POTM: Mitr0 | Returning to the pantheon

March 23 2021
In 2013, Dmitri Van de Vrie was 11 years old uploading Call of Duty: Black Ops III montages to YouTube. It was still years out from the birth of the battle royale and from the rise of two of the most successful multiplayer titles in existence—PUBG and Fortnite—years out from his own rise in one of the world’s youngest, hardest, and strangest esports.

On their own, the montages are just drops in an ocean of semi-anonymous FPS highlights. But with context, looking back at the nascent FPS skill, the well-timed aggression, the fluid movement and map sense, it’s enough to make you wonder if Mitr0 wasn’t a talent in the making for quite some time. If there aren’t many more talents ready to be made across the FPS genre.

Mitr0’s early career supports the idea. Of Fortnite’s many big names, Mitr0 was one of the fastest risers. He almost accidentally fell into the competitive scene, competing in showdowns that rewarded v-bucks (in-game currency). He topped the leaderboard for those early matches and earned a surprise invitation to Fortnite’s new competitive event: the Summer Skirmish.

EPIC games courted him into Europe’s competitive scene and since then he’s been a staple of it. He’d win weeks 3 and 5 of the Summer Skirmish and place well in most other weeks too. His rise was so fast that he barely even had a period as an unsponsored player—Atlantis picking him up early into his time in Fortnite.

You’ve talked a little bit about not liking Fortnite initially. What caused the change of heart, what got you into Fortnite?
“Being able to build behind you when you get shot so you don’t instantly die. Stuff like that.”

More than just the building elements, Mitr0 felt a bit more at home with Fortnite’s unique pacing. In the strategic shooters like Valorant and CS, the pace starts slowly and carefully, with both sides using their positioning and utility to provoke one another into giving information or spending resources. Then, in a snap, the sides punish each other in lightning quick moments of aggression. In the more deathmatch-style shooters, action can be similarly quick but also much more constant.

In the battle royale, and especially in Fortnite, the action is on-and-off and a single fight can take longer or can more easily de-escalate as players build or rotate out of a situation. There’s more room to engage and disengage, to poke at opponents, and also to line up a clear time to push in for the advantage.

That’s a style which much more suits Mitr0, even judging from his earliest plays in other games. They’re less often the result of insane aimbot-esque movements and more correct reads on a situation followed with a calm and well-placed attack. Make no mistake, Mitr0 is a hugely aggressive player. He’s simultaneously praised and criticized for his w-keying—meaning his constant desire to hold forward and run into the opponent.

That high octane offense is far from brainless.

Pushing forward with savvy

Where do you feel your skills lie in the game?
Just killing people, aiming, shooting.

Aside from winning, what gives you the greatest feeling when playing Fortnite?
200 pumping someone [chuckles].

You’ve gained a reputation as a more aggressive player. When did you start to find that style? Was that a style you had in H1Z1 and CS?
I dunno, it’s just how I started playing Fornite in the start. H1Z1 as well, just trying to kill everyone you know? It’s just the most fun thing.

I was just going to ask, is that the most fun style of play for you?
Yeah, definitely.

Mitr0’s very quick to isolate both his strengths and what he enjoys in the game to that aggressive style. Watching some of his biggest moments, it’s very clear why he feels that way. He’s built a lot of his reputation on pushing forward with savvy.

Or maybe, dropping out of the sky with savvy. Below is one of the biggest highlights in Mitr0’s career but also in competitive Fortnite.

In the clip, Mitr0 uses a shockwave—a grenade that pushes whoever hits —to propel himself downward into the last opponent. It’s pretty vital to push himself downward because if he simply jumps down he’ll take heavy damage and he’ll fall slowly enough that his opponent could easily react.

This way, he gives almost no chance for a response and makes his aggression very hard to read. It’s a hard-to-read play both because it’s a very pub-style move that you may not expect to see in competitive play and because you wouldn’t necessarily expect a player to hold onto a really good piece of movement utility all the way until the late-late game.

