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How Vitality stint lit a fire in CSGO veteran JACKZ: “If I have my roles I can get the job done” – Egaxo

CS:GO journeyman Audric ‘JACKZ’ Jug spoke to Dexerto about regaining his confidence after playing for Vitality, the issues with HEET and what he is looking for in his next challenge.

“I still know how to click on the server,” JACKZ tells Dexerto.

For JACKZ, playing for Vitality in ESL Pro League was the opportunity to prove just that. Not only to himself but to everyone.

Four and a half years ago, his career finally took off when he was signed by G2 Esports. He was 26 at the time. By that point, most players have reached the autumn of their careers; he, on the other hand, was just getting started.

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JACKZ had a good first two years at G2 but his impact started to fade when he was pushed to a peripheral role on the server a few months into Nemanja ‘nexa’ Isaković’s stint as captain. In the summer of 2022, after a run of mixed results, JACKZ was given permission to explore his options and eventually signed with HEET.

On paper, it seemed like a perfect destination for JACKZ, who was reuniting with his old teammates from DBL PONEY, the team he had represented as a stand-in two years earlier during a brief period on G2’s bench. But he struggled to perform with the team and brought the relationship with HEET to an early end five months after his arrival, amid reports that the organization owes him a fee in the region of $75,000 related to his buyout from G2.

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With his stock at an all-time low, JACKZ seized his big chance with both hands.

“I saw some people on the internet say, ‘Oh, it’s the stand-in buff. He won’t have pressure. It will be easy for him to kill,’” JACKZ says. “I don’t agree with that.

“With HEET, I was not good enough, you know? I was not good at all. I thought that if I couldn’t perform with Vitality at this event around good players, people would just say that I was washed up and finished. I played to be confident in myself and to perform.”

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JACKZ played some of his best Counter-Strike in years while filling in for Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen in Malta, averaging a 1.26 HLTV rating and 1.35 Impact as Vitality topped their group after defeating Grayhound, OG and FaZe Clan (who would go on to win the tournament and the Intel Grand Slam).

Vitality captain Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire switched to a faster style that suited JACKZ perfectly and gave him the kind of freedom that he had been craving for years. By his own admission, he simply played to kill.

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“apEX put me in good roles,” he explains. “I was taking space, being active on the T side, calling for flashes, doing the peeks that I wanted to do. This is what I didn’t have at G2 towards the end and what I didn’t have at HEET. I was on the extremities. I was B on Dust2, I was B monster on Overpass, I was B on Ancient.

“All these things are not Jackie. You don’t put Donnarumma, the goalkeeper, in attack. But that’s what happened to me.”

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Skipping dessert

Despite some standout performances, JACKZ would not get to see action in the playoffs. Back from parental leave, dupreeh reclaimed his starting spot ahead of the quarter-final match with ENCE, which Vitality lost 2-1.

JACKZ admits to feeling a sense of sadness after missing out on the playoffs, and likens the situation to being denied a dessert after going out for a meal. After such a promising start, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to finally get a tier-one trophy under his belt and break his streak of grand final losses. (G2 were on the losing end of title deciders at IEM Katowice 2020, IEM Cologne 2021, PGL Major Stockholm 2021 and IEM Katowice 2022.)

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But at the same time, he understood the team’s reasoning. Getting the team back in sync before the European Regional Major Ranking, the decisive qualifier for the Paris Major, had to take precedence over the mere possibility of winning Pro League.

“The most important for them is the Major and they needed to have some play [time] with dupreeh,” he says. “But yeah, I was a bit sad.”


JACKZ was sad that he didn’t get to play in the Pro League playoffs

JACKZ spent only a few days with team, hardly enough time to get a full sense of their lingering issues. But he insists that the atmosphere in the team was really good and that everyone is eager to “move on and learn from their mistakes”.

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It is hard to overstate how important the BLAST Paris Major is for Vitality. More than a year after the team turned international with the high-profile additions of Major-winning trio Emil ‘⁠Magisk’ Reif, Peter ‘⁠dupreeh’ Rasmussen and head coach Danny ’zonic’ Sørensen, they have only one trophy to show for their efforts.

Since Vitality entered CS:GO in late 2018, they have reached the knockout stages in only two out of five Major appearances. They couldn’t go beyond the first round of the playoffs in either tournament.

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With the next Major taking place in Vitality’s backyard, a lot of pressure will be on the team to deliver.

“When I left the team, I told them, ‘Please tell me you’re going to play [at the Major] with your heart. It’s so f***ing special for us. You cannot fail. I don’t want to put pressure on you, but you cannot fail,’” JACKZ says. “The team was created almost from scratch to perform at the Paris Major.”

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Despite Vitality carrying a huge burden of responsibility, JACKZ expects the team to do well in Paris, pointing to FURIA’s deep run at the IEM Rio Major as proof that the support of the home crowd can provide a significant boost.

For JACKZ, Vitality have to get over a mental hurdle to become an elite side and contend for titles regularly. He saw the same thing happen while he was with G2, who are currently the No.1 team in the world and recently won the BLAST Premier World Final and IEM Katowice.

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According to him, the line that separates success and failure can be very thin.

“We choked,” he says, laughing. “It was maybe a meme. But at the end of the day, it really was a mental issue, and they needed to change something. HooXi has done a really good job, and jks is solid as f*** right now, but it’s more like sometimes you need to open a different door to perform like that. I’m really, really happy for them.”

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JACKZ says that he has agreed to be Vitality’s substitute player for the Paris Major if the team qualifies for the tournament. But barring a last-minute setback, he won’t get to play, missing the first-ever Major in his home country and the final Valve-sponsored event in CS:GO.

“I feel so sad,” he says. “I wanted to be in this one really badly. It’s a dream for us to have a Major in France and to prove to people that the French scene is not really dead.”

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What lies ahead for JACKZ

As he prepares for the next chapter of his career, JACKZ is working hard to stay in shape. He is also brushing up on his English, admitting that his poor grasp of the language was a limiting factor while at G2 (something that the even organization poked fun at).

A couple of teams have sounded him out since Pro League (including one top 12 side, he says), but he won’t make a decision before the end of the Major cycle. He is taking his time and making sure that he chooses the right project, where he can play to his potential.

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“HEET was a mistake from me,” he says. “I love all the guys. When I came into the team, I was like, ‘Okay, guys, I don’t want to disturb your system. I’m a good guy. I’m going to adapt. No worries.’

“This was a big mistake on my part. I need to have more confidence in myself. I’m a tier-one player and if I want to perform, I need to have my roles. I cannot be put on the side, just waiting or doing some sh*t I don’t like.

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“For me, the most important is to not be too kind to people. I’m going to be nice but I just want to have my roles. And I know that if I have my roles I can get the job done.”

With regards to his reported money dispute with HEET, JACKZ says only that his agent is handling the matter.

JACKZ, who turns 31 in July, knows that some in the scene might use his age against him but he hopes that his Pro League performances were enough to prove his doubters wrong. At the same time, he continues to exhibit the kind of passion that one typically associates with a young player — the result of being a late bloomer and having a “unique” career.

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“I still have this fire in my hand,” he notes.

After so many heartbreaks, he has his sights on finally lifting a trophy.

“Yeah, if I can get that, it would be good,” he says. “You never know what the future holds, but yeah, one trophy at least. I think that, after all the finals I have played, I deserve one trophy.”

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