Is dev1ce Falling Out of His Prime?
Nicolai Reedtz, better known on the server as dev1ce, is arguably one of the best players in Counter-Strike history. In fact, he’s the most consistent player that the franchise has seen, placing in the top five best players of the season for the past six years since 2015, as ranked by HLTV.org. He has the record of most MVPs awarded, with 18 to his name; and the most MVPs in a single year, at 7 in 2018. He ties the most Major and Major MVP wins, with four and two, respectively. These are all just a few of dev1ce’s astonishing individual achievements.
dev1ce began his Global Offensive career in March of 2013 as a stand-in for FNATIC in the ESL Major Spring 2013, where he finished 3-4th alongside fellow Swedish powerhouse and now for team member Ninjas In Pyjamas. He then went on to join Copenhagen Wolves alongside Cajunb, Fetish, and future iconic trio Dupreeh and Xyp9x; the Wolves’ young roster made it to the quarter-fimals of DreamHack Winter 2013, which was enough for them to be acquired by now named Dignitas.
They often performed well but never managed to win any tournament. That year one where he made an appearance on HLTV.org’s Top 20 Players of The Year, at 20th. In January, the same roster was acquired by then known Team SoloMid (TSM) with the exception of Fetish, who was replaced with Karrigan back during their time under Dignitas. 2015 was the year dev1ce blew up; named the third best player of the year by HLTV.org. He carried his team to the top step of many tournaments.
At the end of that same glow-up year, it was revealed that there were some issues with the organization and its players, resulting in the players and organization mutually parting ways. The Danes went on to play under the name “?” (Yes, just the question mark). As for TSM, they went on to sign a North American roster, which quickly broke down, leading to the organization disbanding their Counter-Strike division. They never returned.
By Igor Bezbordov: source
Just a month later, in January 2016, they founded their own organization “Astralis”. Unfortunately, they returned to their Dignitas form of playing well but not being able to go all the way to win a tournament. In fact, it occurred so often that they became known for being “chokers” when it came to the bigger moments and matches. Despite a grim trait attached to their name, dev1ce kept his head in the game and claimed another third best player of the year award by HLTV.org to his name.
The year is now 2017, with the signing of Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye, Astralis went on to win the ELEAGUE 2017 Major, their first of four. dev1ce lands yet another top-20, this time at fifth (by HLTV.org). Although receiving the Major MVP award, Kjaerbye was transferred to North and replaced by young gun Emil “Magisk” Reif. The historic lineup was then complete: dev1ce, Xyp9x, dupreeh, gla1ve, and Magisk. In 2018, though unable to win the Boston Major, Astralis dominated the scene, they maintained a first place ranking on every list of top teams for most of 2018 and 2019 (HLTV.org). In 2018 alone, the Danes won 10 out of 12 tournaments, a number that has never been set by any team and will likely never be broken for at least the next few years; one of those 10 titles was the FACEIT London Major.
The Astralis 2018 run is one that can only be compared to Ninjas In Pyjamas 2012, where the Swedes still hold the record of an 87 game win-streak. To top off a dominant 2018, dev1ce took the silver medal of a second-best player of the year (by HLTV.org), just losing out to Ukrainian star Oleksander “s1mple” Kostyliev. Additionally, after that year, he set a new world record that still remains unbroken; dev1ce surpassed GeT_RiGhT’s and s1mple’s number for the most tournament MVP awards earned in a single year. The retired Swede, considered to be one of the game’s greatest, had 6 in 2013; as for s1mple, he also had 6, but in a far more competitive 2018. dev1ce took 7.
The Danish powerhouse went on to win a total of four major titles and many more S-tier tournaments before de1vce joined Ninjas In Pyjamas on April 23rd, 2021. Nicolai’s performance has been questionable at his new team, losing out his controversial debut match against Anonymo, which was eventually rematched due to technical issues. He remains amongst the most decorated players in the game’s history; however as of late, his performance and numbers have been dwindling.
Numbers don’t lie, right? dev1ce’s numbers all across the board have dipped down slightly in 2021. At the final tournament he competed under the red star of Astralis, dev1ce, for the first time in his career since the ELEAGUE Major in 2018, has scored below a 1.0 overall rating in a tournament. His average tournament overall rating during his time with Astralis is at a very solid 1.21 over 42 tournaments; his final tournament, where they finished 9-16th, was 0.98. Comparing his first 5 tournaments at Astralis in 2016 vs at NiP in 2021, dev1ce scored 1.2 vs 1.01, respectively. (all stats in this paragraph by HLTV.org)
2016 and 2021 are important years to look at; they represent his first year with Astralis in comparison to his first year with Ninjas in Pyjamas. At 19 years-old, he maintained a 1.19 overall rating compared to 1.13 at 26 years-old, which is remarkably his all-time lowest since his pro debut back in 2013. Ever since his strong 1.23 finish in 2018, his numbers have been slowly going in a downhill trend — and with an all new team — that trend is likely to follow through for this year as he is projected to end this year with a 1.12 overall rating (which to his credit, is not bad at all, but may historically not land him a top 5-best player of the year for 2021, ending his 6 year streak of proudly appearing on it). (all stats in this paragraph by HLTV.org)
The main other statistic that I took a look at was his total AWP kills yearly. As an AWPer, it is important to maintain high numbers in this statistic, but that isn’t necessarily the case for dev1ce. In teams like G2 Esports, where KennyS was ideally the only AWPer on the team, he will always have more AWP kills to his name, but the playstyle of dev1ce’s AWP and the comfort and flexibility that his teammates gave him, he remained to be known as game’s greatest AWPer even though statistically, he sometimes wasn’t even in the top 50 for the highest number of AWP kills in a certain year. His passiveness yet ability to aggress and find opening frags were crucial for dev1ce in order to land him consistent top-5 best player finishes.
