MOUZ’s performance at the BLAST.tv Paris Major was downright pitiful. Eliminated 0-3 in the Challengers Stage, their time in Paris was embarrassing. Especially considering the fact that the exact same roster were semi-finalists at the previous Major, IEM Rio 2022.
And if you want to add insult to injury, they were dumped out by GamerLegion: a team featuring Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek, one of two players from their dominant MOUZ NXT team that they didn’t promote to the main team, and Frederik "acoR" Gyldstrand, the AWPer they failed to correctly utilize years earlier.
For a roster that once looked capable of propelling the org back to some of its glory days — having the potential and the youthful hunger required to do so —the latest results suggest this roster has hit a brick wall.
It begs the question, what’s wrong with MOUZ?
It might seem counterintuitive, but let’s start with the team's positives. There aren’t many, but a couple of positives that do exist look set to be positives for years to come.
When Robin "ropz" Kool departed for FaZe at the beginning of last year, all eyes were on David "frozen" Čerňanský to step up to fill the shoes of the outgoing Estonian. The Slovakian has done that and then some, becoming the true star of the team while also displaying incredible versatility after seeing his role changed to better accommodate the hole left by ropz.
A star that seems destined to one day follow the path of his former teammate and outgrow the organization, frozen is merely waiting for a spot to open with a team ahead of him so he can truly ascend to greatness.
The promotion of Dorian "xertioN" Berman also saw the birth of the first true star from the MOUZ NXT roster. Where frozen was once seen as the future replacement for Håvard "rain" Nygaard at FaZe, eyes are now shifting towards the young Israeli for that opportunity.
An aggressive star, xertioN was thrown straight into the deep end of tier one at ESL Pro League Season 16 and immediately impressed with a string of strong performances as he helped fire MOUZ to a quarter-final finish.
Even as MOUZ continues to struggle in 2023, it’s clear these two will be stars for years to come. While the recent Major has shown replacements are out there, should they lose one of them, keeping hold of these two for the foreseeable future has to be at the top of MOUZ’s priorities.
Let’s move on to another of the MOUZ NXT call-ups, Jon "JDC" de Castro. The quintessential support player, JDC is a selfless individual, happy to go out first on an exec so that the players behind him can trade him, and he’s most commonly found in small-site anchor roles on the CT side.
A player often criticized for his performances throughout 2022, JDC’s quality defense of the B bomb site on Mirage went under the radar. The problem is that he doesn’t excel on other maps like other anchors, such as Keith “NAF” Markovic or Rasmus "sjuush" Beck, do on other maps.
JDC has shown he can be an incredibly impactful player, his entry fragging was key in the top-six finish at IEM Cologne 2022 that reignited faith in the roster. It’s just a shame that when MOUZ struggles, he appears to be the worst piece of the team.
MOUZ’s coach, Dennis "sycrone" Nielsen, can also be thrown into this category. Clearly a capable coach, he oversaw the development of Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás, as well as xertioN, JDC, and siuhy, while serving as coach on MOUZ NXT. With multiple deep runs under his belt at big tournaments as part of the main team, it’s also clear he’s got some ability to cut it at the top level too.
The issue is, as MOUZ continues to struggle, it could easily be said that sycrone’s influence on the team is waning, something that should never happen with a coach.
Finding the real issues
The most obvious issue for MOUZ in 2023 isn’t found within a player, rather with their playtime.
Without a BLAST partnership, MOUZ have played just 17 LAN matches since their semi-final appearance at IEM Rio 2022. In an era where top pros such as Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire are complaining about burnout as a result of a hectic schedule, MOUZ’s young stars find themselves at the other end of the spectrum — at risk of never finding their level due to simply not playing as much as everyone else.
This narrative, the idea of MOUZ being rusty, is one that has been floated with each of MOUZ’s eliminations in 2023, and while it could be a factor, we’d, in fact, suggest that this team needs to make changes.
First up, there’s torzsi. An AWPer who once looked set to become one of the game’s best, torzsi has failed to really kick on since his promotion to tier-one Counter-Strike. Clearly, a player with heaps of raw skill, when torzsi is on, MOUZ looks great, but more often than not, MOUZ instead seems to struggle due to his underwhelming performances.
Then, there’s Christopher "dexter" Nong. Possibly the man to blame for torzi’s misfiring, dexter’s time as a tier-one IGL must surely be coming to a close.
He undoubtedly deserved a shot to lead a team greater than one his home region could have offered him, but years later, it’s fair to say he has hardly set the world on fire with MOUZ. Their deeper runs have typically been the result of stars performing better than his in-game leading; you have to wonder how much longer it will be before MOUZ seeks to find an upgrade.
Look at torzsi. For example, dexter has never really been able to get an AWPer to perform well under his leadership, and torzsi is the latest example of that. Of course, it’s understandable; the best chance he would’ve had before the Hungarian was Simon "Sico" Williams, and the less said about him, the better. But still, it does seem like dexter would be better off joining his compatriot once again.
After having a handful of stars now play under him to similar levels of success, it’s hard not to point at dexter as the biggest issue on this MOUZ roster. Torzsi is young and could still come good following a systematic change, but at 28, dexter will probably never take that extra step to become an IGL truly deserving of a top European team.
So where does that leave us?
The prodigal son must return
When GamerLegion reached the semi-finals of the BLAST.tv Paris Major, MOUZ released a since-deleted cringe tweet heaping praise upon themselves for the fact that four of their NXT stars had reached Major semis within a year of their promotion to main teams. Embarrassing considering their early exit. It gets even worse when the fourth member to do so is the one that could currently be improving their own team had they not let him go.
It was clear on MOUZ NXT that siuhy was a more than capable in-game leader, and even more so when after a short period of time with the team, he led GamerLegion to their first Major at IEM Rio.
In Paris, however, siuhy’s stock skyrocketed. A player who ha, on multiple occasions, stated he would still love to play for the organization that gave him his chance on their academy roster, siuhy now already looks capable of exceeding the level MOUZ plays at and moving immediately to one of the greats.
We do, however, think it would be a mistake for siuhy to move straight to one of the elite squads. Instead, it would be better for him to go to a team like MOUZ, get himself into the tier-one ecosystem, and continue to learn the tier-one style of play while getting consistent experience playing against tier-one teams.
MOUZ would be the perfect solution for both parties. Not only does siuhy still want to one day play for the main team, but he would also get the chance to rejoin the friends he originally began to make a name for himself with.
On the MOUZ side of things, siuhy could also breathe life into torzsi. A player who will otherwise be next up on the chopping block in favour of an AWPer actually capable of competing at tier one; reuniting him with the IGL that first unlocked his potential could be key for his career.
As an extension, should torzsi fail, or even frozen or xertioN get poached, siuhy’s GamerLegion connections offer easy access to replacements in Ivan "iM" Mihai and acoR.
In siuhy, MOUZ gets a chance at getting a leader who is not just hungry, but hungry to succeed specifically with their organisation. At this important crossroads in the overall competitiveness of their roster, not acting swiftly when all the other sharks are circling could prove to be fatal.