Patrick "es3tag" Hansen. On a green background.

The Story of es3tag

Tonight, Patrick “es3tag” Hansen will debut for his third team of 2021, and his eighth professional organization. es3tag’s career has lurched from team to team, leaving the 25-year-old in a seemingly permanent state of flux. Since his return to Heroic’s active roster in March 2018, the lifespan of es3tag’s five-man rosters averages just 65 days. He has played with 17 different lineups and 32 different players. At BLAST, that will increase to 18 lineups, and 35 different players.

It is to his credit that despite this, he has built himself a reputation as a solid, if unspectacular, role player. His story is one that has not been properly unpacked, with the true context of his career too often forgotten. This article will try to remedy that, shining a light on the remarkable career of one of Counter-Strike’s unluckiest players.

A standard origin story?

On first glance, es3tag has a similar CV to nearly every tier one Danish CS:GO player. He worked his way up through the lower echelons, at organizations like Epiphany Bolt, Team Orbit, and Escape Gaming. After impressing, he made his way to Tricked, spending a year learning from Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen before progressing up the ladder once more to Heroic. 

However, there is a slight break from convention. At Epiphany Bolt and his trial in Escape Gaming, es3tag played with Swedish players. In Epiphany, there were three Swedish players at times — the same number as on his new roster under the NIP banner. Even if these rosters did not speak Swedish, the experience should benefit es3tag in his journey across the Øresund strait.

es3tag’s rise also differs from the traditional Danish CS origin story in that he struggled in his first attempt at the top tiers of Counter-Strike. In Heroic, despite replacing star player Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså, he averaged a 0.99 rating, winning just 41% of maps played. In February of 2018, he was cut. Head coach Luis “⁠peacemaker⁠” Tadeu cited the need for “other qualities,” threatening to stall es3tag’s career after just eight months in the big time.

Heroic’s merry-go-round

It was only the temporary departure of Jakob “JUGi” Hansen for personal reasons that gave es3tag a route back in to Heroic, but it was a poisoned chalice. 2018 would be the first, but far from the last, extended period of roster instability in es3tag’s career. Heroic would field five different lineups in the next five months, hampered by players departing for both health and sporting reasons. Yet, in the chaos, es3tag thrived.

Rather than his usual supportive roles, es3tag got more room to flourish in this period, a change that saw his rating jump from 0.99 in his first stint with Heroic to 1.12 for the last three quarters of 2018.  However, for the start of 2019, es3tag’s role would change again. Heroic added Benjamin “blameF” Bremer, Martin “stavn” Lund, and Niels Christian “NaToSaphiX” Sillassen within the first five months of 2019. In August, NaToSaphiX was cut, as was friberg. By October, blameF was tempted away by the prospect of leading Jason Lake’s Juggernaut.

es3tag 4 shortest lineups since March 2018
All four of es3tag’s shortest lineups came under the Heroic banner

In 2018 and 2019, es3tag played in twelve different rosters. He had entry-fragged, IGLed, and AWPed along the way. So, at the start of 2020, with Heroic on the brink of stability after keeping the same five-man lineup from October 2019 to April 2020, it looked like es3tag had finally found a platform for consistency. But soon this stability would crumble once more.

Only this time, es3tag was personally responsible. His versatility, whilst maintaining a 1+ rating in 62% of maps in 2019, had caught the eye of Astralis, who were scrambling for players in the wake of both Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth’s intention to take medical leave. On March 22 of 2020 es3tag agreed to join Astralis, blowing up FunPlus Phoenix’s acquisition of Heroic to line up alongside Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz and his fellow four-time major winners.

Invigorating Astralis

Yet, this was not the Astralis of old. By es3tag’s debut at ESL One Cologne 2020, the Online Era was in full swing. Astralis’ roster moves meant a drop to 17th in HLTV’s World Rankings. In a quarter-final loss to NIP at Cologne, es3tag had a 1.29 rating and 51 frags, the highest rating of any Astralis player across the event. The legendary duo of Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen and dev1ce would put up 68 between them in that quarter-final loss; Astralis’ star was waning. Meanwhile, the winners of the event? Heroic.

However, es3tag’s second event saw the return of gla1ve, and with him came the success es3tag expected from joining the greatest team of all time. At Pro League Season 12, dev1ce and dupreeh were back to their best, with es3tag performing an impactful supportive role. In a memorable final, Astralis recovered from 2-0 down to win the best of five 3-2. Instrumental to that was es3tag’s 40 kills on Train, a stat made even more impressive given he was a direct replacement for Xyp9x. In Round 9 — before NaVi had even hit his inner bombsite —es3tag was 16-4.

