FaZe’s Miami Vice: A Blast from the past

As is so often the case when Blast Pro events roll around, the weekend began with all number of conversations and blandishments on social media, about conflict of interest, the ‘wrong’ people being hired, and many other such esports standards. What made that all the sweeter was the conclusion of Blast Pro Series Miami, which saw a winner nobody - including this writer - saw coming, and the possible revival of one of the most compelling stories in all of esports, the FaZe clan Galacticos. But was it a comeback, or just a flash in an increasingly barren pan for the famous FaZe five?

Caveats everywhere

The first thing that has to be said of course is that this is a Blast Pro event, which means that only one game is played over three maps, with the rest of the action taking place in a best-of-one format the most fans seem sick of at this point. they also persist with running games concurrently, so at one point you had the choice of Liquid v FaZe or Astralis v Na’Vi, which is annoying as hell when you were watching Panda Gaming and Team Spirit last week.

That actually hurts Astralis more than any other team (the best-of-one, not watching Panda), as they are the most intelligent and adaptable side CSGO has ever seen. Many of their best results in the last year have been in relatively close games, and their comeback potential is legendary, but most of their time to learn and grow into a tie is taken away over just one map, and their opponents know that too. As a result, it’s hard to read too much into the fact the Danes didn’t win this, or any Blast event, as the format makes it pointless to perfect your performance for a handful of exhibitions a year.

The same goes for FaZe to some extent, especially in their qualification for the final, but once they made it to the final two there were no excuses left for their victims, and no more best-of 1 to blame if you lost. As a result, the expectation was that Liquid would take the title, and in relatively comfortable fashion, with the group match having ended 16-5 in the Americans’ favour and FaZe not having beaten Liquid since October 2018.

As things turned out, that was not the case, with the superstars of FaZe coming out of the blocks hotter than a petrol curry on the first map, mirage. Storming into a lead they never relinquished, the five men in red and black looked almost as good as they did back in their peak in 2017 under karrigan, and left Mirage with a 1-0 series lead, having beaten the NA giants 16-5. As has often been the case recently, it was largely down to NiKo, but he was matched kill for kill by AdreN over this map as well, with the former Gambit man finally looking like his old self.

However, Mirage was FaZe’s map pick and the expectation was that when we got to dust2, things would swing back in Liquid’s favour, which doesn’t make a massive amount of sense. As a map famous for rewarding players with great aim, dust2 is the sort of playground you’d always be worried FaZe would take over and bully, and the first half of map two saw one of the meanest, most dominant games we’ve ever seen at this level of CS, as rain started the map 20-0-0.

While he couldn’t sustain what was a record-breaking level for a Grand Final, albeit a Blast Pro Series Grand final, the damage had been done, and when NiKo started to pop off too it was clearly going to be a long road back for the NA team. They did rally, but eventually the series ended 2-0 to FaZe, leaving everyone with the same question. Is this the start of a comeback, or a flash in the pan from the most talented team ever assembled in CSGO?

Time will tell

For an answer to that we will have to wait, but there are a few conclusions we can draw from Blast Pro Series Miami, some of which relate to the CS itself. The first, and most depressingly familiar conclusion comes from social media, though, and the reaction to the news that Astralis are missing a DreamHack event as well as IEM Sydney, despite the fact they will be going to five Blast events in the coming months, and is that no esports expert will ever let a lack of expertise hold them back from commenting.

The likes of Sadokist, Thorin and others weighed in on the issue, despite the fact dev1ce has a medical condition that makes long flights and jetlag particularly risky, a condition that the aforementioned talent have zero experience with. It is all well and good talking about the conflict of interest (which only seems to come from people not hired for Blast events for obvious reasons), but pundits should refrain from talking about actual illnesses they have no experience with, as it’s embarrassing for them and the game.

In terms of the final result, FaZe did improve their recent level, which wasn’t really that hard to do given how they’d played, but this is also a sign that Liquid are less robust against the pack than they were last year, which will probably change over time with their new coach. As for Astralis, expect to see them bounce back hard at their next proper tournament, not only to prove they are still king, but also as a demonstration of the pitfalls of best-of-one matches.

Image: Blast Pro Series