BLIX's 20 Under 20: Who are CS2's rising stars? [Part 1]

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    With the transition to Counter-Strike 2 now well and truly completed, teams and players are facing a tough period of adaptation to the new game, in all of its quirks and issues. The uncertainty surrounding the latest iteration of the Counter-Strike franchise, however, also represents a potential breakthrough for multiple young talents aiming to rise through their ranks. BLIX’s 20 Under 20 is our way of answering the age-old question: who will be the CS stars of tomorrow?

    Writer’s Note: As this article focuses on upcoming talents and new faces within the scene, no players who are already established in tier-one, such as Jiri “Jimpphat” Salo, or who have already qualified for a Major have been included.

    Ali “Wicadia” Haydar Yalçın

    The eighteen-year-old Turkish rifler is no stranger to tier-two competition, as he was promoted to Eternal Fire’s main team back in April to replace the departing Yasin "⁠xfl0ud⁠" Koç. Alongside returning sniper Özgür “woxic” Eker, Wicadia capitalized on the opportunity and has since helped the Turkish squad to consistent deep runs in CCT online events.

    While sharing aggressive rifling duties with a tier-one-proven star like Ismailcan “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş has affected his performance, Wicadia has still proven to be the most well-rounded Turkish prospect in years, with his team’s peaks matching his best statistical events. This culminated in a convincing showing on LAN at EPL Season 18, where he was Eternal Fire’s second-best player in an unlikely playoff run.

    Tomasz “tomiko” Uroda

    Even at his young age, Polish rifler tomiko has been on the radar of many self-proclaimed talent scouts for years, first breaking through in 2021 as a part of a los kogutos roster featuring Szymon “kRaSnaL” Mroszek. Now 19, tomiko is reaching new heights as the star rifler in Permitta’s latest roster, despite the team’s shaky record against established opposition.

    Operating primarily as a pack player on the T side and an anchor on CT, tomiko combines a high individual level with a nowadays much-appreciated flexibility in his playstyle. While 9INE being the only high-level Polish team might be a hindrance to his career, it’s already clear the rifler is punching well above Permitta’s weight, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make the jump to an international roster soon.

    Kaisar “ICY” Faiznurov

    A pick that will come out of left field for many, the Kazakh AWPer appeared on the tier-three scene as part of the new youth-centered AVANGAR project in early 2021. However, it was only after the organization went back to its Kazakh roots, signing more established names like Alikhan “w1nt3r” Kopzhanov, that ICY established himself as the latest upcoming talent in the stacked CIS AWP scene.

    Roster issues meant that ICY, now its longest-standing member, appeared in no HLTV-featured matches for the first half of 2023. This in turn means the sample size for the Kazakh is very small, but he still performed well against established names like David “forsyy” Bílý and Aleksi “allu” Jalli. Whether that’s an indicator of real progression for the 18-year-old is still to be seen.

    Paavo “podi” Heiskanen

    19-year-old Finnish sniper podi is the latest product of the WePlay Academy League system, coming through the ranks with his first and current organization, ENCE. The youngster has steadily grown since, debuting with strong results even in a series of local LANs, and he has now carried that momentum well into the launch of Counter-Strike 2.

    While it would be too easy to draw comparisons to Aleksi “allu” Jalli, podi is a similarly passive AWPer, recording similar survivability stats to Helvijs “broky” Saukants. This doesn’t mean the youngster is scared of taking the fight to other snipers, however, as he did with great success to Tomáš “oskar” Štastný and Fritz “slaxz-” Dietrich” in ENCE Academy’s latest outings.

    Lucas “decenty” Bacelar

    The first Brazilian on this list, decenty, has all the characteristics of a star-in-the-making, first appearing on the FURIA Academy roster back in 2021. The youngster developed into an excellent rifler on the WePlay Academy League circuit, facing mostly European opposition, before returning home with O PLANO, where he was the best performer through most of 2023.

