A year of competing at a premier level and FaZe Clan finally taking their first trophy. A great ending to the story for sure but this roster has had one of the most turbulent storylines in CSGO for the past year. FaZe has undergone the most changes of any roster in the past year with only one member of the original line up in Håvard “Rain” Nygaard still standing. First incepted in the idea that a team of pure aimers and superstars from different countries could be a contender in the cut-throat competitive world of Counter Strike: Global Offensive turned in to project that proved a failure time and time again with FaZe unable to reach one play-off stage in their tenure.
FaZe Clan’s first roster changes came in the form of signing of Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey who had recently been kicked from Envyus’ roster for being the main “problem” in the teams lack of results. Kio — who had been subjected to a myriad of taunts and memes from the community and labelled a problem for months after joining FaZe – was originally signed to replace Maikelele after his departure from the team and did great work for the team with solid stats, however he was later benched to make way for the in-game leader in which FaZe dearly needed in Finn “Karrigan” Andersen. And secondly Finnish sniper Aleksi “Allu” Jalli, who had been removed from NIP back in 2015, replacing Fox.
This is where FaZe really started to look dangerous, back in October Karrigan had been reportedly removed from Astralis after a year of bad results in favour of bringing in new leader Glaive. Astralis had seemingly lost faith in their long time in-game leader and Karrigan decided he could no longer play with the Danish power house. Some in the industry even questioned his viability as a leader but Karrigan would prove them all wrong by taking FaZe out of their first Group Stage in a Premier tournament in IEM Oakland and FaZe would rank in the 3-4th position alongside Astralis. This success would not stop with their second Semi-Final finish in Eleague Season 2. The first thing Karrigan would do to ensure their success was to define and align the team in to designated roles in which the team never used to have in previous line-ups. He would bring Kio off the bench to replace Jkaem and stated he “needed a player to do the dirty work” and Kio would become FaZe’s first official support/role player and has now become one of the most feared CT site anchors on the scene.
After two more quarter final exits at ECS season 2 and the Eleague Major, Philip “Aizy” Aistrup would then leave to join his fellow Danes in North, FaZe acted quickly and bought out Nikola “Niko” Kovač from Mousesports for a reported £300,000+, the biggest transfer in the history of Counter Strike. Niko had been carrying Mousesports for almost two years and gained himself a reputation as one of the best all round players in the scene with absurd Desert Eagle plays and the ability to take over an entire game on his own. With Niko’s entrance and only with 2-3 days worth of practice, FaZe would then make it to their first finals against Astralis but would lose 3-1 in a close best of five.
As previously stated, FaZe’s complexion from their beginnings in 2016 to now looked drastically different; a reject from NIP, the scraps from Astralis, the problem from Envyus, Mousesports’ hard carry and the consistent but unsuccessful Rain, all who have not even been in a final for over a year started becoming the team to watch and got very powerful very quickly in a very scary way. Like I said a great story, a band of renegades and rejects who come back harder than ever to take their rightful place as a top contender.
This tournament was definitely not smooth sailing however, FaZe looked incredibly weak in the group stages of Starladder losing their opening match to Hellraisers. They looked disjointed and a different team all together to the one we had seen the month prior to Starladder in Katowice. They would later take wins from Immortals and Gambit but losing to North put them in an elimination match with SK Gaming. This looked bleak for the team as SK are world beaters, winning two majors and not often losing in the group stages. Alas, for SK Gaming, FaZe would wipe the floor with them on SK’s home map Train 16-7. Many of the analysts however claimed that FaZe’s luck had run dry with the draw putting them against the French super team G2 (and Kio’s former teammates) who had been looking like absolute fire in the group stage. FaZe would then push these guys aside to meet against Hellraisers in the semi finals and after two close maps on Mirage and Train, FaZe would get their wish to take revenge on Karrigan’s old teammates in Astralis. The final was an absolute roller coaster ride and one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, the worlds best team in Astralis spent most of this series playing from behind constantly having to come back against FaZe.
In the first game on Mirage it looked like FaZe would comfortably close out the game with a 13-7 lead on Astralis but off the back of too many Anti-Eco losses and a genius clutch from Device, Astralis would pick the first map up 16-14. The future of the series looked bleak, Nuke was Astralis’ pick and they had been looking dominant on it for the past few games they had played, but FaZe showed they came to play and deleted them from the server round after round with a 16-6 finish and a god like performance from Kioshima on the A Site. Inferno now awaited, the rematch from the Katowice final which has now turned Inferno in to my favourite map to decide finals. FaZe would start strong on the T side but were eventually shut out of the half with Astralis getting 7 consecutive rounds and finishing 10-5, Rain had been floundering in the first half with 1-15 score line but would flourish in the second half ending regulation time with 18-18 score. In the final stages of the second half many questioned FaZe’s choice to maintain Niko’s AWP on the B site as Astralis had been rushing him down round after round, but the skill of Niko prevailed and FaZe managed to take Astralis to overtime coming back from a 15-11 deficit and later closing out the match on their T side in the second half of overtime 19-17. FaZe broke two records this tournament; being the first mixed nationality team to win a premier tournament and winning 16 of their 18 pistol rounds with a 91.66% win rate (15 of those in a row).
As a self confessed FaZe fan and Karrigan fanboy, this was one of the most stressful and beautiful matches to watch. For me the story lines involved here and how much it means for the boys at FaZe (and their owners) and seeing them succeed after such a long line of failures proves that hard work, dedication and the right mindset will over come any obstacle that others place in your path. This is why we love Counter Strike and this is why we love esports. FaZe up.
Credits and References:
- FaZe Clan