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Luci Kelemen
Luci Kelemen

Writes about way too many things. Has way too many opinions. Wants to tell all the interesting stories in the world.

September 25th, 2020

Most of the chatter about the brotherly union in the Kovač family revolves around how one would realign the G2 squad to make space for one of the best individual riflers – however, trying to game out the next chapter for FaZe Clan is arguably an even more exciting proposition…

FaZe’s era that never was

It has to be said that FaZe Clan were this close to breaking CS:GO at one point. A team of five superstars with limited tactical cohesion was never supposed to work and, indeed, never worked before in the history of the game. They were on the verge of cracking the code, with their title-winning run at IEM New York 2017 serving as the highlight of how a team like this can truly dominate the competition. Backed by a loose calling style from karrigan, FaZe’s star players seemingly took turns to pop off, clinching round after round after map after map after win after win.

Deep runs were a given: titles, however, were not, and the team’s championship window featured so many late-stage defeats that you can’t really justify calling their reign an era – especially once you consider how the Boston Major’s climactic final symbolizes everything that was good and bad about that team at the same time. Not only did they fail to win the biggest title CS has to offer, it was also off the back of a spectacular implosion.

Next up, a state of decline and karrigan’s eventual removal, which was either a coup or an agreed-upon decision depending on who you ask. One thing is clear: no matter who says what, FaZe have not brought in a dedicated in-game leader since December 2018 – whether by design or transfer failures is a somewhat irrelevant question on such a timescale. The closest they currently have to a tactical mastermind is YNk.

Ah yes, it’s the “NiKo-as IGL” question again with all its Shakespearean undertones. You might recall the many discussions around the time when NiKo was stuck in the mousesports dungeon: surrounded by vastly inferior players, he took the mantle of the in-game leader and kept calling around himself, putting in monster performances which were still only enough for the occasional playoff spot. At the time, there were many who thought this approach diminished his teammates to such an extent that it was a counterproductive effort – of course, the later careers of the various players involved in that squad (see also: Spiidi, denis). The problem with NiKo the in-game leader is the very fact that you’re using him as an IGL – you’d get more out of him as the dedicated star alongside a dedicated in-game leader, and it’s no coincidence his best career tournament results came from the time when he actually had one alongside him.

It will be fascinating to see how G2 will square this particular circle if the transfer goes through – but perhaps just as importantly, it would open up a slate of new opportunities for FaZe’s not-so-superteam for their next adventure.

New-look FaZe: same as the old?

There’s no doubt G2 will have to fork over a decent chunk of change for NiKo’s signature, but there’s also no guarantee FaZe will want to reinvest that sum into their CS:GO operations. If you squint hard enough, you can see the outlines of a basic setup provided a good IGL is brought in: coldzera thrust into the star role (if only because you’d struggle to name a single dedicated lurker in recent years who could consistently secure wins for their team), rain as the entry with a bit less dirty work to do, broky on the AWP and… well, Kjaerbye already looks like the odd one out, doesn’t he?

For what it’s worth, bringing in an IGL in the current environment is a fairly challenging prospect. With multiple orgs entering CS and sometimes looking to replicate FaZe’s international approach, the pool of available in-game leaders is fairly limited, as evidenced by the team’s own previous tryouts. Even beyond their failed attempts at finding a fifth on the cheap once they ditched karrigan, they apparently tried out pronax and even Aleksib, with no signing to materialize. Where else do you go? Pray HappY is willing to try something other than lurking in the new decade? Bring back karrigan? Give the Godfather of Brazilian CS an offer he can’t refuse, likely blowing coldzera’s top off in the process?

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You’ll note how all these names – or indeed, the potential free agents in general – are experienced players rather than the sort of exciting newcomers FaZe ended up going for recently with broky and Bymas. The IGL role in a team full of stars (especially ones who aren’t performing as well as they used to) necessitates incredible people skills and experience beyond the CS acumen. Unlike a C9 or an OG a few months ago, they can’t even offer a blank check of a clean slate for their prospective leader as it seems impossible to ship out the rest of this expensively assembled squad, which makes it even more unlikely that they can get a big-name in-game leader as it seems tough to imagine how they could tempt someone from another top team to join their floundering project.

There’s also the question of how disruptive you even want to be in the middle of a pandemic. Criticize FaZe as much as you want for the cheapo punts they took on AdreN and NEO (then broky and Bymas), the same sort of baby’s-first-Moneyball attempts would actually make a lot of sense right now when every result is fleeting due to online play and no proper bootcamps. Even if the best IGL was available – and willing to join – is it worth paying top dollar at this moment in time when teambuilding basically equals online scrims and maybe a friendly game of Among Us or two?

(Wonder who would be the impostor on this FaZe roster. Food for thought…)

Maybe you just take the NiKo money, keep skidding towards the bottom of the rankings for a little while longer, bide your time and plan for a large-scale rebuild sometimes in 2021? Of all the bad options they have, this is perhaps the most serviceable.

Photo credit: HLTV