Irish player Tom “arTisT” Clarke is currently playing for Viperio as both the team’s IGL and AWPer simultaneously. While this is no easy task and no small responsibility, arTisT has consistently led his teams to success, picking up trophies both domestically and internationally along the way. Today, we wind back the clock and take a look at the steps arTisT took when starting out in his CS:GO career, and how he fought his way into the upper echelons of UKCS.
arTisT‘s early days in CS:GO back in 2018 and 2019 were spent playing with British players, such as Kirk “Tadpole” Stephens back when in ESEA started in Season 23. It was here that he made his first dive into competitive play, participating in the UK Open and ESEA Intermediate seasons.
arTisT had numerous attempts at trying to qualify for the main section of the ESL Premiership tournament. This was back when divisions were included to separate the online and offline parts of the event. He played under various organisations such as Devious Gaming, Team Osterity and Chrome Gaming – the latter of which marked an early stage in his career, as he attended his second UK LAN being Season 3 of EPIC.LAN’s Grosvenor qualifiers in Manchester at the end of 2019 with the org. This came after his first UK appearance at Season 1 of the Grosvenor events in Manchester, where he played alongside Ciaran “biscu” King, an incredibly important and influential figure for arTisT in his CS:GO career.
arTisT shared some words about this early stage of his career and first UK LAN event:
Our core was Irish back then, so it didn’t feel possible to go over and attend EPIC.LAN or Insomnia. When we saw the locations for the Grosvenor events, we knew we had to take the opportunity to compete against some of the best players in the UK. We played for fun and we ended up beating a few teams, eventually playing Endpoint on Nuke.
We started on T side, which was a wild decision from biscu… and lost the game 16-10. I remember this because as a player, 10 rounds against Endpoint is Ciaran’s [biscu] highest achievement, and he never stops talking about it.
arTisT and Chrome Gaming spending time with Irish team Mythos at Season 3 of the Grosvenor qualifiers in Manchester.
Photo credits: EPIC.LAN
After their run at the Grosvenor Manchester Qualifier, arTisT and Seth “Xeth” Jackson parted ways with Chrome and recruited some new faces to join them in their journey. They joined European organisation Eidos, and made their debut with a win in the group stage of ESL Premiership Spring 2020. They ultimately missed out on playoffs due to their 3W-4L record in groups, but during this time, they exchanged Josh “Yoshwa” Ryley for Matas “Extinct” Strumilla, marking the beginning of another important relationship between arTisT and his future teammates.
Swiss-owned organisation UMX Gaming came knocking after the team parted ways with Eidos, and it was here that the team’s true identity began to take shape and arTisT began to make a name for himself. Notorious for their hyper-aggressive playstyle which caught many teams off guard, UMX quickly rose to notoriety in the UK scene as devout followers of FURIA’s iconic approach towards CS. The players even changed their names to further this connection with the Brazilian team, embracing and embodying the fearless playstyle they preached.
It was at this time that arTisT had a notable change of roles too, with the titular player swapping to an aggressive rifle role to accommodate Oliver “Maza” Mazalero’s position as the team’s new primary AWPer. He clearly found comfort in the new positions, both from a calling and individual perspective, as these changes clearly paid off. The players began to advance past their peers of similar skill – UMX began seeing more appearances on HLTV, and were even invited to the Pinnacle Cup in 2021 and BLAST Rising 2021.
arTisT highlighted the reasons for this change in their team composition:
I realised we sucked, we were just truly horrible in every aspect of the game. So, I just thought about copying a team one for one – the defaults, the mid round decisions, and how they set themselves up to succeed. We fully bought into the idea, and that’s why it worked.
As an IGL, it felt like I was cheating. FURIA at the time were on the rise because they were utilizing a unique playstyle – for example, on Overpass, they would never go A. They’d just brute force monster and get as many rounds as possible. For some of our games it worked, and others it didn’t, no matter what the outcome was, the plan stayed in place and everyone kept the faith.
