With OG reportedly aiming to rebuild around Abdul “degster” Gasanov, Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar and Maciej “F1KU” Miklas, will the Danish organization finally be able to build a true title-contending roster?
After a disappointing 2023, which saw the organization struggle with roster issues and fail to make playoffs in any of their LAN appearances, OG will rebuild their roster around star AWPer Abdul “degster” Gasanov and riflers Maciej “F1KU” Miklas and Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar. According to a report by BLIX’s Alejandro "anonimotum" Gomis, the organization will be forced to part ways with Israeli prospect Shahar “flameZ” Shushan and potentially Serbian IGL Nemanja “nexa” Isaković. OG will therefore find themselves once again looking for stability and success, which has largely evaded them since their first foray into the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive professional scene in 2019.
However, as the inevitable switch to Counter-Strike 2 is becoming closer and closer, OG will find themselves having to scramble in one of the most exciting European shuffles in recent memory. The key question OG management will have to answer is: how to bring the perennial underdogs into tournament contention?
OG’s 2023 between misfortune and disappointment
OG came into 2023 fresh off of a top-four finish at the BLAST Premier World Final, where they convincingly eliminated Heroic and Vitality, but the international quintet was unable to perform in their first outings. Led by NEOFRAG, the team recorded two wins over Liquid at the BLAST Spring Groups, but they were unable to muster more than a single win at IEM Katowice, beating MOUZ and recording one-sided losses against Heroic and Outsiders. While the results were disappointing, OG then found themselves crippled by long-time IGL nexa benching himself for personal reasons in mid-February.
The team fielded former player Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen for the remainder of the Major cycle, and the Dane also took on leadership duties. Results predictably failed to improve, as OG were eliminated from ESL Pro League Season 17 with a 1-3 record, their only win coming at the expense of a stand-in hindered 00Nation. The team also looked set to miss the BLAST Paris Major after going down 0-2 on the first day of the European RMR A after losses to FaZe and GamerLegion, which niko partly blamed on illness in the buildup to the event in an interview with BLIX. However, led by a resurgent flameZ, OG beat SAW, 1WIN and Falcons with relative ease to secure back-to-back Majors.
However, there was little more for OG to celebrate in the rest of the season, as the international quintet first missed playoffs at IEM Rio and then only recorded one win in the BLAST Major Challengers Stage. The niko-led team had one of the toughest paths in the entire competition, facing ENCE, MOUZ and NIP in best-of-one matches and future finalists GamerLegion in the BO3 which sealed their fate. OG’s woes against European sides continued in their final event before the summer, IEM Dallas, where they fell without much of a fight to G2 and MOUZ while fielding Romanian talent Iulian "regali" Harjău in the place of degster.
A foundation worth building on? The degster-F1KU-NEOFRAG dilemma
With flameZ and niko almost certainly leaving the roster, what are the players OG have at their disposal to start a rebuilding process? The first and most important pawn is undoubtedly degster, as the Russian AWPer has proven time and time again to be a consistent performer on the biggest of stages. In spite of OG’s consistently mediocre form, the sniper has recorded a 1.12 HLTV rating over the course of the team’s 2023 LAN campaigns, .07 higher than the closest teammate. Even if the Russian has not proven able to single-handedly carry OG to tournament contention as some had predicted when he first joined the international mixture, it’s hard to see any better AWPers being available on the market.
Moving on to the riflers, their future within the team will necessarily be called into question. Both F1KU and NEOFRAG were brought into the team in OG’s last rebuild, during the summer of 2022, after impressing for SINNERS and AGO, respectively, with nexa describing the duo as “the best we could have gotten off the market for the price we could afford” in an interview with HLTV.org. However, neither of the two players have been able to replicate their impressive form in their first tier-one outing, leaving flameZ to do much of the heavy lifting on the rifling side. The most worrying sign is how both seemingly crumble under the pressure of high-stakes matches, which makes for an even more striking comparison with their pre-OG international outings.
NEOFRAG’s individual form experienced a tragic decline which is not entirely explainable through the hardships of transitioning to a higher level of play, especially as the Czech rifler had recorded convincing numbers in his sporadic LAN outings with SINNERS. NEOFRAG’s often excessive CT-side aggression led to frequent overextension and impacted his trade potential, with his individual ability often not enough to compensate for it as shown by a 39% opening duel success rate. The Czech rifler was also easily exploited in spots that require more passiveness, like his A site anchor role on Ancient, leading many to question OG’s setups as a whole. Moving to the offensive side, at the BLAST Paris Major we have also seen him lurking on some maps, namely Overpass, with little to no effect.
