As the off-season shuffle draws to a close, RBM’s writers are highlighting the best, and their favorite, available players. In this article, Liam Slevin shines a spotlight onto 26-year-old benched rifler and Australian talent Justin ‘jks’ Savage.
Counter-Strike’s off-season heading into 2022 has seen a variety of interesting moves take place in the upper echelons of the scene, with Faze, Vitality, G2, OG and BIG having already concluded their transfer business. As for the rest of the teams who compete at the highest level of Counter-Strike, some may be looking at their line-ups and considering an upgrade in the rifler department. For those potential teams, there is a 26 year old Aussie who boasts quite an impressive resume. With a vast amount of experience, a top 4 finish at a major and ridiculous rifling prowess, alongside a ranking of 15th and 19th in HLTV’s top 20 ranking for 2019 and 2020 respectively. He also boasts the accolade of being the only Australian to ever appear in the ranking. That man is Justin ‘jks’ Savage.
Early Days in Vox Eminor and Move to Renegades
jks was a mainstay in his home scene of Australia while playing a key role on one of the biggest teams the region had to offer, Vox Eminor. Following his arrival on the team in April 2014, jks played a part in qualifying for two majors during his tenure at Vox Eminor: ESL One Cologne 2014 and ESL One Katowice 2015. Unfortunately, jks and the whole team struggled at these events, going out in the group stages at both. The struggles of trying to compete internationally at the time were also compounded by the fact that during ESL One Cologne 2014, the entire roster was either in full time employment elsewhere, or studying, as he discussed in an interview with Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields.
In their final tournament under the Vox Eminor banner, jks showed the raw potential he possessed by having a breakout performance at Gfinity 2015 Spring Masters 2, posting the second highest rating across the whole tournament with a 1.34 rating on 8 maps against the likes of the best team in the world at the time FNATIC, and others. The Vox Eminor squad then signed with Renegades in June 2015, where they went on to attend the ESL One Cologne 2015 Major representing their new team. While jks and co. would fail to make it past the group stage in their third Major together, the progress of jks was noticeable.
Renegades and Being the Star
In his four years with Renegades, jks made a name for himself and experienced several different lineups during his time there. One such lineup was the 2017 iteration consisting of jks, Aaron ‘AZR’ Ward, Karlo ‘USTILLO’ Pivac, Noah ‘Nifty’ Francis and Keith ‘NAF’ Markovic. During this iteration of the lineup, jks got his first, and as of now, his only taste of international silverware as the team won SL i-League Invitational Shanghai 2017. While not quite a renowned tournament win, the Australian outfit did conquer the legendary Virtus.Pro lineup 2-0 in the final to claim the trophy. During this period, NAF would take up more of a star’s role within the team, citing as much in an interview with HLTV. Upon NAF’s departure to Team Liquid, we would witness jks slot into the NAF’s star roles and take the next step in building his legacy with Renegades.
At the tail end of 2018 roster Renegades formed a roster that consisted of AZR, jks, Sean ‘Gratisfaction’ Kaiwai, Jay ‘Liazz’ Tregillgas, Joakim ‘jkaem’ Myrbostad which would become the most successful and renowned predominantly Australian roster we have seen so far. With the exception of their Norwegian import jkaem, the entire roster had made their names in the Oceanic scene, with Gratisfaction and particularly Liazz being unknown quantities, with neither player making an appearance at a major prior to their signing.
jks shined in this roster throughout the year which earned him his first appearance in the HLTV top 20 players ranking. Following an impressive start where they came 5th-6th place finish at ESL Pro League near the end of 2018, the predominantly Aussie outfit then went on to make top 8 at the Katowice major at the start of 2019. Posting an MVP calibre 1.28 rating at StarSeries i-League Season 7, jks and Renegades lost to eventual winners Natus Vincere in the Semi finals. Throughout much of the year, Renegades continued to compete amongst the finest European and North American teams with jks at the forefront, placing top four at the StarLadder Major Berlin and StarSeries i-League Season 8. This StarSeries event would coincidentally be the final event this lineup would play under the organization, as they caught the attention of Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag and signed for North American based organization 100 Thieves shortly thereafter.
