“Everyone knows on this team [FaZe] what the main goal is. To become the best team in the world. To become something legendary.” – Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs, interview with Thorin
Going into the ELeague Major 2018, the team that has the most to prove is FaZe. While they are an all-star team, four of their five players have never won a Major title before. Nearly everyone has something to prove: Finn “Karrigan” Andersen, Havard “rain” Nygaard, Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, and GuardiaN. Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson is already a two time Major winner, but his ambition to be the best has always driven him to want more. For FaZe, the ELeague Boston Major is the crucible.
When Karrigan joined TSM in early 2015, the team quickly became one of the best teams in the world. They consistently placed highly in nearly every event they attended and were one of the few teams that could beat the Fnatic line-up that we now call the greatest of all-time line-up. Despite those accolades, TSM (later known as Astralis), could never win the big ones. They never got to the finals of a Major despite getting to the playoffs of a Major five times.
Once Karrigan was kicked from the team, Astralis then went on to win the ELeague Major. Now Karrigan is the only one left from that legendary lineup to have not won the Major yet, but this team is arguably the biggest chance he has ever had.
For Rain, there was never any real hope. There were no incredible Norwegian teams, so he signed onto the international mix that was Kinguin (later on G2 and FaZe). While he made it to the semifinals once at DreamHack Cluj-Napoca, that was a one-off where everything went right for the team. Soon after the Valve coaching rule came into play and the team never reached such heights again.
But this year is different. This year FaZe had a leader in Karrigan, someone who could take all of the disparate parts and make them into a cohesive whole. Rain seems to have responded to this as this is the first time he’s ever played under such a renowned leader and has found his role within the team. This in turn has made him a stronger and stronger player throughout the year and he looks to be in his prime now in this FaZe roster.
NiKo was in a similar situation as Rain. He hailed from Bosnia and had even less chances to compete. He eventually found himself on mouz where he became the impromptu leader after they kicked out Fatih “gob b” Dayik. While not a great leader, he was an incredible player and did the biggest carry any single player had ever done in CS:GO history.
But that wasn’t enough to win, so he tried to change his style to facilitate his teammates. That didn’t work either, and he eventually got the call from Karrigan to join FaZe. One of the world’s best leaders and one of the world’s best players, this was a match made in heaven. Though FaZe categorically failed at the Krakow Major, NiKo looks to redeem himself and finally win a Major that someone of his talents deserves.
The biggest tragedy of all has to go to GuardiaN. From late 2015 to early 2016, Na`vi was one of the best teams in the world and GuardiaN was their superstar player. At the DreamHack Cluj-Napoca Major he was the best player of the tournament and Na`Vi got to the finals of the Major. They even got a great map pool draw, but in the end it wasn’t enough. The team choked while GuardiaN tried his hardest to bring them over the line, to no avail.
The following Major at MLG Columbus was to be his redemption. But GuardiaN had injuries that forced him to play at four times the sensitivity. Though his team was ready, he could no longer help them. After the team had lost the finals, Guardian tweeted, “The lost finals is not the worst feeling, but the feeling to not be able to even fight for that title for your team…”
As for olofmeister, he is someone who can empathize with their desires and struggles. Though olofmeister did win two majors, they were forged in the fires of hate. At DreamHack Winter 2014, Fnatic had pulled a boost in the deciding map against LDLC. The community reaction was vitriolic and Fnatic ended up forfeiting the tournament. It was one of the worst moments of his professional career and he was on the verge of retiring. Instead he let the resentment and hatred of the community fuel him, so he knows all too well the desire to win a Major despite the odds.
Now all five of them have united under FaZe and now they look to do something legendary. At DreamHack Malmo, they failed to get out of group stages as they were eliminated by Gambit. But after that event FaZe showed themselves to be one of the best teams in the world as the destroyed the competition at ESL New York and ELeague 2017.
While those two events showed their strengths, the following events showed their weaknesses. At EPICENTER they only lost to the two finalists of the event. At Blast, there was a strange format that had them barely edged out in the group stages. At ESL Proleague Season 6, they lost to SK in the finals 3-1. Finally at ECS Cancun they met Mouz in the finals. FaZe were the favorites but the match ended up being a drag out bloodbath between the two teams where FaZe barely eked it out 2-1 with two overtime wins on inferno and mirage.
Through these run of tournaments we have seen FaZe at their strongest and at their weakest. In a way, FaZe is an uneven team. Their strengths are nearly unstoppable if they are allowed to use them. Incredible firepower, awe-inspiring CT-sides, an incredibly strong core set of maps (inferno, overpass, mirage), incredible pistols, and force-buys. But this only makes their weaknesses stand out all the more as their middling maps have a good CT-side, but have yet to develop a T-side. When the firepower isn’t working, they cannot rely on things like teamplay or tactics as much as the other elite teams. Their incredible strength in forcebuys is matched by their incredible weakness against forcebuys. The biggest flaw seems to be a bad matchup against SK as SK have consistently beaten FaZe in the head-to-head.
This is what makes this current Major so important. FaZe are entering as the best team in the world as SK cannot use Ricardo “boltz” Prass. Because of the roster lock rules, SK will have to use Joao “felps” Vasconcellos. This means that this Major looks to be FaZe’s best chance to win it and finally get redemption for the lies of GuardiaN, NiKo, Karrigan, and Rain.