Top 20 players of 2023: Magisk (17)

Emil “⁠Magisk⁠” Reif returns to HLTV’s Top 20 Players of the Year ranking for the fifth time in his career, a triumphant recovery after he missed out on the list in 2021 and 2022.

He first earned a spot in the ranking in 2016 after playing in the professional scene for less than a year and half, clocking in at 14th by showcasing star-level abilities and exceptional consistency as a part SK and Dignitas. He was often his team’s best-rated player and maintained his level at the biggest events and against the best teams, with the latter qualities persisting to this day.

Stints on North and OpTic in 2017 saw Magisk continue to stand out in his stint with the Danish team, but the latter European lineup fell flat and rarely made it deep in the biggest events, which meant the Dane missed out on the ranking entirely that year. His calling came in February the following year when Markus “⁠Kjaerbye⁠” Kjærbye made the shock decision to leave Astralis, and Magisk joined the Danish team to form the iteration of the lineup that would go down in history as the best team in CS:GO.

In 2018 and 2019, Magisk and Astralis dominated the Counter-Strike scene and redefined the way the game was played with utility. They won three Majors in a row, the first season of Intel Grand Slam, and an abundance of the biggest events in those two years, and at times were simply untouchable on the server. Magisk was named the 7th and 5th best player in the world in the two years, respectively, and earned MVP awards at BLAST Pro Series Lisbon and the IEM Katowice Major in the process.

Magisk earned a Major MVP in 2019

The Dane last clocked in a spot in the ranking at 11th in 2020, continuing to demonstrate exceptional consistency and performing against the best teams. He missed out on a higher spot that year due to his low peaks and impact in round wins, factors that affect his placement in 2023, too.

Magisk departed Astralis at the start of 2022 and went international with Vitality alongside teammate Peter “⁠dupreeh⁠” Rasmussen, with the team lifting their first trophy together later in the year at ESL Pro League Season 16 shortly after adding Lotan “⁠Spinx⁠” Giladi. Persistent top placements and tournament wins continued to evade Vitality, however, and the team needed to solve that problem heading into 2023 as they put their full focus on winning the Paris Major on home soil.

“After we bumped out of Blast Abu Dhabi [World Final], it was obviously a tough ending to the year. We had high expectations for ourselves and honestly we all knew that we didn’t live up to those. I think, despite the result at the event, we had some talks as a team to move past our mistakes and find the right path for us as a team.

“Expectations of ourselves when it came to individual training, how we wanted to practice and everything we didn’t fully align on yet. So this tournament was a turning point for everyone and we knew going into the new season what we had to work on.”

You can read a more in-depth look at Magisk’s career in his previous appearances on the top 20 list:

Top 20 players of 2016: Magisk (14)
Top 20 players of 2018: Magisk (7)
Top 20 players of 2019: Magisk (5)
Top 20 players of 2020: Magisk (11)

Team talks at the end of 2022 helped invigorate Vitality and Magisk at the start of the 2023 season as they hit the ground running at BLAST Spring Groups, sweeping past Astralis, Evil Geniuses, and Heroic to book an early spot at the Spring Final. For most teams in attendance in the group stage, however, the event served as more of a warmup than anything else for the first Super-Elite tournament of the year, IEM Katowice, with Vitality coming into the event with a chip on their shoulder: They had never made the playoffs at the event in Poland despite attending it the past four years in a row.

That curse was finally broken thanks to Mathieu “⁠ZywOo⁠” Herbaut, who came alive and shrugged off his past struggles in Katowice to power his team to victory over Ninjas in Pyjamas and fnatic to secure a playoff berth. The French organization’s riflers showed signs of weakness in the latter match despite the victory, and ZywOo couldn’t make up for their continued downtrodden form in the group winners’ match against Heroic as the Danish roster secured an easy bye to the semi-finals. Magisk individual level suffered too in those games, but he showed renewed vigor in the arena against Liquid.

He averaged a server-leading 1.20 rating over the best-of-three, but it still wasn’t enough to guide Vitality to victory and ended up being a series the team likely wishes to forget. They mounted a crushing 12-0 lead on the CT side of Liquid‘s Overpass pick, but couldn’t convert that into a win as the American side pulled off a historic comeback to steal away their map pick in overtime. The loss ultimately cost Vitality the series as they dominated on Nuke only to falter on the Mirage decider, and Magisk came away from the event as his team’s worst-rated player, which he states is normal given his roles and the drop in form of Vitality‘s other superstars.