    Now signed by Imperial to replace Ricardo "⁠boltz⁠" Prass as the former SK man deals with health issues, the 19-year-old has the chance to qualify for events and show his full potential on the international stage. In a scene as deep and fast-moving as the Brazilian one, the added pressure might just be what pushes decenty to become a real star.

    Lizhi “Starry” Ye

    18-year-old Starry is one of the leading representatives of the new wave of Chinese Counter-Strike, which saw the young Rare Atom and Lynn Vision cores climb through the ranks and grow into the top two teams in the region. With this progress came opportunities, and Starry capitalized on them by top-fragging and even recording a 1v5 pistol ace against Nikola “NiKo” Kovač’s G2 at 16 years of age in 2021.

    The Chinese prodigy has now matured and refined his rifling: aggressive, uncompromising and mechanically skilled, Starry has not failed to show up in his team’s international outings. With multiple chances to shine on the horizon, what’s left to see is if Zhe “Westmelon” Niu’s leadership will allow Lynn Vision to become a real contender in the tier-one scene.

    Linus “nilo” Bergman

    While Swedish representation in the tier-one scene is at an all-time low, the country is still able to produce high-level prospects. One such case is former Young Ninjas man nilo, who grew into a proficient rifler over two years (and stints) with the organization and raised his level even further in 2023, even leading his team to a top-four finish at CCT West Europe 4.

    The 18-year-old has now taken the next step in his career with Metizport, playing alongside Jack “Jackinho” Strom Mattsson and Alfred “RuStY” Karlsson. The switch didn’t impact nilo however, as he’s still the team’s best performer by a comfortable margin. With both fnatic and NiP allegedly looking to make changes in the first months of CS2, his name is bound to be on the table.

    James “SaVage” Savage

    The lone Australian representative on this list, SaVage first became a known quantity in 2022, as his Looking For Org quintet appeared at EPL Season 15 after taking the title in their national Premier championship. The team would make other international appearances, always hindered by the lack of organizational support, but SaVage’s performances declined even after he was picked up by VERTEX.

    After a year of struggles, the 18-year-old joined back up with Benson “Liki” Niuila and Euan “Sterling” Moore in Looking For Org and immediately looked revitalized. SaVage has now been picked up by the international JiJieHao project and will ply his trade alongside Issa “ISSAA” Murad to try and complete the hardest of redemption arcs.

    Jan “cej0t” Dyl

    Polish rifler cej0t was virtually unknown to the general public before 2023, having played a handful of maps for AVEZ and ThunderFlash before being picked up by Sprout’s academy roster in September. Trouble in the main roster however led to the 16-year-old immediately getting a shot in the main team, where he impressed so much he was retained permanently.

    An aggressive presence Sprout sorely lacked with Danil “alpha” Demin in the squad, cej0t is one of the most interesting players on the list: his rise through the ranks has been incredibly quick, and his ability to perform in tier-two at the first time of asking is worth praising. If this natural talent is paired with a strong work ethic, we might be looking at a not-too-distant tier-one player.

    William “sirah” Kjaersgaard

    If anyone had taken a look at the MOUZ NXT roster before October 2023, they would have probably failed to notice any outstanding talent in the squad, such as Dorian “xertioN” Berman or Jiri “Jimpphat” Salo. This all changed when sirah and sniper Christoffer “Chr1zN” Storgaard were chosen to stand in for Heroic, amid the stavn-Jabbi transfer saga.

    The Danish rifler was the team’s second-best player at the Roobet Cup, even leading for Heroic against FURIA, and followed it up with a solid showing at the Thunderpick World Championship. Seeing the step forward talents like Alexander “Altekz” Givskov have taken after leaving the Academy system, sirah’s true potential might just be hidden behind ill-fitting roles and responsibilities.

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    CS Virtual Trade Ltd, reg. no. HE 389299 Registered address and the principal place of business: 705, Spyrou Araouzou & Koumantarias, Fayza House, 3036, Limassol, Cyprus
    Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.