Nothing proved impossible for trace though and his 2010 marked perhaps the best year of individual Counter-Strike ever played by a player with at most one international victory in that timespan. Now, in 2011, he stands as one of the small handful of truly elite players who can be expected to deliver a world-beating performance at every major international tournament. trace is not just one of the best players in the world, as well the best player in his country, but well along the path to becoming his country's greatest player and one of the greatest Counter-Strike players of all time.
Sunde's time has passed and whiMp is off looking through his scrapbook in the CS retirement home, at the ripe old age of 22 mind, but trace's prime has only just arrived and so any and all championships Danish CS may acquire in the forseeable future will go through him. One of 2010's best individual players has improved his game and raised his performance level, as his team have simultaneously moved up a notch on the competitive rung. Now the CS world must watch in awe as the time of trace is upon us.
trace in action in SK Gaming's "The best of trace":
Staggeringly precise; utterly unique
The primary quality of trace's game which jumps off the screen, so to speak, is the sheer precision of his aim and how unique it is in combination with his overall style. In the vast majority of cases where one is discussing players with incredible aim one is referring to the kind of player who best exemplifies an aggressively peeking, constantly moving and typically spray-heavy style with lots of flick shooting. That type of player is held up as the pinnacle of skill in modern competitive Counter-Strike and yet trace's style does not head in any of those directions.
Where that kind of player aggressively pushes in to close the distance on his opponent and engage in a firefight where the opponent will be most uncomfortable trace holds back and forces his opponent to engage him at medium to long ranges when the Danish player is most comfortable. Where that kind of player gambles with his accurate aim by firing his first bullets in a fast flicking motion at the enemy trace patiently lines up his crosshair and then fires in a controlled fashion at a disciplined rate until the enemy is dead.
Where that kind of player is anxious to move if he does not immediately kill the opponent upon first engagement trace is more than happy to remain immobile against a single opponent and put his trust in the pure consistency of his aim to neutralize the enemy before the same happens to him. Where that kind of player rushes to move his crosshair to the enemy trace positions himself so the enemy must move into his crosshair and can then be pinned down by his reaction time and stable mindstate.
trace is unlike any other player in terms of both his style and how effective it is in proportion to how unique it is. No other player in the world aims in the way trace does or positions himself in the way the Dane does. The aforementioned mould of the incredible aimer has throughout history lead to players jokingly being compared to aimbots when their shots are hitting with startling frequency. In reality though those comparison are obviously done with a great deal of whimsy surrounding them. In trace's case it can be said that he aims like a aimbot without any need for exaggeration or amusement.
Long distance grace not close distance haste
trace's aiming process is reminiscent of those 'mouse-over' aimbots which smoothly move onto the enemy and then fire when the opponent is within the crosshairs. trace's alias seems only too appropriate when one considers the flawlessly consistent manner in which he moves his crosshair onto his opponent in one motion and then fires once there. To say he has phenomenal technical skill in regards to tracking aim is an understatement, there may not be anyone better at it in the world right now. This alone would not bring him to the performance level he currently sits at though because pure tracking alone can be defeated a certain percentage of the time by flick shooting since the latter gambles on hitting faster but more sporadically while the former on hitting in a slightly delayed but more thorough fashion.
What elevates trace's aim to an elite level is his combination, most effectively manifested in 2011, of his tracking aim with unshakeable confidence, unwavering technique and steadfast discipline. The trace of 2010 had good AWPing, very good pistols and could deliver astonishing initial rifle headshots but the trace of 2011 is much more effective and defined. The trace of 2011 has no rush to his game. The trace of 2011 aims with grace not haste. If trace knows an enemy's location behind an object he won't waste the positional advantage or element of surprise by firing excessive spam shots into the object. Rather he positions himself and patentiely waits for the opponent to engage.
Where the trace of 2010 would sometimes gamble and begin to overspray if his initial shot didn't kill the enemy immediately the trace of 2011 has confidence that sticking with his technique will get him the desired result in the long term. When he moves to aim on an opponent the trace of 2011 moves in a seemless motion onto the enemy and then at long and medium ranges he taps, or occasionally bursts, until the enemy is dead. His incredible ability to stop precisely on the spot the enemy currently occupies and then unwaveringly hold his aim there to let off tapped shots pins down the enemy's movement and wears him down with repeated accurate shots.
