Written By Frostbite - 2020-08-09
Spencer "Hiko" Martin has been at the top of North American FPS across multiple titles and generations whether it’s Counter-Strike:Global Offensive, VALORANT or simply streaming, Hiko has been one of the best in North America. Hiko’s talent hasn’t been in question, across eight years in CS:GO he ended with a 1.04 rating, with 71.6 ADR across his career and an appearance on the HLTV Top 20 in 2013. While his trophy case remains empty, Hiko’s team history reads like a greatest hits album from North America, this is a look into one of the biggest “what if’s” in North American FPS’.
Hiko’s first top level foray into CS:GO was a Quantic lineup founded off of years of CS 1.6 experience built around Jordan ‘n0thing Glibert, Sean ‘sgares’ Gares, Kory ‘SEMPHIS’ Friesen and the young star Braxton "Brax" Pierce. This team was immediately competing with the best in the world, taking maps off Virtus.pro, VeryGames, Curse and mousesports. Despite strong showings at Copenhagen Games 2013 and ESEA Invite Season 13 Global Finals, the roster was unable to take home any silverware. After only 30 matches the roster moved to the Complexity organization, where they looked certain to compete for the top prizes in CS:GO.
The story of what-if’s in Hiko’s Complexity career started nearly immediately - their first event as Complexity, ESEA Global Finals Season 14, ended with a 2-1 defeat to the indomitable Ninjas in Pyjamas, sending the North American side home with a silver medal. Their next top tier event, ESWC 2013, ended once again at the hands of the Swedes of Ninjas in Pyjamas, this time leaving Complexity 5th-8th. In the very first major in the history of CS:GO Complexity dropped out in the semi-finals to the eventual champions Fnatic, concluding their first year with Complexity as the far and away top team in North America, and a roster so close to the top of International CS:GO.
In 2014 Hiko and Complexity opened the year in the ESEA Global Finals Season 15, where they fell in heartbreaking fashion to iBUYPOWER, 2-1, an iBUYPOWER side who would go on to take the title. At the next major, EMS One Katowice 2014, Complexity came up short against Ninjas in Pyjamas once more, despite coming into the tournament as one of the early favorites. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the year was Hiko’s final event with Complexity: ESEA Season 16. In the grand finals, Complexity fell 2-0 to iBUYPOWER, despite taking down Ninjas in Pyjamas, Natus Vincere and Virtus.pro.
After that heartbreaking defeat, Hiko and the rest of the Complexity roster, now with the addition of Michael ‘shroud’ Grzesiek, moved to the Cloud9 organization. In their very first event, ESL One Cologne 2014, they were on absolute fire, going 2-0 in groups and yet they fell to Ninjas in Pyjamas, who would go on to take the entire event. Over the next two months Cloud9 established themselves at the top of the North American scene, taking regional events and competing for the top spot with iBUYPOWER. At the final major of the year, DreamHack Winter 2014, Cloud9 fell to Fnatic in the group stage decider and fell out of the tournament, in what would be Hiko’s last event with this lineup.
After departing Cloud9 Hiko sat teamless for more than six months, remaining one of the most sought after players in North America in a variety of roles. He eventually found his next home in Team Liquid, and in what is, on paper, one of the strongest rosters in the history of North American CS:GO. For Hiko though, it continued his story of what-if’s. Top-to-bottom, this roster had the potential to take the top honors in CS:GO and give Hiko the recognition he had fought so long for. His first two events with the Team Liquid lineup saw two victories, in the CS:GO Championship: Season 1 and iBUYPOWER Invitational, taking down Luminosity Gaming both times. In the CS:GO Championship Finals the new look roster ended in fourth place following a hard fought 2-1 defeat to Fnatic. The Team Liquid lineup was one of the most talked about rosters going into their first Major, DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015, an event that many saw Team Liquid as the North American hope for. They ended 13-16, dead last, falling at the very first time of asking in the group stage to Ninjas in Pyjamas.
