OpTic Gaming adjusts to rebuilt Counter-Strike roster

After a roster turnover since winning the ELeague Season 2 championship last December, OpTic Gaming is trying to climb back to the top of the Counter-Strike world. Raymond Mccrea Jones/USA TODAY

One year and six players removed since an illustrious crown, OpTic Gaming is attempting to rebuild what once was theirs: a championship-caliber team.

Formerly dubbed as one of the best North American Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams of all time, OpTic Gaming's dissolution left it with only one standing member, who was once seen as an uncertain teammate. Oscar "Mixwell" Canellas now leads a pack of both former greats and young, inexperienced players in the hopes of regaining the organization's momentum.

In December of last year, OpTic Gaming vaulted to Counter-Strike relevance when it defeated Astralis to become the ELeague Season 2 champion. However, in the following months, that success could not save OpTic from a slew of roster departures instigated by its members. Those moves lead what once could be considered a possible major winner to a team that has subsequently had a hard time qualifying for the biggest events.

"2017 has been a struggle," Mixwell said. "We played with a stand in for about six months or so and then [Will "RUSH" Wierzba] and [Tarik "tarik" Celik] left to Cloud9. With [Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz] already gone, we decided to get the best players we could, but because the buyouts are so high on the other teams we could not put together the dream team we wanted."

While OpTic may not have gotten the players it had hoped, what it did get was experienced leadership that took the pressure off of Mixwell's shoulders. Among those is Adam "Friberg" Friberg, a former Major champion who has been through the ups-and-downs of building a championship contender.

Friberg's past experiences on Ninjas in Pyjamas -- once considered the best team in the world -- has taught him what's necessary to keep a good team environment. Ninjas in Pyjamas eventually made a number of roster changes as well, including parting ways with Aleksi "allu" Jalli and moving on from Friberg. Having been through this before, Friberg knew he and allu could help OpTic rebuild.

"I joined OpTic because I wanted to play with allu. I played with him at NiP and I think he is a great player," Friberg said. "[Allu] has a lot of experience, but we also have some rising talent on this team. We have three talented young players in Mixwell, Magiskboy, and [Kevin "HS" Tarn]. HS is a little inexperienced, but he is very eager to learn and is developing at a fast pace."

Most professional players and coaches will tell you that creating a team culture and meshing as a unit are the two overarching themes of team success. Tenants to which both Mixwell and Friberg acknowledge. The two-and-a-half months they have been together as a group isn't enough time to get the results they'll soon expect.

"I think this team can do great things, but we need to work a lot because we have not played together," Mixwell said. "We have five players from five different teams. All of us have a different way of playing the game so it is very difficult to mesh. We just need to play more as a team."

Friberg agreed.

"I think that one of the problems we have right now is that we haven't really been playing as a unit of five. We are five individuals right now that have played in different systems," Friberg said. "The main goal that we have for our team right now is to mesh everything together and play as a team."

OpTic was given another opportunity to create some synergy this past weekend as the team participated in the iBUYPOWER Masters in Santa, Ana California, with teams such as Cloud9 and Liquid, where it finished third-fourth, losing to Renegades in the semifinals. According to Mixwell, this result wasn't terrible and each LAN they play can only help OpTic achieve that harmony they are desperately seeking.

"We do have a really nice team and even though we didn't qualify for the major it was our first LAN," Mixwell said. "We just need to play more LAN events to really learn how we can play together."

On Thursday, however, the team failed to make it to the IEM Oakland semifinals after a lopsided loss to SK Gaming.

Even with the most recent loss, OpTic does appear to be a team on the rise. The team won't be at the 2018 Boston Major in January after falling short in the European minor in Bucharest, Romania, several weeks ago. But it did top the North American online stage of the ESL Pro League this season. That result will see it travel to Odense, Denmark, where it will meet both domestic and international foes with $225,000 on the line.

These two events are the center focus for this new OpTic group.

"I guess ending this year, we will see where we will go because we have the Pro League finals and hopefully ECS," Mixwell said. "Our main goal this year is to get to those two finals. Let's see how we do there."