Boston to Katowice: How the mighty FaZe have fallen

A little over 12 months ago, Cloud9 and FaZe Clan faced off at the Boston Major to determine who would be the world champions of the best FPS ever made, and all seemed right with the world. The groups are two of the most valuable properties in esports overall, with C9 valued in the hundreds of millions according to Forbes, and it made perfect sense that they would meet in the final of the biggest game in CSGO, one of the world’s biggest esports.

Jump forward maybe a year and change, and the pair find themselves facing off to see who makes it into the final week of IEM Katowice, the first Major of 2019. How we got to this point in such a short space of time will take some answering, but it’s worth pointing out that esports move very fast, and 12 months can be a lifetime in this industry.

With C9 at least, the story is fairly familiar to esports fans, or followers of traditional sport, as they were simply torn apart by the egos and ambitions of the players they had paid to work for them in Boston. It may seem harsh, but that can happen to virtually any side, and will continue to do so for some time, but FaZe’s race to the bottom (or maybe middle) is far harder to comprehend, especially with the details in mind.

"I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order."

With the North American organisation, you can put the two C9s next to each other and see where the decline has occurred. Stewie, Tarik and autimatic were the three stars, and today only the latter remains, with Stewie an elite-level nomad and Tarik currently riding a Brazilian bench, hoping to be rescued by a suitor with ambitions and a blank chequebook. Even with the replacements, it makes sense that they would not be on the same level, but the same cannot be said for FaZe.

In Boston, karrigan led NiKo, rain, GuardiaN and olofmeister to a final most people think they choked, and today the main difference is that their leader is gone, to be replaced with adreN, the former Gambit Major winner. That might seem like a fairly monumental change, but when you put the context around it, there is actually very little to justify such a dramatic failure, from nearly conquering the world to nearly qualifying for the last week.

The beginning of the end

Firstly, although karrigan was the leader, he was never really as ‘in charge’ as he would have liked, which makes a lot of sense. When he asked for players like NiKo, olof and GuardiaN, he knew there would be a price to pay to fit all the egos into one team, and for a while he managed to do so, but ironically the Miracle in Massachusetts was the beginning of the end as far as his ability to inspire confidence in his team, or at least that’s how it seemed.

Secondly, it’s not as though FaZe have replaced a circle with a square, with adreN coming in to not only play, but also lend his considerable experience to the team as well. During Gambit’s run to the Major title in Krakow 2017 there were many rumours that he was calling the shots, with Zeus nothing more than a shouty figurehead, so the brains trust is still brimming in theory, making that no excuse at all.

It’s tough to pinpoint the exact moment FaZe fell apart, of course, but egos are a bit part of what happened, and those same egos exist on the team today. If they are able to make the top eight, there is still a chance they can get a decent result, but the ambitions for this team were always higher than just top eight, and failure today could see them torpedoed once and for all. To be honest, that wouldn’t be unfair, as it seems like there is no way back, and world domination was just a phase.