The two best AWPers in the world right now are Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz and Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. In 2018, both players have played at the very peaks of their powers. Dev1ce is the best player on Astralis and has played a pivotal role in establishing the Age of Astralis. S1mple is the world’s best player. Both started as hybrid players who eventually became AWP specialists, but their styles of play could not be any further from each other. In their pursuit of greatness, they have refined their own talents, gone through their own experiences, and have come out the other side with completely different conclusions. Dev1ce is the man who has set the meta of what a perfect AWP should be. He has set the rules of engagement and within those bounds has shown infinite variation of what is possible. S1mple is the player who was forced to break those rules and through his own individual skill and work, has forced impossibility to become reality. who understood those rules and broke them. Dev1ce found infinity within his bounds and s1mple has broken all of the barriers of what was thought possible with his unending potential. This is the story of the two AWPs that now define the world.
Dev1ce’s story with the AWP begins with the TSM/Astralis lineup of: Peter “Dupreeh” Rothmann, Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth, Finn “Karrigan” Andersen, and Rene “cajunb” Borg. During the latter period of the lineup, the team decided that they needed a dedicated AWPer to defeat the best teams in the world and dev1ce was the player to pick it up. At first it was a tough transition as it was a completely different role in the game. While he had been sharing AWP duties with a few other players in the squad, being the secondary AWP is different from being the primary AWPer. The AWPer is a focal point of the team because of its inherent strengths and weaknesses.
To understand how dev1ce came to be the AWPer he is today, we have to understand the limits of the weapon. This is a weapon that can one shot kill anyone with a body shot. It can also scope in, so long range duels will always favor the AWP against any other weapon besides another AWP. Because of the scope, it can also abuse the micro angles far better than any other weapon. Thus it is a great weapon for holding map control and getting an early round advantage, especially on the CT-side.
However it has downsides. When it fires, it takes time to reload for the next shot. Time that can be used to close the distance between the AWPer and their enemy. This is exacerbated by the increase of viable weapons in CS:GO. CS:GO has stronger cheaper weapons compared to its predecessors. SMGs and pistols are more mobile and better than the AWP at close range. This means that should an AWP miss in a mid-range battle without a clear path of escape, they will likely die or be traded.
When we look at the AWP in the context of the economic game, it is an incredibly expensive weapon. CS:GO is a game that can often devolve into forcebuy situations on both sides of the map, so an investment in the AWP means that you may have to sacrifice win percentage in eco/force rounds of your own to get it up. In addition to that, because AWPs are so weak in the close-mid range fight relative to a majority of used guns (pistols, rifles, SMGs) in the game, they are ineffective at retakes for the CT-side.
Despite those downsides, the AWP is an incredible weapon tactically speaking. So integral in fact that a majority of the top teams specifically try to study and anti-strat the primary AWPer of each team. This is the world that dev1ce enters into when he decides to pick up the AWP in that Astralis lineup. As time went on, dev1ce slowly improved with his AWP and his strengths and weaknesses became more clear. He didn’t have the insane flick speed of the AWPers like Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs or Kenny “KennyS” Schrub. He wasn’t an insane combat AWPer like Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo was in 2016.
What he lacked in that skill set, he more than made up for with his understanding of the game and the AWP’s role in the game. From 2016-2017, dev1ce became the world’s best tactical AWPer. He was renowned for being incredibly mobile, almost never being out of position, and making sure to save the AWP. So while he didn’t have as many insane AWP highlights as the other top AWPers, he was constantly getting information, creating map pressure, and minimizing the damage that the AWP can have on a team’s economy. Dev1ce’s tactical use of the AWP also meant that he was the best AWPer in the world to play with Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander. Gla1ve has proven himself to be the best tactical mind CS:GO has seen in the last two years, and dev1ce’s understanding of his role in the game and the structure has perfectly paired with his team and gla1ve’s tactics. Once Emil “Magsik” Reif joined the team, the entire team balance was set to perfection and dev1ce became nearly unstoppable and the Age of Astralis began. At this point in time, I consider dev1ce to be the world’s best AWPer.