It’s also borderline needlessly aggressive. With a big life-lead and the storm coming in, Mitr0 probably could have built his way down and put pressure on his opponent while waiting things out. But that’s just not a style that suits Mitr0. Given how good he is at dueling, it’s not necessarily more guaranteed either.

Once he lands, he executes with a clean shot from his signature weapon (and a signature weapon of competitive Fortnite as a whole)—the pump shotgun. This play has pretty much all of the hallmarks of Mitr0’s particular brand of aggression: dynamic use of movement, patient high-ground control, and a sharp switch from long to close range that takes advantage of gaps in the opponent’s defense.

“I like to play high ground more, cause it’s just easy,” Mitr0 says. “I just have to place one floor and when you’re on low ground you have to build around you fully.”

In Fortnite, the high ground frees you up to be more aggressive because your attention is less on building and more on shooting. On the low ground you not only need to shoot up at the opponent, but you need to tunnel—building all around you to allow you to push into the new zone without taking fire from above. Mitr0 sees that tunnelling (and the super high level late-game building) as one of his weaknesses.

Despite the perception, Mitr0’s made big plays in huge tournaments while taking the low ground. In the World Cup Duo Finals, his teammate Mongraal went down very early, putting the onus of building and survival on him. He did very well to hold on his own, tunnelling into the zone while avoiding deadly confrontations until the very end where he could pick up a kill and a clean duel with others who also had to drop to low ground.

(Mitr0 holds low here instead of going for a very crowded high ground and gets a double kill and 3rd placing for his duo)

While often disadvantageous, the low ground is often necessary too. If the resources aren’t there, you may need to stay grounded to farm them out. Or if the space is too hotly contested and you’re already down a person, then building up could end with you taking shots from several angles, which forces more building, and potentially fall damage as well. High ground is highly coveted, so it isn’t always simple to take.

One of the ways Mitr0 keeps himself in the zone and in contention is via movement, particularly rotation items. The famous shockwave play is just the flashiest of Mitr0’s movement-based plays. In reality, it may not even be the most clutch one. He’s pulled a number of similar and potentially more vital maneuvers using the grappler when it was in the game.

And he was very good at using the launchpad to make rotations. He could identify the right moments to deploy it as well as pretty good spots to land. That kind of mobility was something that he loved in the game and would love to see placed back in it.

What was your favorite Fortnite meta?
Probably when the World Cup was around. That was the best I think.

What made that meta shine?
I dunno just everything.

Did it feel like the weapon and item balance was pretty good?
Yeah, there were a lot of items that you can rotate with. Now there’s no rotation items, you just have to run or use a car. [...] Like the rift, launchpad, stuff like that.

Would you wanna see that mobility return to Fortnite?

Given that Mitr0 likes to play on bursts of speed—and he doesn’t like to tunnel and build into the zone—it only makes sense he’d love movement items. These kinds of tools fit his style as a player perfectly, letting him avoid long tunnels out of a storm as well as letting him jump into the action at just the right moment.

(Here, Mitr0 is in the first wave of players to launchpad into the zone, something that helps save the round for him and Mongraal)

It’s also no wonder that Mitro’s favorite meta was when he had the good old fashioned Pump and a few tools to help out his rotations. The moment he describes there, around the World Cup 2019, was one of three golden ages he’s had in his Fortnite career.

The first golden age: Entering the pantheon

The earliest golden age Mitr0 had was in 2018, when Fortnite’s history as a competitive game was still pretty young. At this time, Mitr0 shined both in those early scouting events but also in the Summer and Fall Skirmishes that they led up to. He not only won in 4 different weeks of the skirmishes but only placed below 24 once and normally made top 10.

That’s impressive for a battle royale where there are 100 combatants and - Mitr0 notes - there’s even a small chance you get griefed and knocked out way earlier than expected by an off-kilter move from a team that doesn’t understand the meta.