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“Going into the season, we had a bootcamp without PCs. We sat down for four days and talked about goals, strategies and how we could develop as a team. I think this plan we made from those four days was the key success for us as a team to be able to hold our heads high and always believe in the process, because losing like we did to Liquid could break a lot of teams and most teams would probably have gone in an even worse direction after such a loss.

“But we all trusted the plan, the process and honestly we could feel every single day that we were improving all the time. On an individual level, I think it’s quite normal that people like me, who have to sacrifice, will perform worse than the superstars when a team is not functioning well. Because when we perform badly, I also get put in even worse positions and also superstars are less willing to sacrifice which they will do more when the team is also performing good.”

Vitality were heartbroken after crumbling against Liquid

That plan Magisk talks about was one to ensure the team would peak in time for the Paris Major, an all-important event as it was the organization’s home Major and last chance for ZywOo to secure the most coveted trophy in CS:GO ahead of the switch to CS2. Pressure compounded when dupreeh went on parental leave after the loss in Poland and Vitality were forced to use Audric “⁠JACKZ⁠” Jug as a stand-in for the group stage of ESL Pro League Season 17, leaving them with fewer official matches and less practice before the Paris Major Europe RMR kicked off.

The temporarily French-majority roster sauntered through the group stage in Malta unassailed, however, with JACKZ proving more than capable as a stand-in, ZywOo continuing to star, and Magisk maintaining his consistency in wins over Grayhound, OG, and FaZe (1.07 rating over six maps). dupreeh returned to the roster in time for his team’s quarter-final match against ENCE two weeks later, but it was there that Vitality‘s run was brought to an end. Marco “⁠Snappi⁠” Pfeiffer‘s side emerged on top of a tightly-contested 2-1 series to eliminate Vitality in 5-8th place, and Magisk walked away with his first VP mention of the year after missing out the award in Katowice.

dupreeh‘s timely return also lined up with the impending start of the Paris Major Europe RMR, and it was finally time for Vitality to kick it into high gear. Everything they had been practicing and planning for since the end of 2022 needed to click from this point onward.

And click, it did. The team lost just one match to 9INE while beating Ninjas in Pyjamas, Astralis, and BIG to qualify for the Major, and added victories over G2 and Monte to earn the last Legends spot on offer in RMR B. Magisk was truly hitting his stride by this point, averaging a 1.21 rating in the tournament, and his consistency and impact carried into IEM Rio as Vitality earned themselves a boost in morale ahead of the Major with a trophy lift in Brazil.

Experiencing first-hand that our plan and hard work was paying off was obviously a huge confidence booster for the entire team

The Dane posted a 1.12 rating over 15 maps and recovered from a dismal opening loss to OG in spectacular fashion, helping Vitality beat MIBR, FaZe, OG, BIG, and Cloud9 while earning himself another VP mention for his efforts. Vitality‘s plan to peak before Paris was coming to fruition.

“I think going into Rio we had a good feeling, we knew that we were getting better and better and at the end of the day, it’s also sometimes about everything clicking and at this event everyone was enjoying themselves. The mood was good and experiencing first-hand that our plan and hard work was paying off was obviously a huge confidence booster for the entire team.”

Three weeks later, the Paris Major Legends Stage began, and Vitality‘s moment had finally arrived. The organization surrounded the players with support staff and fans rallied to Vitality‘s side, going so far as to stand outside the closed-door venue for the Legends Stage just to chant the team’s name and offer shouts of support. Vitality kicked off their Major campaign with best-of-ones against two top-10 opponents who were already warmed up from playing in the Challengers Stage, G2 and ENCE, and passed the test in narrow fashion with 16-13 wins against each team.

Magisk had monumental impact against the former on the T side, in particular, and his strong offensive form carried into Vitality‘s playoff-qualifying match against Monte as he scored a 1v4 clutch to close the first map of Anubis before Vitality took home the series on Nuke.