Playing under 100 Thieves
Under their new organization at 100 Thieves, jks and co. got off to an impressive start in their first tournament, finishing second at IEM Beijing 2019, losing to the dominant Astralis lineup of the time 3-0 in a best of five series. Despite this sensational start to their time at 100 Thieves which saw them enter the top 5 of the HLTV rankings for the first time in jks’ career, they struggled to maintain their elite level following the eruption of the COVID-19 global pandemic which saw the side restricted to North American competitions for the majority of 2020. The team would spend the year inside the top 20, competing against the likes of Liquid, Furia and Evil Geniuses for honors. However, the team failed to get their hands on any silverware throughout the entirety of the NA online era, even losing back to back grand finals against Furia at ESL Pro League Season 12 North America and IEM New York 2020 North America. Despite the struggle that the team would face in ascertaining that one big win under the 100 Thieves banner, jks persistently put up excellent numbers throughout the entire year, earning himself his place on Complexity shortly after 100 Thieves announced their withdrawal from Counter-Strike in October 2020.
Time in Complexity
The transfer of jks to Complexity occurred as a result of Owen ‘oBo’ Schlatter’s unforeseen departure from the team as they were based in Europe during the online era and he would return home to the United States. The move was an exciting one for a variety of reasons, none more so however than the fact that jks would have his first real chance to show his worth and cement himself as a star outside of an Australian roster. Surrounded by established international players such as Kristian ‘k0nfig’ Wienecke and Benjamin ‘blameF’ Bremer, the roster was expected to continue their impressive form with the addition of jks to the roster. However, for a variety of reasons the team and jks, in particular, would struggle to perform. During the first three months following the acquisition of jks, the only player who experienced an improvement in rating was k0nfig. During this period Bulgarian AWPer Valentin ‘poizon’ Vasilev would experience a considerable drop off while also spending time out of the game due to medical reasons.
As for jks, in terms of roles, he filled into the CT side roles with relative ease. Unfortunately however, there appeared to be an overlap in roles on the T side in roles with his IGL, with jks struggling to maintain his style alongside the comparatively passive blameF. The team attained no real relevant placings outside of a 5th-6th place finish at ESL Pro League Season 13, and a 1st place at Spring Sweet Spring 3, which had no teams inside the top 10 in attendance. Following a period involving several stand-ins such as Niels Christian ‘NaToSaphiX’ Sillassen and Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David, coupled with their failure to qualify for the PGL Stockholm Major, a gradual feed of announcements came out that saw the entire starting lineup either part ways with the organization or placed on the transfer list.
What’s Next for jks?
I had the pleasure of talking with jks about his current situation:
“I’m transfer listed by coL (Complexity) and I’m eager to find a team to play in for 2022. It’s been really nice for my mind and body to slow down for a while. Last year was rather stressful for a number of reasons, and I haven’t had a break this long since I joined Renegades in 2015. I’ve still been pugging and DMing to stay in shape but it was well needed for me to slow down and think for a bit”
In regard to his future as the start of the 2022 season looms:
“I’m very hungry to start playing proper CS again. I’m looking forward to getting a permanent setup and environment, something which I didn’t have all of 2021. I know I have a lot to give as a player and I feel like I haven’t reached my full potential yet.”
Justin ‘jks’ Savage has exceeded every expectation that you could have set for him back in 2014 when he signed for Vox Eminor as a young talent playing in the Oceanic region. Even if you disregard the stats, which, as has already been identified, he has performed exceptionally statistically throughout his career, the eye test would show you that he is undoubtedly the best player that the Australian scene has ever seen. With a crisp rifle game and a remarkable clutch factor in late round scenarios, cleaning up rounds after the entry fraggers make their move, jks would provide undoubted firepower and experience (both in the server and on LAN) to any roster willing to pick him up. He has displayed a willingness to live and play anywhere in the world, leaving the options open to play in either North America or Europe now if the offer is right. After a turbulent tenure on a faltering team, jks now finds himself going into 2022 as an exciting player who is refreshed and revitalized.