Zeus Cements CSGO Legend Status Without Na'Vi

by Steven Cropley

This is a story about a God thrown from the heavens and his battle back.

Daniil "Zeus" Teslenko endured the peaks and valleys of an incredible run with Natus Vincere -- the most dominant CIS team in Counter-Strike history. While the previous five-man roster of Zeus, Ioann 'Edward' Sukhariev, Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács, Denis 'seized' Kostin, and Egor 'flamie' Vasilyev never took home a first place finish at the biggest of events there was a run from ESL One Cologne in 2015 until ESL One Cologne 2016 where the team accumulated five second place finishes in 10 matches. Outside of its appearances in the finals, the team was in the top four a total of seven times in those events, never falling below 8th.

Results at top-tier events with the most recent five-man lineup consisting of Zeus:

5-8th   ESL One Cologne 2016
3-4th   ELEAGUE Season 1
2nd   DreamHack Masters Malmo 2016
2nd   MLG Columbus 2016
3-4th   IEM Katowice 2016
2nd   SL i-League StarSeries XIV Finals
2nd   ESL Pro League Season 2 Finals
2nd   DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015
7-8th   ESL Dubai Invitational 2015
5-8th   ESL One Cologne 2015

In addition, that Na'Vi roster held several championship trophies at less prestigious events. It won the Counter Pit League Season 2 Finals, DreamHack ZOWIE Open Leipzig 2016 and IEM San Jose 2015 among others.

Original image- 1920x1200
(Photo: w-dog.net)

Zeus had been a founding member of the team, forming in December 2009 alongside four other Ukrainian players, and starting something that has grown to be what it is today. A year after its formation, Zeus' team had been declared team of the year in Counter-Strike 1.6, taking home the trophy at ESWC, WCG, and IEM IV. Despite his long-time success with the team, he was left without a spot when the organization elected to bring in the young Ukrainian star, Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, who had been playing for the North American organization, Team Liquid.

Zeus, a founding member, was Born to Win no longer.

Facing potential retirement or a fading into the dark abyss of fallen stars, Counter-Strike commentator and co-owner of OnFire.tv, Anders Blume told WWG that he didn't know where the wind would blow Zeus.

"Honestly what surprises me the most about what Zeus has managed to do with Gambit is how much it caught most of the community off guard," Blume said. "When he was removed from the Na'Vi roster, I certainly assumed we would be moving into the "end chapter" of his career.

"His accomplishments with the 1.6 Na'Vi roster is already more than most people will do in a lifetime in Counter-Strike. You could forgive him if he wanted to hang up his mouse and just enjoy everything he has done."

Zeus Gambit
(Photo: Gambit)

The legendary player remained contracted to Na'Vi for two months weighing his options before Gambit completed negotiations for his transfer.

Prior to his arrival in the Gambit lineup, the team had attended three big events, failing to break into the top four in any of them. Placing 9-12th at MLG Columbus before an 11-14th place finish in ELEAGUE Season One and then it finally broke the top eight at ESL One Cologne 2016 to place 5-8th.

Signing with Gambit could have been the first the first step into that abyss, joining a team much below the level of his legacy. What he has accomplished with that team has been far from abysmal.

He picked up a team of talented but largely unproven players, and together they managed to shock and upset a number of teams that on paper, looked much better than them.

Since Zeus' addition, the team has placed first in two smaller events. Taking home the lion's share of prize money at the Predator Masters 3 event as well as DreamHack ZOWIE Open Winter 2016. Outside of the two trophy finishes, the team has made the quarterfinals of two prestigious events. Making it through the group stage of the ELEAGUE Major as well as the recent DreamHack Masters Las Vegas has seen the team peak at No. 6 in the WWG CSGO Team Rankings

Before proving itself as a contender at the latter two events, DreamHack Winter 2016 is where the team really drew attention. Entering the event off the back of a victory at Predator Masters 3, Zeus and co. still had much to prove as the event was made up of tier 2 squads such as Kinguin and Rogue. Although the event was nothing to write home about, it showcased the steady improvement seen under this new leadership. Kicking off the event in Leipzig, Zeus led his team to victory over No. 10 OpTic, a team that had seen success of its own during that time and would go on to win the ELEAGUE season 2 finals alongside a second finals appearance in the ECS season 2 finals. Gambit would take down No. 9 Cloud9, No. 21 Renegades, and the former GODSENT roster on its way to the title and the majority of the $100,000 prize pot.

Gambit was moving up the ladder, checking off the boxes on its way. Being declared champions over lower tier European squads followed by handing the two best North American teams losses on its way to back-to-back titles would set them against the next test, one that many still doubted it was ready for.

The ELEAGUE Major would be the team's chance to take on the most revered of CS:GO teams, for Zeus to prove Na'Vi was not his last shot at the crown. To test the team's mettle? No. 4 North. Handing the Danish squad a loss, Gambit would go 2-0 to start the most prestigious event in Counter-Strike. Bouncing back from a 16-10 loss to the Polish team, No. 3 Virtus.pro, Zeus' leadership saw the rising No. 7 FaZe Clan defeated 16-14 on Overpass, earning its passage to the quarterfinals. Already achieving more than many thought possible, Gambit would fall 2-1 in a best-of-three to No. 12 fnatic to ends its Major run.

The respect had been earned, however, as Gambit had proved itself a competitor in the top tier and Zeus had proven his days of leading teams to greater heights were not over.

The squads trip to Vegas showcased consistency, legitimizing the results seen at the Major. Gambit's preparation under Zeus was clear as day as the team struck revenge against the only two teams to hand them defeats in Atlanta. Defeating Virtus.pro and fnatic would push the team through to the playoffs once again. North was the team to get revenge this time, however, as the close series would finish in favour of the Danes after a double overtime map two.

An in-game leader known for building his strategy around that of star AWP players like GuardiaN, the adjustment to a more well-rounded design due to not having the same level of an AWPer in Rustem "mou" Tlepov has seen positive results as Gambit has risen through the ranks, albeit mou's LAN performance has taken a hit.

While the addition of Abay "HObbit" Khasenov and heightened performance from Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev has certainly helped to improve results, these players are guided by a steady hand. The tactical growth seen on Gambit is evident in the play style it uses and how it matches up against the best teams. In an interview with Freddy "KRiMZ" Johansson at ELEAGUE Major, the fnatic player said Gambit plays "the correct CS, like slowly and no mistakes," something other teams have been met with as well.

Zeus Fun
(Photo: Gambit)

Zeus, a huge fan of memes, may be fun and exuberant on his Twitter account or when bumping elbows at an arena but do not fool him for anyone other than a competitor. "I've run into Zeus at events since the beginning of CSGO and outside the game he just always feels like a goofy character that just has fun and jokes around. You'd never imagine from a first encounter with him, that he would be that hard working and that smart, but he is." Blume told WWG. "In fact, its much more than that, the depth to which he has successfully managed to read some of the best minds in the game, even on big stages, is simply incredible and should be a source of inspiration for everyone who hopes to make it big in Counter-Strike."

Zeus is here to stay, working towards his very public goal.

Regardless of what Zeus goes on to accomplish, he will forever remain in Counter-Strike history as a God who refused to accept a fate handed to him by others and instead created a world of his own.