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HLTV’s Top 5 Players of 2021

Amidst the collective madness of multiple teams hellbent on bringing the NaVi dynasty to its knees, we got some extraordinary players performing at their very best. From local CIS competitors to an otherworldly Bosnian rifler to a chubby Frenchman from distant lands, we witnessed some of the greatest individual performances in recent years.

Let’s see who stood out the most among the myriad of CS:GO characters, and who were ranked as the coveted Top 5 Players of 2021!

5. Ax1Le

Gambit is another team that doesn’t rely upon a single heavylifting player. They all contribute equally, and their ranks on this list reflect that perfectly. Ax1Le was by far a fairly unknown player. But in 2021, not only did he make himself known, but also managed to get in the Top 5 list of HLTV.

With a 1.14 rating against the top 5 teams, the rifler had lit up the server time and time again. He dropped in a 1.30+ rating once every three matches, and if that is not a testament to his ability, nothing can be.

Since Gambit still is a collective team that doesn’t rely on a particular star, the Gambit players don’t exactly stand out in any category. But looking at the bigger picture, it’s obvious how crucially these stars line up.

Given their young age and precious experience gathered, I have no doubt that the CIS side will be NaVi’s greatest competitor in 2022.

4. sh1ro

The greatest clutcher of 2021, sh1ro bags a 4th rank in his debut on this list. The AWPer was near impossible to deal with, and though Gambit didn’t depend on him too heavily, it was abundantly clear who the opposition’s target 1 would be.

sh1ro rarely posted a below-1.20 rating event and was the EVP or MVP in every single tournament he played in. No exceptions. He was almost impossible to kill, posting a 0.52 deaths per round stat in 2021. Not only is that number the best in 2021, but also in the history of Counter-Strike, surpassing markeloff’s 0.53. He also completed the most number of clutches in 2021, and ranks 3 in AWP kills per round.

With a plethora of numbers skipped, it’s easy to see why sh1ro made it to Number 4 this year. Astonishingly, his stats are even better than NiKo, yet he finds himself behind him. This is because though his 1.27 overall rating is great, it’s a far cry from his 1.18 in big matches. NiKo on the other hand did not have such a huge drop against big teams, and that helped him rank better than sh1ro.

Nonetheless, sh1ro can only be proud of himself, as his explosiveness proved then-World Number 13, SERGEJ’s prediction of sh1ro being in Top 20 true.

3. NiKo

Arguably the greatest rifler of this generation, Nikola Kovac needs no introduction. This is NiKo’s sixth consecutive year in HLTV’s Top 20, and he was the best rifler in 4 of them, surpassed only by AWPers. His ability on the rifles is difficult to match by anyone else, no matter their headshot percentage. He remains the greatest Deagle player in the world, despite….

Though his stats were lesser than that of sh1ro, he stepped up his game to another level against big teams in big matches. That set him apart from the rest. But many fans must think NiKo is robbed of Number 2, but that is wrong. The recency bias is taking over, as NiKo was better than ZywOo only in the last quarter of the year. When we look at the overall year, it is clear that NiKo is Number 3, which is not too bad itself.

Do I even need to talk about his consistency and his peaks? His numbers are too large and too much to write, but his 1.23 rating against the top 5 teams aptly encapsulates why he is the best rifler of 2021.

2. ZywOo

Counter-Strike’s chosen one has come in second for the first time after joining the top-tier CS scene. He came in first ahead of s1mple in both 2019 and 2020, but s1mple’s 2021 heroics relegated the Frenchman to Number 2.

Despite Vitality’s problems all year, ZywOo’s personal stats never went down, as they closely mirrored his 2019 and 2020 numbers. But he had to settle for Number 2 this time for obvious reasons. With an astonishing average of 1.46 in pistol rounds, ZywOo had no competition when it came to pistols. His 1.29 overall rating of 2021 is far better than the ones before him, and his overall consistency over the entirety of the year helped him to be ranked above NiKo.

With Vitality seeing major changes and with the Astralis core coming to France, it will be interesting to see how ZywOo adjusts and shines in 2022.

1. s1mple

Was there even a doubt? Aleksandr Kostyliev’s 2021 performances were probably the greatest individual shows in the history of Counter-Strike, with his IEM Cologne performance being his greatest ever event (1.51 rating). He broke so many records in 2021 that it’s not even worth starting to count them. But we shall try.

To start, he is the only player to have more MVPs (8) than EVPs (5), bagging one or the other in every single event he attended. He also surpassed dev1ce in winning the most MVPs in a single year, and also in most MVPs won in history (19, joint). He also won the Major and the Grand Slam in 2021, posting the highest ever rating in any Major in history (1.47). He averaged an overall rating of 1.40 in big matches.

I think there’s no second opinion over s1mple’s 2021. With NaVi striving to create their own era, s1mple will undoubtedly be their greatest asset. The way Blad3 helped s1mple by turning him from a toxic individual player to a sky-high team player is beyond commendable, and if Blad3 remains serious about the team, there is no doubt that it will be become all the more difficult for newer teams to break NaVi’s winning streak.

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