On Sunday, in London, Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko will lead a team out in a Major final for the fourth time in his Counter-Strike: Global Offensive career. Of those three previous finals, only one has gone in his favour, last summer’s PGL Krakow Grand, where his Gambit team lifted the biggest prize in CSGO, and few, if any in-game leaders even have two appearances at that stage of an event. But, for some strange reason, many people will still tell you he’s not top-tier, or good enough, to be considered an all-time great.
Now, fans not having a great grasp of what a leader does is one thing, but in many of those cases you see more variance in the general tone than we do with Zeus. The level of respect he takes into his fourth major final is still lower than Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo gets from the fans, despite the fact the MIBR man is not only already out of the event, but lost at the hands of Zeus himself.
Of course, you might say that FalleN contributes more in-game anyway, as the primary AWP player, which allows him a free pass, but that can’t apply when judging leader vs leader, as the aim is to get the best results with the five men you pick, and we know FalleN has hand picked his stars at every stage.
If you compare the progress of electronic under Zeus to the way Stewie2K has regressed since moving to MIBR, it actually seems strange how reluctant people have been to go at FalleN, while continuing to abuse Zeus for winning tournaments with less talent in his team. Similarly, FaZe’s Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen seems to face far less ire, even though his shambles of a team went out earlier than Na’Vi, despite having more firepower.
No, what makes the Zeus case weird is the number of people in the talent pool who still like to abuse and denigrate him despite those results. If your claim to fame is being one of the UK’s best ten years ago, it would logically make sense that you maybe wouldn’t be too critical of those people doing it at the highest level of the game today, but even Henry Greer decided Zeus was "doing nothing" at one point, based purely on his failure to put up big numbers.
So why would this theory prevail? The simple answer may be it's because the majority of the people who perpetuate it have never played high-level CSGO, or even really esports at this level. For all his (impressive) accomplishments, HenryG never experienced the esports we know today as a player, and has never dealt with the pressure of captaining the likes of s1mple and electronic to their lifelong dreams, and millions of dollars. And Henry is the most experienced member of the talent pool, when it comes to time as a player.
So, there is an element of big names wrecking Zeus because he’s an easy target, and the fans are obviously going to follow along with that. Equally, the fact he’s a CIS-based player means a lot of his support is from non-English sources, but it cannot be denied that no other leader is making finals today and still getting the stick Zeus does. And he should not.
A common criticism is that he is being "carried" by s1mple and electronic, so let’s examine that theory. The former has been on god tier form for almost a year now, and hadn’t started to win titles until he linked up with Zeus. As for the latter, it is easily forgotten now, but when he arrived at Na’Vi, electronic was not this god of the gun we see today, but a very talented player still trying to find his way.
Pride plays a part
Still, the same analysts who laugh at fans for not understanding the poor numbers of a TACO or a STYKO will deride Zeus, and maybe part of that is down to the man himself. For all his success, it is clear pride still motivates the Na’Vi leader, and savvy ‘experts’ are aware that poking a famous bear can bring you far more attention than intelligent analysis, while costing far less in terms of time.
This should be the end of the conversation, and the start of a new era
It’s possible that if he were to simply ignore the likes of Thorin when they come for their 15 minutes at his expense, the meme would die, but we can’t be sure of that. CSGO fans are happy to run a joke well into the ground, long after it ceased to be funny or event relevant, as you can tell from the "smooya" chants at Wembley, for example.
Either way, this should be the end of the conversation, and the start of a new era. The next time a person tells you that Zeus, with four Major finals, a Major win with the worst team to win one in the modern era, and the history of team building and player development that he has, is bad at CSGO, or not on FalleN’s level, we hope you just laugh.
As for the fans who can’t see beyond the aim or K/D/A, they will always exist, but with some luck we’ll be blessed with more analytical skill. FACEIT has done a fantastic job at this major replacing ‘names’ with people like Sean Gares or daps, who add real experience of top-level CSGO, and amazingly none of that crew spend their time wrecking Zeus for not dropping 30. It’s almost as though they know what they are talking about.
Image credit: Natus Vincere