In 2020, Nico “nicoodoz” Tamjid was on the brink of giving up on a career in esports. His prospects in professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive looked bleak and he was feeling the pressure to pursue higher education or even swap to Riot Games’ tactical first-person shooter, VALORANT.
“I consider myself Danish, obviously, but my roots are from Iran,” nicoodoz said. “My mom is pretty strict about, ‘If you want to live at home for free, that’s fine, but you have to go to school. I will pay until you’re 24 as long as you show me a university degree.’ So it was pretty hard back then telling my mom I don’t want to go to school anymore.”
Fast forward to 2022 and nicoodoz plays for Fnatic, a massively popular organization with a long history in CS:GO. What’s more, he is being touted as a rising star — one of Denmark’s most promising wielders of the the big green, the AWP.
However, none of it would’ve been possible without his brother, who helped assuage their mother’s concerns with assurances that nicoodoz was good enough to make real money from playing CS:GO.
“Without my brother, I probably wouldn’t be playing for Fnatic right now,” nicoodoz said. “I’d probably be in some university class.”
But nicoodoz didn’t simply go from playing with Danish pickup teams to playing for one of the biggest orgs in esports. He had to earn the chance to wear the Fnatic black and orange. Ultimately, it was the Copenhagen Flames — a small Danish esports club — that gave nicoodoz the opportunity he needed to prove he was deserving of a spot on the big stage.
Anyone with modest knowledge of Tier 1 CS:GO over the past two years has heard the name Copenhagen Flames. They’re the team that punched above their weight at the last two Valve-sponsored majors: PGL Stockholm 2021 and PGL Antwerp 2022.
The beauty of Counter-Strike’s open circuit competitive structure is that anyone with five players and a desire to compete can, in theory, make their way onto one of the biggest stages in esports. The Copenhagen Flames did just that.
They exploded onto the Tier 1 scene at Intel Extreme Masters Fall, a qualifying tournament ahead of Stockholm 2021. In Sweden, they pushed well known teams like Ninjas in Pyjamas to their limits, but ultimately fell short of playoffs. At Antwerp they amended that, taking their plucky Danish club to the quarterfinals of a CS:GO major.
Unfortunately, that’s where the story of the Copenhagen Flames ends. The org had been vocal about their efforts to sell the team so the players could get paid a fair wage — the salary of a Tier 1 CS:GO pro. There weren’t any buyers. Eventually the Flames had to give up on the idea of keeping the five-man Danish roster as a single package.
“All of us wanted to stay together back then, but there wasn’t really much we could do,” nicoodoz said. “We got the thumbs up to look at different options because there was no organization except [Complexity Gaming] getting serious about it, even after the second major.”
The suitors came calling, and Fnatic struck first, picking up nicoodoz and his veteran teammate Fredrik “roeJ” Jørgensen while the iron was still hot. Jakob “Jabbi” Nygaard went next, joining Heroic — a top 10 Danish roster. In-game leader Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen and young gun Rasmus “Zyphon” Nordfoss are all that remains of the Flames. Nicoodoz thinks they too will be picked up in short order.
And just like that the Copenhagen Flames were picked apart as the players sought greener pastures.
“It was just an amazing journey,” nicoodoz said.
It has become increasingly attractive for orgs to go international, keeping their options open as they scout the best talent from across the globe. Still, there are certain practical concerns about throwing five players with vastly different lived experiences and CS:GO philosophies together.
For starters, there’s the issue of language. Fnatic, who field an international roster, worked hard to overcome that hurdle. Now, nicoodoz said that after a few weeks of practicing in English, he is beginning to think more and more in the language.
“It’s just hard when you don’t speak your native language to explain all the small details,” he said. “I struggled with that in the beginning, but I feel like it’s already getting a lot better.”
The other problem wracking the early days of this new Fnatic project is their floating fifth. As of now, Ludvig “HEAP” Alonso, who is still signed to a defunct Dignitas roster, is the top contender for the job. He’s playing as a stand-in until the team comes to a decision.
“[Fnatic] keep telling us this is going to be a long term project,” nicoodoz said. “They don’t want to rush to get a fifth guy we’re not comfortable with.”
Issues of language and the floating fifth man aside, nicoodoz’s biggest concern ahead of joining Fnatic was about who would captain the ship as the all-important in-game leader. The job had been handed to 23-year-old Brit, William “mezii” Merriman. Nicoodoz and roeJ felt that mezii as IGL was a massive question mark.
“It was the thing that I considered the most: ‘How well can we do with mezii as IGL?'” nicoodoz said.
In the end, it was not enough of a deterrent against joining Fnatic. And their leap of faith paid off.
“Me and [roeJ] talked a little bit after the first practice day and we were really surprised with how well [mezii] was calling for the first time he’s doing it,” nicoodoz said.
Nicoodoz said the team has plenty of ideas at the beginning of rounds and mezii does a commendable job of rounding up all the input and turning it into a big picture strategy.
“We play pretty freely,” he said. “It’s a lot of mid-round calling for [mezii].”
At the end of the day, the decision to join Fnatic was obvious for nicoodoz, who is at a point in his career where he wants to focus in on his individual growth. On Fnatic, the only thing nicoodoz needs to worry about is playing Counter-Strike.
“They have all the resources I need to become one of the best players in the world,” he said. “Their goals align with my goals.”
Individually, nicoodoz’s play in particular is subjected to extra public scrutiny because of, oddly enough, Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz’s hiatus from competitive play. The superstar AWPer’s absence has created a void and an opportunity. Fan speculation abounds over who still step up and be his spiritual replacement as the top dog in Denmark.
“I do like to spend time on social media and there’s a lot of people calling me the best AWPer in Denmark,” nicoodoz said. “I am a pretty confident person and I do believe I can become one of the best AWPers if I keep working hard and keep improving.”
There will be plenty of pressure on nicoodoz to perform. Fnatic are a team that are living under the weight of their past glories. It’s a lot of pressure to join a team with that resumé and ambitions of returning to those heights, but nothing to deter someone like nicoodoz.
And, if anyone can help nicoodoz achieve his ultimate individual goal, it’s Fnatic. No, not becoming the best CS:GO player in the world, but getting verified on Twitter.
“Surely [Fnatic] have some strings they can pull,” nicoodoz said.
About the Author
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.