To understand why, I’ll first break down a standard round for dev1ce with the AWP. In the BLAST Istanbul Finals, Astralis played against MIBR on inferno. Astralis were on the CT-side and in the 9th round, dev1ce and Xyp9x took banana control. They systematically clear each segment of banana. Dev1ce first used his smoke on the standard T molly at car. This allowed him to take a slightly better angle down banana which let him cut off any player from reaching the right cubby (from his pov) without his knowledge. Then both dev1ce and Xyp9x use a double HE nade stack to clear the other side so if anyone had snuck in there, they’d likely be dead. Finally, Xyp9x throws his molly at the bottom of banana. This creates space so that they can then boost dev1ce onto the broken wall.
From that point on dev1ce can hold the B-site solo because he is now at a transitional defense point. If MIBR came towards him, he has somewhere between two to four shots he can fire off before the opposing team can retake B control and hit the site. This is only one variation among the seven different variations he can use on the CT-side of inferno. Other variations include him: Playing passive angles at brackets on either side, aggressively peaking down top mid from either side, pushing aps with Magisk, peaking boiler, and pushing down mid to look down alt mid.
Among these seven variations (there could be more, but these are the ones I’ve found him doing recently), the only potential risky move is his push down mid to look into alt mid. Even then, Astralis has set tactics to set him up in such a way that it can either be a surprise or he can do it safely because of their utility usage. Not only that, but these opening gambits can be built into each other. In the exact same map against MIBR, dev1ce fought for map control twice on rounds 9 and 10. In round 11, dev1ce didn’t have the economy to get the extra utility to fight for map control. In that round, he decided to play passively at A long. In order to compensate for that, gla1ve and Xyp9x took control of the bottom of B early on using a molly and flash. This denied MIBR the information that dev1ce wasn’t at B and forced MIBR to slow down and consider the options of what they needed to do going forward. Because of the variations dev1ce plays, he can help control space even when he isn’t actually there.
From that half alone, you can see how dev1ce plays and positions himself. He puts himself in aggressive positions that cannot be easily punished. That allow him to take a shot and fall back to take another. While he may not have the ascendant skill of someone like GuardiaN or KennyS, he doesn’t need it. Instead he is playing tactically, he is giving himself one-sided engagements that either let him get the kill or buy space, info, and utility from the other team.
That is a critical thing about dev1ce. He never forces himself into a do or die position where he has to hit the shot or die. He uses his intelligence and variations to create openings for himself that no other AWPer or team can match. At the same time, he always creates an escape route for himself that makes it incredibly hard for him to get taken out. He is the best tactical AWPer I’ve ever seen and it is only fitting that he is probably in the greatest tactical team that CS:GO has ever seen.
Dev1ce has mastered the fundamentals and the limits of his skill. In those bounded limits, he has created an infinite possibilities he can use. Think back a moment. I only keyed in on seven different variations of the CT-side of Inferno. Now that of all seven maps in the Astralis map pool and consider that he can play both sides with an AWP and you get an inkling of the enormity of what dev1ce brings to the table. He is the world’s most consistent and solid AWP. Every move he makes is calculated. It takes into account his own limits, his variations, the variations of his opponents, and what is happening in the game itself. It is no wonder that tactical minds like Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen have such high praise for his skill,
“If you wanna get good with AWP, watch a lot of @dev1ce demos, he is the smartest and best AWP in my mind. It’s not always about being flashy, i think it’s way better for a team to have a AWP where the team knows where they got him and he only take smart peeks”
Dev1ce is the best AWP in the world. He understands how it works on every map, he has created a consistent style that no team can crack, and he has proven his efficacy throughout all of 2018. However if there was one player, who could deny that claim, it is s1mple. S1mple is the best player on the planet, an ascendant prodigy that has reached heights that have been untouchable throughout 2018.
Where dev1ce made the rules of the AWP and set the meta, s1mple can break the meta. Dev1ce even acknowledges the madness of s1mple in an HLTV interview,
“I think s1mple is just, undeniably, the best player in the world. I can study a lot of players and learn from them, like FalleN, GuardiaN, and so on, and take something from their game and implement it in my own. But when I look at s1mple demos, it’s really hard because sometimes, he can be in the worst situations and still get like a 4k.”
