“This is the reason I play Counter-Strike”: Tarik's Journey From Ladder to Major Champion

Cloud9 is on top of the Counter-Strike world. The team’s win over the vaunted FaZe Clan squad in the grand finals of the ELEAGUE Major: Boston made history and a hell of a statement. While making history was surely well and good, the team’s statement to the world that North American Counter-Strike is alive and well perhaps rang truest in the aftermath of the event.

Tarik “tarik” Celik, the captain and tournament MVP of the Major-winning squad, led Cloud9 and NA to its first-ever Major in the history of CS:GO. While his tenure time with the team has been short, both his time with the team and his overall career trajectory is a story worth telling.

“At the beginning of my career when I wasn’t getting paid, my parents were totally against me playing Counter-Strike. My entire childhood and teen years they were against it, they wanted me to get a degree and live a normal life. They didn’t see a future in this kind of stuff. It changed when they saw me sign my first professional contract and it made them my biggest support group ever since.”

The early years

Tarik started his early competitive years moving up the ladders and leaderboards of ESEA leagues and pugs. Most known for his raw skill, tarik could also be found streaming during these early years, which made “noshirt_tv” the new kid on the block. At first, most would think he was simply the next North American pug-star, but the pros from various teams around North America saw potential right from the start.

Playing out of his brother's closet in a small apartment in New York, tarik found himself coming out of ESEA Main straight to the pro circuit flying under NetcodeGuides banner. His professional career started on July 21, 2014, when the 17-year-old signed on the NetcodeGuides roster. While he only play five games with the team, he showed off his worth with an impressive rating in those five games. With his foundation set, he moved on with Stephen “reltuC” Cutler, Pujan “FNS” Mehta, Josh “jdm64” Marzano, and James “hazed” Cobb, who all signed with mouseSpaz in October of 2014.

In his new home, tarik’s leadership was put on full display as his skillset pushed the team through various online tournaments. Much like his run with NetcodeGuides, tarik’s career with mouseSpaz was short but sweet. He led the team to wins at the RGN Winter Classic and FACEIT G2A.com North America by taking down Sam “DaZeD” Marine’s iBUYPOWER squad in the final. Tarik and company also qualified for the MLG X Games Aspen over Torqued and iBUYPOWER to mark his first international LAN.

On January 12, 2015, tarik left mouseSpaz, which fueled rumors that a more high-profile North American organization was looking his way.

Tarik: CLG Legacy berth

Just four days after tarik and his team left mouseSpaz, the young squad got the call of a lifetime from Counter Logic Gaming, who made the quintet part of the team’s first CS:GO roster. Tarik’s first tournament of the year came was in Aspen, Colorado for the Aspen X Games. For tarik, it didn’t go so well as he would have like, playing below average across the three maps played that resulted in a 7-8th place finish. In a matter of a few weeks, however, tarik was right back in the action qualifying for ESL One Katowice where his team went on to take down Titan to advance to the main stage. Once there, the team once again had an early exit, this time finishing just 9-12th.

The majority of 2015 resulted in more early exits and frustrating domestic finishes as tarik went on a string of underperforming matchups. It wasn’t until the fall of 2015 whentarik and company finally got back on the radar with winsat the RGN Pro Series NA over Team Liquid and the WinOut.net CS:GO Championship over Luminosity. However, the sprite of wins didn’t last long as the team went back to its early finishing ways to finish the year.

Tarik picked up where he left off in 2016 where the team continued to field frustrating and disappointing finishes. A few qualifiers managed to keep tarik and company on the map as CLG qualified for the first Major on North American soil in Columbus with a win over Vexed Gaming, but again the team came up short with a5-8th finish. The frustrations filled the air as CLG looked more and more depleted as their 2016 campaign reached a new low in July after the team was knocked out of ESL One Cologne with a 16-1 loss to Team Dignitas, with a 13-16th place finish.

On July 11, 2016, tarik made a big decision and stepped down from the active lineup to return to his stream until his contract ended. He vowed to come “back stronger than ever in 2017.”

Tarik jumps back into the fire with OpTic Gaming

The notion of him waiting until 2017 to make his triumphant return was short-lived, as tarik soon made major headlines when he signed with the surging Green Wall of OpTic Gaming to replace Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz. Tarik jumped back into the action with new teammates of Damian “Daps” Steele, Will “RUSH” Wierzba, Keith “NAF” Markovic, and Oscar “Mixwell” Canellas, hitting the ESL Pro League in full-swing.

“There was no point where I doubted myself as a player. I always knew that I had the talent, I always knew I had the attitude and the personality to be on a world-class team to compete with the best.”

