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IEM Katowice 2019: What can we expect from YNk's FaZe at the CSGO Major?

Since his decision to leave the ranks of "talent" as they are somewhat loosely known, and try his hand as a CSGO coach, the career of Janko ‘YNk’ Paunovic has divided the community. Many of the biggest names in the scene, at least from an on-camera perspective, have been vocally supportive of a person who they have been friends with for years, while there has been an underlying feeling from fans and some other folk close to the game that he may in fact be out of his depth. As the saying goes, it's not what you know, but who you know that sometimes makes the difference, but is that fair to apply to YNk?

It’s impossible to be sure, of course, without being close to the teams he works with, but we can at least look at what he has achieved so far, and the tools he has had to work with. For the purposes of this article, I’ll also be ignoring all the "he wasn’t given full power" excuses a lot of folk have used to explain away his time in Made in Brazil (MIBR), as nobody forced him into the position, and he would have been more-than aware of the power dynamics that could exist before accepting the position.

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First impressions at MIBR

So, what was par for YNk at his two Majors so far, and did he manage to reach it? We’ll start with the Brazilian/American team, known as MIBR, before looking at what he has done so far in FaZe, as it’s easier to take the job into consideration after it is complete. For those who don’t remember, the team made it through Legends despite losses to Tyloo and Astralis, before facing compLexity in the first stage of Champions, and then going 0-2 against Na’Vi in the semi-finals.

On the face of things, top four with a team that was not really performing seems like a great result, but there are a few circumstances to consider, the first of which is an extremely easy route to that point. Drawing compLexity in round one of top eight should be a free win for a team with the likes of FalleN and coldzera on board, and none of mousesports, G2 or NiP were in impressive shape going into the event either. Furthermore, the context of YNk’s words on leaving the team shows that he can only take partial credit for that result, as he was never really calling the shots when FalleN was around.

Similarly, while the team did improve during the second half of 2018, the fact is that it is hard to say YNk did that himself, as they were learning to communicate in game, as well as trying to fit the likes of Stewie and Tarik in. Overall, then, his time with MIBR cannot be considered a success, but should probably not be too much of a failure either, as the team was dysfunctional before he joined. Par on a five, let’s call it, and a missed opportunity, but nothing to say YNk should be cancelled as a coach. With that, on to FaZe…

Second attempts

After the Brazilian bromance had ended, you’d assume YNk would have maybe stepped down a level to hone his craft and learn, before he came back to elite CS, but this is esports and nothing is what you would expect. Rather than any hit to his reputation, it seems as though YNk survived the MIBR experience unscathed, and was able to parlay that performance into a position with FaZe Clan, a team ranked higher than MIBR, with a better recent record. That is partly down to the lack of real methodology in the way teams scout support staff, and probably also down to the massive public support he gets from commentators and other former colleagues of his.

His time at FaZe began in January, and after a pretty poor start at the IBP event he brought them to IEM Katowice, where they were assured a spot in week two due to their previous performances. To make it through, they had to win three series, and at least one best-of three, against teams that are in theory the best in the world…in theory.

Unfortunately for YNk, their performances against average or poor teams has been very telling

Over the course of the week, FaZe, who are ranked fifth in the world, faced HellRaisers (21st), Renegades (8th), AVANGAR (16th), compLexity (41st) and Cloud9 (7th) to try to book a spot in the Champions Stage. None of those teams would have felt they had a chance against this FaZe team a year ago, but Renegades and AVANGAR made short work of the superteam, and in the end FaZe scraped past a C9 side that was brought low by injury and personal circumstance after a very underwhelming week.

That is really the point that bears repeating, about judging their run so far in Katowice, that they haven’t really faced a top team to judge them against. Unfortunately for YNk, their performances against average or poor teams has been very telling, and not on the level that FaZe fans should expect from a team with this much experience, this much ability and this many trophies already in their past.

IEM_Katowice_bracket_graphic

If they make it to top four, that would be extremely positive for the team given the way the draw works, as they would need to beat a Na’Vi side that is just as broken from a team point of view, but seemingly more motivated. Perhaps thankfully for the Janko fans out there, the scene isn’t as strong as is has been in the past, making top four at a Major much easier to achieve than it might otherwise have been, but the way FaZe played against teams like AVANGAR and C9 doesn’t inspire confidence, and it sure as hell won’t scare s1mple.

So, all in all, it’s hard to say YNk has really had any notable effect on the teams he has coached so far, and therefore a little over the top to suggest he’s doing a good job. His ability to influence them is as much a part of his coaching skill set as his ability to create a strat, meaning you can’t excuse the MIBR mess, but there is at least some good news. In one of the decisive late moments versus C9, FaZe called a timeout, to execute a strategy in the following round that was as slick and intelligent as you’d expect from a team on their level, and when the dust had settled, Janko was smirking.

In the next few days, YNk will be given a chance to show what he can do, on the biggest stage in CSGO, with the greatest player in CS history (olofmeister) and one of the world’s most dangerous aimers (NiKo) in his team. The memory of the 30th round vs C9 should still be in their minds, perhaps making them more inclined to acquiesce to his demands than bad Gabriel Toledo was, meaning YNk has everything set up to make himself a legendary name in the space of a few days.

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