Team Spirit and MOUZ Turn CS2 Upside Down at IEM Katowice
Counter Strike 2 is already delivering at IEM Katowice, the first big tournament of 2024. After a chaotic Play-In Stage that saw favorites like Astralis and Virtus.pro fall by the wayside, the Group Stage has delivered even more shocks to the CS2 world. Eliminated are the likes of Team Vitality and Natus Vincere. Taking their places at IEM Katowice in the Spodek Arena are a fresh set of young guns in Team Spirit and MOUZ.
The Donkening is Upon Us
In our Play-Ins preview, we mentioned Team Spirit as a team to watch heading into IEM Katowice. They’ve not only met those expectations but exceeded them in every way. Team Spirit absolutely dominated their competition, only dropping one map in their entire run so far.
Spirit beat NAVI, Complexity, and FaZe Clan on their way to first place in Group A and a guaranteed spot in the IEM Katowice Semifinals. NAVI and FaZe were exceptionally highly rated coming into the tournament, ranked at three and two worldwide, respectively. Yet Spirit dispatched them like it was nothing. Aside from their one map loss, a 13-11 on Anubis to NAVI, Spirit’s overall round score was 78-34 in groups.
And, of course, Danil “Donk” Kryshkovets stole the show with his performance. Through Spirit’s seven Group Stage maps, donk is rocking an absurd 1.62 HLTV rating. The 17-year-old Russian phenom faced his most difficult challenge against FaZe Clan in the Group A finals. He played like a world-beater instead of a rookie. Donk’s 1.83 rating, 48-24 K-D ratio, and 120.5 ADR propelled Spirit past CS2’s most successful squad from last year.
Of course, the rest of Spirit is playing amazingly, too. AWPer Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov is the third highest-rated player at IEM Katowice with a 1.31. Boris “Magixx” Vorobiev has been a stalwart anchor for the squad, and Myroslav “zont1x” Plakhotja is the thunder to Donk’s lightning. The 26-year-old IGL Leonid “chopper” Vishnyakov has the best team yet of his nine-year career, and he’s making the most of it. The only question remains if Spirit can translate this form to the Spodek. If they thrive in the spotlight like they have so far, CS2 could have its next giants.
No Frozen, No Problem for MOUZ
Meanwhile, MOUZ has climbed to the top in Group B and taken their place in the IEM Katowice Semifinals. Before the arrival of Team Spirit on the scene, MOUZ had the most promising roster of up-and-comers. The team won the final CS:GO tournament at ESL Pro League S18, then had solid top-four finishes at IEM Sydney and BLAST World Finals, and a runner-up at the CS Asia Championships (eliminated by FaZe Clan every time).
That said, MOUZ took a big hit coming into 2024, as their young veteran David “frozen” Čerňanský left the team to join that dominant FaZe roster. MOUZ didn’t have many prominent options to replace the 12th-best player of 2024. They ended up loaning Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin from Ninjas in Pyjamas’ bench. Brollan was a top prospect early in his career with Fnatic. He struggled to maintain that form over the past two years with NiP, resulting in his benching.
A change of scenery was exactly what Brollan needed. Now surrounded by a young and promising squad, Brollan looks to have found his stride once again. His 1.26 rating is good for fifth overall at IEM Katowice, tying him with the man he replaced, frozen. Alongside Brollan is Dorian “xertioN” Berman. The 19-year-old rifler crushes every opponent, earning a 1.29 rating (fourth overall).
MOUZ hasn’t lost a step coming into 2024. Their wins over Cloud9, GamerLegion, and ENCE only featured one dropped map. Awe-inspiring was MOUZ’s performance in the Group B finals. They dismantled ENCE 13-5 and 13-3, booking their spot in the IEM Katowice Semis in record time. Now, MOUZ stands tall, looking for their first-ever IEM Katowice trophy.
Polish Pride in Katowice for ENCE
Ever since the old days of Virtus.pro, Polish Counter-Strike has been a step behind competing for trophies. One of the biggest surprises of the IEM Katowice 2024 Group Stage has been the rise of ENCE. After Team Falcons and Heroic picked apart their roster at the end of last year, ENCE rebuilt around a young Polish core and a prominent Danish in-game leader.
Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander was chosen to lead a rebuilding ENCE. Formerly Astralis’s IGL, gla1ve had never played outside an all-Danish team. After Astralis fell from the top of the CS competition under gla1ve’s watch, the jury was out on whether he could provide value to ENCE. As it turns out, you must know what you’re doing to win four Majors.
ENCE looks to have been reborn from the ashes. Gla1ve is not only calling extremely well for a team that speaks a different native language than him, but he’s also fragging as well as he ever has in his long career. Gla1ve looked like a man possessed in the Play-In Stage, dropping an absurd 2.25 HLTV rating on Ancient to send his old team, Astralis, home.
Even as his fragging has tapered off, the rest of ENCE has risen to match. The former 9INE core played one of the best games of their tenure together against G2 in the Playoffs qualification match. Kacper “Kylar” Walukiewicz, Krzysztof “Goofy” Górski, and Aleksander “Hades” Miskiewicz put up 1.40, 1.28, and 1.20 ratings, respectively, as they swept last year’s IEM Katowice champions. While ENCE did fall to MOUZ, they are keen to continue their run on home soil.