZ NXT squad now are in the main team.
MOUZ has a rich history at the Majors, having attended 11 of the 18 Valve-sponsored events with various German and European lineups. Despite their constant presence at the tournaments, however, the organization has never established itself as a contender for the biggest trophy in Counter-Strike, only once reaching the playoffs at ELEAGUE Boston 2018.
The last time MOUZ played at a Major was at PGL Stockholm 2021 and the European mix was eliminated by Virtus.pro in the Legends Stage with a 1-3 record. Three of the players from the roster that took the stage in Sweden have since left, leaving David "frozen" Čerňanský and Christopher "dexter" Nong as the only individuals in the current lineup with Major experience.
The veterans must lead the line
MOUZ has only missed two Major tournaments since moving away from a German core in 2016. IEM Katowice 2019 was the first of the two and the failure to qualify for the Polish Major caused a complete overhaul of the squad as the organization brought in Finn "karrigan" Andersen, Özgür "woxic" Eker, and frozen. It was a successful decision, which led MOUZ to the Legends Stage of the StarLadder Berlin Major. Three years later, frozen is the only member still on the team from the lineup that took the stage in Germany, making him the longest-standing player in MOUZ.
The Slovakian rifler might only be 20 years old, but his competitive experience dates back all the way to 2015 when he was playing with various Czech and Slovakian teams such as nEophyte and eXtatus. frozen is the heavy hitter of the squad and the one you'll most often see at the top of the scoreboard. He's also the passive element in the team, leaving the aggression to the other players in the squad such as Dorian "xertioN" Berman and dexter.
dexter is the second-most experienced MOUZ player at Majors from his run at PGL Stockholm 2021 and two other Majors with Grayhound. The 28-year-old is the team's in-game leader, tasked with calling the strategies in the server and getting the best out of his young group of players. The Australian had big shoes to fill from the very start as he took over the leadership of the squad following karrigan's departure, and successfully led the team to their last trophy to date at Flashpoint 3.
As the two senior members and the only ones with the experience to turn things around in the event that MOUZ's game plan doesn't immediately pan out, it is vital for both frozen and dexter to lead by example at the Rio Major.
The academy project bears its fruits
After the organization underwent an overhaul of the main team following the departure of karrigan, the next significant development came in the summer of 2021 as MOUZ entered the academy scene with MOUZ NXT. The roster was comprised of several young and promising players such as Jon "JDC" de Castro, xertioN, and Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás, but nobody at the organization had any idea of how successful their venture would actually become. In fact, when the project was announced, the organization stated that even if just one player was promoted to the main team it would have been "much more effective than buying someone from a different team."
More than a year after establishing the academy project, MOUZ NXT now has four WePlay Academy League titles, and the organization’s main lineup sports three players and a coach promoted from the junior team. This young core from the academy of xertioN, torzsi, and JDC got MOUZ back to the Majors after a challenging run at the European RMR in Malta. Meanwhile, ex-captain Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek led GamerLegion to qualification for Rio, bringing the tally of former MOUZ NXT members at the Major to five.
torzsi was the first player to be promoted from the academy team to the main roster at the beginning of 2022. The young AWPer replaced Frederik "acoR" Gyldstrand after a disappointing year from the Dane, who failed to deliver up to the standards he showed when he played for MAD Lions. The Hungarian AWPer initially joined the academy project in June 2021 with high expectations due to his fantastic performances in the tier-two scene with Budapest Five and immediately made an impact, powering MOUZ NXT to a 9-12th finish at Pinnacle Cup II over more established squads such as GamerLegion and Entropiq. The timing of the transfer was also on point for MOUZ as Valve had just announced that VAC-banned players could participate in its sanctioned events five years after their conviction, which cleared torzsi of all charges just five months later.
It did not take long for another MOUZ NXT member to join the main team, as just three days after the AWPer was promoted, he was joined by his former academy coach Dennis "sycrone" Nielsen. The 26-year-old was the in-game leader for several Danish teams during his time as a player and briefly became a part-time teacher at the Danish gymnasium Campus Vejle. sycrone built and coached the most dominant junior side to date as he oversaw MOUZ NXT during their first two WePlay League titles and laid the foundations for the next two.
