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Prior to the start of PGL Major Antwerp 2022, ENCE were in a difficult position. A blistering streak of wins saw them put at the no. 3 spot in HLTV’s world rankings. To meet that expectation, they’d have to go through strong teams. To exceed it, they’d have to beat one of the two titans of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Natus Vincere or FaZe Clan.

On the first count, they performed admirably by taking down opponents like Heroic and Copenhagen Flames in best of three matches to reach the Antwerp semifinals. That’s where they ran into the brick wall that is Na’Vi. Fifty-one rounds of Counter-Strike later and ENCE were heading home, right where many predicted they would.

“I’m pretty happy about the performance we had at the major,” ENCE star, Lotan “Spinx” Giladi, said in an interview. “I think we could’ve done better against Na’Vi.”

Spinx said the team lost early, critical rounds on Map 1 of Nuke and got in their own heads. In some ways — and in spite of the close scoreline — Dust II felt like a foregone conclusion.

“On Dust it was a bit rough because the atmosphere isn’t so good after losing your map pick,” Spinx said. “And of course they’re a good Dust team. We did our best, but it wasn’t enough.”

ENCE Spinx at Antwerp

One thing ENCE’s run at Antwerp made clear was that they can hold their own as a top five team.

Another thing made clear was that Spinx is a bonafide star.

The 21-year-old Israeli is still new to Tier 1 CS:GO, with his year-and-a-half tenure on ENCE being his only experience at the highest level. Still, he has been steadily improving and now leads the way in fragging for ENCE with teammate Paweł “dycha” Dycha not far behind.

At the major, Spinx was surprised at the number of fans he had hunting him down for pictures or an autograph outside his hotel or in the streets of Antwerp, Belgium.

“It’s new for me, at least, because this stuff never happened before,” he said.

ENCE Spinx
ENCE Spinx at PGL Major Antwerp 2022. | Provided by PGL. Photo by Joao Ferreira.

Spinx had a fantastic tournament at Antwerp, earning him an Exceptionally Valuable Player shout from HLTV. He was the best player at the event that didn’t play in the grand final. What’s more, Spinx’s name has started to get tossed around in conversations about the top riflers right now.

“I don’t really think about it, top five players, top players or whatever,” Spinx said. “I’m just happy I’m playing against the top players in the world, and that’s it.”

He credited his team for much of his individual success, which is only partially humility. It can’t be denied it’s easier to have strong individual performance when the team is firing on all cylinders — and ENCE are doing just that. They built a team out of aging veterans and untried young guns. Now the risks are starting to pay off.

ENCE rise to the top

Spinx attributes ENCE’s run of good form to two things. The first is Pavle “maden” Bošković. Maden joined the team from the defunct FunPlus Phoenix project, replacing Joonas “doto” Forss in January 2022. The 23-year-old Montenegrin hasn’t been a massive fragging revelation. He hasn’t needed to be. Instead, he’s been a solid and reliable role player.

“We think [maden is] a really good player,” Spinx said. “He brings a lot of good stuff to the team and he’s also an amazing individual.”

The second major shift for ENCE was more understated, but no less important. According to Spinx, the entire team atmosphere has changed.

“We are laughing more,” he said. “I think it’s really important in CS:GO that after all you need to have fun. If you have a team, you like each other, you have good vibes or whatever, you will do good.”

ENCE PGL Major Antwerp
ENCE at the PGL Major Antwerp Champions stage. | Provided by PGL. Photo by Stephanie Lindgren.

Despite their elevation in play and the respect that the Counter-Strike world has been putting on their name, ENCE still see themselves as underdogs in most matchups. But that’s starting to change slowly.

“We feel like we are the underdogs against the big names like G2 or whatever,” Spinx said. “It’s definitely good to be the underdog, but there’s also weakness to it. After all, you will have games where you aren’t the underdog anymore. And then you need to get pressured and still have a normal game.”

Spinx believes ENCE are, if not the world no. 3, then at least a top five team. The goal is to stay that way. Spinx says they want to keep playing in all the big Tier 1 tournaments and continue making playoffs and grandfinals.

“And also to get one trophy for the ENCE office,” he added. “I think [Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer] deserves a trophy after such a long time.”

ENCE Snappi
Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer at PGL Major Antwerp 2022. | Provided by PGL. Photo by Luc Bouchon.

Right now ENCE are playing at Intel Extreme Masters Dallas. Everyone except Spinx, that is. He is stuck at home after the team failed to secure his American visa in time for the tournament.

“It’s super sad,” Spinx said. “It would’ve been the first time in America for me.”

Perhaps less sad is the fact that ENCE are showing they aren’t one-trick ponies. Even without Spinx’s firepower to lean on, the team is excelling. Counter-Strike legend Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski has been filling in at the tournament to resounding success.

On Monday, ENCE secured playoffs at IEM Dallas with a 2-0 win against G2 Esports. On Wednesday, they play against the best team in the world, FaZe.