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Counter-StrikeCSColumn

lurppis: Who’s going to stop the new FaZe?

1
Following a catastrophic debut at DreamHack Masters Malmo, where FaZe fell short against NiP and Gambit en route to a group stage elimination, NiKo’s team delivered a masterpiece of a performance at ESL One New York. In perhaps the most dominant tier-one tournament victory of all-time in Counter-Strike, FaZe finished the event with 7-0 map record, allowing only a Liquid comeback from a 4-11 deficit to win over seven rounds against them, and averaging a ridiculous 16-6 score in their championship run. Could FaZe already be the best team around?
FaZe Clan’s win coincides with their main competition in 2017, namely SK Gaming and Astralis, seemingly dropping a notch in form. Astralis have yet to win a tournament since IEM Katowice, or to make a grand final of a tournament since SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals in April. Number-one ranked SK had a tremendously successful early summer, but have now gone out in the quarter-finals at both PGL Krakow and DreamHack Masters Malmo, and failed to make the grand final at both ESG Tour Mykonos and ESL One New York.

So, many fans are already asking, who is going to stop the new FaZe? In this article we will take a look at the ways a team can be dethroned, assess their likelihoods, and then see of how the rest of 2017 might play out.

Astralis with the Eleague Major trophy.
Astralis with the Eleague Major trophy.

The comeback of the old elite – Astralis and SK

Perhaps the most obvious – at least in the short-term, but bear with me – scenario sees one of the top dogs of 2017, Astralis or SK, return to their top form and become the clear number one team again. While the previous roster of Astralis with Finn "karrigan" Andersen and René "cajunb" Borg, then known as TSM, never returned to that status after losing it in mid-2015, SK has already pulled off the feat. After two major wins in 2016, SK struggled to win tournaments a year ago and wound up removing Lincoln "fnx" Lau from the team’s roster – despite not being able to pick up a new permanent member for months. Following a couple of events with temporary stand-in Ricardo "fox" Pacheco, SK picked up Joao "felps" Vasconcellos and became the best team in the world ahead of PGL Krakow.

While certainly a plausible scenario, currently it seems unlikely. Astralis has not even made a grand final in five months, and SK has looked shaken after the summer break. In their defense, there is a bit of an extended break now for Eleague that will allow all teams to practice more than usual, but getting back on top that quickly is still a tall task. That is especially true in a case where individual level of play is part of the cause for their fall – something analysts have been vocal about, and device mentioned in an interview. Both teams are all-time greats that must not be counted out, but at the same time, they probably do not represent the most likely scenarios. Instead, let us see what other options exist.

The rise of new contenders – G2, Liquid, North, and the likes

In the past month Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken’s Liquid have racked up the scalps of SK (twice, in best-of-three series), Astralis (in a best-of-three series) and Virtus.pro . The Frenchmen of G2 Esports led by Richard "shox" Papillon won DreamHack Masters Malmö following series wins over SK and North , and Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen’s team – now boasting Valdemar "valde" Vangså as their new fifth – made the grand final in Sweden, won DreamHack Open Montreal, and topped their group at Eleague Premier. This trio alone has tons of potential and without a doubt a chance in a series against FaZe. What is more, each of them is trending up in right direction, unlike the Astralis and SK duo.

There are also other options outside the trio highlighted before – Gambit Esports have looked promising in the post-Zeus era, Natus Vincere could finally bounce back with the aforementioned leader behind the steering wheel, Virtus.pro might wake up from hibernation after Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski’s controversial Facebook post, or the new Cloud9 roster could reach unprecedented heights. Fine, the later ones might have been stretches. But despite not necessarily being more likely than the first option, the rise of new contenders does represent another threat to FaZe. And yet it is not the one you would put your money down for, at even odds anyway.

The new Faze Clan.
The new Faze Clan.

Time does away with FaZe's form – what will happen after the honeymoon period?

The most common – and unfortunately, boring – way for a team to lose out on making a time period their era, is the inability to stand the test of time forever. No matter how amazing Astralis’s teamwork and tactics seemed in February, how no one could withstand that combination with the skill levels of Nicolai "device" Reedtz and Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye, the threat is now altogether different. While SK remain major champions forever and Marcelo "coldzera" David may still be the world’s best player, something is off about SK. Time causes all kinds of issues to teams, ranging from personal development to players wanting new roles and simply lack of practice, that teams struggle with.

As such, if FaZe do come out strong in Atlanta and win their second large-scale tournament in a row on the back of another incredible showing of individual skill fireworks, the most likely killer of them in somewhere down the line is not any of their dangerous opponents, but themselves. Any successful team will tell – in fact, device did this week in a text interview – how hard it is to stay at the top of your game when you are winning. It becomes increasingly tough to spot mistakes and improve. Now, FaZe do have an added security measure – enough individual skill to break through any defense, at any point, with any weaponry. But then again, so did Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer’s Fnatic teams. If you had to pick the most likely cause of FaZe’s future fall, it would have to be father time.

Epicenter, which last year was won by Dignitas, will return in October.
Epicenter, which last year was won by Dignitas, will return in October.

How will the end of 2017 play out?