The wheels fell off for Hiko and Team Liquid after that, at least internationally. In CEVO Season 8 Finals they fell in dead last once more, following that up with a failed qualification to Starladder StarSeries XIV. In North America they remained at the top of the scene, coming second in the iBUYPOWER cup to Cloud9, before taking top honors in the North American regionals of ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2. 2015 closed off with three top tier events, and Team Liquid looking for their first premier title. They came 3rd-4th at IEM San Jose 2015, dropping 2-0 to Na’Vi, before falling out in 5th-6th at both FACEIT 2015 Finals and ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals, losing 2-0 to Virtus.pro and Fnatic respectively. 2015 once again saw Hiko on one of the top teams in North America, and yet a premier top level title still evaded the star rifler. His Team Liquid side was one of the top North American sides going into 2016, and off of a year of regional success, Hiko looked set to take home an international title in 2016.
2016 was perhaps the most disappointing year of Hiko’s career, it opened with MLG Major Columbus where Team Liquid fell to Luminosity 2-0 in the semi-finals. To put this in perspective, Team Liquid were considered as near favorites going into this match, and yet it seemed like whenever push came to shove, they couldn’t show their top level. DreamHack Masters Malmo 2016 was next, and Team Liquid were stuck in their own head once again, this time losing early to TYLOO and falling out of the tournament in 13-16th. The summer months did nothing to turn the year around for the dominant North American side. At DreamHack Open Austin 2016, ESL Pro League, ELEAGUE Season 1, and ECS Season 1, Team Liquid came up short, time and time again.
Going into ESL One Cologne 2016, it seemed like an event that Team Liquid had to win. They qualified from an absolutely brutal group. They took down Na’Vi, they took down Fnatic, all that remained was a match against SK Gaming (formerly Luminosity), a team that Team Liquid had shown their ability to beat multiple times in regional competitions. Yet… the grand finals began, and it wasn’t close, SK Gaming demolished Team Liquid, 16-7, 16-6. Hiko had come so close, within touching distance of a major title, on one of the strongest teams North America had ever seen, and yet that first title eluded him.
The wheels well and truly fell off for Team Liquid following that heartbreaking defeat to SK Gaming. They played three more top tier competitions to close out 2016, they fell out in 3rd-4th of ESL New York, before dropping from the group stages of ESL Pro League and IEM Oakland as well as the ECS Season 2 North American qualifier.
After a brutal 2016, Hiko parted ways from Team Liquid, once again sitting teamless for more than half a year before joining the roster of Rogue. Rogue remains one of the biggest “what if’s?” of Hiko’s career, not due to any incredible results, but due to the roster’s inability to get going. Rogue went through numerous different rosters, different roles, different versions of nearly everything, and yet they could never put together a team that was able to compete at the top of the global CS:GO scene.
In 2017 when Hiko joined It was mostly a story of failed qualifications for Rogue as they fell out of almost a half-dozen qualifiers in the last three months of the year before finally making it to ESL Pro League Season 6, where they fell out in 12th place in the North American group stage, going 6-20. Heading into 2018 Hiko and Rogue started to pick up their qualification campaigns, stomping through the ECS qualifiers and making it to the semi-finals of the iBUYPOWER Invitational where they fell to NRG. Once again they fell out of the group stage of ESL Pro League North American regionals, going 11-11. Just as the roster started to show promise heading into the summer season, the silver medal curse seemed to start once more.
DreamHack Open Austin saw a stellar run from Rogue end in the finals to Space Soldiers, the Americas Minor saw a grand finals defeat to Complexity, though that did send Rogue to the major. FACEIT Major London would be Hiko’s last major showing, and it was a heartbreaker to end on for the North American Rogue side. They fell 25-23 to North and fell out of the tournament at the first time of asking. That loss summed up Rogue’s growth throughout the year: glimmers of brilliance, followed by brutal crashes back to Earth. Following that result, Hiko’s CS:GO career puttered to a close, with a string of disappointing results to close out the year, and to close out his career. Hiko officially departed Rogue on 10th May 2019, his last official team in CS:GO.
