IEM Rio Major profile: BIG
The German squad has been plagued by roster instability and heads into the Major with a stand-in, a tough predicament to make it out of the Challengers Stage alive.
BIG has long been the face of German Counter-Strike and the team will travel to Rio for its seventh Major as the central European country's main representative. It hasn't been smooth sailing of late, however, as Fatih "gob b" Dayik's side recently made a permanent roster change by replacing Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch with Nils "k1to" Gruhne to address a lack of firepower, only to rarely play with the new lineup because of health issues in the starting five. The Major is no different for the Germans, whose Josef "faveN" Baumann is set to miss another tournament and academy player Elias "s1n" Stein will jump in his place.
Flying the flag for Germany
BIG has been Germany's best team ever since January 2017, when the former NRG trio of gob b, Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić, and Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz came together to form a full German lineup. The organization has housed a majority German roster throughout most of its time in CS, but it did go through a period of accommodating an English-speaking team. That was due the acquisition of two high-fragging imports in the form of Owen "smooya" Butterfield and Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş, before moving back to German communication in August of 2021 with the signing of Nicklas "gade" Gade.
The organization made its Major debut at PGL Major Krakow 2017, where its roster instantly made waves in the international scene, albeit not without controversy. PGL Krakow was the Major plagued by the infamous crouch jump bug, which the German team exploited on several maps at the event earning the BUG Clan moniker. The bug was declared legal by the tournament organizers before all 16 teams came to a gentleman's agreement not to use it. BIG made Legends in their first Major together, losing to finalists Immortals in a closely-contested quarter-final and repeated the feat just once more, placing top eight in the FACEIT London 2018 Major, this time with the English-speaking lineup featuring smooya.
The German squad has been a constant at previous Majors even if they didn't get to the playoffs, as they made the Legends Stage at ELEAGUE Boston 2018, IEM Katowice 2019, and PGL Antwerp 2022. The only time they did not make it past the Challengers Stage was at PGL Stockholm 2021 and the only Major they missed was on home soil, the StarLadder Berlin Major in 2019.
The core of this team attended just the last two PGL Majors together, as all of BIG's previous Major rosters were led by gob b and only tabseN was a part of them among the current starting players. The 27-year-old leader will attend his seventh Major, but the other members are far less experienced. Florian "syrsoN" Rische has played the two post-pandemic Majors while Karim "Krimbo" Moussa played just one, PGL Antwerp; k1to also one, PGL Stockholm; and s1n none, he will be making his debut in Brazil.
Forced to play with another stand-in
BIG has been plagued by various issues surrounding its players this season and several stand-ins have had to be called up during the last few months. It began in July, when Krimbo tested positive for Covid-19 and it has been a chain of misfortune ever since that ended in k1to standing in for two different players and the head coach after being demoted to the academy team.
The 23-year-old finally got a permanent spot on the main roster at the beginning of August, replacing tiziaN, but that wasn't the end of the roster changes. faveN once again needed to step down due to "a medical situation that requires him to rest at home," which forced the German organization to employ the stand-in services of academy player s1n for the IEM Rio RMR and Major.
The RMR campaign itself was all but comfortable, although the German side finally squeaked through with a 3-2 record by besting K23 in a three-map series in the final day of play to secure a spot at the Major. s1n looked confident at the event, standing his ground against much bigger names on the server, prompting praise. "He's doing a fantastic job as a stand-in," tabseN reflected after qualifying to Rio, "and he's far better than we all expected, I would say."
The difference in BIG's online and LAN form is another talking point that is impossible to avoid when mentioning the German team. They achieved the No. 1 spot in the ranking in August of 2020 and held it down for eight weeks as the CS:GO scene moved entirely online during the pandemic, but since returning to LAN BIG has claimed just one title, the online Roobet Cup.
syrsoN's change in form is especially noticeable, with the AWPer putting up a 1.19 online rating in the last 12 months in comparison to a 1.09 rating on LAN. A positive when looking forward to the Major is that he did show encouraging signs at the RMR in Malta, where he averaged a 1.20 rating, his best on LAN since the previous RMR for the Major in Antwerp.
A superstar franchise player
tabseN has been a member of the BIG organization since its creation more than five years ago. During this time, the 27-year-old was first a star player under the leadership of gob b for two years until the legendary IGL hung up his mouse in the summer of 2019. tabseN was chosen to be his successor, a player individually far overqualified for the role of a caller, but he didn't fret and stepped up to the plate, taking on the role with full commitment up until this day.
When BIG achieved the No. 1 spot in the rankings it was under tabseN's leadership, albeit online, a feat for a team that never stepped inside the top five before then. It was therefore no surprise that the shot caller got caught up in the rumor mill during transfer season, when he was linked to high-profile organizations in need of an IGL.
The latest rumors came at the start of summer, when G2 required a new caller after parting ways with Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen. tabseN answered the speculation with a five-year contract extension, which will keep him at the German team until 2027 and reiterated his commitment to the cause. "I won't abandon [my] child," he said of BIG, where he is the in-game leader and also a minority shareholder.
tabseN's in-game leadership is highly influenced by playing under gob b for several years, with gimmicky plays and a focus on grenade usage remaining a staple of BIG's style when they log into the server. The 35-year-old former IGL returned to the team as a coach six months ago, further cementing that link with tabseN to once again try and put German CS at the top of the world scene.
IEM Rio Major expectations
The chances of BIG going deep at the Major are slim as the team lacks the necessary star power to trouble the biggest favorites at the event in Brazil, something which is further compounded by the fact that they are forced to use an academy player as a stand-in. The German squad still shouldn't be completely discounted, they've come alive at Majors before, so it is not impossible to envisage the team once again securing a Legends Spot provided syrsoN and k1to put forth consistent performances alongside tabseN. Their opening match in front of the crowd in Rio de Janeiro will be against FURIA, so they will need to get rid of any possible jitters quickly to not get rattled by the passionate support for one of the home teams.
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