Battle royales tend to have a lot of variance at the very top of the leaderboard simply because there are so many teams and so many factors. One bad zone, one bad drop, or simply being in the wrong place and the wrong time can bring a world class player, duo, trio, or squad down very early. Fortnite and PUBG both mitigate this by running several games, but there’s still always something of a chance component.

At this time, Mitr0 not only had the results to back him but records as well. He broke the kill record twice—with 33 kills and then with 42. He broke the point record as well by getting 75 in one match.

At this time, Mitr0 seemed to have a better game sense than a lot of players and a better sense of when and how to use utility. He became pretty well-known for his prefiring pretty early on, in part because he could either apply pressure to an opponent that forced them into a bad duel and in part because he was good at riding in and out of the edges of storms and picking players off as they came inside.

That’s all combined with really strong micro in terms of the build-battles where players scramble to get a positional advantage with their mats and then in terms of a simple pump shot. Though it might be hard to believe, and even a little contrary to Mitr0’s own assessment, he was skewed towards aggression and innovation but he was also a pretty well-rounded player in those early days.

(the action plays out over a few minutes after the fall)

In one of his early Skirmish wins, he took a round simply slipping down from the over-contested high ground and waiting on low-ground until the last two players destroyed each other in a war of attrition. It’s not the kind of Mitr0 win that makes for highlight reels and caster pop-offs but it’s a round that shows an underrated part of his game: calm adaptiveness and a strong read on the game.

Couple that with a great sense of mobility, utility, pressure game, and raw aim and you had one of Fortnite’s earliest EU gods. Mitr0 was a solid member of the Fortnite pantheon as early as fall 2018. By the end of 2018, he had a strong argument for topping the pantheon because he was literally ranked 1st in the Fortnite power rankings (determined by PR points earned at events).

That’s not even the impressive part. He ranked first with an insane 16,650 points - near 7,000 points above kinstaar in second. Far from done yet, he’d find a new height in duos when he paired with another member of the pantheon: Mongraal.

The Middle Golden Age: Heavenly duo (MM and then B)

One of Fortnite’s child prodigies, Mongraal was already well on the radar in 2018 but started to heat up towards 2019. He and Mitr0 had similar trajectories, similar aggressive styles, and a shared region, so they were a natural pairing. About as soon as they started their duo up, they became one of the most renowned and feared pairings as well.

What drew you guys together? What about Mongraal’s play style fits with you?
I dunno he’s just a really aggressive player as well, I think. So we just both went for kills you know?

Is there a sense you know what he’s looking for and he knows what you’re looking for?
Yeah. Like you need to play together a lot.

Both being such aggressive players, they understood how the other wanted to play and naturally assisted each other’s battles and rotations. That helped clear their comms as well, leaving most of the space open for calls on health, damage, and timings on when to fire or rotate. It also let them keep focus on aggressive duels and positioning.

They made a splash as early as one of their first tournaments: the Luxe Cup (1st place). Mitr0 retained all of his individual skills (as did Mongraal), making them lethal for their ability to clutch and to pick off people entering into the late-game storms even if one of them fell in an early rotation. Their combined mechanical mastery made them immense high ground threats as well— especially as the minigun entered the game, turning them into mobile turrets that could melt through another duo’s resources and health.

As two of the game’s best pure aimers, they could also get away with even riskier bursts of aggresion than normal. The two could take simultaneous duels on other duos and often come out on top, or split to cover high and low since each could fend for themselves. In the above highlight, you can see that at about 4:40 where Mitr0 dives down, takes two kills as mongraal pressures from above. Mongraal’s pressure eventually pushes the final player into a perfect prefire angle for Mitr0.

They’d do so well in Europe that they’d qualify for World Cup duos three times over and go into the cup as one of the main duos to watch. In their qualifier runs, they often did a good job of splitting the tasks of building and getting eliminations, allowing them both to apply their general knowledge on rotations and strong aim. One or both players could built well into the zone where another could watch the edges of the circle and get eliminations on players rotating in.