Hiko began playing VALORANT in the closed beta, and quickly became one of the most prominent names in the scene, both for his CS:GO experience, and his sheer skill. In fact, the first three show matches he was invited to - the 100 Thieves invitational, the T1 Invitational and the Code Green Invitational, ended in three victories for the star. In the fourth showmatch he played Hiko and co. came up just short, losing in the grand final.
Following the successful run of show matches Hiko became one of the hottest prospects in the VALORANT scene, with rumors of him playing with Brax or Keven "AZK" Larivière abounding due to his show match teams featuring those two players. Hiko’s destiny in VALORANT was going a different way though, as he stayed quiet and continued to establish himself on top of the early scene.
On June 4th, 2020 100 Thieves signed Hiko as captain and to build their VALORANT roster around, as one of the very first players signed the excitement around Hiko was palpable. The former CS:GO star was ready to build one of the first, and hopefully best rosters in the burgeoning VALORANT scene. That idea has yet to come to fruition, as Hiko and 100 Thieves struggle to progress even from group stages. Across the three events the side has played, Hiko has the best ACS, KDA and KPR of the roster as they’ve fallen to disappointing results one after another, struggling to even take down the unsponsored rosters they play early in events.
Exactly three weeks after the announcement of Hiko joining 100 Thieves, the North American side completed their roster with Zachary "Venerated" Roach, Keane "Valliate" Alonso, Diondre "YaBoiDre" Bond and Alfred "Pride" Choi. In an odd turn of events Hiko said on stream that he didn’t have input on the VALORANT roster and said that his input on the roster was minimal. Hiko later went on to his official Reddit account to offer clarity on the matter, saying that 100 Thieves didn’t go back on their word, and that he was excited to work with the new roster. One of the most seemingly odd parts of the roster was the fact that all four players were from PUBG, when it was widely expected that Hiko would build a CS:GO-based team.
The first showing for this roster, the T1 x NSG Showdown, saw 100 Thieves fall to FaZe Clan in the upper bracket before being dismissed from the tournament by Immortals in the lower bracket for their best finish yet, finishing 5th-6th. Next up was the Gamers for Equality showmatch where 100 Thieves were absolutely picked apart leaving the tournament in the group stage off the back of a horrendous 0-3 performance, though Hiko missed most of the tournament due to issues with his internet. Up next for 100 Thieves was the PAX Arena VALORANT Invitational, where despite a strong performance from Hiko, 100 Thieves fell 1-3 in the group stage. Most recently for 100 Thieves is the FaZe Clan VALORANT Invitational where they once more fell at the first time of asking this time losing to Immortals and FaZe Clan. 100 Thieves, who signed a star player to build around, have struggled mightily in the natal days of VALORANT, a story all too familiar for Hiko, a story he is working to change in the future.
In the coming weeks and months it will be interesting to see how both 100 Thieves and Hiko will react to their poor beginning in VALORANT. With Jason "jasonR" Ruchelski leaving FaZe Clan before the roster even got off the ground despite being the first member to join the team a precedent was set in the VALORANT scene. Hiko and 100 Thieves will have decisions to make, roster changes, role changes, or whether it is simply not a place that will fit for Hiko, despite being named the captain of the team.
Whether you call it unlucky, choking, lack of mental fortitude or anything else, it is hard to find someone with as many “what if’s” in their career as Hiko. A career that has seen him at the top of the North American FPS scene, major finals, premier events, all with Hiko a breath away from the trophy, and yet his trophy case remains empty. Hiko’s drive to win remains just as it was in CS:GO - in an interview with Dot Esports, Hiko said “My number one priority in life is to build a team that has the potential to win and that has the drive and hunger to win.” It remains to be seen whether 100 Thieves will work to turn around their disappointing start to their time in VALORANT, or if it will just be another question mark in the career of one of the most consistent players in North America.
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