Of course, all the above mentioned goes to an extent. Similar to how dev1ce is projected to score his lowest overall rating of his career, he is also set to put up the lowest number of AWP kills during any given year, at 1,420; that is nearly a -800 margin from his all-time highest, which sits at 2,215. (all stats in this paragraph by HLTV.org) During his all-time highest 2018 year, although he had 2,215 AWP kills to his name, that was only good enough for 30th most AWP kills. Florian “syrsoN” Rische held first place, doubling dev1ce’s number and putting up a dominating 1,200+ gap to second place, at 4,822 AWP kills in 2018 alone. It accounted for 68% of all of syrsoN’s kills that year, compared to dev1ce, which accounted for a far less 48%. The 20% difference shows the advantage of having a team who is versatile and can handle the AWP; Magisk and Dupreeh took immense pressure off of dev1ce’s shoulder during their dominant era as we’ve seen them both pull off some insane plays with the sniper rifle. (all stats in this paragraph by HLTV.org)
So What’s The Problem?
Old age is amongst the most logical reasons to explain dev1ce’s recent underperformance. Nicolai recently celebrated his 26th birthday; the average age of players in the top 20 is between 22 and 23, if that means something. (Players distribution ESL Pro League Season 14). Even dev1ce called himself out on it, with tweeting:
“Worst Tournament of my career, a lot of sh*t going on and I just gotta f*cking get better…. 26 y/o noob out, sorry for letting you down” He said after a disappointing loss to OG Gaming at the ESL Pro League Season 14 quarterfinals.
Esport players wear out rather quickly and while they still remain incredibly talented, their skill would no longer match that of players at the highest level. GeT_RiGhT, who I mentioned earlier as someone whose records are being broken by the likes of dev1ce, is considered among the best players to ever step foot on a Counter-Strike map. Totte placed in the top-3 best players in the world four years in a row, from 2010 till 2014, but quickly began to fall down the ranks, placing 11th in 2015 and 18th in 2016, the final year he ever appeared on the top-20 list. Meaning, the prime of most esport players usually never lasts over 5 years, and with constant young talent taking over the scene, it makes it much more difficult to keep up. Could it be that this is occurring in dev1ce?
Team Problems Affecting Individual Performance
Adding onto to the abovementioned, dev1ce and Astralis’ endured challenges that were a factor in the player’s and org’s downfall. Astralis took a hard hit when they lost In-Game Leader Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and Support and Clutch Meister Andres “Xyp9x” Højsleth, as both took a personal break due to physical and mental burnout. Former North player Jakob “JUGi” Hansen and Heroic player Patrick “es3tag” Hansen (No, they are not related) stepped in for the two star players but could not fill in their shoes to the fullest; and unfortunately, after returning from a 3-month break, neither players returned to their original form.
The Online Era of Counter-Strike also had an effect on dev1ce’s and Astralis’ performance. New teams rose to power with the advantage of avoiding powerhouse teams on LAN. Shortly after the start of Online, Astralis, who were in 2nd place on the world rankings dipped below the top 10 for the first time since November 2016. As for Mousesports, who were ranked 3rd at the start of the Online Era, they are now barely hanging on to 14th. The leaderboard was shuffled more often than we’d ever seen, with teams taking the podium places left and right. (all stats in this paragraph by HLTV.org)
He could even be nearing burnout himself.
Team Chemistry, as I’ve mentioned in one of my previous articles, is one of the most important parts of a team’s success, not only in esports, but across any group project.
Did You Know: the trio of dev1ce, dupreeh, and Xyp9x was one of the longest standing team partnerships in Counter-Strike history, lasting a total of 7 years and 239 days, according to Liquipedia.
Obviously, losing such loyal teammates that have phenomenal understanding of each other’s playstyle will take a toll on his performance, especially since he was never relied on individually during his time with Astralis. By joining a new team, not only did he lose that team chemistry but also the fact that he has to restart from zero, build connections and learn to work together with his new squad. What’s worse, he isn’t the only player that has to deal with this; the Ninjas picked up Linus “LNZ” Holtäng June 1st as a Stand-in, which is his first time playing on a Tier 1 team. Altogether, it will take some time for the the squad to adjust and get into form, we can only hope they do that in time for their home soil Major in Stockholm later this year.
It seems that dev1ce has been struggling with his emotions lately and keeping calm on and off the server. There were a couple of tweets that were made in a fit of frustration directly after matches that have since been deleted, one expressing his disappointment even after a win.
There is also a clip of dev1ce smashing his screen after losing a round which wasn’t all too crucial, causing a tech pause in order to replace his screen.
NiP and dev1ce are not at all out of the question yet. Ahead of them comes the Stockholm Major that dev1ce wishes to bring home for all NiP fans and Swedes around the world. And although it isn’t totally realistic, I would not rule out the Ninjas from the major title. They are constantly evolving and developing new strategies and tactics. They tested out a double AWP setup at IEM Fall 2021 that aided them in their triumph over FaZe Clan. Check out this sick AWP 4K by REZ. Also this USP pistol ace by Hampus. If dev1ce’s teammates are able to match his playstyle and create some wiggle room for him, he may just be able to secure his 5th major title and cement himself as the true goat of Counter-Strike.
1)The averaged 42 tournaments were tournaments that dev1ce played 10 or more maps in. Tournaments with fewer than 10 maps played were neglected to avoid inflation and minimize inaccuracy of statistics.
2)Purple graphs indicate incomplete/unofficial statistics.