A favorable bracket draw along with the No. 3 and No. 4-ranked teams in the world at the time, G2 and Natus Vincere, not making the playoffs put Vitality in pole position to make a run to the title, and their path was made even easier courtesy of an upset from GamerLegion that eliminated the No. 1-ranked team, Heroic, in the semi-finals. The Danes themselves had sent FaZe packing in their previous match while Liquid were seen off by Apeks, leaving only the three lowest-ranked teams from the Legends Stage standing between Dan “⁠apEX⁠” Madesclaire‘s men and a Major victory.

With no familiar contenders to block them from the title and upsets aplenty setting the stage for a picture-perfect finish, Vitality romped to a trophy lift on home soil. The team completed an undefeated run through the event by locking down 2-0 wins over Into the Breach, Apeks, and GamerLegion, with ZywOo outclassing the competition and Magisk remaining ever-consistent as the team’s third-best player. He recorded just one red rating in the playoffs, tied Spinx with a 1.32 rating in the grand final, and decimated on the offense for the entirety of the event with a 1.37 T side rating over ten maps to earn his first EVP mention of the year.

“Going into the Paris Major we had good confidence, we felt ready for the task but we also felt a huge amount of pressure. The plan we had followed for months was now, it was time to perform on our highest level, with an insane burden on our shoulders to play on home soil. I could feel the pressure on the French, I believe the Danes did a lot for the team to always be in the right mindset and help them play to their fullest. I’m very proud of Dan and Mathieu for how they handled the pressure, they showed a very strong mental fortitude and Dan did an excellent job being a fucking strong captain.”

“I always value winning in front of a home crowd,” Magisk added when asked about any moment in Paris that stands out in his memory other than lifting the trophy. “Having my family watching from the crowd and also my girlfriend, those moments are the best. Seeing how proud they are, how much it also means for them. That I will always be grateful for.”

Vitality peaked at just the right time to lift the trophy at their home Major

Everything the organization and team had worked toward since the start of the year had finally paid off; their plan was complete. But the first half of the season wasn’t over for them quite yet.

Vitality didn’t attend IEM Dallas and had a shot at just one more title before the break at BLAST Premier Spring Final. They didn’t get off on the right foot at the event after suffering an upset loss to Imperial in their opening match, but brushed off the defeat by taking down Cloud9, FaZe, and G2 to make the grand final. There, they ultimately fell to Heroic 1-2 in the title decider, unable to put full focus on another event after accomplishing their long sought-after Major win. Magisk again earned a VP mention despite a slight dip in his overall level, remaining an ever-present force for Vitality in his anchor positions.

We felt empty after reaching our ultimate goal [of the Major]. Everyone was suddenly without a goal, a plan, and we didn’t manage to reset our mindsets going into the tournament

The event was, unknowingly at the time for the team, their swan song with dupreeh: Vitality would have the chance to pick up Shahar “⁠flameZ⁠” Shushan from OG during the tournament break, and it was a golden opportunity to future-proof their roster with a young rifling talent that the French organization simply couldn’t turn down.

“Looking back at it, I’m happy we could ride the wave of being in good shape. It was a tough tournament, not because of tiredness but because we felt empty after reaching our ultimate goal [of the Major]. Everyone was suddenly without a goal, a plan, and we didn’t manage to reset our mindsets going into the tournament. Obviously I would have loved to win my last tournament with Peter since I have had so many successful years with him and trophies it would have been fitting to end on a good note. But as I said, sadly we didn’t have the right mindset as a team.”

“I obviously felt sad [when I found out dupreeh was being replaced]. Peter is a good friend, colleague and a guy I have traveled around the world with accomplishing everything possible with him. Our goal as a team was to win in Paris, so after we reached our goals I also felt that it was a bit unfair to change him, since he and everyone else did exactly what was asked of us. But ultimately we live in a world where tough decisions have to be made, and from a coach/team perspective I could understand why it ended up like that.”

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BLAST Fall Groups was the testing ground for the new roster when tournament play resumed, and Vitality stood up to the challenge in their debut by earning a spot at the Fall Final. They did suffer a loss to Ninjas in Pyjamas in the process, but had otherwise clean, one-sided wins in their other three series with Magisk averaging a 1.19 rating over the 8 maps he played. Much like the Spring Groups, though, this BLAST group stage was just the precursor to a far more exciting event, the third and final Super-elite tournament of the year: IEM Cologne.

