Winterfox’s recent lows during their North American campaign have been quite unexpected and ultimately disappointing. The signing of the New Zealand AWPer Razmik “RaZ” Bastadjan has seen the team regress in terms of results when compared to when Chris “dexter” Nong was on the team. Staring at ESL Pro League relegation and a lack of other events on their calender, Winterfox will have to sort out these issues if they are to continue their journey abroad.
On August 20th 2016, Winterfox officially announced the signing of an Oceanic mix, containing the brief 3-player core of Team Immunity in zewsy, ofnu and emagine, as well as 1.6 veteran ap0c and Chiefs in-game leader dexter. Along with this signing came controversy, however, as the organisation’s ESL Pro League spot, earned by their previous roster, was given to this brand new lineup. The EPL rules on the ownership of spots in the league were quite vague and inconsistent, as seen with SK having their place transferred from previous organisation Luminosity. A lot of the scene were against Winterfox from the beginning due to this decision, and the Oceanic side were forced to defy expectations, which they did to an extent. With wins against teams like CLG, Echo Fox, compLexity and Selfless, Winterfox avoided relegation with a 9-17 record and claimed their spot in the next season which was a huge result for a team that hadn’t played together in official matches before the league. The team’s first, and only, LAN event was Northern Arena Toronto, which saw them in a group with Heroic, Splyce and Selfless. Winterfox dropped out in groups here, with a win against Splyce but losses to Heroic and Selfless. Again, however, this event showed the side had potential and, in time, could compete at a high level in the North American region.
The timeline for the replacement of dexter with RaZ is very unclear, with the organisation and players posting vaguely on social media about an upcoming change for a period of about 2 months and dexter even lending his services to teams like SYF and Tainted Minds in the Australian region before the announcement. RaZ, who was a member of the Legacy eSports team that went to Dreamhack Winter 2015 in Sweden with ofnu and ap0c and recently played for Parallax, had been dominating the Australian scene throughout the latter half of 2016. Posting huge numbers online and offline, including an MVP performance at the CyberGamer Premier League Season 8 finals, RaZ was the obvious signing for a side that lacked a dedicated AWP player. Coming into Season 5 of the ESL Pro League, Winterfox now had all the pieces in place for another successful run.
Thus far, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Winterfox currently sit on a 1-11 record in the league, with their 1 win coming against Rush, as well as coming dead last in the ECS Development League, behind teams like Premier Rejects and Denial, who are the core of the previous Winterfox roster that lost their EPL spot. The team’s only success with this new lineup, albeit a minor one, was their progression to the playoff bracket in the StarLadder i-League qualifiers, beating Miami Flamingos and Splyce in the group stage before going down convincingly to Immortals.
A common trend in Winterfox’s streak of losses is their insistence on playing, and often picking, Cobblestone. The team have only won the map 3 times out of their 12 playing it, with all of these wins coming against Premier and below level teams: Miami Flamingos, Enigma6 and Premier Rejects. However, this hasn’t stopped the team from letting it through the veto process, such as against Renegades, Splyce and Bee’s Money Crew, but also picking the map against proficient Cobblestone teams like Selfless and Misfits. Winterfox have shown promise on Cache, Overpass and Mirage and have to shift their focus if they are to find wins in upcoming matches. However, the team’s other drawback at the moment is RaZ himself. The newcomer just hasn’t found his footing in the team and the region, with the New Zealander currently being the lowest rated player on his team over his time in North America. With a primary AWPer, you can often attribute low stats in a team to the lack of economy that comes with a loss by a large margin, rendering the player unable to use their weapon of choice. However, when RaZ has had the AWP in hand, he’s often been completely outclassed by the sniper of his opposition, whether it be HEN1 on Immortals or ptr on NRG, even when holding an angle and being peeked, which is a situation heavily in his favour. Tying into this, finally, Winterfox don’t seem to be changing things up on their CT side when they’re losing multiple rounds in a row. Against NRG on Cobble in EPL, for example, RaZ consistently played the A site every round, either passive around CT spawn or looking for a pick at the long halls. NRG consistently hit the B bombsite in this match, nullifying RaZ’s potential impact, and Winterfox never made the call the move him to the other site, switching their defence up and possibly catching NRG off guard. It’s a combination of these 3 factors that are heavily contributing to Winterfox’s dismal results in the past 2 months.
If Winterfox are to succeed in North America, they need a big change. RaZ coming in for dexter, on paper, was a move set to increase their firepower enormously and better define the team’s roles. However, the results are telling a completely different story. Is it time for this experiment to come to a close? We’ll have to wait and see.