Top 20 players of 2020: jks (19)

Hailing from Australia, a country isolated from the rest of the world in many things, including Counter-Strike, jks was only introduced to the global audience in 2014, after earning a spot on the region’s best team Vox Eminor. The team, featuring Chad “⁠SPUNJ⁠” Burchill, had dominated the local competition and repeatedly secured qualifier spots for overseas events, and joining them was the obvious route forward in the then-18-year-old’s career.

The youngster was thrown into the deep end immediately, with his first HLTV-featured match being at the ESL One Cologne 2014 Major, where his team was swiftly eliminated by Nicolai “⁠device⁠” Reedtz‘s Dignitas and Kenny “⁠kennyS⁠” Schrub‘s Titan. Despite the cold shower in Europe (0.66 rating across two maps), jks was quick to become the shining star of the team. A 1.34 rating at Gfinity 2015 Spring Masters 2, where he faced some of the best teams in the world, showed a glimpse of his potential, but it took some time before that kind of performance became the norm.

While playing under Vox Eminor, the Australian team wasn’t competing professionally. jks balanced Counter-Strike and studying at a university, while other members had full-time jobs to go alongside their playing career. That situation changed in June 2015, when the roster was signed by Renegades off the back of a couple of promising showings at international events. The new organization also uprooted the team from their Australian homes and set them up in the United States, where they competed against a higher caliber of opponents on a regular basis.

“We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were all really excited to take the next step so we could start playing full time. It wasn’t something we had been able to do since we were working or studying full time at home. I think we had mixed results just because we were still really inexperienced and we weren’t living in the most productive environment either. The hardest part is being away from family and friends, and missing things that are happening at home. Over the years it’s become more manageable and you learn new ways to cope with it, but it’s still sometimes difficult.” jks said in January of 2020

jks‘ consistency picked up in 2016, as he settled into playing within the North American region, but the team stagnated. “We weren’t living in the most productive environment”, jks admitted in an interview, as despite roster changes, Renegades struggled to make an impact at Major Qualifiers or big international events, fluctuating around the 25th spot in the world rankings.

Failing to progress past Major qualifiers saw Renegades introduce international players to the fold

Breaking up the all-Aussie band and getting international players into the roster proved to be beneficial for jks and co., as it brought new ideas and perspectives to the fold. Aleksandar “⁠kassad⁠” Trifunović, Noah “⁠Nifty⁠” Francis, and Nemanja “⁠nexa⁠” Isaković joined the squad, with the latter being quickly replaced by Keith “⁠NAF⁠” Markovic. The Canadian’s arrival had the biggest impact on jks individually, as he had to change his role and take the backseat in the team for the first time in the career, as NAF was the one being set up to success.

With respectable showings from jks, and NAF putting up an MVP-worthy performance, Renegades managed to win their first event, SL i-League Invitational Shanghai, before the end of 2017. Disregarding Asian Minors, this remains the only international tournament jks has won in his career.

Moving on to 2018, when Joakim “⁠jkaem⁠” Myrbostad came into the lineup to replace NAF, jks reached another milestone with Renegades – his first Big event playoff reached, at StarSeries i-League Season 4. Numerous group stage exits followed, however, leading to more roster changes later in the year. Dipping back into the Oceanic region to pick up Sean “⁠Gratisfaction⁠” Kaiwai and Jay “⁠Liazz⁠” Tregillgas reinvigorated the team, with jks also showing great individual form at his final event of 2018, the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals. The 1.35 rating he averaged at the tournament remains his best showing at a Big Event to date, and a sign of what was to come in the following year.

jks and Renegades surpassed expectations in 2019

It is hard to describe 2019 as jks‘ breakout year, as he had been on the radar since his move to North America, but that was when things finally clicked and he found consistency – both individually, and as a part of Renegades. jks started the year hot, powering his team to a playoff finish at the IEM Katowice Major, and he didn’t let his foot off the gas as the year progressed. Renegades made it one step further at the second Major of the year, placing 3-4th at StarLadder Berlin. To close off the year, after switching to 100 Thieves, the squad reached their first Big Event grand final at IEM Beijing 2019.

jks was the main driving force behind that success, pushing a team that had never broken into the top 10 to reach fifth place in the world rankings. To cap off a number of historic moments for Australian Counter-Strike, jks also became the first player from his region to enter HLTV’s top 20 ranking as he was named the 15th best player of 2019 after a year in which he averaged a 1.15 LAN rating and excelled in playoffs and crucial matches. The only stains on his near-perfect 2019 were an underwhelming showing on home soil (IEM Sydney, 0.89 rating) and a quiet final event of the year (ESL Pro League S10 Finals, 0.86 rating).

“I guess what I had in mind at the end of 2019 was just trying to work on being more open and vocal with everyone. I could always say what I wanted to in the team, but I felt like I could always say a bit more instead of keeping it in. Maybe it could have made us better as a team, fixed more issues, or prevented certain things from happening. In 100 Thieves we became a better team in 2019 by doing that so it only made sense, and I think I got a lot better at it in 2020. Since joining Complexity I have realized I need to work on it more, though, because we have a team where everyone comes from a different background and might have a different way of reacting to things that happen or are said.”

jks‘s 2020 followed a similar pattern to that of the previous year. After an underwhelming showing in the group stage of BLAST Premier Spring, his team ventured to IEM Katowice. Unlike in 2019, the event wasn’t a Major, but it was one of the most stacked events in the history of CS:GO, and one of only two notable LAN events that took place in the pandemic-plagued year.

