AGO and the Polish Renaissance
AGO is leading the Renaissance of Polish Counter-Strike and recently managed to qualify for EPL S12.
Poland's golden days
Polish Counter-Strike was once a marvelous thing. The Golden Five was a dominant force in CS 1.6, and Filip "NEO" Kubski was arguably a top 2 player in the world. In the early days of Global Offensive, Virtus.pro was a world-class team as the Poles would always make deep runs at tournaments, even winning the EMS One Katowice 2014 Major. The whole country looked up to the iconic VP roster; everyone's dream was to compete with and against them. However, 2018 marked the first change since the team's creation, as Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas left the roster to joined Team Kinguin. While his wealth of experience proved to be invaluable for his new team, TaZ's departure from the roster marked the beginning of the end for VP and, consequently, Polish CS as a whole. For a few years, a handful of teams, including VP and Kinguin, would drift around the top 30, but significant results were scarce, and motivation dipped within the scene. By the end of 2019, every member of the original roster had left the team, and the Russian organization benched the Polish roster as it signed the majority-Kazakh side of AVANGAR. Polish CS was on the decline.
Things haven't been the same since; no Polish team has been able to replicate VP's early consistency and dominance. That said, there's still a glimmer of hope. An org that sought to do things differently. A tiny flame that has always flickered in VP's shadow: AGO.
The Polish organization, then known as AGO Gaming, entered the Counter-Strike scene in mid-2017 with the signing of Damian "Furlan" Kisłowski, Dominik "GruBy" Świderski, Michał "snatchie" Rudzki, Mateusz "TOAO" Zawistowski and Tomasz "phr" Wójcik, with head coach Mikołaj "miNIr0x" Michałków joining later in the year. While many roster changes ensued over time, AGO always looked like a solid team, even during VP's glory days. Once the old-guard started falling off, AGO stepped up to the plate, representing Poland at international events and establishing itself as a solid tier 2 team, even managing to qualify for WESG 2018 in VP's stead.
Trial and error
In June 2019, AGO Esports joined forces with x-kom Team, thus creating x-kom AGO. A massive roster overhaul followed the merger, with Furlan, GruBy, and coach miNIr0x being the only remaining members on the active roster. AGO would go on to trial a variety of players from the Polish scene, including Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski, Olek "hades" Miskiewicz, and Patryk "Sidney" Korab, to name a few.
When asked about the trialing process, miNIr0x stated that "We wanted to give new opportunities and discover new talents, and the main process was to connect the experience with the young." This partially explains why someone like Sidney, who is far less proven, was picked over the likes of pashaBiceps. The search for young talent also explains why Furlan and GruBy's places on the roster were secure. "That's why I fell for Furlan and GruBy. I need the guys to pass on my experience and help develop the young. Of course, they can shoot at a high level all the time, which makes this combination of young people with experience perfect."
One of the young talents AGO trialed was none other than Miłosz "mhL" Knasiak, currently the AWPer for the team. The youngster's mechanical abilities and maturity stood out to miNIr0x, and, given that the team required a solid sniper, mhL was given a chance to play on the main roster. The sniper has more than lived up to expectations, as he's the team's highest rated player, averaging a 1.21 rating in 2020.
The other youngster on the squad, Maciej "F1KU" Miklas, was also discovered in the Polish Pro League. "As for F1KU, in the beginning, he was not in the main composition. I saw the large potential in his aim, but the aspect of team play and functioning in the team was quite low." The 17-year-old would initially become the team's backup development player but would be given the opportunity to play in smaller tournaments, thus proving his worth. He was later moved to the active roster, and his addition has been a crucial part of AGO's development as a team, as he has averaged a 1.12 rating in the past three months.
The final piece of the puzzle, and the latest addition to the roster, is Oskar "oskarish" Stenborowski. "There are not many IGLs in Poland. We already knew from the tests that we would either have Sidney be the leader or that it would be Furlan again, and we wanted to avoid that," states mINir0x. "When we competed with Illuminar led by Oscar they gave us a hard time. We decided that we wanted to try something new to see how it would work. It didn't come from the fact that Sidney was a weak leader, it's more that we decided that the Oscar could be a reinforcement and we would enter a higher level of play, so he was chosen. You can say that Oscar's style, as I always say, is a task force. He is a great solo missionary and is a very good entry fragger. He has a very high work ethic, in terms of the work he puts in, I am really impressed. He watches a lot, writes, shows new things, you can see that he cares a lot."
Thus, the latest iteration of AGO was born. Furlan and GruBy are two veterans with impressive individual capabilities, F1KU and mhL are two of the country's most promising players, and oskarish is an experienced in-game leader that can take the squad to the next level. The team's progress has been slow yet steady throughout 2020, but AGO's calculated approach to building its team is already beginning to yield results as the squad has qualified for ESL Pro League Season 12.
AGO qualify for ESL Pro League Season 12 https://t.co/n0q231WFFg— HLTV.org (@HLTVorg) August 17, 2020
MINir0x is still very aware of his team's challenges, as he states, "I think that the greatest difficulty of this team is the instability. There are days where we can play like a team and there are days where we play as if we met for the first time. Frequently, the players, mainly the young ones, push to kill but don't think to play with their friends. They have good aim but go for the 50/50, and there are moments when we give stupid rounds instead of playing correctly and steadily." That said, he still praises the youngsters' capabilities and never-ending hunger to win.
Into the light
The organization is incredibly professional as it puts a lot of emphasis on the players' well-being. The coaching staff is composed of mINir0x, a sports director, and a performance coach. AGO ensures that the players get a healthy amount of sleep, exercise adequately, and have a well-balanced diet. Asides from F1KU and mhL, the Polish org has also given opportunities to other youngsters in the form of the AGO NEST project, AGO's academy team. AGO is doing a lot of great things for the Polish scene and aims to become the best esports organization in Poland by showcasing healthy gaming habits in the hopes of attracting more people and investments to the industry.
While AGO may not be a tier 1 team quite yet, the organization's very professional approach, the team's composition, and miNIr0x's leadership certainly hint towards a bright future. EPL S12 will allow the squad to gain crucial experience and double as a proving ground. It also remains to be seen how well the youngsters can adapt to LAN, though that isn't a pressing worry. The last few years have been Polish CS' Dark Ages, but AGO is leading the Renaissance.