Most players are so reliant on spraying that at these distances they desparately want to get to at least medium range to make their style effective. trace purposely selects positions which allow him to fight at his preferred medium to long range where his style is the most effective and few can match his meld of technique and technical skill. Even at the close range, where he will spray much more often, once trace locks onto the enemy with his crosshair it is usually over as his spray shows an impressive propensity for lining bullets to the same position he has first locked onto as opposed to the style of moving the spray onto the opponent.
'Hold position' isn't just for StarCraft
Many players will move around a lot and repeatedly peek corners to actively prompt engagements with opposing players. trace waits for his enemy to step out, holding a tight angle on a wall/corner, so that he can make use of his fast reaction time and smothering firing consistency without even needing to track in some cases. An excellent example of this is the trace of 2011's approach to AWPing. As the primary AWPer of mTw, and one of the best in the world with that particular weapon, trace makes startlingly effective use of the tripwire method. For those unfamiliar with that terminology it refers to the style of holding a specific spot with the AWP crosshair and then waiting for the opponent to move onto the dot before firing, as opposed to moving the dot onto them, thus acting like a tripwire which triggers a trap when it is touched.
trace has the best tripwire shots in the world and there is a certain degree of difficulty shot that he seemingly never misses. Think of the Dane holding the bomb train as CT on train and aiming towards the popdog 4 train outside, where the terrorists exit the same ladder from whitewalls. When they attempt to make the jump from the ladder room to the train or the train to the electrical box it is nearly always fade to black time if trace is in position before they move out. His consistency at hitting that shot which relies only on reaction speed is spectacular to watch and makes certain positions very difficult to attack for opponents. trace also combines his tracking with the tripwire method to get those kinds of shots off quickly by moving the crosshair to a spot slightly to the side of an opponent and then waiting for them to move into it.
-attributed to Euripides (ca. 480 BC – 406 BC)
Versatility and grinding consistency.
trace's defined technique and approach applies across all the weapons, and he is very good with all of them. With the USP and glock he firest constantly for the head and in a slow fashion unless pressured very closely and short on time. Even with the deagle, a weapon famous for people gambling by spamming at close distance, trace picks out his shots and if he misses, readjusts and then allows the required time to take the most accurate shot again.
Like all the truly great individual players trace is good at all aspects of the game. He can get his team off on the right foot with his talent for pistol round kills. He can break open a site by taking on the first kill. He can secure rounds which heading the wrong way with clutch play despite a numbers disadvantage. He can delay the enemy with his AWP and he can pick apart an attack with a rifle. Most importantly he is very consistent, meaning he can put up two kill rounds over and over to repeatedly give his team a great chance to win a map.
Put simply trace grinds the opponent down over the course of a match with an overwhelming mixture of disciplined technique and consistent accuracy. He doesn't act haphazardly, hoping the flow of the game will align conducively to his actions. Rather he forces the opponent to repeatedly engage him where his strengths lie and where over the long haul he will be the one to come out on top most frequently.
Ever since joining mTw in September of 2009 trace has defied expectations each step of the way. He replaced a living legend, on a team which had already achieved more than most ever dream of, and the decision to recruit him has been more than vindicated. When Sunde went to South America for a few months to close out 2009 many expected mTw to flounder and struggle to place highly at the remaining tournaments. Switched into Sunde's roles trace not only was an adequate stand-in as the primary AWPer but blew many away with his amazing performances to lead the team to 2nd place finishes at DreamHack Winter and Arbalet Cup Europe.
When Sunde returned to Europe he was supposed to reassert himself as the star player of mTw, taking over the primary AWPing position again. Even from a more restricted rifling position, often picking up AWPs to hand over to Sunde, trace established himself as the best player on mTw as well as one of the best in the world. When it seemed as though the key to mTw's success was reintegrating Sunde as the focal point it has turned out that their best chance for success lies in maximising trace's talents and focusing on playing to his strengths.
Picking up ArcadioN might, though it's certainly open to debate, have improved mTw's already impressive strategical approach a little but it also removed one the firepower of one of their best players and put trace in the hot seat to carry the load. That kind of pressure could crush even a very good player flat, but that's also the kind of intense pressure required to make a diamond.
Earmarked for greatness
There is a definite hierarchy in competitive Counter-Strike, from semi-pros to good players to very good players to great players to the greatest players. As one glances from one group to the next one notices how quickly the number of players thins out as the advance towards the greatest continues. By one reaches the highest echelons of the greatest players of all time the requirements are very strict and the number of players who can qualify are naturally, and by necessity, few. There are players who have won world championships who have never come close to being worthy of being considered amongst the greatest of all time. There are players who have displayed incredible skill and entertained tens of thousands yet who were not fit to put themselves alongside the demigods who occupy Counter-Strike's eternal Mount Olypmus.
