How FaZe Clan won IEM 2022

March 7 2022

How FaZe Clan won IEM 2022
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Premier American esports organization FaZe Clan is one of the most recognizable names in gaming today. Fielding high-level teams in numerous titles, they have accumulated over $11.5 million in competitive earnings.

The FaZe brand has even evolved into an influential part of today's pop culture. The organization has a long list of celebrity investors, including chart-topping artist Pitbull and professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston. Even rapper Snoop Dogg wore a Faze Clan chain during the halftime performance at this year's Super Bowl. FaZe was also the first esports team to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and they have totaled over 1.1 billion views on YouTube. Simply put, FaZe Clan transcends esports like no other organization today.

Initially forming as a Call of Duty team, Faze Clan entered Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in 2016. Odd for the time, they went with an all-European roster despite being based in the United States. They hit the ground running early, winning several major tournaments in their first three years and solidifying themselves as a formidable presence. However, just as the FaZe brand began to expand, the CS:GO team suffered something of a dry spell. The team dealt with heavy roster turnover and adjustments online during the pandemic. With the organization more successful than ever, the CS: GO team's struggles went largely unnoticed. Still, there was a lot to prove if they wanted to be compared with the likes of Astralis and Natus Vincere. After their IEM Katowice 2022, FaZe Clan is one step closer to joining those ranks.

IEM Katowice snaps a streak of more than three years without a major tournament win for FaZe Clan. It was also their first tournament win of any kind since IEM New York Online in 2020. Only time will tell if the victory ushers in a new trend for the team. For now, they at least get the weight off their back. 

Tale of the tourney

FaZe Clan did not directly qualify for IEM Katowice and had to first fight through the play-in bracket. The story of the tournament for FaZe Clan was the play of stand-in Justin "jks" Savage. Filling in for two different players, the Australian rifler played in all but one match at IEM Katowice. After defeating Sprout in the first round, they capped off a thrilling comeback victory over MOUZ to earn a spot in the Group Stage. FaZe Clan followed up with one of the most impressive tournament runs in CS: GO history. In a stacked Group B, a gauntlet of the world's best teams stood between them and the Final.

First off was Team Liquid, an organization with similar influence to FaZe Clan in general gaming culture. After dropping the first map, FaZe rebounded to take the next two and win the match 2-1. It was a revenge match for FaZe, as Team Liquid eliminated them in the Group Stage at IEM Katowice the previous year. Victory tasted extra sweet for rifler Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken. He played with Team Liquid for nearly four years before being acquired by FaZe Clan in 2021. 

Next up was Fnatic, a team with nearly twenty years of competitive Counter-Strike history. FaZe dominated the first map 16-5, but Fnatic answered to tie things up at one apiece. Thanks to stellar performances by Twistzz and Finn "karrigan" Andersen, FaZe fought off Fnatic to win the match 2-1. This was the only match of the tournament in which stand-in jks didn't play. 

FaZe suffered their first loss to tournament-favorites Natus Vincere in the final round of the Group Stage. The teams traded the first two maps, and overtime was needed to decide the match. While FaZe Clan ultimately fell 2-1, they still qualified for the six-team playoffs. FaZe quickly put that loss in the rearview and shifted their focus to winning three more matches. 

Following their loss to Natus Vincere, FaZe Clan didn't drop a single map for the rest of the tournament. They dominated reigning IEM Katowice champions Gambit Esports in the first round of the playoffs. Then, they handed Heroic their first defeat of the tournament to reach the Grand Final. FaZe Clan was set to square off with a team they shared a long history with: G2 Esports.

History of FaZe and G2

IEM Katowice G2 Esports

Image source: ESL Gaming

Ties between the final two teams at IEM Katowice go back to the very start. FaZe Clan first entered Counter-Strike by acquiring G2 Esports' roster in 2016. For several years, the two teams coexisted in the CS: GO landscape, each winning multiple tournaments. They wouldn't be linked together again until a major transaction shifted courses for both sides. 

Bosnian rifler Nikola "Niko" Kovac has been touted as a premier CS: GO talent for many years. Some even consider him the world's best player, and he has the performances to back up those claims. After making a name for himself with mousesports (now MOUZ), Niko was acquired by FaZe Clan in 2017. Shortly after, he helped the team win their first tournament at StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3. Niko played a prominent role in building FaZe's CS: GO team into a global powerhouse during his three-year tenure. 

