On a stage in front of a home crowd, Renegades' young star Noah "Nifty" Francis took the spotlight when he dropped 50 kills in a quarterfinal matchup against mousesports last month at IEM Sydney. Fine, maybe it wasn't technically a home crowd, and technically it was 51 kills if he didn't end up with a team kill, but it was a memorable moment in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive where those come few and far between outside of your s1mples of the world.
Nifty might not have been a household name leading into the performance, and he still might not be one now, but radars have been tuned to pick up his frequency a bit more. How did he even get to that type of stage to put on that type of performance?
Nifty is a GOD! • Best of IEM Sydney 2018 (Quarter Finals) • CSGO Daily ... https://t.co/MsrwFFSBnH— くらうでぃ (@JehqnneAlter) June 3, 2018
Nifty started out at a young age trying to go pro in Call of Duty. Through different avenues and with the help of popular figures in the scene at the time like Paul "eGoTheIcon" Megna, he ended up in a match at UMG Atlanta 2013 against Team EnVyUs.
EnVyUs was a high-profile team with some of the best players in the world. Nifty's team didn't have future stars or world champions on his team, but it did have Nifty. In a tense Game 3, Nifty rose to the occasion and the famous "Nifty won the gunfight!" moment was born.
In that moment, a young and bright star was born in Call of Duty. His time in the scene didn't last long, though, as another game would grab his attention a year later.
"I had been playing Call of Duty since I was 11 or 12, and I started really getting into it in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on Gamebattles," he said recently during the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals. "Back when prize pots were $75 and you had to fax the paper, real old school."
Nifty transitioned to CS:GO and had hopes of going pro in another title. He would even joke on Steam with Pala Gilroy Sen about his aspirations, and Pala would joke around as if the console player stood a chance.
"It was during Ghosts, and I was playing with Elevate. We weren't doing so hot and my friend kind of introduced me to Counter-Strike and I got hooked," Nifty said. "I just decided to set down the sticks and go pro."
Nifty got his first major opportunity playing for Selfless Gaming in February 2016. Selfless failed to make a splash both in North America and internationally, despite an appearance in ELEAGUE Season 1. Toward the end of the team's lifespan, Nifty was sold to Australian team Renegades.
The move was an upgrade in terms of international standing, but that move wasn't going to assert Nifty immediately as an international talent. Not to mention, the team underwent numerous roster changes searching for a consistent fifth.
Nifty's first event with Renegades came at IEM Sydney 2017 where the team mustered just one win in the Swiss format group stage against ViCi Gaming. Outside of winning the Asia Minors for the PGL Krakow and ELEAGUE: Boston Majors, Renegades had a tough time cracking the top four at international events until StarLadder i-League Invitational #2.
Renegades earned best-of-three victories over names like Virtus.pro and HellRaisers en route to a $75,000 payday and an international, albeit small, victory. Since then, Renegades once again made a roster change, bringing in former FaZe Clan member Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad as a stand-in.
After a string of poor performances at premiers, a year later, back on the same stage where he debuted for Renegades, Nifty put on one of the greatest performances in CS:GO history, dropping 50 kills in the team's second playoff appearance this year. Even though the team fell to mousesports in a close best-of-three, Renegades showed signs of improvement and hope for fans leading into the rest of the year.
The "Nifty-50," as it's been named, might have been on a bigger stage and in a bigger esport, but Nifty said it felt similar to his famous Call of Duty moment. "I think the one in Sydney was bigger, but at the same when I was 15 and that happened in Call of Duty, it felt similar. There were similar effects.
"I didn't even know it was that big (the Call of Duty moment), I just heard everyone roaring behind me," he said. "We just won the game, and I turned around and was like, 'What's everyone doing?'" Nifty said recalling the UMG Atlanta play.
Renegades took a big step forward as a team, and Nifty said he hopes the team can continue to do that moving forward, citing importance in longevity. He wants to make it to the Legends Stage at the FACEIT Major in London, stressing how important it is to his team. Simply put, "I just want to see...growth, just want to see progress even if we're taking baby steps," Nifty said.
-fns -ska :(— c9 mag.~ (@Mynhsi) June 9, 2018
At just 20 years old, having a matured mindset and outlook can't be overlooked or undervalued. He's earned the praise of analyst Janko "YNk" Paunovic.
"I like him. I like his attitude," YNk said. "He seems to be a normal kid who's willing to put in the work." He considered Renegades' current lineup impressive, considering the circumstances as well.
Nifty is one of the rising North American talents and, should the organization handle him well, be a future centerpiece of the team moving forward. Even if he moves to another team, Nifty has a bright future moving forward in CS:GO.
Photo by Adela Sznajder/DreamHack