Vitality‘s upgrade in flameZ and a strong performance from Magisk in his team’s opening series against OG (1.34 rating) and MOUZ (1.56 rating) paid off to put the Paris champions through to the LANXESS Arena. They fell short of earning a bye to the semi-finals after a loss to G2 in the group winners’ match but made up for it by defeating Cloud9 in the quarter-finals, only for ENCE to bring Vitality‘s tournament run to an end in 3-4th place.

flameZ introduction to Vitality went well, despite some early title misses

Magisk‘s secured yet another VP mention thanks to his performance, but it was in the team’s third event following the change that everything truly came together for them. Vitality were hampered by the absence of head coach Danny “⁠zonic⁠” Sørensen at Gamers8 in Riyadh, but overcame the setback and fought their way to their final title victory of the year in the brutal single-elimination bracket.

They moved past MIBR with ease, had flameZ and Magisk to thank for a domineering performance over Natus Vincere, and concluded their title run by claiming revenge for their losses in Germany by scraping wins against G2 and ENCE to lift the silverware. Magisk ended the event with a 1.15 rating over ten maps, adding a second EVP award to his growing list of individual achievements for the year.

“I guess my biggest issue and strength is that I’m never really satisfied,” Magisk said in response to whether he was content with the trophies he won in the year. “I always want more and I always believe we can be better. So of course I’m proud of what we managed to win, also coming from 2022 where we didn’t live up to our expectations, but you can never win too much. Winning close games always makes the feeling even better and I also in some way appreciate the win more, when it’s close games.”

The team looked fearsome in their ESL Pro League Season 18 group, going undefeated to skip the first two rounds of the bracket stage and start their run from the quarter-finals. It was nearly a full month before the European combine returned for the playoffs, and it showed: That time away seemed to douse their fire as they fell flat against Monte in an 0-2 loss. Another stellar performance from Vitality‘s last Danish player, worthy of a 1.28 rating over eight maps, earned him another EVP mention, and he added another VP mention to his tally at the first Counter-Strike 2 event, IEM Sydney.

It was, however, an event to forget for Vitality. Magisk still managed a 1.15 rating for himself, but an opening BO1 loss to BetBoom and BO3 defeat to eventual champions FaZe — who went on to win their next 18 games in a row — saw to Vitality‘s swift and abrupt elimination in last place.

Magisk recorded his last match for Vitality in Sydney, a dismal last-place elimination

News of zonic‘s and performance manager Lars Robl’sf impending departure to Falcons had been released before the event, affecting the team’s morale, and soon after the tournament ended, reports of Magisk following suit emerged. The Australian event was indeed Magisk‘s last under the French organization’s banner as they brought in William “⁠mezii⁠” Merriman for BLAST Fall and World Final, making successful runs to the trophy at both tournaments and leaving Magisk with a bitter final tournament with Vitality of his own to look back on despite an overall successful year.

“It’s a lot of mixed feelings,” Magisk admitted regarding his decision to leave Vitality for Falcons. “I loved being in Vitality and I loved every single person around the team. So as I also stated on X when I announced that I was joining Falcons, I fully understand why a lot of people don’t understand why. And trust me, I also cannot know for sure if it will ever be the right decision that I have made. But making these decisions is never easy and at the end of the day you have to trust in yourself and that I can make the best decision for yourself.

“As I mentioned in my statement, working with Danny and Lars for so many years, I know what they are capable of, I know what they stand for, and I don’t believe without those two we would have the same amount of success in Astralis nor Vitality. Another key reason was that I need to be in an environment where I feel safe, and know what I’m working with to be the best version of myself. To be able to perform on the highest levels I know those two will create that foundation for me and the team, but obviously they need to prove that once again that they still are capable of that. Because at the end of the day, I’m there to win titles and that will always be my biggest motivation and goal.”

Why was Magisk the 17th best player of 2023?

Magisk showed exceptional consistency throughout every stage of event he played in and against all levels of opposition, often shining for Vitality as their third star despite playing anchor and supportive positions. He had a really solid floor (1.12 average rating, 53.4% maps with a 1.15+ rating) and kept those numbers up in Super Elite, Elite, and Big event playoffs (1.10 rating at Elite events), as well as continued to perform against top 5, 10, and 20 teams in big matches.

