Kinguin: International Pioneers

Kinguin: International Pioneers

Faze Clan. Mousesports. CR4ZY. There are just a few names that crop up when you hear the formation “International teams”. These teams have garnered attention and achieved a certain amount of success. Yet, not that long ago the idea of an and International team would be a questionable idea. Their eligibility to contend for the top – a laughable endeavour. The stage was set and trailblazer for this concept was a team by the name of Kinguin.

Kinguin’s Roots

At the start of Global Offensive, teaming up internationally didn’t make sense, nor was it a financially viable option to have individuals from vastly different continents like NA or EU. If anything, it was the Europeans who could attempt to build such rosters but very few even tried. The rosters that would be forged would be for just a tournament. One such team was a group of friends who joined forces for one event in Prague. With names like KennyS, NEO, TaZ, ApeX in attendance all the while supported by their 5th player Overdrive, Nostalgie was born.

Prague Challenge Winners – Nostalgie
apEX, OverDrive, TaZ, kennyS, NEO
Image via

The 10,000$ Prague Challenge didn’t attract teams like VeryGames or NiP in attendance but had NAVI and source players from the UK, Anexis, competing. Because the LAN was open to anyone, the early stages were easy for Nostalgie. Looking back to videos at the time, the communication is more akin to your matchmaking experience, than how a proper roster should output and input information. But somehow this ragtag group of players, with smiles on their face, defeated famous source legend “rtlsnk” and his team Anexis in the semifinal. In a more shocking manner, the team defeated NAVI in the grand final. An incredible achievement for a one-time mix team. A group of players, just with their raw skill, sprinkled in with some basic teamwork and communication, won a tournament they attended just for fun. It would be only 2 years later an international team would be built for real.

A Kinguin In The Making

To understand the creation of Kinguin we must realize the position in which the two main proponents were in. Maikelele and ScreaM.

Mikail ‘Maikelele’ Bill

Maikelele had just recently played in NiP. During his 3 months with the team, they played in a grand-final of their 4th consecutive Major (his first offline event with the team), finished 2nd in two international tournaments, won the title in Asus ROG and finished 5th in the IO Pantamera as his last event. After this brief stint with the Ninjas he was kicked from the team.

Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom

As for ScreaM, his teammates from Epsilon got banned for match-fixing and fellow Frenchmen in the scene questioned his ability to play in structured teams.

These two free agents spearheaded the creation of this roster. Initially, Hiko and Skadoodle were bound to join this team as well. Even though they were on board moving to Europe, the two eventually opted out from playing in Kinguin. As they declined, Maikelele and ScreaM had to look elsewhere. As a result, their new teammates raised a few eyebrows. A relatively unknown Norwegian player from LGB called rain, former LBG member IGL Skytten and the Portuguese AWPer fox.

Team Kinguin at Dreamhack Valencia 2015
rain, ScreaM, fox, dennis, Maikelele
Image via

This type of team was the first of its kind in Global Offensive. In the past, you would have players of neighbouring countries playing with each other as they could, more or less, and more importantly, speak a similar tongue. That was the case with NAVI, mousesports or LGB. But this was the first attempt to build a team from scratch, with different nationalities and every single player would have to speak a foreign tongue. That‘s why this team was dismissed by many pundits and community figures. As PashaBiceps put it, “Kinguin? No Chance“. But for good reason, as Maikelele later admitted in an interview with Thorin in his interview series Reflections:

It was so weird. We could still communicate in game but it was most likely go a, go b, plant

Maikelele in an interview with Thorin

With communication being such an integral part of the game, how could they ever manage to achieve big things?

Kinguin’s Proving Grounds

The initial entrance of Kinguin in the scene didn’t set the world on fire, if anything, they were underwhelming. But with such a broad talent pool available in Europe, it only became a matter of changing a few pieces to put together a functioning team. That first roster move was the removal of Skytten and adding the Swedish dennis. This is when the roster really started making waves. In FaceIT Stage 2, they upset Virtus.Pro in the most unbelievable fashion by 16-0‘ing them on the third map. They eventually lost the deciding game against NAVI, but Kinguin wouldn’t stop there.

They achieved a 5th-8th placing in ESL One Cologne qualifying all the way from the online stages. At the end of their run with the organization, the roster even achieved a LAN victory in the notorious Gaming Paradise LAN. Obviously that win holds a lot of caveats being named as the worst LAN event in CS:GO‘s history, but they beat Titan, NAVI to achieve 1st place finish.

T No, CT Yes

As mentioned by Maikelele, communication was a big problem and it was very noticeable in the server. That‘s why the team would find it very difficult to pick up rounds on the T side. It would always come down to their default setups and whether they successfully find the opening picks. But what they lacked on the T side, they gave a tenfold on the CT side. On this half, the individuals could perform their best and put the must-win rounds on the board.

When it was about individuals holding on their own an outputting less information, that‘s when the team showed success. That‘s why the 16-0 happened because of an impressive 15-0 half of the CT side of Cache. Without a doubt, the team enjoyed playing puggier maps of Counter-Strike like Dust2 and Mirage. But they found an unparalleled amount of success on Inferno by winning it all 9 times they played it during their brief existence under the org.

Put It Into Practice

Ultimately this team proved a few concepts that apply for the modern Counter-Strike landscape. Firstly, being cast away from the local scene doesn‘t mean the end of a career. If anything, this exodus is an opportunity to prove your worth with fellow misfits. In the case of ScreaM, he turned the corner in 2015 with Kinguin. ScreaM performed to a higher standard and was yet again part of subsequent French shuffles. Secondly, even though Kinguin always remained a team outside the top 8, with the subsequent changes of this core in G2 and FaZe it proved that international teams can win big. That’s why they are still being forged to this day in hopes of winning tournaments and climbing the ranks.