Roster moves are frequent in professional Counter-Strike. After every Valve-sponsored Major tournament, a multitude of teams make changes in hopes of improving the next time around. Potential moves are reported, and finalized moves are announced by team organizations. But what about the roster moves that didn’t happen? For every shocking change, there's an equally intriguing move that almost happened but fell short for one reason or another. This series will take a look at some of the most interesting roster swaps that never came to be. Some will be public knowledge, but we'll try to dig deeper and talk to the people involved to figure out what didn't happen and who ended up being better off. Enjoy!
Jesper "JW" Wecksell is one of the most accomplished players in professional Counter-Strike today. Following his arrival on Fnatic in late 2013, the Swedish powerhouse would win three Valve-sponsored Majors and 15 international tournaments over the next three years -- with three separate lineups. JW, along with Markus “pronax” Wallsten and current teammate Robin “flusha” Rönnquist, are the only players in CS:GO to win three Major titles, a feat they accomplished in fewer than two years. By the time six Majors had been played, they had won half of them, and nearly had a fourth against Ninjas in Pyjamas. JW was known during this period for his unforgiving play style with the AWP and versatility with a number of weapons that professional players were scared to touch in an official match. Despite this era of dominance, JW considered leaving Fnatic in early 2015 to join NiP, but ultimately the deal fell through. That move is fun enough to dissect, but what most people don’t know is: JW almost joined NiP another time.
The time period in which JW could have left Fnatic the first time was still early on in CS:GO. It was well after NiP’s magical 87-0 offline winning streak, and at this point Robin “fifflaren” Johansson had retired. NiP had just finished runner up to LDLC at DreamHack Winter in November 2014 a few weeks after adding Mikail “Maikelele” Bill. As many know, Maikelele had a very brief stint with the team before being kicked in favor of Finnish AWPer Aleksi “allu” Jalli nearly three months later. Allu wasn’t NiP’s original target, though. JW was. NiP wanted him to join, and he was ready to leave Fnatic, but the two organizations just couldn’t come to an agreement because the nature of JW’s contract, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions. Had JW joined, it could have changed the course of CS:GO history as we know it.
Fnatic and NiP would play in the final of the next Major at ESL One Katowice 2015, with Fnatic taking the win in three maps. This was the second of JW and Fnatic’s aforementioned three Major titles. It’s almost a certainty that JW switching sides to NiP would have definitely swayed the way this tournament would play out. Would NiP have even made the final? Who would Fnatic have picked up to replace JW? Would Fnatic have even made the final? You can try to look at the stats of allu and JW during this event, but those go out the window when players who play a pivotal role are moved into a new environment. It’s quite possible that JW would only have one Major title today instead of three. Although, what if he was the perfect puzzle piece to fix the issues NiP had with Maikelele? Allu played better than JW in the final at Katowice, but JW might have been a better fit for that team. What, then, would have happened to the Fnatic dynasty? Would it have been as dominant without JW?
The Swedish shuffle of 2016 saw JW, flusha and Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson leave Fnatic to join Godsent. That move, paired with their “legend” status from ESL One Cologne 2016, gave them an automatic slot at the next Major. Once again, that wasn’t the original plan for JW because he wanted to join NiP. Just like before, the process moved slow and both organizations weren’t making much progress on the transfer agreement. It might sound odd to hear the two sides couldn’t agree on a deal a second time, but it’s entirely believable. “Non” roster moves are not publicized nearly as much as actual roster moves, and contractual friction with players moving organizations is commonplace in Counter-Strike.
JW’s intentions to join NiP lines up with the timeline of Maikelele coming back once again to NiP as a stand-in for Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi, who had a hand injury. NiP would win their next event with Maikelele but held its tune that he was a temporary player and nothing more. It’s clear that even today, NiP would have preferred to have JW.
This new information proposes another set of questions. Would the Swedish shuffle still have occurred? JW held that key legend slot that gave the players the leverage needed to make the switch to Godsent. On the flip side, would JW have been able to help prevent NiP’s embarrassing performance at the ELEAGUE Major Offline Qualifier? They definitely couldn’t have been any worse.
Previous edition: The time Hiko and Skadoodle almost joined an EU super team
Photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL