After a rocky New Challengers stage, mousesports mustered the strength to punch their ticket to Boston by defeating Vega Squadron, Astralis, and Quantum Bellator Fire. As we enter the Top 8, the field is wide-open. Out of the big names, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite: SK Gaming have a stand-in, but a very capable one, FaZe have had difficulties, G2 came into the tournament as a dark horse but now look to be the best team at the tournament. Against impressive names like Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and Håvard "rain" Nygaard, can mousesports contend?
In the quarter-finals, mouz is playing the favourites to win the whole thing: FaZe. Interestingly, this is a rematch of the ECS Cancun finals in December, where FaZe narrowly beat mousesports in the final map. Though FaZe won, mousesports looked like the better team for a large majority of the series, and in the end their loss boiled down do some mistakes in overtime, when the pressure was at its highest. This pattern has reemerged at the ELEAGUE Major, as mousesports lost 16-14 to Quantum Bellator Fire despite earning a 13-2 first half. Against Space Soldiers, they gave up two rounds once they reached 14-11, nearly costing them the match. If mousesports can’t find a way to play at their peak in pressure moments, they are sure to get eliminated by FaZe.
There is, however, reason to be optimistic about this series for mouz: their stylistic matchup against FaZe is excellent. With Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný as the primary AWPer and Chris "chrisJ" de Jong as the in-game leader, mousesports have coordinated and aggressive double-AWP setup. On top of that, they have two skilled riflers in Robin "ropz" Kool and Miikka "suNny" Kemppi, both of which are more than willing to make an aggressive play. As a consequence of this roster composition, mousesports have four players that can make aggressive plays on the CT side. That means that, as their opponent, you can get caught off guard at anywhere, any time. But with aggression comes risk, and this belligerence is a double-edged sword: you can give up the first kill just as easily as you can get it. For example, in this series, the FaZe AWPer Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács had a +9 first kill difference, while his teammate Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer Gustafsson had a -6. If the aggression works out in their favour, mousesports can run away with a bunch of gun rounds. Since FaZe are not the most coordinated T-side team, giving up early kills could be a chink in their armor, if the mousesports players are playing at their best.
Beyond being vulnerable to their strengths, FaZe are not well suited to make the most of mouz’s weakness. The area of the game in which chrisJ seems to struggle the most as a leader is mid-round decisions: which site to hold, rotations, and so on. In the semi-final of ECS, mousesports was dominating Astralis with their early-round aggression, yet often let rounds slip away due to over-eagerness to maintain map control. But Astralis are one of the best in the world in this department, and FaZe are not. Without their primary weakness exploited, mousesports could get away with their mid-round woes despite facing one of the best teams in the world.
The in-game leader agrees on both these counts. In an interview with DOT Esports, chrisJ spoke about the matchup with FaZe:“We feel really ready against them, in any case, because we feel their style fits us.”
In the end, FaZe will still have a firepower advantage, and they will rely on it against mouz as they do against everybody else. But as we saw in Cancun if the mouz players have good individual performances, they can go toe-to-toe with some of the best players the world. If they play up to peak we saw at ECS and perform in high-pressure situations, mousesports have a great chance to beat FaZe in the quarter-finals of the Boston Major.