Golden Free Agent

The Case for Golden: How Brains Can Best Brawn

As the off-season shuffle is in full swing, RBM’s writers are highlighting the best, and their favorite, available players. In this article, Daniel Khurgin shines a spotlight onto 27-year-old free agent and Swedish IGL Maikil ‘Golden’ Selim.

With the post-Major silly season in session, teams have the opportunity to pick through a wide roster of free agents for their 2022 squad. An important aspect coming into the new year is the return of LANs, so teams are looking into players who have experience in large international tournaments. In addition, it’s always beneficial to have a player who is comfortable on the largest stages of the world. Now more than ever, top-level Counter-Strike is experiencing a dearth of in-game leaders. The scene is simply lacking the players to pick up the mantle and lead a team to victory. With that being said, coming into 2022, I present the case for Golden.

Golden’s Big League Experience

Golden is not one to shy away from the limelight. He was on the main fnatic roster from August 2017 until December 2021. There he garnered a wealth of experience in the leadership role. Almost immediately after his promotion to the main roster, he stabilized the team and secured winning results. He led the team to five semi-final or better appearances in a row, including a victory at IEM Katowice 2018. He performed from the outset as if he was born a leader.

His initial stint on fnatic was rather brief, however, as in the summer of 2018 William ‘draken’ Sundin replaced him on the starting lineup. This prompted Golden to move to Cloud9 in an ambitious international move to the North American Major winning organization. This transfer proved disappointing for the young Swede, however, as Cloud9 were nothing like their Major-winning selves. The international team had lackluster results in tournament after tournament. It didn’t help that the team continued to make roster moves which compromised Golden’s ability to lead a coherent roster. In addition, Golden suffered from numerous health issues which plagued his ability to practice and compete with the team. At the end of the year, Golden was replaced and thus his international stint ended. 

Golden’s International Reputation

Note, however, that Golden was still motivated to compete in a title-contending team and even made the brave journey across the Atlantic to do so. He is no stranger to challenge and more importantly, has experience in international lineups. As more teams become international (including his former fnatic), teams want players who are comfortable around others with different native languages. Few players have the breadth of experience Golden possesses as well as an international background and composure on the big stages.

Post Cloud9

After that brief stint on Cloud9, Golden returned to his home organization of fnatic. Immediately, his addition proved fruitful as the Swedish team went back to its winning ways. They achieved trophies at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019 and ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe with Golden at the helm. However, as soon as the celebrations started, they quickly ceased. Near the end of 2019, the coronavirus pandemic ended international in-person events. At first, it seemed like fnatic were well suited to the online atmosphere with that previously mentioned victory at ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe. However, that proved to be the last big event the team would win as the online era proved fatal to the team’s performance. fnatic floundered throughout 2020 and 2021 until they chose to bench Golden in the process of overhauling the roster. 

What Went Wrong

Of course, we can’t just gloss over a year and a half of poor results and not put some blame on the in-game leader. Golden has some part to play in the disappointing dismantling of the legendary roster. In his defense, the team was at home in Katowice’s Spodek or Cologne’s Lanxess Arena (the cathedral of Counter-Strike). The legendary core of Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell, Robin ‘Flusha’ Rönnquist, and Freddy ‘KRIMZ’ Johansson are simply not meant to play Counter-Strike behind their desks in a quiet practice room. Golden built up his reputation guiding teams through deafening arenas, not sound-proofed studios. He deserves some flak for not leading the legendary lineup through the tumultuous times of the online era, but at some point it’s understandable. 

The Cons

I’ve detailed many reasons why Golden would be a solid pickup to any team. The scene is lacking in proven in-game leaders, so he should be welcomed with open arms. The Swedish scene is shrinking quickly, and he has experience with the fnatic Rising (previously fnatic Academy) roster both before and after his time on the main roster. He has experience on the biggest of stages and most international of lineups. With all these positives, there must be a reason he isn’t on a team right now. Golden’s main drawback is his fragging ability. Even with the best strategies in the world, even if you leave the enemy rotator spinning in circles, Counter-Strike is about clicking heads. Game sense and calling can only take you so far. 

Golden is, admittedly, lackluster in this regard. He boasts a measly .81 HLTV rating for 2021. His fragging ability is one of the worst in the top tier of Counter-Strike. There is no point in sugar-coating it. Any team looking into signing him must have his poor mechanical skill at the front of their brain. However, that isn’t to say he is worthless in the server. In 2017, Golden was on fnatic, arguably in the most stable team he’s been a part of. That year, he salvaged a flat 1.00 HLTV rating, exceedingly average. If his teammates listen to him and his organization isn’t falling to pieces around him, Golden is efficient on the server. It’s possible to have his strategic mind on your team without sacrificing too much on the fragging front. 

Even if Golden doesn’t pick up his mechanical ability, he’s still too good to be sitting on a bench. We’ve had non-fragging in-game leaders as part of the meta for some time. Mad Lions were top of the pack in tier two with Nicolai ‘HUNDEN’ Petersen. Epitacio ‘TACO’ de Melo and Christopher ‘dexter’ Nong are still active players despite similar numbers to Golden. Why? Because they just bring so much to their team in terms of valuable in-game leading. Simply due to his intellect, he deserves a spot on a roster.

Coaching

Speaking of HUNDEN, Golden could always go the route that he did, retiring as a player and joining an organization as a valuable coach. Hopefully Golden doesn’t exploit an in-game bug as HUNDEN did, though. While on the bench at fnatic, Golden has been helping their academy team, fnatic Rising. In an interview with HLTV, he said, “[Coaching the academy team] helps a lot, I’ve come up with new things in the game that I’m going to use in the future, so it’s helping me as well.” He clearly has been enjoying his time in the coaching role, and if he can be convinced to do so for another organization, I would bet my bottom dollar he would be a boon. 

Golden’s Future

In that same interview, Golden stated that he’d like to return to being an active player instead of a coach. There is a fragging deficit that would need to be accounted for. Perhaps he’s taken his time on the bench to refresh his individual skill. That interview was over three months ago, so it is also possible he has changed his mind since then. Plus, a few weeks ago, he was released from his contract with fnatic, so he no longer has the academy team to take up his time or provide him with a benched salary. Nonetheless, as either a coach helping on the sidelines or an in-game leader leading from the front, Golden is too good for free agency.

In summary, any team looking to build a roster in 2022 has to look at Golden for an in-game leader or a coach. He’s proven himself on the biggest stages as someone who won’t back down from challenges. In an increasingly shrinking pool of Swedish players, he’s a stand-out. As for international rosters, you won’t find much of anyone more comfortable with a multinational lineup than him. He knows what it’s like to be the best team in the world, and he knows what it’s like to be in the doldrums. He is one of the most experienced and skilled players in free agency right now and deserves an opportunity in this transfer window. 

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