Where Dev1ce grew up in the ordered and structured in the Danish system, s1mple grew up in the wild. He was a young kid with incredible talent and the emotions to match. In his first years, he continually changed teams in the CIS region until eventually joining FlipSid3 Tactics. Even then, the time on the was short lived. While he was an incredible player, he was someone who had yet to figure out how to be a team player. From that point on, he would have been relegated to the bottom tiers of the CIS region until a team was desperate enough to try the gamble again, but he got a life line from Spencer “Hiko” Martin to come to America to play for Team Liquid.
While that period of his career was fraught with internal problems, many arguably of his own making, it did prove that s1mple was the real deal. No matter how bad his attitude was at the time, no one could deny the awe-inspiring skill he could bring to the server. He carried Liquid to the semifinals of MLG Major Columbus and then carried them to the finals of ESL One Cologne 2016. He literally beat Na`Vi into the ground in the quarterfinals of that Major and that was what convinced them to give s1mple the chance.
When he came into Na`Vi, the original plan was to have Sergey “starix” Ischuk in-game lead as the coach. However the Valve ruling came into play and the team collapsed as they could never find the right leader or team cohesion to make things work. When Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko came back to the lineup after winning the Major with Gambit, people believed that the problems would be solved. Instead it took about eight more months and another roster change before the team realized their potential.
Going over the history of s1mple is critical in understanding how s1mple came to be. This is a player who has never had a stable structure or team put around him since entering the scene. From 2014-2015 he played on eleven different teams, with almost none of them lasting longer than a few months with the exception of Flipsid3 Tactics. He then played with Worst Players for a bit and then moved over to Liquid which constantly had roster issues and internal problems the entire time he was there. He then went to Na`Vi which didn’t have a leader during the first part of his tenure. Finally, when Zeus came into the lineup nearing the end of 2017, the first four months were terrible. Even after Denis “electronic” Sharipov came into the lineup, it was still a flawed lineup that relied too heavily on the superstar status of s1mple and electronic as players.
That tumultuous period became the crucible that now defines the s1mple we know today. The most positive change from all of those struggles is that s1mple has become a far better team player. Someone who is able to work with his teammates on a professional level so that the entire team is better. That crucible also came to define his own individual playing style. In the formative parts of his career, there has been no driving guide for s1mple. He was shuffling teams all of the time and with different team mates. While he could learn from bits here or there, there was no true mentor that gave s1mple a guiding principle of how to play Counter-Strike. Instead he was forced to survive in the wild and find his own way through his talent and work. By the end of it, he did come to understand the rules and meta of CS:GO. He also came to understand that he had to break them.
S1mple came to believe, perhaps rightfully, that the only way his team was going to win throughout those periods of time was off of his individual efforts. Instead of playing around a team that was dysfunctional, he took matters into his own hands and forced victory. He spent years playing in these teams that were never truly formed, that had constant problems, that didn’t have enough talent or the right mix of players, s1mple grew into the monster we know today. Where other young star talent is told to curtail the aggressive tendencies back and play as part of the team, s1mple pushed the boundaries of chaos even further until he made it successful at the highest levels of the game. Unlike the other star talents, s1mple is a prodigy in every sense. Not only does he have the prodigious skill of someone like Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, but he also has the mindset of someone like Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund in refining that skill. With those aspects combined, he has forced the impossible to become possible. To make miracles on a near daily basis. Where other young star players had someone to tell them to come back and player closer to the meta, s1mple instead broke through to the other side and has created a path all of his own. One that makes complete sense for someone of his talent, and his year in 2018 has proved it thus far.
How many impossible scenarios have we seen s1mple play in and come out on top in 2018? Impossible wallbangs, out dueling AWPers with deagles, finding triple or quad kills in impossible positions with any gun imaginable. His highlight reel from one tournament could be the highlight reel of someone else’s entire career. What makes s1mple’s style impressive is that it is in it’s own way as calculated as dev1ce. But what they are calculating are two very different models. In the case of dev1ce, he is looking at what he can do within the scope of his skill and how that impacts the team and tactics. In s1mple’s case, he realizes that he can do the impossible and because he can do the impossible he must so that his team has a decisive edge that no one else in the world can match.
