With the New Challenger stage of the Starladder Berlin Major drawing near, it’s a perfect time to take a look at some of the players who will be getting their first set of stickers and see whose likely to excel against tier one competition.
This part of the tournament is exciting since the viewer gets to see new talent tested against teams they wouldn’t otherwise play. Even if all the players on this list don’t perform in Berlin it will stand as an important stage of development in their careers.
5. Simon “Sico” Williams
The third Kiwi to attend a major and the oldest player on this list at 25 years old. Sico is a player who has done the rounds in the AU scene but has hit career peak form of late. He mainly gets into this list for his electrifying performance at the Asia Minor, delivering the second highest rating of any player in the minors at 1.35.
Furthermore, in interviews his teammates have specifically mentioned how well the AWPer has fit into the team. Sico’s role as a secondary caller allows him to coordinate the team around his plays putting himself in positions to succeed. This, combined with the often praised coaching of Neil_M, gives the player a degree of versatility Oceanic players often lack.
The New Challenger stage will be a far harder test for the Grayhound player but if he can continue at a level close to his form from the minor the Oceanic team will surely surprise.
4. Owen “oBo” Schlatter
Obo is notable for being the youngest player to attend a major ever, at just 16 years old. The American first made a name for himself by qualifying for Faceit Pro League NA at 14. The question then is not whether the young gun possesses talent but whether he can deliver under the pressure of the Majors, an environment many a newcomer has failed in.
What goes in oBo’s favour is how Complexity’s new pickup had an amazing tier one LAN debut at ECS Season 7 Finals. This involved knocking out MIBR, topping the scoreboard by outperforming the likes of Coldzera. The American impressed most with his pistol plays, a stunning ace being the highlight of his tournament.
3. Nemanja “huNter” Kovač
It should be testament to huNter’s skill that he has managed to ascend beyond the title of “NiKo’s cousin” and become respected as one of the best up and coming players. Cr4zy showed that they have tier one potential with their run at the Europe Minor with the Serbian player delivering a stunning performance to topple North. HuNter has shown the best mechanical skill of any player on this list, sharing his cousin’s ability to get headshots in a way that makes it seem effortless.
Furthermore, the 23 year old has demonstrated a degree of versatility in his play that’s rare for a player with limited tier one experience. For example, his lurking can open up rounds out of nothing, perfectly suited for a team that plays a looser style like Cr4zy. Additionally huNter does the in-game leading for his team on Nuke, a map his team has a 77.8% winrate on over the past three months, demonstrating a cerebral element to the player.
With how good Cr4zy looked towards the end of the Europe Minor huNter may well be given ample opportunity to show his skill against harder opposition.
2. Bogdan “xsepower” Chernikov
Every player from Forze could make this list due to how well rounded the team is. Extra credit should be given to Jerry for leading his team while playing at a very good individual level. However, the team’s AWPer xsepower stands out as the most exciting prospect. The Russian player has continually grown throughout the year to become the most cerebral and consistent AWPer in the CIS region outside of s1mple, even arguably overtaking Avangar’s Jame.
A look at an xsepower demo will show you that the player has a solid understanding of how to move around the map and reposition with the sniper so as to maximise his effectiveness. The 21 year old has a stunning 0.16 opening kills per round throughout the year, 0.04 higher than KennyS, even if it is against a slightly lower level of competition.
The star of Forze isn’t just cerebral, his effectiveness also comes from how fast he is with the AWP. His speed means he can be very potent with the “Shotgun AWP” style as evidenced by how he rarely switches off the weapon at close range, having 71% of his kills with the gun. For comparison, CeRq, another player known for his close quarters AWPing, only has 61% of kills with it.
The main caveat around xsepower is his lack of LAN experience throughout the year, only attending lower tier events. Admittedly he performed very well at these, particularly the Minor stage of the tournament, where he was the one player above Sico at 1.39. However, whether he can deliver against high level teams at LAN is a question that will be answered in Berlin.
5. Nemanja “Nexa” Isaković
Admittedly Nexa has been to this stage of the tournament before under Renegades, however, this was before the qualifier became classed as part of the major. Never the less since his time on Renegades the Serbian has reinvented himself stylistically and has become the most complete player of this tournament’s newcomers. While his teammate huNter has a higher statistical rating Nexa is a more rare breed of star player.
Put simply the 22 year old is an extremely impactful player. His clutches and multi-kill rounds were essential in bringing Cr4zy to 2-0 both Fnatic and North at the Minor. This lead to him being the highest rated player at the hyper competitive tournament. A look at a Nexa clutch will reveal an extremely high level of calm decision making in high pressure moments.
Furthermore, his completeness as player extends beyond his ability to frag. The majority Serbian team’s rise throughout the year from #39 on the HLTV global rankings to a peak of #14 is largely due to Nexa taking in-game leadership duties. His loose calling style lends itself well to the individual skill of Cr4zy. The fact the leadership role doesn’t hamper his individual play makes Nexa all the more impressive a player. If 100 Thieves are building a super team like fans hope, Nexa would be one of the best pickups they could get.
Written ByTom Stewart-Smith