UMX were a serious contender in ESEA Main, and during their outing in Season 35, the squad managed to qualify for playoffs. arTisT was unfortunately knocked out from the running however, after the team suffered losses to both Partizan and a Kyle “Swaggy” Wilson-led Royals. After gathering themselves, and with the extra help of coach Oscar “Keto” Kilvington, UMX reached playoffs once again in Season 36 and took it all the way to earn their promotion to Advanced, after three best-of-three wins, bringing an end to arTisT‘s seven consecutive seasons in Main.
— arTisT (@arTisTcsgo) April 6, 2021
After this massive milestone in his career, arTisT didn’t take his foot off the gas. UMX continued their dominance in domestic competition such as EPIC.LAN’s online WAN events. The first of these was EPIC.WAN 31, where UMX sailed through the tournament to secure first place with a 2-0 result against “Stream Team” featuring UKCS icons William “mezii” Merriman and Alex “ALEX” McMeekin. arTisT produced a masterclass during the tournament, only dropping a single map to peak in the playoffs of the event.
This impressive form continued into subsequent WANs, as they won EPIC.WAN 32 in a similar fashion by only dropping a single map in playoffs once more, and made the three-peat, as they were crowned the victors of EPIC.WAN 33, once again only dropping one map throughout the entire duration of playoffs. These three titles were enough to solidify UMX and arTisT as some of the top dogs in the UK scene, and proved that their efforts in this chapter of his story were more than just luck.
I think the highest point for the UMX roster was winning EPIC.WAN, I don’t think any of us had won anything up to that point. We were copying FURIA for a while, and everything seemed to fall into place around that event. When we started getting our HLTV invites, we suffered a lot of losses and close games. I think it came down to having a small strat book and not completely understanding our ideas, which led to these results.
– arTisT on UMX’s success
After their stint with UMX Gaming and the organisation ultimately releasing the team due to funding issues, arTisT and his boys played under the mix name “The Zoo” while they waited for their next opportunity. This was very short-lived, as a major announcement was made public not even a month after their initial separation from UMX.
Coalesce was formed, a brand new British organisation. This was a major development in terms of organisations in the UK scene, as many orgs who suffered the same fate as UMX banded together and created a new “super-team”. This involved other household names in UKCS at the time such as Audacity Gaming, Electrify Esports and Peak Esports.
Sporting the core of their preceding organisation, Coalesce returned to EPIC.LAN with the three-time WAN winners under their banner. Yet another flawless run in the group stage cemented their spot in the upper bracket of playoffs, and once again, arTisT led his troops to victory in each round, ultimately winning the entire event without dropping a single map. arTisT dropped a 1.18 HLTV Rating in the grand finals against mix-team “Ratio’d”, adding another performance to shout about for the Irish AWPer.
Coalesce celebrating their first LAN win as a team at EPIC.LAN 34. Photo credits: EPIC.LAN
Coalesce also found themselves with a spot in a tournament held in Malta, the SiGMA Esports Cup 2021. Ambush had dropped out of the tournament, and Coalesce had won the wild-card qualifier to swipe the last remaining spot at the event. Despite multiple factors working against them, such as the fact that they weren’t even meant to be in attendance at the tournament in the first place, as well as being forced to use two stand-ins in Tim “TIMMO” Musters and Javier “Ping” Griffiths, the team came up big. Besting the likes of SAW Youngsters and FTW, arTisT and Coalesce had defied the odds and showed up when it mattered, winning the grand finals 2-1 and scoring a 1.13 HLTV Rating and 1.28 Impact rating for the event.
None of us will ever forget the feeling of getting champagne blasted at us while they played Sweet Caroline in the background. We had played with TIMMO before, but we had only met Ping one week before the event. Immediately, we had the Ping effect on our side.
