Closing the Gap: Has MOUZ built another "budget superteam"?

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    While MOUZ had established themselves as a threatening upset team under Christopher "dexter" Nong’s leadership, producing sporadic deep runs in the process, international success always evaded them and their big event title drought expanded to almost four years. This immediately changed with IGL Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek and Jimi "Jimpphat" Salo joining the squad in July, the signings immediately transforming MOUZ into an international contender and even securing a title at EPL Season 18. As the team were not phased by the transition to CS2, proving their run in Malta was not a flash in the pan, we have to ask the question: have MOUZ managed to build another budget superteam?

    siuhy and Jimpphat in context: a risk worth taking

    MOUZ’s activity in the Summer shuffle likely went beyond what many expected, especially as the team had recently secured a top-two finish at IEM Dallas, their best-ever finish under dexter. Even so, the quintet routinely failed to meet the high expectations set for them, and as siuhy became available on the market after a convincing Grand Final run at the BLAST Paris Major with GamerLegion, a return of MOUZ’s prodigal son was always to be expected. After representing the organization’s academy team, NXT, for over a year, siuhy represented the perfect candidate to rebuild around in the search for international success.

    Conversely, Jon "JDC" de Castro’s removal came with a series of important caveats. First, many expected underperforming AWPer Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás to end up on the chopping block before the German support. Second, while he never truly shined in terms of firepower, JDC had still somewhat competently filled the support role for MOUZ. Third, while his replacement was already lined up in MOUZ NXT star Jimpphat, many, including us at BLIX, expressed concerns about the Finn's ability to fit within the German’s roles without his individual performance taking a hit.

    Read More: MOUZ or bust? Jimpphat's paths to the top

    Ultimately, all doubts were rapidly wiped out by the new squad assembled by MOUZ. While under dexter the team had won a little over 44% of their T-side rounds in their five main event LAN appearances of 2023. In contrast, siuhy's squad reached highs of almost 60% at EPL and sits at a 51% average while including IEM Cologne, an event Jimpphat admitted to having little time to practice for in an interview with, and IEM Sydney, where the Finn was replaced by Bram "Nexius" Campana due to visa issues.

    Jimpphat himself has been the biggest revelation in this period of strong form, raising his level even further in high-pressure situations to perform at an MVP-contending level at EPL Season 18 and end the CS Asia Championships as his team’s best performer. While many had feared sharing lurking roles with team star David "frozen" Čerňanský would negatively impact Jimpphat, the Finnish rifler has so far been able to fit around the Slovakian like a glove without either player having to take a more aggressive stance in T rounds.

    A look at the stats: old roles, new tricks?

    The instantaneous success is easily proven by just analyzing the statistics provided by the new look MOUZ is decidedly better than dexter’s team at both converting man-advantage situations, closing the T-side 5v4 over 80% of the time, and recovering from an opening death, winning around 30% of their 4v5 starts when the previous roster did so less than a fourth of the time. What’s perhaps more interesting is that these improvements are not a consequence of significantly better opening death trading percentages, which would imply siuhy’s team is more cohesive and able to re-adjust on the fly than its predecessor.

    Similarly, MOUZ’s opening fight stats underscore how minor the role shake-ups were in the transition to siuhy’s system, a consequence of the organization’s thoughtful roster planning. Dorian "xertioN" Berman is still the team’s dedicated entry player, with the Polish IGL taking on dexter’s aggressive space-taking roles with a significantly higher individual ceiling. Furthermore, there has been plenty of discussion around torzsi, as the sniper looked revitalized under siuhy and partially blamed his underperformance on dexter’s system, stating, "I prefer when I can go aggressive and search a lot, and in the last team, I felt I was more of a supportive AWPer" in an interview with BLIX.

    Read More: torzsi on AWPing under dexter: "How we played wasn't natural for me"

    This does not match the story told by the stats, which saw torzi’s involvement in opening fights stay similarly low on the offensive end and even drop on the CT side, where the Hungarian went from taking early duels in almost a fourth of rounds to just below 22%. If we take a closer look, however, we can notice a positive trend in torzsi’s CT-side playstyle hidden by the small sample size, with peaks of 24% in his MVP run at EPL Season 18 and 26% at CS Asia Championship. While the burden of proactivity is still on xertioN and siuhy, it’s clear the new CT side protocols are allowing the Hungarian to take higher quality fights.

    To fully appreciate what siuhy and Jimpphat brought to the table since joining MOUZ in July, however, we have to start by analyzing the maps that saw the team improve the most since the switch. We will start on Overpass, a map that will allow us to showcase the newfound proactivity that has become a hallmark of the new MOUZ squad. We will then move on to Mirage, where siuhy’s calls have turned a shaky underdog into a strong and consistent contender.

    Proactivity breeds success: MOUZ’s Overpass CT halves

    Starting with Overpass, siuhy’s impact has been immediately felt. MOUZ went from playing the map five times without recording a single win in the first half of the year, to featuring on it six times across four LAN events under the Polish IGL, with three of those appearances coming at the recent CS Asia Championships. MOUZ now hold a 5-1 record on Overpass, with the only loss coming at the hands of a dominant FaZe team. Most interestingly, this success has not yet made Overpass one of siuhy’s main picks, as MOUZ have yet to choose the map in any of their series.