In game 2, you can see the duo at work in splitting the tasks and in game 3 you can see how effectively they work when shooting together and moving in as an aggressive unit.

Fall of 2019, Mitr0 and Mongraal would find a tremendous third in another legend—Benjyfishy. An all-around great player that could perform just about any role in a squad or trio, Benjyfishy naturally slotted into the group as the IGL and gave even more form to the duo’s function. Dubbed MMB, these three tore through the opposition for most of that season, not placing any lower than 2nd in the Fortnite Champion Series that season (according to Fortnite wiki).

Though they ended up a slightly disappointing 10th in the Grand Finals, that was still a top 3rd placing. Watching the three of them play, it’s probably where you’ll hear some of the most effective comms across Mitr0’s career. Benjyfishy does a good job of keeping the aggressive duo grounded and focused in on where to build out to. Benjyfishy’s own focus seems to trickle down to Mongraal, who in turn starts to call more clearly. All of it frees up Mitr0 to control space with rockets and utility. The entire team tends to get eliminations.

The group split up towards the end of the year, with Mitr0 joining a fairly successful squad and finding another strong duo partner in crr. He rounded out the year well, though not quite in the form MMB was. These three went on such a tear that they would each end 2019 each occupying the top 3 in the PR, Benyfishy then Mongraal then Mitr0.

The Last Golden Age and a decline: The strategic trio (MMT)

In 2020, Mitr0 saw a bit of a decline. In the first half of the year he had a strong duo with crr and trio with aqua but not nearly to the strength that MMB was. At the same time, EPIC’s changes weren’t necessarily favoring him. The developer not only had to phase in and phase out some very broken, skill-ceiling-reducing items throughout late 2019 and 2020 in general, but they also removed the pump shotgun and replaced it with the charge shotgun for quite some time in 2020.

What was your least favorite meta?
Like last season or the other season, a couple seasons before that with the solo FNCS with the charge [shotgun] as well. I just don’t like that shotgun at all so I just didn’t play as much, you know?

I like the Pump. The Charge Shotgun, when you click it, it doesn’t shoot the second you click. You need to wait a little bit. So I just didn’t like it.

Do you feel like Fortnite has gotten, like, gradually harder as a competitive game?
Yeah definitely. [...] Maybe because of [COVID-19] as well because everyone just started playing like every day now because they have online school and stuff like that.

Has it felt there’s just more people and just better people now that COVID’s happened?
Yeah, definitely.

Mitr0 notes that the game and the competition got harder as COVID set in and the playerbase expanded. The cancelled and remote schooling in many places meant even more teenage prodigies entering the scene. Despite only being 18, Mitr0 was now a veteran in the young game—an old god from an old time.

Old, however, did not mean irrelevant. Mitr0 found renewed success in the fall of 2020 with an old teammate and a new in-game leader (IGL). This was the birth of yet another insanely successful trio—Mitr0, Mongraal, and Tayson. These three would dominate the Fortnite Champion Series that year, never placing below 7th in any of the weeks. They’d also go on to handily win the Grand Finals in Europe.

Tayson is a player who found his rise in 2020 and hasn’t stopped pushing since. While Tayson is as generally talented, his key skill in the trio was his leading and calling. Not only does Tayson make this trio into something even more strategically sound that MMB was, he makes it into one of the most strategic trios in Europe and the world.

(a good breakdown of the trio’s strong decision-making and play)

This time around, it feels that Mitr0 and the trio he plays with have a great read on Fortnite’s meta, something that’s much easier said than done in a game that’s constantly radically shifting. Their go-to drop spots set them up for great resources and successes and their movements and attacks are even more patient.