He came in hot at the tournament, averaging a 1.15 rating as 100 Thieves recovered from 16-3, 16-2 maulings by G2 and made the playoffs by defeating TYLOO, Evil Geniuses, and mousesports. jks was at his best in the quarter-finals against fnatic (1.35 rating), but that wasn’t quite enough as the Swedes took the series 2-0 after two 19-16 overtime victories.

“Our lower bracket run over EG and mousesports to the playoffs at IEM Katowice, after being destroyed by G2 in our opener, was probably the best moment [of the year]. I remember it was such a long day, but after winning two long BO3s we were so relieved. There were a lot of good moments living in LA with the old team, and deciding to take a new personal challenge to go to Complexity was also a big one.

“On the other hand, having to say goodbye to the old team was really tough, not being able to see family and friends because of COVID, and ending the year on some rough results were difficult moments as well.”

As 100 Thieves returned to North America and the global pandemic saw all competitions split into regions and played online, jks‘ form didn’t suffer. In ESL Pro League Season 11 and ESL One Road to Rio, which stretched from late March until early May, he recorded a 1.11 and 1.14 rating respectively, albeit 100 Thieves only managed to place 5th and 6th, respectively. These were also the only two events with the Australian team in 2020 in which he wasn’t the highest-rated performer of his squad, as he was edged out first by jkaem and then by Gratisfaction.

jks and co. parted ways with kassad in April, adding Chet as their coach

The 25-year-old hit peak form in the middle of the year. He showed brilliant form in DreamHack Masters Spring North America, in which he faced off against all of the best teams in the region and earned his first Exceptionally Valuable Player award (EVP) of the year. Pushing 100 Thieves to a third-place finish, jks averaged a 1.24 rating alongside 0.80 kills per round and a 1.31 impact rating, and had a memorable series against FURIA, which he lost despite posting a 73-43 K-D.

Another EVP-worthy performance followed in cs_summit 6, the second Regional Major Ranking event of the year. The competition wasn’t as tough as in DreamHack Masters Spring, but jks pushed his level even further, having just one below-1.00 rated map out of 9 played, and a 1.29 average rating. Playing against Liquid, Cloud9, Chaos, and Gen.G, he reached his personal peaks for the year in terms of ADR (91.1) and Impact (1.41), but an upset loss to Damian “⁠daps⁠” Steele‘s team in the playoffs cost the Australians a chance to fight for the title.

“Having to live in one location for the majority of 2020 gave me a better opportunity at just having a healthier lifestyle and having a regular daily routine. I’m grateful that I’ve got to see different parts of the world by traveling to events, but after doing it for a few years now it was nice to just to slow down for a bit and have somewhat of a normal lifestyle (despite the pandemic, of course), while still actually being able to play CS. I think the year was a bit underwhelming because we had to play the same teams over and over, but having that consistency outside of the game is really nice.”

Returning from the summer player break, jks cooled off a bit and had just an average showing in ESL One Cologne North America, in which 100 Thieves placed 5-6th. At this point, things started looking worrying for the team that had begun the year as No.7 in the world as they had dropped to 18th by the middle of August. Even though jks was in great individual form, 100 Thieves were nowhere near the level they had reached in 2019 and failed to reach the finals of North American events.

They were able to finally do that in the last two tournaments that jks played under the 100 Thieves banner: ESL Pro League Season 12 North America and IEM New York North America. He was on point in both tournaments, earning EVP mentions with 1.18 and 1.19 ratings, respectively. In the latter tournament, jks also secured 11 clutches (from 17 maps played), a year-high for him.

FURIA, who had been gaining momentum since the midway point of the year, defeated 100 Thieves in the finals of both events, denying jks the chance to say farewell to his team in style. As the North American organization expressed a wish to step back from CS:GO, jks accepted the offer to join Complexity, leaving the Australian core behind and parting ways with Aaron “⁠AZR⁠” Ward, who had been his teammate for six years.

“I definitely had doubts about leaving the team. If you play with the same team for such a long time you get really comfortable with your surroundings and having those same people in your life every day. I wasn’t really worried about my individual skill when leaving the team because I’m confident in my own skill and I have a better idea now of what I need to do in order to play well, but more so just leaving behind what we had as a team. I think what we had in 100 Thieves was really unique just because we were together for so long, so we built a good relationship with each other, and it’s hard to replicate that in a short amount of time.”

Throughout 2020, jks consistently showed in playoffs matches

Moving across the pond to join the team led by Benjamin “⁠blameF⁠” Bremer and fill in the void left by Owen “⁠oBo⁠” Schlatter‘s abrupt departure, jks hit the ground running. In IEM Beijing-Haidian (1.11 event rating, 83.9 ADR, 1.10 playoffs rating), his first event featuring European competition since IEM Katowice, the Australian had great series against fnatic, Natus Vincere, and BIG, only falling short against Vitality, who swept his new team in convincing fashion. However, he wasn’t able to keep up the same form as things progressed with Complexity, hitting an end-of-year slump.

