ENCE have finally made the roster change I’ve been talking about for the last three months. They’ve removed Aerial, a serial underperformer in big moments, and added suNny, one of the best Finnish players in CS:GO.
Wait, hold on… apparently they kicked Aleksib? No, that can’t be right, let me double check… Okay, yeah. I guess they kicked Aleksib. Weird.
So, after the Major concludes, ENCE’s lineup will look like this:
Which, I guess isn’t terrible. If I had written this right after the move was announced, I probably would have been a lot more negative about this move, as I’ve warmed up to it the more I’ve thought about it.
While it’s too late for this roster to take a run at the StarLeague Major, they do have IEM New York coming up soon, which is always a big event. With this roster, they’re no doubt hoping to make a splash in New York and push Liquid.
So, let’s talk about the negatives, then we can talk about the positives.
Why This Won’t Work
ENCE have a strong brand of CS. They’ve maximized their talents (for the most part), they played a cohesive style, and they relied heavily on teamwork and Aleksib’s calling. It seems like they learned nothing from the “kick a player that works in your system and pick up a big star” mistakes that teams like Mousesports have made in the past, and are doomed to repeat those mistakes.
Integrating a star player that hasn’t played a game since January of this year is also going to be a real challenge without a real IGL. While suNny is just as talented as anyone on this roster when he’s on, he’s been on the bench for almost nine months. That will take a toll on anyone, regardless of how talented they are.
The craziest thing about this move is ENCE finished in second place at their last tournament, IEM Chicago. ENCE have been a championship caliber team since the Katowice Major, with a plethora of second place finishes to their name. While I have been advocating for ENCE to increase their firepower, I didn’t think they’d do so at the cost of the IGL that’s led them to previously unimaginable heights.
The ting that worries me this most with these moves, oddly enough, is that oftentimes they win immediately after making the change. The structure of the IGL remains for a few events, and that structure combined with the far superior firepower can lead to teams that make decisions like this thinking that they made the right choice. Inevitably, the structure will get stale, teams will figure it out, and then the team stagnates.
So that was pretty much my gut reaction when I saw the news break. I was in disbelief that ENCE would make such an obvious blunder, one that people have been laughing about for months in advance.
However, slowly some more news trickled out, and I mulled the news over in my head, and I started to come around on it.
Why This Will Work
It seems as though Aleksib and the rest of his team, especially Allu, had some serious disagreements about how ENCE should run. Allegedly, Aleksib liked to run a tight ship, which was not something that Allu was a fan of. It now seems like these creative differences might have been a big motivator in Aleksib’s removal from the team.
Now, Aleksib’s style was working, there’s no debate about that. The question now is, can a looser style work for the Finns.
Well, the meta in CS:GO would say yes. Loose calling has been in vogue for a while now. Liquid, Astralis, Mousesports, they all play a significantly looser style than ENCE has been playing with Aleksib. ENCE certainly have the talent to hang with those teams I mentioned, especially with the addition of suNny to the roster.
One of the biggest questions about this roster is who will be calling, obviously. As far as I know, there haven’t been any announcements from ENCE about who will be their IGL moving forward, and it’s concerning.
Luckily for ENCE, the game of Counter Strike involves clicking on people’s heads. The more players you have who can click on the opposing team’s heads, the better your team will be.
The Aerial Problem
It’s not a secret that I have a problem with Aerial. I was advocating for him to get removed from the roster months ago, and it seems my pleas fell on deaf ears. He was supposed to be a crucial member of ENCE’s big three, a star rifler who could play point, assisting sergej and allu. Unfortunately, he routinely disappeared in big moments, which doomed ENCE’s chances at several big LANs this year.
While ENCE has kept Aerial on the roster, they have solved the Aerial Problem, maybe.
Adding suNny to the roster has effectively pushed Aerial down one on the totem pole. Where the roster once looked like this, in order of firepower required:
It now looks like this:
While Aerial is still on the roster, he doesn’t need to frag nearly as hard as he used to. suNny is there to mitigate his no show performances, and to provide the assistance that sergej and allu need.
Aerial can now play a more hard entry role, he can pick his spots, and when he has a big game, ENCE are almost certain to win. I like Aerial much better as a 4th option, which is a spot where he might actually be overqualified.
That, more than anything else, is the hallmark of modern CS. When the fourth and fifth options on your team are Stewie2k, Aerial, Xyp9x, that’s how you know you have a championship caliber team.
This is a high risk roster move. In some ways, it reminds me of Liquid’s gambit to acquire Stewie2k in exchange for TACO. They had their backs up against the wall, facing an unstoppable juggernaut, and made a high risk high reward move that ended up paying off remarkably well. Now, Liquid find themselves on the other side of that scenario, with ENCE going all in on knocking Liquid off their spot and claiming the title of best in the world. Stranger things have happened.
Unfortunately, due to the Major roster rules, we don’t get to see the new look ENCE in Berlin. Their first event will be ESL One New York, and they’ll be excited to show out in the Big Apple.