“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
On Jan. 28th, 2018 Cloud 9 won the ELeague Boston Major. It was the first Major victory for an NA squad in CS:GO history and the players that made it happen were: “Stewie2K” Yip, Timothy “autimatic” Ta, Will “RUSH” Wierzba, Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, and Tarik “tarik” Celik. Among the players, tarik has the most surprising story arc to his path to winning a Major. This was a player who went inactive to become a streamer in the middle of 2016. One and a half years later he has led a NA squad to Major victory. And he has done it by taking control of his career.
Tarik first came up in the NetcodeGuides.com squad. It was an NA squad that eventually became CLG. It included: tarik, Pujan “FNS” Mehta, Steve “reltuC” Cutler, James “hazed” Cobb, and Josh “jdm64” Marzano. Together the five of them grinded their way up the ranks in NA and were noticed by esports teams looking into the CS:GO space. They eventually signed with CLG and tarik played in that team over one and a half years.
During that time he was the star of the squad regionally. He was the most skilled rifler on the squad and in NA he could hang with the best of them. However when the team went abroad, he had problems bringing that same performance to the lan environment against the European squads. Tarik’s role on the team was a quandary. He had the skill to break open sites, but he considered himself part of the unit, a team-player. That is a great quality to have in all players, but in star players the best way they can contribute to the team is by being selfish, by taking spots or resources and then taking over the game.
In the end, tarik’s potential was never fulfilled on CLG. The team never upgraded the roster and so there was a hard limit as to how far the team could go. There were rumors of tarik joining a better team like Cloud 9, but those never came to fruition. The other star of the team, JDM64 moved on to Liquid. CLG had hit a roadblock and tarik had started to lose motivation to play. His team had hit a wall and was on the decline, the star AWPer of the team had moved on, and most importantly he couldn’t leave the team because his buyout was huge. He was a player who had no choice, no options, no control of his own destiny.
On July 11, 2016 tarik announced he was stepping down from the CLG roster to go home and stream till the end of his contract which was set to expire at the end of the year. Those years under CLG had been formative to tarik. As a player he tried to improve himself as both an individual and a teammate. But that can only take you so far. Changes needed to be made to the roster, but CLG weren’t interested in upgrading the roster at all. Tarik eventually gave up hope for the team. He had lost control of the options he could make to advance himself to the next stage of competition and all he could do now was wait until the contract ended. That pain, that frustration was the critical moment as it turned Tarik from a passive observer of his own career to an active participant. He was not only going to be a star player, he was going to take responsibility for his own career in a way he had never done before.
The first instance this happened was when OpTic bought out tarik’s contract. After one month of being inactive, Tarik joined OpTic on August 20, 2016. Once tarik joined, he instantly started to make moves. The initial plan was to take out Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz and have tarik take his place. After a week on the squad, tarik forced a different move. Tarik urged the team to remove Damian “daps” Steele and put stanislaw back into the lineup as the in-game leader.
As a player tarik reinvigorated his career as a star player of the squad along with Oscar “mixwell” Canellas. It was slow going as Stanislaw had to get used to becoming an in-game leader, but by the end of 2016 everything had clicked. Tarik and mixwell were the consistent starts of the team. Stanislaw had become the strong lurker in-game leader. Keith “NAF” Markovic had found impact as an inconsistent third star of the team and RUSH had become one of the best entry-fraggers in the world. They took the world by storm at the end of the year as they won ELeague Season 2. In the follow up tournament they got second at ECS Season 2 Finals.
That OpTic lineup wasn’t set to last. Stanislaw believed the team had peaked and wouldn’t be able to find consistent form. The team dropped out of the groups at the ELeague Atlanta Major and Stanislaw left the team. But the team still had the core players that had won ELeague Season 2, but they could never replicate that form. They tried finding a fifth that could fit the team, but no one they brought on could fix the leadership issue.
