The first time I met Nicolai dev1ce Reedtz, I thought he was a cocky, trash talking pretty boy who is the kind of player to refuse give straight answer.

13:40, 13 Jan 2020

The first time I met Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, I thought he was a cocky, trash-talking pretty boy. The kind of player who would refuse to give a straight answer on camera.

It was Dreamhack Cluj Napoca, and Fnatic - the winners of two majors past had just had a game one victory against Team EnvyUs on their map pick, Fnatic would afterwards lose the series. The French team would soon go on to win the major, which would be the last time a CS:GO calendar year would have had three majors - something which many fans forget when taking into account the legacy of Fnatic’s three major championships.

Pala had gone to interview TSM - with his initial question going to a 19 year old Danish player, dev1ce, regarding why he thought Envy had been able to come out on top. The answer was in stark contrast to what you’d see from dev1ce in the modern day and age, representative of an era of Counter-Strike perhaps gone by: “Fnatic were clearly better at using the mouse and keyboard together to play Counter-Strike.”

Of course, modern day Counter-Strike fans will believe that it would be ludicrous to think of dev1ce as anything but what he is today: quite possibly the most exemplary star player to have ever played and represented the game at its highest levels. In fact, perhaps more people would have been inclined to believe in his eventual development into the cocky star player that I immediately visualised.

For a long time, dev1ce had a different identity - one of a talented player who wouldn’t show up to practice regularly. One who was incredibly talented but would find himself repeatedly kicked from teams for issues that could just be chalked up to commitmen issues.

Today, however, dev1ce has shown himself to be the last barrier that one must cross in CSGO, to be considered a true god of the game.

Of Sharp Rises - 2015

Image via Dreamhack

In 2014, dev1ce had been marked down as the 20th best player in the world according to HLTV’s rankings for the year. He’d had excellent placings at the three majors of the year, but the rest of the calendar was found lacking for him and his team. Come 2015, that had changed. Suddenly, the top three had a spot for him - right below Olofmeister and Guardian.

This year showcased what the next half-decade would look like. dev1ce, in all his glory, pushed past everyone in the most textbook style of Counter-Strike imaginable. Every new player who wanted to get better was told the same thing: if you’re looking for a player to emulate, download dev1ce’s demos.

It was never to download Olofmeister’s demos, or Guardian’s demos - though sometimes people were told to watch through Flusha’s gameplay, for entirely different reasons - it was about dev1ce. Every single peek he’d make seemed calculated to be the optimal play. You’d still occasionally see moments of erratic behavior that segued into a fantastic few kills - but it wasn’t anything of the ilk of what Guardian and Olof pulled off routinely. Unfortunately, as much as he was the perfect player to emulate - he wasn’t the perfect player.

There was the perpetual “dev1ce choke” that was found in the playoffs of a major - and often in the playoffs of elite events. The Danish TSM simply could not push through - because to win a major, being at the pinnacle of humanity just was not high enough.

Of Fumbled Torches and New Gods - 2016

dev1ce ESL
Image via ESL

2016 was the last year that the French still had glimpses of greatness, before the great French demise. The best players in the world from the year past - Olof and Guardian - had both suffered injuries, putting dev1ce in a prime spot to take number one away. Alas, it was not to be.

The new end of year rankings by Thorin showcased the true story of skill. Three new entrants stormed the world, as the Brazilian supremacy had come to dawn over the Counter-Strike world, with Coldzera being the undisputed best player in the world - leading the next great CS:GO era. What should have been a natural transition from Fnatic into the hands of their Danish kryptonite was, instead, a torch dropped and picked up by Fallen’s Brazilian dynasty.

It was not just Coldzera, but two young guns who emerged - raging across against all tides and odds. Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. Niko, who had managed to make Mousesports an upset contender against anyone in the world, and S1mple, who had managed to get an American team not just to the semifinals, but to the finals of the major. Such raw talent that would seem generational - and indeed was unheard of until 2019 had Zywoo brought into the fold. They missed nothing, they clutched in the most ridiculous situations, and they seemed unstoppable.

Meanwhile, a resurgent Shox reminded everyone that godhood was seemingly eternal in the French veins. He too pushed dev1ce one spot further away from the number one, landing Nicolai onto being the 5th best player in the world. Once again, separated only by sheer mortality.

As the era went by, dev1ce - who had now transitioned into Astralis - overcame his biggest weakness. He was finally performing in big matches, where his weakness was scrubbed away and replaced by a new one. Astralis was not performing. Something was amiss.

And so, came the removal of Karrigan.

Of Missed Eras and Sickness - 2017

PGL Krakow
Image via PGL

Astralis started off the year by doing the impossible - they stopped the plow and won the major. Unfortunately, dev1ce had succumbed to an old ailment yet again - he bottom fragged in the major final.

It was clear that the line you needed to cross had not been done and, instead, it had been his teammates pulling him across the finish line. Yes, dev1ce was undisputedly the reason why they even had a chance to do so, but it was not him behind the wheel at the last moments.

