Why boltz is my EPICENTER MVP: A discussion on the meaning of MVP
The discussion on what an MVP is can be somewhat challenging. Is the MVP necessarily the carry of the game? Can an MVP be on the second placed team or on a team that went out earlier in the tournament? Is the MVP award to be a sort of contest between the highest scoring players on the best teams, or is it for the players that make the most difference in the team—the players that perform beyond the confines of their role, not just the confines of mechanical skill?
Since it is not a “who is the best player statistically on the winning team award” (WITBPSOTWTA) but is an MVP award, the term “MVP” naturally opens itself up to a wide range of candidates for MVP. The MVP can be on a losing team, even a non-finalist team. They could be a critical support player, not just the flashiest player in the game. All that matters is the player’s impact on the game and what a judge values in a player. Fans and pundits alike ought to put down silly notions of the MVP being the statistically best player, especially since CS:GO is more than just statistics.
A word on non-finalist MVP candidates. While I acknowledge the possibility of an MVP not being able to make it to the final, it is reasonable to approach their potential MVPhood with great prejudice. Prejudice against such a candidate can be justified by them playing fewer games and not being as tested as other candidates for the MVP award. Playing under pressure is a big part of competitive Counter-Strike, and if a player did not have the opportunity to show his ability to play under pressure in a particular tournament but another player did, then there is good reason to favor the player who had his mettle tested when considering who should be MVP. However, it is not right to hold failure to win the event against a losing MVP candidate because winning has little meaning in the MVP award. One of the wonderful aspects of the MVP award is to recognize great players, regardless of their team’s result. MVP is an individual’s reward. If we are to preserve that definition, then players on losing teams must be considered. If we make the MVP award all about the best player on the best team, then players like NiKo in the mousesports days do not get the credit that they are due. But when players like coldzera are playing just as insane CS as NiKo but also played more games and won the tournament, then it makes sense to favor coldzera.
Only in-game impact matters, and it is the only type of impact that can truly be judged. A player’s ability to give the best hugs may be a valuable asset to the team, but there is no way to determine the impact of that ability, especially since we are not privy to all of the inner-workings of all the teams. Therefore, we must exclude the rumored abilities of in-game leaders. For example, we have no idea how much FalleN manages his team. We have no clue on his ability to motivate and inspire his players. All we can see are the choices he makes in-game, just like any other player. This does not mean it is wrong to take in-game leading into account while musing on the impact of FalleN v.s. kennyS in speculative conversation, but when we are being definitive, when we are putting someone’s name in the history books as the best player in the tournament, it is inappropriate to speculate.
Star players are often given the MVP award because they are the most fun to watch, the most flashy players in the game, and are the easiest to determine impact for. When selecting the MVP becomes a discussion about star players, much of people’s analysis comes down to who has the greatest number of kills and the best ratio of kills to deaths. This laziness leads would-be experts into the trap of choosing the best statistical player in the final because the final supposedly is the toughest match in the tournament. A far more nuanced approach needs to be taken.
When properly determining the MVP, all results in the tournament must be accounted for. Did they consistently deliver? Did they play well under pressure? How did they do in Bo1’s vs. series? Did they play the best teams, and did the players on those teams show up that day? Did they play to win, or did they play to not lose? Did they go beyond the confines of their role and do something amazing, or are they just a flashier player that provides good plays that are easy to fixate on?
Let’s say the discussion for MVP came down to two players, Player A and Player B. Player A, although better statistically than Player B, crumbled under pressure, was virtually absent in the playoffs, and baited his teammates. Player B, on the other hand, was clutch when it mattered and played much harder opponents throughout the tournament. Even with this information, it isn’t possible to determine who is the better player. There is no objective formula to say who is better. Only can an experienced viewer determine with the criteria that they value who is the better player of the two.
While the subjectivity of the MVP award can lead to long, interesting, back-and-forth conversations between pundits, many fans fail to grasp this inescapable fact of the award and launch into furious spats of name-calling and hostility towards one another. Everyone values the criteria for MVP differently, so rather than feuding, it is important to approach the topic of MVP with the calmness and patience that is required for peeling back the layers of the onion that is the criteria for MVP.
boltz as the EPICENTER MVP
Perhaps this is an invalid fixation, but boltz was the player who, immediately upon joining the team, ended SK’s nearly three month drought of winning tournaments. As an individual, boltz was the piece of the puzzle that gave SK the edge to win. And even with boltz, SK had barely made it over the hump to victory. boltz was an essential player in the final, particularly on the last map which resulted in a narrow double overtime win for SK. Given how close SK was to losing the final, boltz joining the team was essential to SK’s victory. Without victory, SK wouldn’t have made an indelible impact on history at EPICENTER, hence why boltz holds a very special value.
One of the difficult parts of discussing boltz as the EPICENTER MVP candidate is the context of his joining SK. Basically, he joined the team because he was a “worse” player than felps. felps, certainly a flashy and visibly impactful player, was a player who took resources to perform his role. boltz is a player who provides resources for players such as coldzera, fer, and FalleN. Keeping this context in mind, boltz’ positive impact on the scoreboard while providing the support for coldzera to have a +102 tournament is nothing short of astounding. boltz definitely was not the fragger that coldzera was at EPICENTER, but boltz, while adhering to the principles of being a support player, went beyond the confines of his role. boltz enabled his team to reach all too distant heights, and he had enough left in the tank to support himself.
To me, boltz is the special sauce on a Big Mac. Sure, without the beef, a BigMac is not a burger, but without the sauce, a BigMac is not a burger worth eating. When examining candidates for MVP of a tournament, don’t look for obvious and ordinary players. Look for players that are uniquely impactful and valuable in their own special way.
Image credit: EPICENTER
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