F1KU’s position is even more critical, as the Polish rifler is the most passive within the team and the preferred lurker on the majority of maps, like Inferno or Mirage. In spite of this, F1KU is the lowest-rated member of the OG rifling trio and recorded a positive K/D ratio in just one of his seven LAN outings in 2023. While he was never an aggressive rifler, F1KU was traditionally more involved in the action in his AGO days, and this transition might have impacted his individual performance. While NEOFRAG’s issues mainly stem from consistently being caught unprepared or out of position, F1KU simply does not provide any substantial impact to OG’s T sides and partly suffers from hard anchor roles on the CT side.
Building a new system: OG’s search for an IGL
OG’s first order of business on the transfer market will necessarily be securing much-needed leadership. While niko’s tenure with the European quintet was not terrible, and the player has expressed his appreciation for in-game leading, it’s hard to see OG sticking with him after the lackluster results. The first candidate for the IGL position we have to mention is nexa, who was acquired from G2 in January of 2022 and spent a little over a year on the active roster before benching himself. According to a report by Dexerto’s Luis Mira, the Serbian player is ready to return to competition and considers remaining with OG an option. A proven leader with years of experience, nexa led G2 to a Major final at PGL Stockholm and helped the current OG roster score somewhat consistent tier-one wins, and would be the most logical choice for the position.
Should the Serbian choose to look elsewhere for his Counter-Strike return, OG might be forced to look for opportunities amidst the upcoming European shuffle. While luring IGLs away from more established teams is not a realistic prospect, OG needs to seize any opportunities which might pop up to make a step forward. Among the teams allegedly looking to overhaul their roster are fnatic, who have been fielding William “mezii” Merriman as IGL since moving to an international quintet in the Summer of 2022. While most organizations will be scrambling to secure the best BLAST Paris Major prospects, such as Kamil “siuhy” Szkaradek and Damjan “kyxsan” Stoilkovski, a change of leadership within fnatic might leave mezii looking for greener pastures. Another player in a similar conundrum is a familiar face for OG, Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, who could be on the chopping block in NiP as Hampus “hampus” Poser returns from an extended break.
Moving to a more daring choice and a less established player, OG might want to take a gamble similar to the one which brought all-time Australian great Christopher “dexter” Nong to MOUZ. Joshua “INS” Potter, Grayhound’s IGL, is the team’s best performer in international competitions and is long overdue for a jump toward consistent tier-one play. While INS stands out more based on individual talent rather than on tactical depth, OG have a strong coaching department in Casper “ruggah” Due and Alexander “kakafu” Szymanczyk, which could ease his transition to a more structured approach to the game.
A rubik’s cube of roles: solving OG’s rifling issues
OG will also be on the market for one or multiple riflers, depending on whether they are interested in keeping hold of NEOFRAG and/or F1KU. While the choice will be influenced by other roster moves and the structure the new IGL will implement, we can still draw up a list of potential names. In all likelihood, OG will have to look for an aggressive T-side rifler, a space-creator who can fill the gap left by flameZ’s departure. While NEOFRAG could be an option, as he already has more aggressive roles on maps like Mirage, the Czech rifler has never been a traditional entry fragger. Once again, prospects like Muhammad “BOROS” Malhas and Cai “CYPHER” Watson would be perfect for the role, but they will have plenty of suitors, forcing OG to look for other options.
If the Danish organization are interested in continuing their path of talent development, they should look no further than Aleksandar “KaiR0N-” Anashkin. The talented Russian impressed despite not being given much time or freedom on a struggling Virtus.pro roster. KaiR0N- is also a free agent, quite an important aspect for organizations like OG, who have shown interest in avoiding large buyouts and transfer fees. On a similar note, Rigon “rigoN” Gashi might be looking to take another step in his career if BNE continues to struggle with the lack of organizational support. Should the coaching staff prefer more experienced and established names, they would once again unfortunately have to look at other rebuilding teams, keeping Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen or even Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke in their sights should the Danes fall by the wayside during the shuffle.
Last but not least, if OG chooses to replace more than one player or shift the rifling roles accordingly, the organization might aim to secure a star capable of partnering degster. Another familiar face in Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså will be aiming to rebuild his career after his benching on ENCE, while Karol “rallen” Rodowicz represents the consistent, experienced choice and is in the middle of a resurgence period. Ali “hAdji” Haïnouss is a further example of a highly-rated free agent looking to take the next step after a hard breakup with Falcons. In a similar vein, MOUZ NXT’s Jimi “Jimpphat” Salo is the potential superstar of the bunch and could become available if MOUZ chooses to stick with their current roster over the Summer.
Regardless of which players end up wearing the OG jersey, the organization will need to reflect on their role within the Counter-Strike ecosystem: what does OG strive to be? Is the Danish organization content with being a feeder team, not unlike MOUZ, or will they be able to take a step forward and build a true contender around an established IGL, following in the footsteps of ENCE? Much of this decision hinges on this shuffle, and OG cannot afford to let opportunities pass them by.