The greatest players possess incredible skill, have staggering accomplishments and over the course of their careers have impacted the game in a significant fashion. Put simply they have it all. With one or two of those three broad requirements a player can be considered very good or simply just great. To be discussed as one of the greatest though all three are a must. Right now trace is making good ground in each of those respects.
Skillwise he asserted himself in 2010 as one of the best players in the world and now his skillset has been refined even further and combined with a level of discipline and dedication which threatens to make him the best player in the world if any of his very small handful of peers should falter and see their overall performance level drop.
In terms of accomplishments trace needs some more help from his team-mates because he has already been delivering MVP worthy tournament performances for over a year yet the titles have not come. Part of that is thanks to mTw both having a style mismatch not in their favour against Na`Vi and the fact they have been matched up with Na`Vi over and over again in major tournaments. It is not unreasonable to suggest if tournament brackets had been drawn differently then at least once or twice Na`Vi may have fallen to a team like FX or fnatic in 2010 who mTw would then have been in good position to potentially beat to take down a major title.
Nevertheless lack of accomplishments cannot be argued away or excuses made in place of them. When we're discussing the greatest of all time it's not enough to place top three a lot or get a nice slew of 2nds, first places are all that really count. Right now trace's resume lacks a multitude of 1st place finishes and in this respect his career still lacks for it to be considered one of the truly great careers. Then again the 20 year old has been playing on the very top level for less than two years and his team certainly look to have improved since last year. With a few titles this year trace will be well along the way, the bigger and more prestigious they are the faster he'll move up the rankings.
Of course his relative freshness on the top level also will count against him initially since it is not enough to be really good for a year or two at most, were it then then likes of zet and Sunde could happily rub shoulders with the neo and f0rest. Rather sustained individual excellence and dominance are a key factor to ensuring one's spot on CS' Mount Rushmore. An even better 2011 will go a long way to helping secure that spot.
Finally trace's impact on the game has already been impressive and looks set to become even more so. His 2010 as a whole might well be the best individual yearlong performance by a player who only won one or fewer international titles in that time period. Time and time again he graced the top spots in statistical evaluations of tournaments and in multiple categories. In breaking the mould of what a top individual player should and can be thanks to his style trace can go a long way to setting himself apart as a unique player in the game's history.
Stacking up with the best
After Arbalet Cup Dallas in 2010 I remember discussing the play of trace to that point in the year with a knowledgable individual in the Counter-Strike community. To emphasise how impressed I was with the Dane's level of play tournament in and tournament out I explained that if I was given the task of creating a new team today, language barriers aside, then the only currently active players I'd choose rather than trace as my foundation to build my team on would be neo or markeloff. Not f0rest, not GeT_RiGhT, not Edward and not Gux. If neo and markeloff aren't available then I'll take trace and anyone else can pick from the remaining players.
It's not even that trace is necessarily a lesser or less skilled player than either of those. Rather that in neo's case he has an impossibly high level skillset and a truly amazing list of accomplishments. While in markeloff's he has the most effective skillset in the world in relation to his team and an ever growing list of accomplishments which is already staggering without any addition needed. For those reasons I feel I have to pick those two over trace, but I hope my emphasis that there's nobody else, as of right now, that I'd take ahead of him fully expresses how impressive a player he is.
The greatest Dane
One thing which makes trace's rise and performance level very intriguing for me, beyond their own obvious merits, is the fact he is Danish. While the Danish Counter-Strike scene has a solid record of high placings throughout history the underlying theme has always been one of excellent teamplay and tactical execution. When one looks back on the great Danish teams they often were very well balanced in terms of skill level and sharing the fragging load. It's rare that one particular player stood out from his team or deserved to be talked about amongst the elite players in the world, team accomplishments aside.
In the early days there was MuGGz (of SoA) who was often considered the most skilled player in the Danish scene. Later on VicoN had a spell as one of the world's elite AWP users. Realistically though it wasn't until the arrival of whiMp to the top level that Denmark has its first true superstar name. As a 15 year old whiMp stormed the scene in 2004 as he powered The-Titans to the ESWC title and a WCG silver medal. That his team were only able to achieve 6th place finishes at CPL Summer and Winter that year, where he was unable to play due to age restrictions, showed how immense his impact was on that team's level of play and ability to accomplish great things.
whiMp was very much Denmark's elemeNt both in terms of the age at which he burst onto the scene as a CS prodigy and the stunningly intuitive feel he had for the game which allowed him to take teams to the next level over and over again. Like his Norwegian counterpart in this comparison whiMp didn't have the craziest aim or the most kills each map but he always seemed to be the missing piece which connected every other part of his team together and could make plays in the midst of a game that others could only dream of, being in the right place at the right time on cue as though he already knew the outcome.
