Depending on your favourite source of info, this is either the perfect time to look at the top players or 2018, or a little late. CSGO’s premier coverage site is in the process of creating their top 20, having named a couple of the entrants already, while the bigger talking heads have already made their offerings. When it comes to stats, awards, and all that jazz, we can’t beat HLTV but, equally, we wanted to get your thoughts on our top five players of 2018.
The list is meant to include the entire 12-month period and highlight the players who came to define the game over the course of the year. As with all of these, there will be names you might not have expected to see and, as with all the 2018 offerings by actual sentient humans, there will be a Ukrainian genius somewhere near the top, so without another waffle let’s get into it ...
Of all the names that appear on this list, we expect Stewie, as he wants to be known today, to be the most contentious. Described by one pundit as a "rat who jumps through smokes" recently after a public disagreement, it’s easy to forget that at the start of the year this is a man who was essentially co-leading a Cloud9 team toward a Major, which he would go on to win, while carrying some dying, if not dead wood.
In Boston, Stewie was not just the heart, but the spine of the team and the win was built on his steadfast refusal to budge. Skadoodle playing well was nice, of course, and what followed did not help either Stewie or Tarik’s legacy, but it should not be possible to talk about 2018 without mentioning the one proper Major we got, and the defining name of that moment. Expect big things from he and Team Liquid in 2019.
His place in the top five will change depending on how you’ve weighted wins, but any list that doesn’t have this Dane in that section is going to have to go some to explain why.
Sure, you can talk about a big game here or there for which he didn’t turn up but that just shows how ridiculously consistent his team have been, and how regularly the Astralis star does it when it matters.
To go to this from being labelled a choker is also some achievement. There are a lot of talented players at this level of the game, but one thing that unites our top five is a dedication to being the best and few, if any, personify that more than the man they call Devve.
Pretty much every list we’ve seen has Xyp9x below Dev1ce, as well as a selection of Gla1ve, Dupreeh and Magisk, depending on the author’s bias, which is both understandable and somewhat strange to us. Sure, those players will all produce better numbers than Xyp on the average day, in the same way Harry Kane scores more regularly than Didier Drogba used to, but it’s the value of the goals, or kills, that made Xyp9x so pivotal in CSGO last year.
It’s not just the kills he gets with his own gun either. Don’t forget, this was a team known for choking, before Xyp9x ascended and the other four became genuine stars, and the value of the reliability their incredible fifth brings is almost impossible to quantify. If he can just shake that godawful "clutch minister" tag, 2019 could be the perfect year for the coolest man in esports and his four good friends.
It might seem odd picking a guy without a single premier level title to his name as the second best player of the year, but in many ways Twistzz came to define that number more than he would like.
Constantly losing to Astralis was hardly an experience unique to Team Liquid, and while other teams like MIBR and FaZe got the occasional win over the Danes that is no indicator of their overall strength. By every measure, the NA mix were the 2nd best team of the year, and Twistzz is the danger man.
He has also shown the highest level we’ve ever seen from an NA player, albeit sporadically, and there are moments from last year when it was hard to imagine him losing a gunfight.
Given his age, his attitude and his achievements, there is no reason Team Liquid’s young star shouldn’t become one of the all-time greats, and 2018 was a time of huge growth for him personally. Individually, you’d struggle to pick any player that is definitively more talented, except of course that one dude from Na’Vi.
The best comparison for this we can make comes, once again, from the world of football. If you have watched the game for a while and taken the time to understand how it really works, you’ll know that Ronaldo is about as amazing as a human can be at the most popular sport on earth, while Messi is just an alien. However, some years, Ronaldo wins more titles, and then it comes down to the question of "best v most successful".
There is no doubt that Astralis have had a more successful year, the same is probably true of Liquid and arguably a couple of other teams, but it’s hard to watch s1mple play and imagine there could be a better player, unless you are new to CS. At every part of the game, both in and out of the server, he is at the elite level, and his actual mechanical skill and dedication to excellence are unmatched wherever you may look, be that Bosnia, Brazil or Denmark.
Next year it would be nice to see s1mple rewarded for his excellence with a few titles, be that at Na’Vi or elsewhere, but it might not happen if Astralis can keep their form together. While that may seem sad, it’s actually incredible to think that CSGO saw the highest level of team play we’ve ever experienced in 2018 and the highest individual peak, and they didn’t happen on the same roster. This year will have to go some to top it, but we believe and can’t wait to see how it unfolds.