Niko's time with FaZe came to an end in October 2020, when he was acquired by G2 Esports. Joining forces with his cousin Nemanja "huNter-" Kovac, Niko was the first move in G2's roster rebuild. Moreover, his departure from FaZe Clan significantly impacted their results. The team struggled mightily in 2021, failing to reach the Top 8 for most tournaments. Interestingly enough, G2's performance slightly dipped after Niko's arrival. Despite many Top 4 finishes, they have yet to win any tournament with Niko on the roster. With things coming full circle at the IEM Katowice Grand Final, both teams had an opportunity to end a severe championship drought.  

Learn more: G2 Esports: one of the biggest esports organizations in the world

The Grand Final

FaZe Karrigan IEM Katowice 2022

Image source: ESL Gaming

For both FaZe Clan and G2 Esports, the past several years have been filled with hope, expectations, and ultimately heartbreak. It all culminated in the Grand Final at IEM Katowice 2022. These teams were built for this moment, and though it took some time, they were finally here. 

G2 got off to a hot start on Map 1 with an early 11-3 lead. FaZe Clan took the next four rounds to bring themselves back. G2 responded with four straight rounds of their own, finding themselves on map point. FaZe shifted into a new gear with their backs against the wall as they had all tournament. They rallied to take eight straight rounds and tie things at 15, forcing overtime. FaZe continued riding high on their momentum, winning every round in OT to cap off an incredible comeback. After facing a 15-7 deficit, FaZe Clan went on a 12-0 run to claim the first map.   

FaZe continued their hot streak on the second map by winning the first 7 rounds to make it 19 straight. With G2 in disarray, FaZe found themselves up 15-10 in reach of a commanding 2-0 match lead. G2 needed a big response before their title hopes started slipping away. Led by huNter- and recent NAVI Junior transfer Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov, G2 rallied with five straight rounds to force another overtime. Neither side was willing to give an inch with everything on the line for these hungry squads. 

A total of five overtimes were needed to decide the second map. FaZe looked to have the win in the bag up 18-15, but G2 rallied again to force double OT. The teams went back and forth for 18 more rounds until they were tied at 27. At the rate both teams were going, someone needed to make some extraordinary plays to break the stalemate. Fortunately for FaZe Clan, that player was Helvjs "broky" Saukants. The young Latvian AWPer started the fifth OT with a 2v1 Clutch to put his team ahead. Two rounds later, he scored three kills to put FaZe Clan on map point. With everything going their way, FaZe won the final map on a score of 31-27. 

A map away from an IEM Katowice championship, FaZe Clan closed out the tournament like true champions. The final map was a back and forth affair, but FaZe Clan fought hard to overcome the resilient G2 squad and win 16-14. The match may have been a 3-0 sweep, but it was fiercely competitive to the very end. The multiple overtimes resulted in some impressive stats. Three players on FaZe Clan had over 90 kills, while G2's huNter- tallied a staggering 113 kills with a +27 KDR.    

The future of team building?

FaZe hug IEM Katowice 2022

Image source: ESL Gaming

FaZe Clan's victory at IEM Katowice may signal a new era not just for the team but for CS:GO esports as a whole. Along with G2 Esports and a few others, they are beginning to usher in a new methodology for team building. Historically, Counter-Strike teams usually field a roster of players from the same country or geopolitical region. The players' nationalities often reflect where the organization is based; for example, all players on Denmark's Astralis and Heroic are Danish. Both FaZe and G2 stray away from that strategy, opting for multinational rosters. G2 tends to stick with European players, but FaZe's approach is truly global. Players currently hail from Norway, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, and Canada, not to mention a Swedish coach and the Australian stand-in, jks. 

More strange is that, though FaZe operates in the United States and has American players on other teams, not a single US citizen plays on their CS:GO roster. This method of team building reflects that of world soccer, where the goal is to bring the best players together no matter where they come from. If FaZe builds off this success, or if G2 Esports begin winning tournaments themselves, it could lead to more teams rethinking their strategy towards building a roster. For now, FaZe Clan will enjoy this long-awaited victory, along with the star-studded celebration that's probably in the making.  

Watch the FaZe highlights video on YouTube

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Author Zach Snoddy

Zach
Zach

Midwest Marauder. Wiz with words. Fighting game enthusiast and FPS newb. Not bad at video games but wishes he was better.