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Ascendancy: A Coldzera Story

Coldzera has become the undisputed best Counter-Strike player in the world and is on his way to maybe becoming the best in CS:GO history.
Coldzera Marcelo David) of SK Gaming has become the undisputed best Counter-Strike player in the world and is on his way to maybe becoming the best in CS:GO history. Photo courtesy of DreamHack.

I once likened competition as a ritual to achieve godhood. After all, we see feats that are unimaginable even in our wildest fancies. We see moments that could and should have never been, but happened anyway. We see the pinnacle of players at their chosen field; we see them push the very boundaries of what we think possible and then break them. In essence, we see a player make the impossible possible. We see God. And there is no one in CS:GO right now who invokes divinity like Coldzera.

Even among superstars, Marcelo “Coldzera” David is unique. He is a versatile player adept at playing various roles and styles. He has a strong pistol, rifle and can use the AWP. In that sense, he can be compared to someone like Richard “shox” Papillon or Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, but he prefers to play a passive style. That is why he is often considered a supportive type: he is the one throwing nades or holding undesirable positions, such as drop on Cobblestone. It belies the fact that Coldzera is the one who often secures the round as he is left alive halfway through. From there, he uses his superb decision making, skill and the information fed to him to make the right decisions and win the game.

It almost feels like fate that he ended up playing for Luminosity under Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo. There are superstar players across the world, but none could have fit FalleN’s system better than Coldzera. You could argue that players like Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev or Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer in early 2016 had higher peaks, but none of them locked into the system of the Brazilian squad like Coldzera. Their emphasis on map control and positioning meshed perfectly with Coldzera’s game sense and decision making.

Coldzera is also unlike his contemporaries in that he doesn’t have incredible highlight reels of jaw-dropping plays. That’s partially what makes him so awe-inspiring. He is quite capable of making these incredible shots, but he never lets the situation get to the point where the effort is required. Counter-Strike can be summed up as a game where a player is forced to make instant high-pressure decisions in succession, round after round. Give Coldzera 1,000 different decisions to make in a CS:GO game, and he’ll make the right decision each time. As Chess master José Raúl Capablanca once said, “I only look one move ahead, the right one.”

We have seen players with similar types of play styles. Fnatic’s Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson and Astralis’ Andreas “xyp9x” Højsleth claim decision making as the hallmark of their play. Both famously carried their teams at different times despite technically being supports. But they lack the sheer skill and unending consistency of Coldzera. Those two players were at the peak of their powers for — at most — months at a time. Once that form is gone, they return to facilitating the star players.

Coldzera is the star of SK Gaming and has been so since he joined the then-Luminosity team in July 2015. It has been nearly two years since then, and he has only improved his play over time. Terminator is a fitting nickname: he feels like an efficient killing machine who keeps upgrading as time goes on. Nothing seems to slow him down: not players, metas, teams or even time itself.

At this point he has almost no rivals left. By sheer stint of consistency he outlasted his initial challengers in Olofmeister and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs, who both fell off last year. Shox rose to challenge him in the middle of 2016 but hasn’t shown the same form this year. Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz can match Coldzera’s consistency, but he cannot match Coldzera’s ability to play under pressure in finals. S1mple has shown he can match Coldzera in individual skill, but he doesn’t have the team. Kenny “KennyS” Schrub has risen back to his godlike form of 2015, but he has yet to triumph against Tier 1 competition like Coldzera.

The only current rival right now is NiKo. Both have been incredible since 2016. NiKo was the Atlas of the scene during his time on mousesports. He is just as versatile as Coldzera, can crush Tier 1 competition as brutally, and play just as many roles. Both players can use any weapon with deft and ease. The only knock on NiKo has nothing to do with his skill, but the chances he has been given. Playing with a loaded FaZe Clan team, this is the first time he has been on a championship contender.

I consider Coldzera the closest to becoming a God and someone building a case as the greatest player to ever touch CS:GO. When I watch him play, I am starkly reminded of a different player from a different game. TaeJa was in my estimation the third greatest player in StarCraft 2 history. He won all his championships off of his ability to play the late game and outlast his opponents; he constantly made the right decisions over and over and over again. When he “retired” at the end of 2014, I predicted no other SC2 player would win 11 premier championships in 2.5 years and that no other player could emulate his style of play. Both have stayed true nearly three years later.

TaeJa was a once-in-a-lifetime player who transcended his game. Coldzera is the same, but he has two advantages that TaeJa lacked. He has never suffered any comparable injuries like the wrist problems that plagued TaeJa’s career, and he has the willpower and ambition to be the absolute best. He wants to win and practices as such. Famously, TaeJa rarely practiced.

Let’s end with this analogy. Superstar players are often like forces of nature. When they go off, they become hurricanes or avalanches: unstoppable and beyond our capacity to comprehend up close. So what is Coldzera? He is the ocean, a tidal wave with inexhaustible strength. You can outlast a hurricane or a thunderstorm with enough perseverance. They are devastating when they happen, but they eventually pass. But how do you outlast the ocean? How do you punch out an inexhaustible expanse of water? You can’t. You can only tread it and try to survive as long as you can, but inevitably you will run out of energy. It has been two years since Coldzera entered the international scene. Since then, he has won two majors, four other titles and boasts multiple top finishes. It is time that he ascends to godhood, and I can’t think of anyone who can stop him.

Cover photo courtesy of DreamHack/illustration by Slingshot


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