Although the official reasoning was kept from the public, arTisT and his men decided to part ways with Coalesce. Despite the lack of organisational support, arTisT didn’t struggle to lead his team to victory. In season 40 of Advanced, FAMBIT made a stellar run in playoffs after qualifying with a 9W-5L record in the regular season. FAMBIT picked up some serious upset wins against the likes of VELOX, ECLOT and even the Russian powerhouse of tier-2, forZe. Arguably arTisT‘s first deep run in the heights of tier-2 competition in Europe, Season 40 marked an important chapter in the history of his achievements as a player.
The team attended Insomnia 68, the first LAN event from the organiser since the COVID pandemic had struck the globe. After sailing through the group stage, FAMBIT continued to dominate the opposition throughout playoffs as they soared to the upper bracket finals without losing a map, besting The Last Resort and EKO Esports along the way. Matched up against Into the Breach, who at the time appointed Owen “smooya” Butterfield as the team’s AWPer, arTisT had his work cut out for him heading into this match-up. The squad were not dissuaded however, and emerged victorious with a 2-1 showing in the best-of-three, earning FAMBIT a spot in the grand finals. Into the Breach exacted their revenge in the finals, outlasting FAMBIT 3-2 in the best-of-five series, leaving arTisT as a runner-up at the event this time around.
After EKO’s stint with their Oscar “LVN” Levin-led roster came to an end, the organisation looked to fill the void in their place and return to UKCS with a vengeance. FAMBIT were signed as the new face of EKO, and arTisT led the team to continue their streak of wins under the red, white and blue banner.
Less than a month after joining, EKO had qualified for alpenScene LEVEL UP 2022, an offline tournament in Salzberg, Austria. The event headlined four teams with the semi-finals played out in a studio, and the grand finals being played on stage at the venue, where EKO dispatched Sissi State Punks 2-0 in the semis. They took it all the way into the finals, winning it out 2-1 against Austrian mix-team “murders2002” after a comeback from being down 5-10 at the half on map three of Vertigo. arTisT and EKO walked away with first place under their belts, as well as a sweet €3200 to boot.
— EKO Esports (@EKO_Esport) July 2, 2022
Looking to seek vengeance for their last outing in Birmingham, arTisT and EKO returned to the halls of the NEC at Insomnia 69, looking to take it one step further than the fate they suffered at Insomnia 68. Another flawless group stage performance set them on the path ahead through playoffs, and EKO breezed their way through the upper bracket and into another showing in the grand finals on the stage. They faced off against ManHo “mrhui” Hui’s Temperate, who had faced trials and tribulations in their impressive lower bracket run to make it to the stage. Despite going up 2-0 in the best-of-five, EKO were reverse swept on the subsequent three maps and were forced to walk away with second place once again.
This didn’t phase arTisT however, as he led EKO to continue their strong strides into the UKIC Summer Invitational 2022. Taking down the likes of a fearless “tokyoxd” mix headlined by smooya as well as 1PIN during a very dominant period, EKO faced off against Into The Breach in the grand finals and ultimately bested the knights 2-1 to take the title and first place prize. arTisT posted a 1.08 HLTV Rating across the tournament, second only to Jack “Gizmy” von Spreckelsen’s 1.10 rating for EKO across the tournament, and even netted a 1v5 on map three, eventually being awarded with UKIC Play of the Year for such an incredible round.
arTisT and EKO Esports with the 2nd place prize at Insomnia 69. Photo credits: Insomnia Gaming Festival UK
After a lengthened tenure with the British organisation, arTisT and his troops decided against renewing their contracts with EKO and returned to competition under the name SOS. Along with the rebrand, the team also underwent some roster changes in the form of removing Tadpole and Extinct from the active roster. They picked up the familiar face of Ping and promising young talent Rūdolfs “rud” Osmanis, a 17-year-old Latvian AWPer.