    Most of what makes MOUZ so effective at punishing the opponents on their pick is a stark improvement on the defensive end, having grown to over 60% of rounds won on the CT side. In the four times MOUZ have won on the map with their full lineup, facing NAVI, Astralis and Lynn Vision, siuhy’s team has never dropped below nine won rounds in their defensive halves. The biggest change from dexter’s approach to the game has taken place in the spots department, with siuhy opting to give up the Australian’s aggressive A site positions and take over frozen’s rotator position.

    The changes improved MOUZ’s defensive stability and flexibility substantially on both sides of the map, with siuhy acting as a proficient anchor on one end and supporting aggressive pushes and setups on the other, while always being ready to quickly rotate and defend the sites. Starting with the A Long and Toilets side, torzsi and frozen routinely play off each other in aggressive setups that allow them to either trade off of each other or buy time for siuhy’s arrival. This often prevents them from being overwhelmed by the Ts pushing the other entrance to the site and leaves MOUZ in man-advantage situations.

    More aggressive variants of these setups involve siuhy (or more infrequently xertioN) partnering up with frozen on the Long side, with torzsi usually holding more passive angles from Toilets, or even playing inside the Connector as the Slovakian gives up the early fight in Party or Fountain. Round 3 of MOUZ’s match against Astralis is a particularly interesting example, as siuhy’s death in Connector is immediately followed by Jimpphat and xertioN’s aggression in B Short. While unsuccessful this time around, this showcases how siuhy rightfully bases his Overpass CT gameplan on the fundamental importance of information gathering and map control.

    For what concerns the B site holds, MOUZ tends to avoid relying too much on torzsi’s AWP, who only features on this site a handful of times per map. Even without the Hungarian’s contribution, however, the team can rely on a duo of strong anchors in xertioN and Jimpphat, who are often aided by siuhy’s utility. With the Pole’s support and frozen’s quick rotations, the duo often embark on aggressive B Short pushes to secure a forward presence. Through the information gathered on either the A or B side, siuhy is free to move in between the sites to bolster the defense.

    A Counter-Strike case study: MOUZ’s Mirage T sides

    To analyze MOUZ’s T sides there can be no better example than Mirage, which was promoted to first-pick status over Ancient. dexter’s side played the map quite frequently, amassing a 3-6 record across the first half of the year, but siuhy took the map to another level by playing it seven times at EPL Season 18 alone and immediately found great success, building a 9-map winning streak. Recent one-sided losses to Astralis and FaZe at CAC might have affected MOUZ’s confidence on Mirage, dropping it below Inferno in the pecking order, but it remains one of the side’s strongest maps.

    MOUZ’s recent success is to be attributed to exceptional offensive halves. Despite recording similar percentages in pistol rounds won by dexter’s team, siuhy turned a team that averaged 6 T-side rounds in MR15 into one that wins the offensive half 70% of the time. Contrary to what one might expect, however, the Polish IGL did not completely revolutionize the squad’s playstyle, especially as Jimpphat slotted into JDC’s roles as the primary B Apartments lurk and a member of the pack in Mid fights. However, now MOUZ is aiming to get the Finn and xertioN activated much more quickly than they did under dexter.

    While dexter aimed at placing xertioN in convenient positions for opening the A site from Connector in the mid to late round, the Israeli entry is now much more aggressive as both a part of the Mid pack and when partnering Jimpphat in B Apartments. The Finn also plays a key role, as he has taken on a more proactive mantle in siuhy’s MOUZ compared to his time in MOUZ NXT. While the team’s primary lurker, frozen, focuses on holding pushes and keeping map control on the A side of the map, especially in Palace, Jimpphat is asked to actively take space in Underpass and secure Mid control if xertioN is busy with the pack.

    Furthermore, siuhy himself also actively plays a role in his team’s space-taking efforts. The IGL is either the third man in the Mid pack alongside torzsi and xertioN (or, more infrequently, Jimpphat) or holding A Ramp pushes alongside frozen, but usually becomes more proactive as the round goes on. If MOUZ manage to secure Mid control without getting the opening pick, siuhy often takes it upon himself to create space for the upcoming executes. This is what happened in Round 7 of MOUZ’s win over FaZe at the CS Asia Championship, where the Pole punished Russel “Twistzz" Van Dulken’s short hold with a perfectly timed call.

    While it’s been hard to imagine MOUZ as a stable tournament contender over the next few years, what we have seen from siuhy’s squad so far has left little room for doubt. The Polish IGL has a clear understanding of the pieces at his disposal, which helps him set his players up for success in the early stages of rounds, and matches that with an inarguable proficiency in mid to late-round calls. With frozen reaching new heights and Jimpphat developing into an all-star anchor, MOUZ’s future looks even brighter than their present.

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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.