Fresh off a win at IEM Rio 2023, it no longer seems like a pipe dream for Vitality to win the BLAST.tv Paris Major.
The team, which features the only two French players at the Major, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire and Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, has seen a drastic improvement in recent months and now seems to be in the form that allowed them to win ESL Pro League Season 16 shortly after the arrival of Lotan “Spinx” Giladi.
But the question remains: Is it enough for them to win the Major?
One of the favorites
As is to be expected, any team featuring ZywOo will always be one of the favorites when heading into the Major. One of the best players in the world, the two-time HLTV number 1 player is thus far the highest-rated player in 2023. With improvements to his showings in big games, ZywOo is once again playing at the level that saw him touted as the player to rival s1mple when he joined Vitality back in 2019.
Alongside him is the Danish duo of Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen and Emil “Magisk” Reif. Two of the stars of the dominant Astralis roster that won three consecutive Majors in 2018 and 2019, while their best days might be behind them, the duo were integral to Vitality’s recent success in Brazil. In Paris, Magisk will have the chance to tie up his Major trophies to equal that of their former teammates Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, Andreas “xyp9x” Hojsleth, and Nicolai “device” Reedtz; dupreeh has the chance to win his fifth and become the player with the most Major trophies in CS:GO.
The team’s secondary star, Sphinx, will also be integral should Vitality seek to find success in Paris. The crown jewel of Israel, Spinx announced himself to the Counter-Strike world as one of its best riflers during his time with ENCE in the first half of 2022. Despite the initial victory in Malta at Pro League, Spinx has, for the most part, failed to recapture that form since joining the French organization. Although, after recent changes to their playstyle, Sphinx is threatening to become a top star once again.
Rounding out their roster is apEX, the one-time Entry Fragger who has now transitioned into their emphatic leader. While he still has his critics in the role of IGL, Pro League displayed a previously unseen strength on the T side from Vitality, a credit to his performance. He may still look uncomfortable within his role as a more passive element in the team, but as an IGL, he has proved his worth at the elite level of the game. A former Major winner himself, he will add to the vital experience provided by dupreeh and Magisk.
#2 in the world
Vitality’s 2023 form has seen them rise to second in the world on HLTV’s ranking, although many would say that doesn’t represent the true power rankings of the world right now.
FaZe represents a big threat to Vitality’s potential of winning in Paris. Their inconsistency has become one of the most talked about narratives in tier one and is undeniably a factor in their own quest for success, but with Robin “ropz” Kool displaying his best form since BLAST Premier Fall Final 2022, their inconsistency may matter for little.
Read More: FaZe's Unstoppable Force: Why Inconsistency Won't Matter in Their Quest for Major Glory
The biggest threat could be found in Heroic. The only team currently ahead of them in the rankings, Heroic has been the best team in the world, despite their lack of trophy wins, for the best part of nine months and some might argue since the return to LAN following COVID-19.
With the only two French players in Paris and recent form that displays the potential to win any event against any team, Vitality deserve their place to be mentioned amongst these other teams. Undoubtedly one of the favorites of the event and with the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders, why will that hope be in vain?
Mentality and win conditions
When looking at Vitality’s chances to win the Major, it’s important to first look at their recent win in Rio.
Vitality was on their knees in their semi-final versus Cloud9. Having lost map one 16-6, they were down 12-3 coming into their T side in map two. Their eventual victory at 19-16 was for the most part spurred on by dupreeh. The legendary Danish Entry Fragger rolled back the years to his prime Astralis days, consistently opening up sites on Vertigo.
It’s a level of performance that has been somewhat few and far between for the Dane since joining the team. Clearly, no longer the player he once was, his lack of consistency and lower level of performance has been one of the things holding Vitality back in the past 18 months.
Spinx also had an overperformance in Rio. A player who we were once looking at as one of the best riflers in the world, it’s a level he has failed to recapture since departing ENCE. That was not the case in Rio, however, as his 1.25 rating is his highest in any event since his time during the Finnish organization.
The main question mark looming over Vitality as they embark on their Major quest, however, is the one that casts a shadow over ZywOo.
ZywOo might be a player whose level doesn’t diminish in bigger games, but it still feels valid to say he doesn’t ‘feel’ like a big game player. With the skillset ZywOo possesses, any real drop off from him feels nigh on impossible, simply too skilled to not succeed on an individual basis; instead, it’s his mentality that will prevent him from truly reaching the pantheon of greatness.
Despite the Counter-Strike world anointing the French prodigy as one of their superstars, it’s a label he avoids. Citing elements such as the pressure it brings and the role he needs his team to play in games, ZywOo is the first to shift the load off his own back. It’s not that he doesn’t realize that it will be necessary at points; it’s simply that he wishes it wasn’t.
Compare this kind of mentality to that of Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. The man regarded as the GOAT of CS:GO, s1mple, for the most part, hasn’t had teams capable of matching his level of mastery over the game. A player who has spent large parts of his career carrying teams like NAVI and Liquid on his back, he might’ve complained about the abilities of his teammates in the past, but when it came to taking the onus upon himself to secure trophies for his team, that was never a problem.
The two GOAT candidates of the game, the difference between the mentalities between s1mple and ZywOo are night and day, and when only one of them ends CS:GO with a Major, that will become more evident.
It takes superstars to win Majors; by his own admission, Vitality doesn't have one. With the French crowd hoping to see their team lift the trophy in their nation, it will be an even bigger disappointment when their poster child is the reason they fail.