The story of 2017 was clear - he had recovered, and he was getting better - but no-one had figured out the secret to immortality yet. It seemed painfully clear that hard work was only going to get him so far, and yet one had to hope. dev1ce was a common man’s champion: it was hard work and dedication that let him overcome trials and tribulations - not just raw unadulterated skill like a S1mple or NiKo.

Perhaps it was most visible in the quarterfinals of the subsequent Krakow Major. Astralis had been paired off against SK Gaming - the best team in the world at the time. FalleN, who was still one of the best AWPers you could put on a server, found himself losing practically every single duel to dev1ce on Overpass - a map which he generally showed stellar performances.

It later came to light that it was a result of careful study. Demos had been poured over, heatmaps gone through, and FalleN’s tendencies noted. dev1ce’s studious nature was paying off, and he had once again put Astralis in a position to win the major and move forward to a new era soon.

It was not meant to be. Once again, dev1ce came up short in the third map. Soon after, he was taken ill - and a series of substitutions throughout the year had him stop shy of number one to nearly the same combination of players.

Of Humanity Prevailing and Stolen Trophies - 2018

dev1ce Pro League
Image via ESL

2018 was the true testament to Gla1ve’s skill as an ingame leader, combined with Zonic’s coaching capabilities. Astralis revolutionised the game in a way that seemed to be perfect to enable dev1ce to be unstoppable. With new ways of using utility to prevent any sort of faster plays from the enemy terrorist side, they were able to continually weaken and slow down players who would generally thrive on erratic movements, so dev1ce would be able to find an easy frag on them.

At the same time, it seemed as if choking need not be something for them to worry about any longer. They had the most dominant era of all CS:GO history - earning the shoehorned call from Sadokist “the greatest of all f***ing time.” Enemy teams would be unable to even get close to double digits at times - making the pressure of a comeback a thing of the past.

With their untouchable Nuke streak at the hull, they’d be guaranteed a map veto in their favour and the aura of champions would carry them through the worst of times.

This should have been the year of transcendence. Every single CS:GO team in history to have had an era had the best player in the world playing under their banner. NiP had GeT_RiGhT and F0rest, Fnatic had Olofmeister holding their banner high and SK had Coldzera baiting Taco. Why would Astralis be any different? Why would dev1ce not finally be granted an entrance through the door which he had been guarding for so long?

The answer was S1mple.

By all rights, a player like him should not have existed. It brings a quote from Thorin to mind, that “the world would be the same if Faker [Greatest League of Legends player of all time] had just not existed. In fact, you wouldn’t know the difference. There would be elite players even so, but you don’t need to have a player who is such an extreme outlier.”

S1mple was the sheer force of nature that disallowed any sort of questions or contention. As the year went on, and impossible feat after impossible feat was accomplished, it was clear that you were never going to be able to argue against him being the best.

Instead, it was dev1ce who had become not just the gatekeeper to godhood, but the one who would steal from them. Winning the major, the Intel Grand Slam, and seemingly everything else, dev1ce became the first star player to ever have an era to his name without entering the Hall of the Gods, without being the best.

Of Acceptance and Dominance - 2019

dev1ce Starladder
Image via Starladder

It was a more tumultuous year for Astralis. After winning the major and equalling Fnatic’s feat of three, Astralis fell into a slump for the first half of the year, no longer attending tournaments outside of the BLAST circuit. Criticism was levied against them continually, as their main rival, Team Liquid, managed to dominate the circuit in their absence.

The year ended much more victoriously, with Astralis having stolen another major away - some say courtesy of a mistimed player break - and using the momentum to propel themselves forwards to tournament victory upon victory.

All this came parallel to a new prodigy entering into CS:GO and doing the unheard of. Zywoo took the Counter-Strike world by storm by becoming the best player in the world during his rookie year despite S1mple still existing in the same sphere as him.

After five years of elite-level play, it had become clear that dev1ce could definitely win, but his style was not conducive to being the number one. Instead, he’s become the foundation of a team that has stuck true to the absolute fundamentals of Counter-Strike and excelled through study, practice, and exploration of every nook and cranny which the game has to offer.

dev1ce will not be the best, but he will steal your trophies even if you are. Perhaps he has come to accept that over time. Should it matter if those ahead of him have transcended, when Astralis’ style is uniquely conducive to shutting down the absolute best?

Of the Future - 20XX?

It’s been half a decade, and it is now very much clear to every aspiring professional player who dev1ce is. dev1ce is the last barrier that you have to overcome to be the greatest. He is the forefront of humanity, the line in the sand, which you have to cross to move above and beyond it.

To players, dev1ce represents one of two things. If you’re a player who wants to be a well-oiled cog in a greater machine, then dev1ce is the best of you. If you are simply a mortal in the realm of CS:GO, then he is your goal - that, one day, if you work hard enough, study as much as you can, and have the necessary talent, perhaps you will be good enough to be the next dev1ce.

Then, there are others. Those who wish to go beyond and have chapters dedicated to them in the annals of history. To them, he is a reminder.

You may carve your way to the top with a bloodied scythe. You may shock, and make people watching you gasp. You may stun and amaze every time you do the impossible. But to enter the Hall of Hods, he will always be there.

The final gatekeeper.

Main image via Blast

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