The extra space they give lets them lure opponents away from their trios and into a space where they get a free elimination using a combo of snipers, rifles, and the pump (see around 15:45 above). It also lets them make safe attacks onto opponents because the time lets them suss out if there isn’t another trio in the area waiting to grief them for their aggression (see 13:30). When the time comes, they’ll fall off more readily as well, not pushing too far into hectic multi-trio battles where even insane mechanical skill may not bail them out.

The end result was one of the most godly trios that Europe had seen. One that functioned really well in terms of strategy, resources management, builds, rotation, duels—everything. The tragedy of the trio was that it probably could’ve gone on quite a bit longer.

But, Mitr0 and Mongraal would both meet the thing that brings most of gaming’s old gods down: fatigue.

Be it in Melee, Street Fighter, CS, League, Dota, or anywhere else the difficulty of being on top is finding the energy to match the new blood who have just fallen in love with the esport. It’s not an easy task and it’s one that most legends in any esport will eventually fail—sometimes in bursts, sometimes once and for all. Whether they get bored of the game (like Isai in Melee or Eddie Lee in Street Fighter) or burn out of the game (like Imp or Mata in League), many gods fall from the pantheon simply from tiring out as the esport re-energizes itself via constant currents of change.

Mitr0s quick to admit that he and Mongraal ran into much the same thing, both losing motivation.

What do you think set you guys apart as a squad [trio]?
Tayson is really good at like, the IGLing stuff and we are really good at killing people so he just called out the things—what to do in the late game.

Was Tayson the IGL for all states of the game or did it change at all in the early or the mid-game?
Maybe [he was] not like off spawn, where you land, you know? It was more to the end of the game.

What was it like to have Tayson leave the team?
We weren’t really playing because we didn’t like the season so it was kinda obvious he was gonna leave.

How do you approach that? Do you look for another IGL or try to get him back into the game?
At that time we weren't really playing the game so we didn’t really care. But after we cared—because the FNCS was coming up. Then it was a little bit too late.

How did it feel for you to go back into the end of the seasons and to try to make that push? Was it difficult given you just didn’t like the state of the game at the time?
Yeah it was hard. We had no one really good to play with so we had to play with someone we didn’t even know because everyone was already playing for the first two weeks.

In Fortnite especially, a loss of motivation is deadly. The game often earns a reputation for being casual or dumbed down due to a massive playerbase full of young casual players, as well as a helter-skelter, hard to follow competitive scene, and sometimes baffling items and balance shifts. Those looks deceive as competitive Fortnite is one of the most micro-intensive and difficult games on the market.

Without a consistent grind, any player will fall behind. Even a god.

Towards the end of 2020 and the start of 2021, Mitr0 wasn’t grinding as hard and had returned to playing Call of Duty shooters. His solo results had bright pockets and strong moments in 2020 but they weren’t to the level of 2018, especially as the year crept on. His trio results hit an olympic peak in the fall but then fell from there in the start of 2021.

Mitr0 and Mongraal lost not only Tayson to a lack of motivation but also Benjyfishy as well, who briefly joined the trio only to leave not long before the end of qualifiers. Mitr0 was left in the lurch, having to fight to find that last third in a scene where most of the trios had settled down. To make matters worse, they didn’t need just anyone but preferably a dedicated IGL (a role Mitr0 and Mongraal historically don’t excel at).

Making a final push with Ibooohai, the two were grinding and improving but not in time to qualify for the next big series. All of this leads up to the current moment: March 2021, where Mitr0 went from 10th on the power ranking at the end of 2020 to sub 300, where he is now. At first glance, it’s a dark moment for one of the game’s greats.

But Mitr0 doesn’t seem fazed. After all the dark often yields to dawn and many old gods resurge strong from their lowest ebbs.

Return of the Pump, return of the Mitr0 meta?

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new meta and Mitr0 is feeling good. “It’s actually really good,” Mitr0 says of the new season.

(the reference, for the zoomers)

Are you looking forward to trios being the main thing or would you prefer duos or solos?
I would prefer if they, like last season, every season was a different game mode, you know? They would switch it up between solo, duo, trio and squads every season. Now it’s like the same every season this year.