We can see the difference in mentality between the two players in two different distinct rounds. At ESL One Cologne, dev1ce and s1mple played against each other on Overpass. Both players used the AWP to great effect on their respective CT-sides. How they did it perfectly displays their differences in mentalities. In the 15th round of that map, dev1ce uses a molly to control connector and flashed Magisk through a smoke to push down mid. The move didn’t work and Astralis were left in a 4v5.
Dev1ce reacts by first taking long control and waiting for the Astralis player to rotate back to A before going to look for an aggressive pick to try to even the game. Even in a situation where dev1ce understands the need to try to get a pick, he makes sure that the team structure isn’t compromised before doing it.
In contrast to that, we have s1mple in the 19th round. In that round he pushed down connector by himself with the AWP with zero trade potential as no other player was in site. He understood that if he didn’t make this play, that Astralis could win the game, so he took it upon himself to seize the round. Because of the range and area he was in, if he missed even one shot he was dead. Instead he killed two players and put Na`Vi in a 5v3 scenario.
Even how the two players approach hits and postplant situations is different. In a hit dev1ce will likely post up on the most effective rotation angle for the CT players and let the rest of the team clear out the site. S1mple on the other hand realizes that his team lacks firepower outside of electronic. So s1mple will sometimes be the trade fragger with the AWP or take wild positions like the top of the boxes on the A-site of Overpass to try to take as many duels as possible to secure the site. In postplant situations, dev1ce will play the numbers. He will take the smart angles and positions that will give him the highest rate of success. S1mple does that as well, but he is also far more likely to take impossible angles. For instance, when most AWPers play the long angle at toilets for the A-site, s1mple might play close because he has absolute confidence in his ability to win close range duels against anyone with his AWP.
It is absolutely fascinating how these two players have diverged in their paths. Both players have come to the right conclusions within the confines of their own talent and experiences. Think for a moment of the environment each player grew up in.
Dev1ce is a player who has spent almost his entire career with the core of Dupreeh and Xyp9x. Beyond that, he has always had a constant leader. In the early days it was Henrik “FeTiSh” Christensen. Later on it was karrigan. In the modern day it is gla1ve. When we look at it that way, it makes complete sense why dev1ce has become such a tactical AWPer.
In comparison to that, s1mple is a once in a lifetime prodigy. A player who has had no steady team or players he has played with throughout most of his career. Even in his best lineups, he has had to be the hard carry player for those lineups, so it also makes complete sense as to why s1mple came to the conclusion he did. To parlay his incredible skill into aggressive impossible feats so that he can win.
Both players have come to define 2018 for CS:GO. Dev1ce is the centerpiece for the Astralis Era. The tactical AWPer that no team has been able to out smart or out play. S1mple is the most dominant player of the era, someone who is broke the ceiling for what people thought was reasonably possible with his consistent ability to create and succeed in miracle plays. Both players are doing the impossible. Dev1ce is setting the meta and standard for how all top AWPers should play and constantly innovating and pushing his game forward so that no one can catch up. S1mple is pushing the bounds of the human limits as to what people think was even possible with the AWP.
For these two players, this is their form of art, the tool from which they best express themselves. Dev1ce’s AWP style is like that of a classic pianist. Born into the great orchestras that is Danish Counter-Strike, he learned the art of the craft. Through it he learned the limits of the forms and structures, and within those bounds he has created infinite variations that form into grand songs and melodies that those with even greater talents could not achieve. S1mple is a Jazz pianist. Forced into the chaos, traveling from team to team, region to region, he had no master but himself. Through that time, he has been forced to improvise, to find his own way, to push the boundaries of chaos and create works of art that none could hope to imitate. This is the story of dev1ce and s1mple, the story of two AWPers, the ones who now define CS:GO. Dev1ce is the man who created infinity from the bounded limits of his talents, s1mple is the man who has made the impossible a reality and has created a style of play that no other player could have ever dreamed of.