When Sunde came along it seemed for a time like perhaps whiMp would no longer be the sole Danish name to sit amongst the likes of Potti, neo, f0rest and the others in the pantheon of CS gods. As previously mentioned though Sunde, while a very good player, burned brightly but not for a sustained period of years. With whiMp exiting the scene and Sunde not as effective 2009 seemed like the time when Denmark would disappear into a dark age of little success. Perhaps it's fitting then that the moment whiMp stepped aside was the moment the next great Danish player entered the fray. His name is trace and his story is not yet fully written but the beginning was impressive, the middle part keeps getting better and the future is prime for an ending of epic proportions.
@Thooorin on twitter.
2001-2002 Pro-cybernews (Editor-in-Chief)
2002-2003 Gamers.nu (Lead Editor)
2004-2005 ESportsEA (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2006-2008 ESportsEA (Editor, Community feature host)
2008 TAO-CS volume 1 (Co-author)
2008 TAO-fRoD (Co-author)
2008-2009 WinOut.net (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2009-2012 SK Gaming (Editor-in-Chief)
2012-2013 Team Acer (Editor-in-Chief)
2013-2014 OnGamers (Senior eSports Content Creator)
Pro bono publico:
2001-2002 XSReality (Site administrator)
2003-2004 Team3D (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2012-2013 fragbite (Blogger)
2013-XXXX [POD]Cast (Co-host)
2005 Down with the s1ckn3ss
2009 fRoD Quick and nasty (part 1)
Events attended for coverage purposes:
2001 CPL London (Pro-cybernews)
2001 WCG Qualifier (Pro-cybernews)
2002 CPL Summer (Gamers.nu)
2002 WCG Qualifier (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Oslo (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Winter (Gamers.nu)
2003 CPL Cannes (Gamers.nu)
2003 Clikarena (Gamers.nu)
2004 CPL Winter (ESportsEA)
2009 WEM (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Best of Four (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Cup Europe (SK Gaming)
2010 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2010 WCG (SK Gaming)
2010 WEM (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V European Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Assembly Winter (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V World Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Copenhagen Games (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Summer (SK Gaming)
2011 SK vs. FX showmatch (SK Gaming)
2011 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2011 ESWC (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI Kiev (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI World Championship (SK Gaming)
2012 WCS Europe (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Open Valencia (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Winter (Team Acer)
2012 IPL5 (Team Acer)
2012 HomeStory Cup VI (Team Acer)
2013 IEM VII World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 MLG Winter Championship (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Spring Week 10 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S1 Ro16 (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Summer Week 9 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S2 final / LCS Europe Summer playoffs (Team Acer)
2013 Riot S3 World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2014 LCS Europe Spring Week 5 (OnGamers)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV Asian Finals (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM V Shanghai (ESL-TV)
2011 ESEA-invite S8 (WinOut)
2011 GameGune (WinOut)
2011 SEC (WinOut)
2013 Dreamhack SteelSeries CS:GO Championship (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Steelseries CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Summer (DH-TV)
2014 Gfinity G3
2014 Dreamhack Stockholm CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
Pro bono publico:
2010 ESWC (lvl^)
2010 Arbalet Cup Dallas (lvl^)
2010 GameGune (lvl^)
2010 fnatic PLAY (lvl^)
2010 WCG Nordic (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Winter BEAT IT (whisenhunt)
2011 EPS Winter (whisenhunt/ESL-TV)
2011 WCG (whisenhunt)
2011 IEM VI Kiev EU qualifier (SK Gaming)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup April 28th (FACEIT)
2013 Prague Challenge (District)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup September 8th (FACEIT)
2013 FACEIT Monday Cup September 9th (FACEIT)
2014 ESEA Invite S15 LAN finals (NiPTV)
* Winner of the Heaven Media 'E-sports Journalist of the year' awards for 2012 and 2013.
Throwback Thursday: SK Gaming in Counter Strike 1.6
The CPL & SK Gaming - 20 Years of eSports
HeatoN enters Esports Hall of Fame
SK's Impossible Dominance in 2003
Moments: ESWC 2011
THE NEW JERSEY