The team had wasted nearly seven months finding an in-game leader and a permanent fifth, but never did. It was at the very end of that lineups life span did they find hope again. Tarik once again took charge as he realized that he was in the same problem that he in during the CLG days. Back on CLG the team couldn’t make roster moves to make a better team. When he joined OpTic, he forced the roster moves to make it happen. Now that OpTic no longer had an in-game leader, Tarik had tried to find one. But since that failed the only answer left was to become the in-game leader.
We only saw tarik as the in-game leader of the OpTic squad at one event at ESL Cologne 2017. It was the best result that OpTic squad had during 2017 as they made it out of the group stages with wins over North, Space Soldiers, and FaZe. The team lost 1-2 to SK in the quarterfinals, but the tournament showed promise of Tarik as an in-game leader. Chet “ImAPet” Singh talked about tarik’s qualities as an in-game leader. He was inexperienced, particularly at setting up the round. But once he got into the mid and late rounds he was able to adapt and figure out what to do.
Not soon after ESL Cologne 2017, came the Krakow Major. In that tournament, Cloud 9 had once again lost in the group stages of the Major. This was finally the impetus that caused change in the team as they benched Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Michael “shroud” Grzesiek retired. Tarik and RUSH joined the Cloud 9 roster. Upon joining the roster, tarik became the in-game leader. Once again, Tarik took control of his own destiny. It is hard to know why he wanted to become the in-game leader as Cloud 9 already had one in Stewie2K. Perhaps he wanted to free up Stewie2K to become a star, perhaps he believed that the best contribution he could do for the team was become the leader. Whatever the case, tarik took control once again.
On paper the team was arguably the most skilled lineup assembled in NA CS:GO history. The only question was how it was all to fit together, especially as tarik was still relatively new as an in-game leader. It took some adjusting as the team had a rough start at DreamHack Malmo and DreamHack Montreal. But as time went on, the teamplay and synergy improved. It was modern type of CS that combined the experiences of Cloud 9 and Optic into one team to create something wholly new. It was similar to FaZe as it was a team that relied on strong individual skill with an adaptive caller that could bring it all together. This was why they had such a terrible matchup against FaZe as the skill and form heavily weighed into FaZe’s favor and this resulted in three eliminations from FaZe at ESL New York, IEM Oakland, and ECS Season 4 finals.
That is what makes the Boston Major so surprising as Cloud 9 faced that FaZe squad in the finals. Cloud 9 were able to do it as all of their players peaked to their best individual levels and their teamplay reached another level. Stewie2K was making ballsy aggressive plays, tarik was breaking open sites, RUSH was winning critical clutch rounds, Skadoodle returned to the best form of his career when he was briefly one of the best AWPers in the world, and autimatic played his consistently smart style backed by strong skills. As a squad they called a strong T-side that was a combination of Cloud 9’s fast tempo with OpTic’s swarm like mentality. In many ways the way both Stewie2K and Tarik saw the game was aligned and we saw the ultimate version of it at the Major.
Their ballsy plays called for second forcebuys. Autimatic recalls, “It’s funny because the first time it was called, Stewie suggested it saying, “Do you guys want to drop two AKs and buy?” and tarik said “No, let’s not do that.” Five seconds later, tarik says “Nah fuck it, let’s do it.”
Their confidence created a shift in the meta as the second round forcebuys on T-side could give the Ts a chance to break the SMG heavy Ct-side antiecos as the Ts have two AKs and superior firepower. On the Ct-side Cloud 9 consistently showed smart setups and great nade usage throughout the tournament. More than that they showed decisiveness. They held to their sites and refused to bite to any bait and held firm. With that they were able to get the game to overtime and eventually close it out in double overtime.
The victory at the Boston Major was only possible because of Tarik’s shift in mentality. He took control of his own career as a player and a leader. In CLG he couldn’t upgrade the squad. When he joined OpTic, that was the first move he made. When OpTic no longer had a longer, he first tried to find one before realizing he had to become the leader. In CLG, tarik had problems showing up against the top European competition. At the Boston Major, that decisiveness showed through both as a player and a leader. He has taken control of himself as a star player, a team mate, and a leader and because of that he now stands as the first CS:GO player to have ever led an NA team to the victory at a Major.