Right now FaZe are riding on a high and will get a chance to further tweak their game ahead of their next offline tournament, the Eleague Premier playoffs. The team led by karrigan likely will travel to Atlanta as favorites, and their performance in the state last attached by a similar force in Hurricane Irma just weeks ago will determine their outlook going forward. Make the grand final convincingly and it will be tough to make a case against Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács’s new team at Epicenter – assuming they get through the online qualifier. With another break before IEM Oakland, the superteam gets another chance to recharge at home.

It gets too far to make any tangible predictions – especially given the tiny sample set we are working with – but there is a universe out there where FaZe wins at least two more tier-one titles this year. Not only would that definitively confirm the roster moves were the right move – in case you are not convinced yet, which I am – but it would open the door for FaZe becoming the best team of 2017, while NiKo could secure his spot at the top of the leaderboards for the best individual player of the year. There is a lot at stake, and the final months of 2017 will be, in the words of Thorin, straight fire.

About the author
Tomi Kovanen, more commonly known as "lurppis", is one of Finland's most prominent Counter-Strike experts. Kovanen started his career as a player back in 2004, retiring in early-2012. During his active years, Kovanen represented teams such as hoorai, Team ROCCAT, 4Kings and Evil Genuises.

Following his retirement, Kovanen has continued to be an influential member of the scene, sharing his expertise as a columnist, analyst, commentator and a frequent user of Twitter (@lurppis).

Header image: Montage (Faze Clan)

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Counter-StrikeCSVideoHighlights

JUST 1vs5 with glock vs. Sharks on train

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The portuguese player Tiago "JUST" Moura takes on Sharks in a one versus five during the 4Gamers CS:GO Masters Porto LAN.
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This weekend has been host to the DreamHack Astro Open Denver which saw a mixture of European and American teams go head to head for their share of $100,000.
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Counter-StrikeCSViewer's guide

Viewer's guide: Epicenter 2017

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Epicenter 2017, being held at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg for the first time, after it's successful 2016 event took place in Moscow, will take place on October 28-29.
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Counter-StrikeCSDreamhack Open

DreamHack Open Denver — Finals Day

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Epicenter looms, and with it comes some interesting story-lines and developments to keep our eyes on. The battle of the best, the legends on their last legs and restless rosters.
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On the opening day of the DreamHack Astro Open Denver, the top spot in each group belonged to Cloud9 and BIG. This will see them both have the second day off and a spot in the Semi-Finals.
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CS:GO saw a significant increase in prize money distributed during the bigger tournaments throughout 2016. But the promising development has taken a toll, with prize money stagnating during 2017, and we might even see a decrease in the total amount of money being paid out from tournaments.
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At PGL Major Krakow we asked the pros what their favorite jersey design is. What's your favorite? We at Fragbite love Fnatics Swedish edition.
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Counter-StrikeCSRussia

Epicenter 2017 Groups Announced

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With the event held in St. Petersburg, Russia growing near, the tournament organizers Epic Esports Events have announced how the teams will be split for the group stage.
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Counter-StrikeCSVideoHighlights

Best plays from the old Dust 2

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Since the game's release in 2012, Dust 2 has been one of the most played maps and still remains so to this day. But with Valve releasing the updated version of Dust 2, we leave behind some of the best highlights throughout the history of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. To honor the map we present to you a fragmovie containing some of the best highlights from the CS:GO scene, taken place on Dust 2!
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After French Canadians were forced to withdraw from the Americas Minor, just days after qualifying, we were all left asking the question, who will take their place?
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Counter-StrikeCSViewer's guide

Viewer's guide: Dreamhack Astro Open Denver

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DreamHack Open Denver is an event that may not be on some of your radars, well that is about to change.
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It has been reported that changes are afoot in the Brazilian scene. Just days ago we announced that Immortals had finalized their roster for the season ahead, now that looks to be being shaken up already!
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Counter-StrikeCSCounter-Strike: GO

HellRaisers bench Zero — Bring in fejtz

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HellRaisers have decided it is time for change, possibly prompted by their failure to make the EU Minor.
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This past week saw the long qualifiers for the Eleague Major kick off, and with it, drama. In this article I'm going to attempt to dive down the rabbit hole and take you guys with me. So grab your red noses and flowers that squirt water, it's time to get lost in the CEVO clown fiesta.
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The Polish line-up who failed to progress through the Europe Minor qualifiers over the weekend, winning only 1 match, have decided it was time to make a change.
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French Canadians who recently qualified for the Americas Minor, will apparently not be attending the event due to issues with visas. Adding more confusion to the qualifiers, who will take their place?
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In early 2016, I drew parallels between the record-breaking 2010 Natus Vincere roster and the Brazilian Luminosity team, which is now known as SK Gaming. Today, I am going to compare the 2009 fnatic team – who were knocked off their throne by that same Na`Vi squad mentioned earlier – to the restructured Faze team, featuring the deadly duo of olofmeister and GuardiaN.
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Philips OneBlade CupOneBlade CupPhilips OneBlade Cup

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The Finnish qualifier finals for Philips OneBlade Cup has come to an end, following an initial close game between Skitlite and Gosu, and then a much more onesided final between where Skitlite came out on top.
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DreamHack Denver is coming up this weekend, in which, eight teams will clash for their share of $100,000 cash.
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