The biggest takeaway from ESL One Cologne was the resurgence of French Counter-Strike. There were already many indications for the comeback of French Counter Strike. The two best French teams, Vitality and G2 are both serious contenders for the best team title in French Counter-Strike. While G2 lost to Team Liquid in the Grand finals of the ESL Pro League Finals, Vitality could not do any better.
Let’s look at the Vitality Counter Strike roster in this article, the Grand finalists of the recent ESL One Cologne 2019. The crux of the team comprises multiple players unsure of their future just a year ago. While Apex and NBK moved to the bench, Alex was an unknown player. Zywoo had some notable performances, however, G2 didn’t want to play with him, because they thought he was a cheater. That professional players, some of whom were the best in the game at some point think Zywoo is a cheater speaks volumes of the skill on this player.
Zywoo is a special player, one who is probably the closest in terms of skill to the world’s best player, S1mple. However, Vitality is much more than just Zywoo and it shows in their gameplay and tactics.
Alex “ALEX” McMeekin
The biggest surprise for many is Alex, the first British player to reach such heights in CS:GO. UK Esports has been a meme for a long time, partially because of the lack of results and performance by the UK teams. However, when Vitality formed their roster with Alex as the In-Game leader, something hit the spot. The Vitality roster comprises of many skilled individuals on their roster.
The biggest advantage of adding Alex to their roster is the significant improvement in their map pool. Alex helped Vitality secure a strong map pool with the addition of Vertigo, Overpass and Nuke. In fact, Nuke is their strongest map, one which other teams consistently seek to ban against Vitality.
Astralis and Team Liquid banned Nuke against Vitality in the semis and the Grand Finals, respectively. The respect for Vitality’s Nuke performance is not just based on their skill but also because of their results on the map. They have a very strong CT side, one that can truly confuse their opponents. They provide a steady mixture of aggressive, contact plays and the slow methodical approach that has been the norm on the map.
Alex’s influence on the team’s play style is significant. He has allowed the confidence to determine the aggressive play styles for the team. He is not the In Game leader who takes a passive position to gain information. We see him making all the intelligent moves in the server and often surprise opponents based on his positioning. He can get multiple frags and his individual skill is not lacking, something rare amongst In-Game Leaders.
Apex and NBK
The two veteran players are amongst some of the most well-known Counter Strike players in the French scene. A year ago, benched Apex and NBK from their active roster. However, as they set out to form a new team, one with the potential to revive French Counter-Strike, they struck gold. G2 Esports wanted nothing to do with Zywoo; that provided the duo with an opportunity to form a strong roster.
They picked up Zywoo and with this trio as the core, the current Vitality slowly came into formation. NBK is the other In-Game Leader, mostly on the Counter Terrorist side. He had a great understanding that Alex brings more to the table on the Terrorist side to help Vitality. It was this realisation that allowed Vitality to bring together Alex to their roster.
Dual Leadership: Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt
NBK is a unique player in that he can take on multiple roles for the team. We have seen him pick up the second AWP with amazing efficiency at ESL One Cologne 2019. The player’s individual skill rises as the rest of the team performs well around him. The confidence to take aggressive peaks with the AWP and often hold down difficult angles comes because his team is performing well.
He is a lurker on the team on multiple maps. While we have seen the role switch between NBK and Alex, it really puts the team’s multiple play styles into perspective. It also allows for the two In-Game Leaders to exchange information regarding their opponents grenade usage and their positioning.
The Synergy between the two In-Game Leaders is a subtle feature of the team that helps in their strategy. French teams have never been heavy on the strategy department (at least not since Ex6tenz’s absence from the Tier one scene). However, the current system of Alex and NBK as a dual leadership role on the team works well for the roster.
The Entry Fragger: Dan “apEX” Madesclaire
Apex is the player with the highest number of emotions on stage. The player’s love for the game is clear in his emotions on stage. However, he is also one of the most talented and aggressive entry fraggers in the game.
His aggressive movement on Dust 2 saw him single-handedly dismantle the Danish offense. He could grab all four frags while ensuring that the Astralis economy remains strong. Allowing Apex the freedom to make plays based on his instinct (which are mostly right) opens up the map for Zywoo. We have players such as Zwyoo an Alex who can play based on their positioning. On the other end of the team’s tactics is Apex who can make plays by positioning himself aggressively. His playstyle has a unique flavour to it, one that allows Vitality not only to gain information but also secure an early advantage in multiple instances.
Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut
The young player is already the singular focus of 2019. No other player in Counter Strike Global Offensive has received as much attention till date as Zywoo. His individual skill ceiling and his flair for aggressive and often daring play style makes him a treat to watch. His humble attitude and soft-spoken nature make him a hit amongst the audience.
Zywoo has received the unwavering support from the experienced players on Team Vitality. They recognise his ability to close out rounds once he gets the space to do so. With a roster complete of entry fraggers, it was a wise choice to allow Zywoo to trade frags.
He is a very flexible player and can play the rifle and he can play the AWP. The lack of any AWP wielder on the Vitality roster meant that Zywoo became the primary AWPer on the team. He has not disappointed so far and is efficient with the AWP. The playstyle usually revolves around the rest of the team entering the bomb-site.
Zywoo Is the Focal Point on Vitality, Not the Only Hope
Unlike Natus Vincere, where S1mple overshadows the rest of the squad repeatedly, Vitality is different. They have Zywoo as the best player and they setup their play style to allow him to flourish. However, even when Zywoo has an ‘OK’ Game, the rest of the team can step up to the occasion. So far at ESL One Cologne, we have seen Alex, Apex and even NBK step up to the occasion. The consistency provided by RPK is crucial to the aggressive and often risky play style by Vitality. Hsi presence on the map can often mean a significant anchor on one bomb-site for Vitality. This allows the rest of the team to continue to see information with aggressive pushes helped by supporting flashes and grenades. It works wonders for the team and is a system that does not warrant a change in its current format.
The Tank: Cédric “RpK” Guipouy
None of the aggression and the crazy gameplay is possible without having a player holding stable on the team. RPK, the best Counter Strike: Source player of all time has been the anchor on this team. While the crazy aggression by Zywoo and Apex can often lead to very uncomfortable situations, RPK can hold down on his own and provide the balance on the roster.
The match against Astralis saw RPK step up big time as he helped Vitality secure the win over Astralis. There were multiple occasions when RpK could clutch out crucial rounds to help Vitality secure the victory.
RPK is often the guy who trades frags and allows his team to level the playing field. If RPk goes down, Zywoo comes into effect taking the round for the French.
RPK might not always top the scoreboard for Vitality’s kills, however, he is a consistent performer on the team. Without RpK, there is no telling whether Vitality could ever keep up the same level of performance.
Vitality is not yet a contender for the best team in the world
Vitality reached the Grand finals of ESL One Cologne and lost 1-3 to Team Liquid. However, their performance at ESL One Cologne is only the first step in their endeavour to becoming the best team. They still need to ensure consistency in their performances, which can truly propel them in the rankings. The Vitality players are inconsistent ( at least in their careers) and so on event victory does not mean much. If they are to become the best team, they need to produce results to prove their worth.