He contributed well to almost all of Vitality‘s deep tournament runs, earning EVP mentions at the Paris Major, Gamers8, and ESL Pro League Season 18. On top of that he had five more VP mentions, only missing out on an “award” once at IEM Katowice, and had no real “bad” event all year.

I will be the first to sacrifice when I have to, because at the end of the day people will only remember the people who win

His stability allowed him to check all the boxes of a player deserving of a spot in the top 20, but he couldn’t go any higher as he remained one of lowest fraggers on the list overall. That was, in part, due to the roles he played on CT and T side, something which earned him credit from pundits and other pros alike as he was almost deemed “irreplaceable” in the manner he contributes to a team’s dynamic.

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“I’m very happy people are starting to notice the value of a player in my roles. I think the main reason people call it ‘irreplaceable’ is because almost no one is willing to give themselves 100% to those kinds of roles and positions. Many people do it because they have to, not because they want to do it. I think there is a big difference in that.

“Also, having a person in my role with a 1.10-1.15 rating first of all also puts your superstars in better positions, it gives confidence for them to move around the map because they know if they come to my bombsite I will most likely get more than 1 kill. It’s in some way like having an extra star in the team, because you trust that you can leave him on his own and do good. I have only one thing I want, and that is to win. I will do whatever the team wants me to do, and I will be the first to sacrifice when I have to. Because at the end of the day people will only remember the people who win.”

Magisk is happy to sacrifice his own fragging and roles to enable the team’s superstars and prioritize tournament wins

Magisk played his role to perfection, but that also meant he didn’t have an immense impact in round wins (compared to others on the list) and didn’t have the highest peaks event to event. Instead, he shone on the T side (1.12 rating, #13), in KAST (74.1%, #10), had strong utility usage (6.89 damage per round, #10), and was powerful in pistol rounds (1.22 pistol round rating overall and 1.39 pistol rating on T side, #10 and #3).

He was above average in almost every way and deserving of his spot in the top 20, but is aiming even higher as he looks toward the next year with Falcons.

“I would love to keep improving as a player and I know that I can still be better than what I’m showing already. So with the right work and mindset, I would love to make it into the top 15 for next year.

“As a team we still haven’t had the possibility to work on our common goal, but obviously we need to aim high and that also includes the upcoming Major. Right now there is no consistency in the top 10 teams, and I believe that there is a lot of possibility to win tournaments after CS2 was released.”

Bold prediction by 1xBet

Alexander 'Altekz' Givskov

Magisk looked to Denmark for his bold prediction, selecting 20-year-old Alexander “⁠Altekz⁠” Givskov from Preasy as someone to keep an eye on in 2024.

The Danish upcomer spent over two years under Astralis‘ banner, a majority of that stint being with the Astralis Talent roster before he received a temporary call up to the main team in April 2023 after they failed at the Paris Major RMR.

Altekz averaged a 1.15 rating (106 maps) for the organization’s academy roster in 2023, but those numbers dived down to a 0.98 rating (41 maps) when facing top talent after his promotion. He didn’t fall completely flat, however, putting in a handful of strong performances early into his tenure against the likes of Cloud9 and ENCE, but struggled immensely at IEM Dallas and BLAST Spring Final and his high peaks did not make up for his costly troughs. He was ultimately replaced, alongside Lukas “⁠gla1ve⁠” Rossander, when the organization brought in Victor “⁠Staehr⁠” Staehr and Johannes “⁠b0RUP⁠” Borup during the tournament break.

Soon after, Altekz completed a move to Preasy, where he has looked back to his best. He mustered a 1.15 rating in the last four months (175 maps) and helped the team win CCT 2023 Online Finals 4 and European Pro League Season 12, and with dupreeh now bringing a wealth of experience to the team, Altekz‘s future is looking much brighter heading into 2024.

“I know he went to Astralis and had a shot, but I think it was also very unrealistic for him to go from 0-100 and the team was also not doing that great,” Magisk explained of his pick. “So I think with the right players around him, he can develop and do great things in the future.”

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Stay tuned to our Top 20 Players of 2023 ranking and take a look at the Introduction article to learn more about how the players were selected.