The Rise of Heroic
Between missing out on Flashpoint and winning ESL One: Cologne, Heroic has had quite the turbulent year, but the team looks really strong right now.
The Counter-Strike scene has been incredibly hard to follow this year, notably due to the move to online play with the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. As expected, teams have struggled to find consistency during the online era, as many have risen and fallen throughout 2020.
That said, a team that has had quite an interesting year, living the highs and lows of what 2020 had to offer is Heroic.
A bumpy start
A staple of Danish CS since the organization's entrance into the scene in late 2016, Heroic had a rough start to the year. The squad, which was at the time composed of Patrick "es3tag" Hansen, Martin "stavn" Lund, Johannes "b0RUP" Borup, Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer, Casper "cadiaN" Møller, and coach Frederik "LOMME" Nielsen, managed to win DreamHack Open Atlanta 2019 in November and GG.Bet Winter Cup in January, but consistency was still very much lacking. Heroic placed last at ICE Challenge 2020 and failed to qualify for the ESL One: Road to Rio, thus missing out on the crucial RMR points.
Turned to ashes
Things began looking up for the Danes, however, as Heroic was in advanced discussions to transfer its roster to Chinese organization FunPlus Phoenix, one of the founding members of Flashpoint. The squad played one best-of-three series against Cloud9 in the first season of the new league before learning that negotiations had fallen through between the two sides; es3tag had signed a letter of intent to join Astralis as a sixth man following the end of his contract with Heroic. Unhappy with an incomplete roster, FPX decided to pull out of the deal, and the players were transferred back to Heroic. The Danes left America and Flashpoint behind them as they headed back to Europe, with es3tag and Snappi being transferred to the bench and cadiaN taking over as in-game leader.
To complete its roster, Heroic signed René "TeSeS" Madsen from Copenhagen Flames, Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen from OpTic Gaming, and Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen as the team's new coach. Renowned for developing players, HUNDEN was instrumental in Heroic's slow yet steady progress, and the Danes managed to earn 1625 RMR points following a 4th place finish at cs_summit 6.
A heroic resurgence
Following the end of the player break, Heroic has looked like the team to beat, placing 2nd at DreamHack Open Summer 2020 and even managing to win ESL One: Cologne 2020 Online over Team Vitality. While Heroic certainly has excellent individual pieces in the form of stavn, TeSeS, and niko, it's the manner in which the team is playing that's outstanding. The squad looks very disciplined and on the same wavelength, which is not something you expect of a team where the average player age is 21.3. No one overextends to get exit frags, the team uses plenty of utility on anti-ecos, the players utilize plenty of crossfires, etc. HUNDEN's talent in developing youngsters, as well as cadiaN's experience as a leader, are undoubtedly coming through. TeSeS has found his old form, stavn looks increasingly comfortable in his roles, niko has been incredibly consistent, and b0RUP plays key roles perfectly.
A crushing blow
A few days following the Cologne victory, however, Heroic received terrible news as HUNDEN was found to have abused the coaching bug in a match versus Astralis in DreamHack Masters Spring 2020. Following the report, Heroic suspended the coach as he is barred from participating in any ESIC member events (DreamHack, ESL, BLAST, etc.) for a total period of 12 months. The timing couldn't be any worse for Heroic, as the Danes were about to compete in ESL Pro League Season 12. Understandably, the team's first two matches weren't fantastic as the squad lost to ENCE and AGO, but Heroic has bounced back with convincing victories against G2 Esports, BIG, and GODSENT.
Currently ranked #2 on HLTV's world ranking, Heroic is arguably the best Danish team at the moment. Astralis will need time to integrate its new players into the system, especially as Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander has only just rejoined the team. MAD Lions has struggled a lot as of late, especially since losing Lucas "Bubzkji" Andersen to Astralis. North is... Well, North... This is the highest any Heroic roster has ever been ranked, and it's already quite the achievement for such a young group of players.
What to expect?
It'll be interesting to see how well Heroic can perform moving forward without HUNDEN's counseling. Somewhat luckily for the squad, the former coach didn't cheat during an RMR event, so the Danes are still in contention for a Major spot, unlike MIBR that lost all their points for that reason. Will a new coach be signed in the future, and if so, who? Until then, it'll be crucial for cadiaN & co. to do well in the upcoming DreamHack Open Fall 2020 if they want to really secure a spot at the upcoming Major. Plus, if Heroic achieves good results in EPL and DreamHack, then there's even a chance for the squad to clinch the #1 spot, the dream of any professional Counter-Strike player.
It's undeniable that the squad has had quite a tumultuous year, but the recent form they have shown is incredibly impressive. As with every team this year, the final hurdle for Heroic will be to maintain that form and continue winning events. Still, it's certainly been an exciting year to be a Heroic fan.