40 frags from the support role. In a grand final no less.

The Colossus and the Juggernaut

es3tag only played three events for Astralis. But, all three saw positive ratings from the Dane. In just a few months, he had gone from a solid tier-two player to proving he could have the same impact in tier one. His stock had risen so high he would become the star piece of Henry Greer’s handbuilt Cloud9 roster. The deal to bring him there, including es3tag’s salary for three years, was $2.1 million. Alongside Özgür “woxic” Eker, he was to become Cloud9’s secondary star, reprising the entry fragging from the early stages of his career.

However, what was a promising lineup on paper never got a chance to show its true potential. COVID-19 protocols meant the team never got to boot camp, forcing woxic to play from Turkey on high ping and a three-hour time difference to the UK. His motivation, and ratings, fell, and he left the team after just three months. The AWP role became a hot potato, first with Alex “ALEX” McMeekin and then es3tag himself.

In his first interview since leaving Cloud9, HenryG reveals just how hard it was for the Colossus

Results suffered, with Ricky “floppy” Kemery reflecting that “you need a really strong AWP on the team to be the best team internationally.” After nine online events, zero bootcamps, and increasing community pressure, Cloud9 put their CS:GO division on hold. Through little fault of his own, es3tag was flung into the wilderness, beginning his first stint as a free agent since beginning his professional career.

es3tag was once again on the search for a secure project. During the summer break, he signed for Complexity, replacing fellow support player William “RUSH” Wierzba. However, immediately after signing his contract es3tag was beset with more misfortune. Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke broke his wrist, putting Complexity into the stand-in cycle that had plagued both them and es3tag’s Heroic side for so long. Before k0nfig even recovered, the project was nuked. es3tag was once again on the bench, before he had even got a chance.

Stability at last? es3tag in pyjamas

Fortunately, he was not on the bench for long. And in NIP, es3tag has surely found a stable project. The legendary organisation has been in Global Offensive since inception, and their $1,000,000 outlay into dev1ce shows there is no chance of them walking away any time soon. NIP, on paper, is a strange choice. But, Astralis’ renewal of Xyp9x’s contract and Heroic’s stable roster shut the door on a return to the Danish scene.

Looking further afield, you can not blame es3tag for shying away from another volatile English-speaking international team. It is also a sensible move from the team’s point of view, making a clear upgrade on Linus “LNZ” Holtäng. es3tag will fill his support roles, but without needing to be micromanaged. He can fulfil the role of the “small site caller,” using his experience to play the hardest roles and giving space to Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora and Fredrik “REZ” Sterner to support dev1ce

The structure of this NIP team is remarkably similar to that which gave es3tag his only big event win. Hampus “hampus” Poser is an aggressive, info-hungry IGL in the mold of gla1ve, and has built his team in his image. REZ has an uncanny resemblance to dupreeh, an aggressive rifler able to entry, but is at his best going in just behind their IGL. Plopski acts as a halfway house between aggression and passivity, defaulting in spots like Connector on Overpass, and expected to have impactful multi-kills on CT side like Emil “Magisk” Reif. As for the AWP role, that doesn’t need explaining.

This just leaves es3tag, replacing the same player in NIP’s structure as he did in Astralis: Xyp9x, tasked with being the small site anchor and caller, strong in the clutch, and most importantly, improving the level of REZ and Plopski. On paper, es3tag should provide more firepower from the same spots, but the real challenge will be to create space for REZ, and help Plopski come out of his slump at the same time. Even at Astralis, despite being in Xyp9x’s roles, it was es3tag, not Magisk, who became the team’s third star. At Complexity and Cloud9 — although there were a host of factors at play — none of es3tag’s teammates played near their career peak.

es3tag longest 4 lineups since 2018
Cloud9’s Colossus is frequently described as a project that needed more time – but it was es3tag’s fourth-longest lineup.

However, as this article hopefully illustrates, es3tag has not had the stability or time in any of his rosters to prove he can elevate his teammates like Xyp9x or Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy can. He may be twenty-five years old but we have only really seen brief glimpses of es3tag in a structured environment. He has had a career hampered by poachings, injuries, and even pandemics — if NIP have the same roster in May of 2022, it will be es3tag’s longest lineup since his benching by peacemaker in February 2018.

In NIP, es3tag has surely found the stable project he has been craving. His goal will not be to garner mass fanfare or long reads like this one. It will be to put the NIP organization back where they belong. He will hope that 2022 is a year without disruption or caveats; that 2022 is when he sheds the baggage of all his past misfortune to become one of the best role players in Counter-Strike.

es3tag may have put his pyjamas on, but he can not rest just yet. It’s go time.

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