The poor form started in DreamHack Masters Winter Europe, in which Complexity managed a 5-8th placing, but jks struggled even although his squad solely faced off against teams ranked 8th in the world or lower. Finishing only 40% of maps played with a 1.00+ rating, and posting an average rating of 0.88, it was a write-off event very similar to his ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals showing at the end of 2019.

“I don’t think I can really pin it [the slump] down to one thing because I think there are a lot of factors, in and out of the game, and some which should be kept private as a team. I think the biggest thing for myself, though, is that it’s my first time being in a completely new team, and I didn’t know if I was going to have the smoothest start and just blow everyone out of the water. Of course, I wanted to and I was disappointed at the time, but that’s kind of an unrealistic expectation. I think I just need more time to get comfortable with all the new changes and over time I’ll become more consistent.”

Adding to it, Complexity‘s final event of 2020 was the IEM Global Challenge, where they had Otto “⁠ottoNd⁠” Sihvo stand in for Valentin “⁠poizon⁠” Vasilev, who was ruled out due to an emergency surgery. This was the third time in the year Complexity had to play with a temporary player, having previously fielded coach Jamie “⁠keita⁠” Hall and former Nordavind member Niels-Christian “⁠NaToSaphiX⁠” Sillassen.

Without their AWPer, Complexity was not up to par with the elite competition at IEM Global Challenge, and was swiftly eliminated at the hands of Astralis and Natus Vincere. As a result, jks recorded another below-1.00 rated tournament finishing back-to-back events in the red for the first time since 2018. A worrying sign for the Australian was also that he only managed one clutch across his last two events, a category he usually excels at.

Nevertheless, jks is content with how his year went, especially after hearing that he managed to make the HLTV Top 20 for the second time. For 2021, he aims to get more comfortable within Complexity in order to continue on the path he has been on.

“I was pretty surprised [to make the top 20], to be honest, mostly because I wasn’t thinking that I was going to make the cut. There weren’t any big LAN events, with the exception of IEM Katowice, so I thought it would be hard without playing any big events with the EU teams. I also didn’t have the best end to the year either, so it was a nice surprise, to say the least. But with that being said, I’m just really happy to have made it twice in a row now, regardless of everything that happened last year.

“[In 2021,] I’m looking forward to becoming more comfortable within the team and improving from where we are now. We have the potential to be a really great team in Complexity, so hopefully this year it shows. I have a few personal goals, but ultimately, I just want to put in more work and push myself further.”

Why was jks the 19th best player of 2020?

jks earned his second consecutive appearance in the HLTV Top 20 as one of the best players in North America, showing great consistency throughout the year. He excelled at closing out rounds with a total of 64 1vXs won (10th best), or 0.51 clutches per map (highest overall).

“I think I’m best at clutches when I’m confident and comfortable, of course. I’ve always been set up to close the round out and that’s probably why I have so much experience at it. I’m not really sure what the exact reason is, but I have noticed that since joining Complexity I do overthink a lot whenever I’m in those clutch situations, and I didn’t really have that issue before, so I guess that’s something I need to work on.”

He was also one of the best at utility damage (7.3 uADR, 6th highest), trade kills (0.16 per round, 6th highest), and round-to-round consistency (73.6% KAST, 9th highest). All of that helped him to have a 79.0 ADR and 1.12 rating across the year (13th and 15th highest, respectively), making him a standout player.

The Australian earned four EVPs throughout the year, and while none of them came from Elite events, he came close to making the cut at IEM Katowice, the most competitive tournament of the year, and in IEM Beijing, his first event with Complexity. While jks didn’t face the highest caliber of opponents as often as other players in the ranking, he proved his quality when he was given the opportunity as shown by his 1.13 rating from 20 maps played against top5 teams and a 1.13 Big Eveng playoff rating.

In the end, the level of play he showed against the best in the world and in the most important matches saw him beat Vincent “⁠Brehze⁠” Cayonte to the 19th place on this list, but the poor end-of-year form and the lack of Elite events played prevented him from finishing higher or outdoing his 15th place from 2019.

Bold Prediction

When asked for a player to watch in 2021 and beyond, jks named Triumph‘s Paytyn “⁠junior⁠” Johnson. The 20-year-old AWPer averaged a 1.13 rating last year and was a key component in his team’s victory over Liquid in the semi-finals of IEM Beijing-Haidian 2020 North America, earning them their best placing to date.

United States Paytyn “⁠junior⁠” Johnson

“I think junior has the potential to be a really good player on a top team. Whenever I’ve played against or watched him, he has a good impact as an AWPer. I think just needs more experience.”

Stay tuned to our Top 20 players of 2020 ranking and take a look at the Introduction article to learn more about how the players were selected. This year’s ranking is supported by:

Xtrfy – Built on experience
GG.BET – Online betting and odds on sport and esports

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