At the end of the Grand Final of EPICENTER 2018, desk host Tres ‘stunna’ Saranthus turned to his panel and asked what the tournament win means for FaZe. After months of failures, infighting and criticism, the super team had switched leaders, deposing Finn ‘karrigan’ Anderson in favour of Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač, and this was the first event they’d won since.
It was Duncan ‘thorin’ Shields who fielded the question, in quite sensible fashion for him, with two words. “More time”, was his answer, but in our eyes it’s possible that may just be more time wasted, as this event has made them believe this setup can work for the long-term, when in reality it may be that this iteration of FaZe CSGO has no positive future.
Defying expectation in Moscow
To first explain why that could be the case, we need to set the scene. Sure, at EPICENTER, there were wins over Team Liquid and Na’Vi, as well as NiP if you want to pretend they were contenders, and they were convincing victories. However, in the tournaments leading up to this win, there were losses that were not just as convincing, but almost embarrassing too, hence the expectation that they would lose heavily to Na’Vi in the EPICENTER final.
In October alone, Space Soldiers, BIG and LDLC all took maps off the team that features Olofmeister, NiKo and GuardiaN. The previous weeks also saw series losses to NRG, 2-0, a struggling Mouseports and fnatic, none of which should occur when you have the level of talent and financial support that FaZe enjoy. Players fell off too, with GuardiaN dropping from a 1.21 last August to a 1.02 in October of this year, as well as rain dipping below the 1.0 mark for the first time in over a year.
Alongside this was the change from karrigan leading the team to NiKo, one that was certainly not agreed upon by all five members if you read between the lines. The effect it had on team morale was obvious too, and even in winning EPICENTER the five men seemed more motivated by their failures than real spirit or love for each other, although that is always hard to read on stream, or even in the venue.
Amidst all of that, FaZe Clan arrived in Moscow as not rank outsiders, but certainly unfavoured compared to where they had been before. Only the bravest were calling them potential winners, due to the obvious desire for change a number of players were displaying online. In fact, Na’Vi had won their previous seven maps vs FaZe, according to HLTV, in a run stretching back to the end of February, before the final of EPICENTER.
Against this backdrop, it seemed as though FaZe came together and embraced their underdog status, something they never should have had in the first place, but in the long term that is not a tenable situation to exist in. NiKo has the potential to be a hard carry in the same way a s1mple can, but unlike s1mple he is surrounded by legendary players who have proven themselves time and again, making it utterly nonsensical to then burden him with the leadership role, even if you don’t believe karrigan is capable.
That it worked here is actually a bit worrying, in the same way the Na’Vi appearance in the Major final may have convinced that team they are on the right track, and to ignore some of their more obvious flaws. In the long term, FaZe will never beat Astralis regularly with this line-up due to the flaws the Danes can exploit at any time, and only really managed to beat Liquid and Na’Vi with the help of experience, combined with their opponents craking under the pressure, with basically all of Liquid and then electronic going missing in the semis and final resepctively.
No immediately obvious solution
How you fix the team is anyone’s guess, as a world class IGL is the one thing FaZe cannot buy, regardless of their funds, with the best very firmly locked down by MiBR and Astralis. That may be another factor that encourages them to go with this team long term, but even if you do it still seems as though the likes of Olof or even GuardiaN would be better off taking the lead, leaving NiKo to do his thing.
Whatever the outcome, for this writer at least FaZe need a change, and that comes on the back of having predicted them to win the event when nobody else believed. Their experience, determination and skill cannot be doubted, but to compete with Liquid, Na’Vi and eventually Astralis they need more, and this five seems to have hit a hard ceiling more than once that suggests they don’t have it here.
Image credit: EPICENTER