rud’s tenure with the team was short-lived however, as arTisT and his men were approached by British organisation Viperio with an offer of funding and representation. Rud would’ve stayed on the team, but UKCSGO understands that since Viperio were sponsored by a betting company, his young age meant that he would not be able to sign with the organisation. In response to this, the team took their chance and snatched up Marco “MMS” Salomone from Temperate to fill the void left in their team, and arTisT’s squad took its next step towards becoming the roster we know it as today.
arTisT‘s debut with Viperio was one to remember. Shortly after signing with the organisation, the winter split of ESL Premiership 2022 rolled around and became one of the team’s most successful runs in the UK competition to date. After a group stage record of 3-2, the team went into playoffs with a point to prove, taking down Royals in the quarter-finals before dispatching 1PIN in a 2-0 fashion. Landing themselves a spot in the grand finals against the undisputed top dogs of the UK in Max “MiGHTYMAX” Heath and Kia “Surreal” Man. Endpoint emerged victorious in a gruelling 5 map series, but arTisT once again stood tall as the primary force on the underdog’s side, posting a 1.13 HLTV rating over the Bo5, as well as edging out Milos “mhL” Knasiak in their head-to-head duels.
Viperio decided upon undertaking the BLAST.tv Paris Major RMR Qualifiers in February, even while utilizing Rory “cryths” Ursell as a substitute. The open qualifiers were no match for arTisT, as Viperio took down some legendary names on their path to the closed qualifiers, such as Swedish mix “boomer demons”, headlining the likes of Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, and Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer. Once again, arTisT stood out from the crowd as he boasted a roster-high 1.17 HLTV Rating for the event, earning Viperio a spot in the subsequent closed qualifier.
Going head to head against some household names in tier-2 wasn’t enough to phase arTisT. The British-Irish team scored serious upset wins against 1WIN, PGE Turow and even a #23 rated SAW to earn themselves the honors of attending the last CS:GO RMR in Copenhagen alongside fellow Brits Into the Breach. More can be read about here, where the details of both Viperio and Into the Breach’s RMR runs are expanded.
Qualifying to the RMR itself feels very special, I think we are the first full UK/IRE team to make it there, and hopefully we can put on a show for everyone. I’m just happy we have a scene since there isn’t many of us left, but we all do support each other and if anyone ever needs help, I’m more than happy to give it. I really think that’s important.
Despite their feats, Viperio were not without their flaws. At EPIC.LAN 38, the team cruised through to the finals for the umpteenth time, but once again stared down the barrel of defeat at the hands of a newly-signed Coalesce, who took the finals 2-1 in the best-of-three series. At the event, Viperio were utilizing Ping as a substitute for their yet-to-be-signed fifth player, which also carried over into their Advanced playoffs run in Season 44. arTisT and Viperio had a solid shot at their promotion attempt, but ultimately fell short as they failed to qualify for the ESL Challenger League.
Viperio in the grand finals of EPIC.LAN 38. Photo credits: Freddie “GrimyRannarr” Pritchard
Why is arTisT one to watch? As an integral part in each team he’s played for over the past few years, arTisT has taken up crucial roles such as AWPing and IGLing, even undertaking both at the same time as we track his chronology forward to the present day. He is a statistically superior player compared to domestic competitors in the UK scene, and through his effort in 2022, he earned himself both the UKIC Player of the Year award and the UKIC Play of the Year. Throughout countless iterations, the teams he has led have won numerous events online and offline, both domestically and throughout Europe. On top of this, arTisT led his team all the way through both the open and closed qualifiers for the BLAST Paris RMRs, where they secured a place at the event, making history as the first Irish player to compete at such a level. arTisT shall go down in the history books as one of the founding fathers of CS in Ireland, and it is clear that he intends to give so much more to his already legendary status.
arTisT shared his player to watch for the future:
For me, I’d say dox. He’s just someone that keeps working hard, improving his team, and you can see it with the recent results. Often IGLs never get the credit they deserve, but dox definitely deserves recognition for the grind he’s been doing for the last few years. Hopefully he plays Nuke soon.