French veteran Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt also joined the squad in early 2022 with the aim of bringing his experience in the game to the young lineup but his stint did not last long, and was moved to the bench just two months after his arrival. Another product of the original MOUZ NXT, JDC, was brought on to replace the two-time Major winner. The German was one of the top performers in the academy team while being the secondary caller in the squad, contributing with mid-round adjustments and ideas. His arrival came just a month before MOUZ participated at the European RMR in Bucharest, leaving very little time for the squad to adapt to the change before attempting to qualify for the PGL Major in Antwerp.
The Romanian campaign was a failure for the European mix as they left the RMR with a 2-3 record, missing out on the Major. The lineup was given some more time to develop, but after a few months of very little improvement, another academy prospect was promoted in August.
xertioN replaced Aurimas "Bymas" Pipiras in the summer right before the team's campaign at ESL Pro League Season 15. The rifler was part of a wave of Israeli talent that reached the mainstream of European Counter-Strike, but at just 16 years old, sycrone labeled the player "the biggest gamble on the team" right after his arrival at MOUZ NXT. The wager paid off and xertioN became one of the top performers in the academy side, averaging a 1.14 rating in his time with the squad. He's also the main source of aggression in the team alongside dexter, as both players take on the majority of opening duels in the server.
There was very little time for the youngster to hit the ground running, but the team performed nonetheless. MOUZ topped their group at ESL Pro League Season 16 and secured qualification for the quarter-finals, where they fell to eventual finalists Liquid. The European RMR came next and that's where the international mix was put to the test as they were matched against Natus Vincere and Vitality. MOUZ lost both encounters, but managed to bring Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut and company all the way to three maps after a narrow win on Inferno. It all came down to a nail-biting elimination match against Sangal, where eventually MOUZ staved off a disastrous start and won after a hard-fought series, punching their ticket to the Rio Major's Challengers Stage.
Everything must come together in Rio
MOUZ have shown a few flashes of brilliance on their journey to the Major, but it will be difficult to translate their recent LAN performances into success at the Brazilian Major. The core has only twice reached Big Event playoffs in 2022 and they failed to win their elimination match both times, creating doubts about how the squad will perform against the immense pressure of a Major that will have a sizable crowd present at all stages.
sycrone is aware of his team's shortcomings: "Lack of experience in its different forms is something we have been victims of in recent events already," he told HLTV. "We are learning and gaining valuable experience from every event we play, but compared to most other teams at the Major we are a bit behind on experience."
Despite the team's lack of pedigree, the Danish skipper believes that MOUZ have more than enough in them to reach the Major's Legends Stage and maybe even the playoffs: "Making top 16 is a definite goal of ours," he stated. "If we can manage to peak collectively and individually whilst also handling the pressure, then playoffs could be possible, which would be amazing and a dream come true. Time will tell — at least we want to put up a fight!"
MOUZ's journey at the Rio Major starts with a rematch against Outsiders, the team that eliminated them in the ESL Challenger Rotterdam semi-finals. If the European squad wants to show progress, starting off with revenge against the Russians would be a step in the right direction to materialize their goal of reaching the Legends Stage and maybe even their dream of making the playoffs.
Other IEM Rio Major team profiles
IEM Rio Major profile: fnatic
IEM Rio Major profile: 9z
IEM Rio Major profile: Bad News Eagles
IEM Rio Major profile: Outsiders
IEM Rio Major profile: Vitality
IEM Rio Major profile: Imperial
IEM Rio Major profile: FURIA
IEM Rio Major profile: IHC
IEM Rio Major profile: BIG
IEM Rio Major profile: Ninjas in Pyjamas
IEM Rio Major profile: Sprout
IEM Rio Major profile: Spirit
IEM Rio Major profile: 00NATION
IEM Rio Major profile: GamerLegion
IEM Rio major profile: ENCE
IEM Rio Major profile: Liquid
IEM Rio Major profile: Grayhound
IEM Rio Major profile: Heroic
IEM Rio Major profile: OG
IEM Rio Major profile: Natus Vincere
IEM Rio Major profile: Evil Geniuses
IEM Rio Major profile: Cloud9
IEM Rio Major profile: FaZe
Check out HLTV.org's IEM Rio Major hub