Tarik quickly found himself on the winning side, qualifying for international competitions over their domestic counterparts of Cloud9. During his early days with OpTic, it became clear that his time with CLG had matured him into an individual leader, which helped the team win their first title ever at ELEAGUE Season 2 in Atlanta over Astralis.

Despite finishing 2016 on the highest note of his burgeoning career, 2017 wasn’t nearly as welcoming, as tarik failed to make it out of the group stage at the ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta in January that kicked off a string of frustrating finishes for tarik and the Green Wall. In his final days with OpTic, the team first failed to qualify for the PGL Major Krakow and then lost to SK Gaming in the quarterfinals of ESL One: Cologne. The team tried to switch things up by giving tarik the reins as in-game leader, but even that didn’t pay off as the team continued to struggle. Unsurprisingly, rumors began swirling that major moves were on the way that could shake up the landscape of CS:GO forever.

A new legacy is born with Cloud9

On August 15, 2017, tarik and RUSH joined the Cloud9, replacing legends Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Michael “shroud” Grzesiek on the active roster. The addition came as Cloud9 also struggled through their own 2017 campaign with mixed results and several group stage exits at offline events. A motivated tarik got his debut in ESL One: New York’s closed qualifier where he came out on top over a red-hot Rise Nation squad. However, his first offline showing with Cloud9 was troublesome as he fell short at DreamHack Masters Malmo with a 9-12th finish to SK Gaming.

“I think I have leadership qualities in my personality, and on top of that I am always willing to learn. I have a pretty positive attitude and I take criticism pretty well, and I tried in-game leading towards the end of OpTic. I asked my team [Cloud9] after Malmo if they were willing to try me out as the IGL, and it has worked out ever since cause we’ve placed top-4 at basically every event.”

Despite the finish in Malmo, , Cloud9 battled back with a pair of semi final finishes at ESL One: New York and the ELEAGUE Premier in Atlanta. Just 10 days after the loss to Astralis in Atlanta, tarik put Cloud9 back on top, taking down BIGat DreamHack Open Denver to win their first tournament of the year. The team added another win at iBUYPOWER Masters 2017 against Renegades, but they finished the year falling short at both the ESL Pro League and ECS Finals to end the year.

With 2017 in the books, all eyes turned to the ELEAGUE Major: Boston at the start of 2018., Due to the team failing to make top 8 at the PGL Major Krakow, Tarik and company started in the New Challengers stage. Tarik made it look easy taking down Team EnVyUs, the newly formed Sprout, and mousesports. However, the strong showing in the New Challengers stage quickly vanished as tarik found himself on the brink of elimination, following losses to G2 Esports and Space Soldiers.

Tarik’s composure and calm leadership got the team back in control, winning the next three crucial matches over Virtus.pro, Astralis, and Vega Squadron. Cloud9 had a new, dangerous look as momentum was the key to success for the North Americans advancing to Boston and claiming Legends status.

Just getting to the playoffs wasn’t enough for this team. They, of course, wanted much more.

Once in Boston for the playoffs, tarik’s first task was to take down the G2, who made it out of the New Legends stage with a 3-0 record. Cloud9 seemed unfazed by G2’s record, as they easily handled the French in a 2-0 sweep.

Next up was the Brazilians juggernauts of SK Gaming. The two teams last met at IEM Oakland where SK came out on top in the group stage. Tarik wasn’t going to let that happen again, however, especially in the semifinals of a Major. Tarik led Cloud9 through a hectic series, taking down SK Gaming on Mirage, one of the Brazilians best maps in the circuit, to advance to the grand finals.

Cloud9, with a full head of steam, headed into the final showdown with the vaunted FaZe Clan in the grand finals feeling as confident as ever. The series, one of the best we’ve ever seen in CS:GO history, went back and forth between these two stalwarts. Tarik showed off his trademark composure during the overtime rounds of Inferno. Throughout the double overtime chaos, tarik showed off the ice in his veins as the team battle to match point in the second overtime. With momentum and roughly 7,200 fans on their side chanting “send them home,” Tarik stamped his name in the books to lead North America to its first-ever Major title. Tarik and Cloud9 not only a Major title, but will enter the bulk of 2018 with a massive target on their back as teams try and knock the team from its pedestal.

“This is the reason why I play Counter-Strike. This is the reason why everyone competes is to reach your main goal and that is to win a Major, and this is what I’ve worked so hard for. This is a dream that I’ve brought to reality and its indescribable, because it's something you have to experience.”

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