At the ESL Proleague 7 Finals, there will be two teams in the spotlight: Astralis and FaZe. They have come to define the storyline of the last tournaments as Astralis has run over a train on everyone. They smashed DreamHack Marseille and looked to do the same at IEM Sydney. Instead FaZe upset them and took the series 3-0 in an incredibly close series. Despite that loss, Astralis still look to be the best team in the world and FaZe are the only ones that have proven they can defeat them in a series on LAN. And one of the pivotal duels within that battle is between Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs and Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz. Their personal AWP duel could tip the scales one way or another should they meet again.
To understand the importance of this particular matchup, we must understand the context of the AWP. As a weapon, it is finicky. You move slower with it equipped, it has a slow firing rate, but it allows you to instantly kill anyone in the server provided you hit them in the body or head. At the same time, it has the best range in the game and with the scope, is one of the most tactically important tools of any team. However it isn’t all tactical upside. The AWP is also extremely expensive, especially in a game that is defined by force buys, overpowered pistols, and the need for utility. So for the players that do become the main AWPer of their team, they hold a special responsibility. The team is sacrificing the economy to get the AWPer this weapon and try to support th AWPer. They set the AWPer up with utility, help him into position, hold his flank, and jump bait for him. In turn the AWPer must deliver, must get the opening picks or kills. It is a role that isn’t for the faint of heart and in some cases the team can live or die off of the AWPers performance.
This is the responsibility that both GuardiaN and dev1ce hold, GuardiaN since the beginning and dev1ce since mid 2016. Both players are recognized as some of the best AWPers the scene has to offer. Their clash against each other at IEM Sydney Finals was one of the factors that tipped the scales in FaZe’s favor. As dev1ce tweeted, “FaZe deserved the win today. GuardiaN bullied me ingame today, nothing else to do than watch the game and learn from the mistakes.”
While there were multiple factors as to why FaZe were able to win, GuardiaN defeating dev1ce in the AWP duel a majority of times was one of the factors. Looking at the raw numbers shows that in terms of pure fragging, GuardiaN had out done dev1ce with a K-D of 90-64 compared to 72-71 across the three map series. But those are just numbers and without context, they can only correlate the raw fragging power without context of each round or situation.
The way to visualize an AWP vs. AWP duel is to understand that it is both a time trial and a duel. The fastest way to gimp an opposing AWPer is to get rid of the AWPers supporting cast. It doesn’t matter if you actually win the AWP duels if everyone else is already dead. The amount of frags that GuardiaN got certainly pushes that idea forward. There is also the way of the direct duel. One of the most prominent I remember is on Cache round nine when the two of them go head to head in an AWP duel in B halls that GuardiaN wins. From there FaZe is able to convert the man advantage into a round win.
More subtle ways are through position, map control, and reading the enemy AWPer. The map where you can see the AWP duel play out like this the most is Cache. When FaZe were on the T-side, GuardiaN and Finn “Karrigan” Andersen seem to predict that dev1ce will be going to mid. I suspect that this is the case because of the general tendencies of dev1ce. As I started earlier, dev1ce lost the straight up AWP duel in the ninth round. Dev1ce as a CT-side AWPer is incredibly mobile and so he likes to switch up his positioning all of the time. In this way he makes himself hard to read and he can at will avoid a potential AWP duel which is at best a 50/50 shot and instead go for the easier picks which put Astralis up the same advantage anyway.
While this kind of style is hard to read, there are tendencies. Specifically for dev1ce he rarely goes to the same place twice, so assuming you know where he has been before gives means you can take off one possibility. It is similar to when you play Rock, Paper, Scissors and certain players will never play the same hand twice in a row. Or perhaps it was a set play, but whatever the case, in round 10, karrigan throws a perfect flash bang in mid which lets GuardiaN peak and immediately take out dev1ce.
Getting the frag on the other player is the most flashy way to impact, but it’s not the only way. On the Ct-side of Cache, GuardiaN is holding mid from whitebox on round 19. He is forced off by some utility from dev1ce so now dev1ce holds the angle. GuardiaN jiggle peaks until dev1ce comitts the shot, but because of the slow firing rate, this allows GuardiaN to retake the angle and the information. If dev1ce had been able to control that angle, then that leaves more map control for Astralis to make a plan, but this was denied to them without GuardiaN firing a single shot.
Some of the biggest impact plays came from how GuardiaN played eco rounds where he saved the AWP. On both Overpass and Train, he was able to save the AWP on CT-side both times. Both rounds ended up being critical swing rounds that helped push FaZe over the edge. On Overpass, he was able to funnel Astralis away from the A-site with a pick and when they rotated to mid and B, they got ambushed by Karrigan. He was only able to get one kill, but he got the info fast enough to cause the rotation and put GuardiaN back in position to get another kill which helped close the round. On Train, GuardiaN held an off position next to the B-site bomb train that none of the utility normally clears out. Because of that, when Astralis came out to hit the site, they had to clear him out while the rest of the FaZe team pinched on Astralis to take the round.
These are just some examples of many of how the AWP significantly impacted the matchup between FaZe and Astralis. In that series, GuardiaN got the better of dev1ce and this in turn helped FaZe get the better of Astralis. However we know that dev1ce is a player who will go back and study his opponents. I vividly remember him breaking apart Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo on Overpass when the two of them met at the PGL Krakow Major. As a player he isn’t satisfied with knowing that GuardiaN got the better of him and so the duel between GuardiaN and dev1ce, and dev1ce’s answers to GuardiaN will be one of the most anticipated matchups of ESL Proleague Season 7 Finals and could become one of the most important duels for the months to come.