ENCE is undoubtedly a strong team, but will they ever be able to reach the pinnacle of CS: GO?
Just a few months ago, ENCE looked like one of the hottest new prospects in Counterstrike. An all Finnish line-up, the likes of which fans have never seen in the top tier of CS: GO, took down some of the world’s toughest opposition to face Astralis in the IEM Katowice Major Grand Final. Since then, however, ENCE hasn’t looked like they deserved to be there. Which begs the question, have we seen the best that ENCE will ever be?
EZ for Ence?
ENCE was on an incredible run of form at the IEM Katowice Major. Not only did ENCE manage to make it to a Major final, but they did it through the hardest bracket at the tournament, defeating both Team Liquid and NaVi in best-of-three series just to earn the right to face Astralis. There were a plethora of nail-biting moments in both of these BO3’s, particularly on Mirage in both series. While the end results were close in both series, ENCE managed to defeat the now world no.1 Team Liquid and have had players go blow for blow with the legendary Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev.
ENCE’s results at the Katowice Major were largely due to incredible performances from every member of the roster. Analysts had already sung the praises of hot prospect Jere ‘sergej’ Salo before the tournament began, but nobody expected every member of ENCE to be firing on all cylinders. This is especially true for Sami ‘xseveN’ Laasanen who had stand-out moments in the tournament, despite usually having less success in the server. This level of individual performance, alongside a mastery of the pre-nerf AUG mechanics, allowed ENCE to go the distance and even challenge a Major title.
The period of potential
After the Major, ENCE had a short period of time where they could have established their dominance. Things started off rough, with middle-of-the-pack placings at both BLAST Pro Series São Paulo and StarSeries Season 7. That said, ENCE looked to be on the rise after a 2-0 victory over Astralis at BLAST Pro Series Madrid, breaking the Danish team's undefeated Nuke streak in the process.
After Madrid, the Finns took a trip to America. They placed top 4 at cs_summit 4 after being eliminated by the eventual winners, Team Vitality. DreamHack Masters Dallas 2019 would be ENCE’s next chance to earn a championship trophy. ENCE once again looked strong here, defeating the new-look G2, new Brazilian prospects Furia and the latest iteration of FaZe to face Liquid in the finals. It would be another close affair in which ENCE put up a huge fight against the Americans. ENCE took the series to all 3 maps but narrowly missed out on the trophy after a 16-13 loss on Inferno. Aleksi "allu" Jalli and sergej performed well here, but the rest of ENCE struggled to replicate the level of form that they had reached during the Major.
This final was a crucial moment for ENCE as Team Liquid were still on the rise and hadn’t hit their peak form yet. Had ENCE defeated Liquid here, it could have been the beginning of an era. Instead, ENCE lost the Grand Final. To add insult to injury, there would soon be another obstacle between ENCE and greatness.
The Nerf of the AUG
After Dallas, in an update celebrating 20 years of Counterstrike, Valve announced that they would reduce the fire rate and unscoped accuracy of the AUG. This was a devastating change for ENCE.
The Finish team was one of the main teams to completely embrace the AUG after it’s buff just a few months prior. It became a staple part of their CT-side even after the price increase. In fact, it was common for ENCE to pick up multiple AUG’s alongside Allu’s AWP. The Finnish side had seemingly mastered the weapon; showing fans exactly how teams can utilize its range and precision when anchoring defensive positions or how its spray can quickly dispatch rushing enemies.
Now, however, it is apparent that the AUG nerfs have impacted ENCE’s play, maybe more than any other team in the scene. ENCE have now had to adapt their CT-side to compliment the changes. Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen will still sometimes purchase the gun, but ENCE mainly stick to the more traditional M4’s as their primary defensive weapons. In certain situations, particularly on Dust2, ENCE have adopted a more consistent double AWP setup with sergej playing a hybrid playstyle to try and reclaim the range offered by the AUG
Can ENCE ever be the best?
ENCE is still a great CS: GO team and their 2nd place finish at IEM Chicago showed viewers that they can go the distance in big tournaments. Nevertheless, there are a couple of factors that will impact ENCE’s chances of advancement.
Firing on all cylinders
Looking back at ENCE’s victories, they all have something in common. It is not enough for ENCE to have Allu and sergej to be the stand-out performers on the roster; there need to be at least two other players putting up big numbers on the scoreboard. These performances typically come from xseveN and Jani "Aerial" Jussila, but In-Game Leader Aleksib occasionally steps up when it counts. Without this high level of play from the majority of their roster, ENCE will not be able to reach champion status as their competitors are some of the most skilled players CS: GO has ever seen.
A post-player-break environment
Team Liquid is on top of the world right now, and their individual skill is far beyond anyone else’s. Now that teams have a break before the Major, ENCE needs Liquid to return as a slightly weaker team if they want a chance to win. Vitality is also gunning for that top spot, so ENCE will need to spend the break studying both Liquid’s and Vitality’s every move if they want a chance to be the best. Preparation will certainly be key for ENCE if they want to be the best in the world.
The StarLadder Major will be the next chance for ENCE to win big. However, they’ll need to be in killer form if they want to be crowned Major Champions.
Image VIA: ESL, Blast Pro Series