Now that things are getting a little bit better [with Epic], does it feel like the items are a little more balanced as they come in?
Yeah, they [Epic] don’t really add anything new. In the new season they added a lot of new things but now there’s like a preseason or something for a week to test things out. [...] This has never happened before.

How do you feel about it, is the preseason a nice thing to have?
I dunno, I just wanna see after the first week if they’re gonna change things or not.

This actually brings me to one of the most important questions, how does it feel to have the Pump back?
[Laughs] It’s just the best shot gun, you know? The other shot guns are are not that good. [...] The crosshair is smaller, where the bullets go, so it’s easier - it’s less RNG - to hit someone.

You’ve gotten some flak for running less optimal key binds and some compliments for doing really well on those binds. In your opinion, how much impact do key binds really have?
It definitely does matter. If you have less optimal binds you have to have like a different playstyle because you can’t do some things you know? [...] I press everything with one finger, some people have every building option on a different finger so you can press it instantly after each other.

So are you changing your binds around now? I’ve seen some streams where that’s the effort, is that a permanent thing going forward?
Not yet. It’s really hard you know, because I’ve been playing on it for two years.

A new season is at hand and with it returns Mitr0’s favorite weapon—the Pump. Just as notably, the shockwave (the movement tool that launched Mitr0 into the pantheon) now returns with some novelty. Between the Pump and the bow upgrades, Mitr0 might just have a toolset close to the one in his favored 2019 meta.

For Mitr0 fans, it has to be a bit exciting because it might just be a sign of another golden age to come. This may seem much to do about a bow and a shotgun but both could matter a ton to Mitr0’s style. The Pump fits Mitr0 very well for the way that it rewards two of his biggest skills: precision and aggression. The quick fire-rate and precise bullet spread lets him make hyper-accurate, high damage shots as he jumps into range of an opponent.

The bow, on the other hand, could potentially reward his strength in movement, utility, and prefiring. The bow’s obvious damage capacity works all the better if you can line up a shot and lead the receiver from a long range away. However, with crafting, the bow can also be fashioned in either a stink or regular grenade launcher.

Most enticingly, it can be retooled into a movement option as well. The Shockwave Bow holds perhaps some of the most interesting potential of any of the bow’s options, foregoing damage for a vital mobility that should remind any long-standing Mitr0 fans of his time with the grappler or the shockwave grenade itself (obviously).

With this season being so fresh, Mitr0 hasn’t fully tried out all the bow options. It may not be clear which bow is worth the resource and inventory just yet but there’s a world of opportunity there which could benefit the still very young Dutch prodigy. Mitr0 himself talks openly about having a lot more fun and more to look forward to in the new season, salving over some motivation issues. Perhaps the biggest sign of action behind that talk: he’s even been experimenting with moving off of default keybinds, which are so inefficient that they can change the way a player approaches certain scenarios and parts of the game.

The main issue for Mitr0 now is to sort out the trio. Currently he’s playing alongside Freemok, a strong EU talent to be sure, but one that so far doesn’t quite reach the pantheon that Tayson (rank 1 in 2020) or Benjyfish (rank 4 in 2020) reach. While a very good duelist, it’s also still not clear who’s leading the comms in this trio - who may still need to find a proper IGL or shift into the role themselves. With EPIC sticking to the trio for the moment, the pressure only adds up.

All the same, it’s probably the most exciting moment for Mitr0 in a few months - and that should be exciting for all of European Fortnite. After all, this is a player who is still 2nd place overall in the all-time power rankings (just under Benjyfishy). This is a player who, when invested in the season, is simultaneously a quiet assassin, a flashy innovator, and an irreplaceable part of the pantheon.

At the very end of it, only the wunderkid from the Netherlands can say how far he’ll push forward.

Writer // Austin R. Ryan

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