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MOUZ Make Their Mark, Crush NAVI to Win ESL Pro League S18

Zakaria Almughrabi

The 18th and final season of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ESL Pro League has come to a close. In a subversion of expectations, MOUZ has swept Natus Vincere in dominant fashion to earn the trophy and $200,000 grand prize. The MOUZ run this ESL Pro League has been absolutely phenomenal, securing wins over the seventh, sixth, third, and second ranked teams in the world: NAVI, FaZe Clan, G2 Esports, and ENCE.

MOUZ win ESL Pro League S18

Image Copyright: Helena Kristiansson, ESL FACEIT Group

A Hot Start on Inferno

The first map of the Grand Final was Inferno picked by MOUZ. This has been their best map over the past three months at an 88.9 percent win rate, plus they demolished G2 on it in the Quarterfinals. It’s no surprise they’d be strong on the map. Right off the bat, MOUZ came out swinging. The first half saw them win 12 of 15 opening duels. Even so, NAVI had some out-of-this-world clutches, like this one from Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, to maintain a respectable 6-9 deficit at the half.

Still, MOUZ was determined to make map one a quick one. They won the second pistol as well, and despite losing the anti-eco to NAVI, still took five of the first six rounds. Any comeback NAVI could hope for was dashed when MOUZ crossed the finish line with plenty of room to spare for a 16-10 map one win. Notably, Valerij “b1t” Vakhovsjkyj had been NAVI’s highest rated player to this point at ESL Pro League. His map one performance saw him at the bottom of the server with just a 0.65 HLTV rating.

MOUZ Rolls with the Momentum

Next up was NAVI’s pick of Overpass. This came as a bit of a surprise pick as NAVI had only played Overpass four times over the past three months, winning two outings. MOUZ once again took the opening pistol round and rocketed out to a 4-0 lead. However, NAVI looked to have things in control once they got some momentum going. Four straight for NAVI’s T side saw the score tied and MOUZ on an eco. Here, in-game leader Kamil “siuhy” Szkaradek made one of the plays of the tournament.

This 481 damage round from siuhy appeared to break NAVI’s back both in game and out. From here, MOUZ won every single remaining round on their CT side. NAVI only got three bomb plants during this span and lost every retake. MOUZ was simply calling better and shooting better.

NAVI did cut the deficit thoroughly with a five round streak to start the second half. However, MOUZ found their avenues in right after. They took control of whichever bomb site they wanted on repeat, keeping NAVI’s money low and their rounds stagnant. This B site explosion from David “frozen” Čerňanský and Jimi “Jimpphat” Salo brought MOUZ to map point where they closed out a round later 16-9.

Complete the Sweep

Now down two maps to zero, it was do or die for NAVI on Mirage. While this was MOUZ’s second map pick due to their 10 games and 80 percent win rate over the past three months, it was also NAVI’s most played during the same span at nine games. They showed that proficiency early, coming back from another MOUZ opening pistol win to take a 6-4 lead.

After a MOUZ timeout, they came roaring back into the map with another eco round win courtesy of an opening Dorian “xertioN” Berman one Deag on a jumping Aleksib, followed by an A Site explosion and double kill from Jimpphat. MOUZ climbed up to seven rounds on the half. Then, a 1v2 clutch out of AWPer Ádám “torzsi” Torzsás broke NAVI’s money and brought MOUZ to a strong 9-6 lead.

NAVI Finally Show Up

Looking bruised and battered at the half, NAVI came out of the locker room with a vengeance. They won the pistol round and evened up the score. Despite MOUZ taking the first gun round, NAVI forced up and an Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyljev AWP 3K shut MOUZ down. A four-round streak from NAVI put them up 13-10, looking to get a map back in the series.

MOUZ weren’t done however. They bounced back for two clean defense rounds, then a 3K from Jimpphat in a 3v5 situation allowed MOUZ to tie the score.

After being shut down on two consecutive B Site takes and going down 13-15, NAVI went back to A with their lives on the line. They won the final two rounds of regulation to send the map to overtime. Once OT hit however, MOUZ made the correct adjustments immediately. NAVI’s third straight attempt at the A Site was thwarted by a long flank from xertioN to turn a 3v4 in their favor.

NAVI went A in the next two rounds as well, and both times MOUZ managed to retake the site and defuse the bomb. Up 18-15, they only needed a single round to be crowed champions. And in their first T round, they got it.

A Trophy at Twilight

MOUZ is by far the youngest team in tier one Counter-Strike. They have three 21-year-olds, a 19-year-old, and young Jimpphat is just 17 while winning his first big trophy. Not only that, the majority of this team has come up through the MOUZ NXT academy squad. Coach Dennis “sycrone” Nielsen, torzsi, xertioN, and now Jimpphat were all promoted to the main squad over the past year and a half. And with siuhy coming in from GamerLegion to lead the squad, it’s all come together.

MOUZ has a recipe for success with this lineup. Their run through ESL Pro League S18 was no joke. Their schedule wasn’t easy, none of the wins were flukes, they were purely the best team there at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s last hurrah. For an org as important yet undersold in CS:GO’s history as MOUZ, it’s almost poetic that they’ve come in at the last moment with a squad of this caliber to win it all. With CS2 taking over Counter-Strike esports soon, we’re excited to see how far this MOUZ roster can go.