Right now, it seems like karrigan’s new-look FaZe squad is being brought back down to earth on account of their post-Major blues. For what it’s worth, all but one of the title winners failed to win the subsequent event, and no S-Tier event has emerged on the calendar since Antwerp. Cologne will tell us a lot about the longevity and resilience of this FaZe side, but there were already enough Big Events for us to wonder how this lineup stacks up against the 2017/18 iteration, and whether they will also fall slightly short of an era.
It’s the same person leading FaZe Clan, and yet it isn’t. In most cases, the growth in maturity and experience and veterancy is outweighed by the drop in firepower, and even legends of the game like FalleN and gla1ve found it difficult to adapt to new eras of competitive CS:GO.
It is a testament to karrigan’s greatness that he won elite-level events with a wide variety of squads across an impressively long period of time, each time without reinventing the wheel in a tangible way. No Astralis-style tactical revolution, no combat AWP renaissance in the FalleN mold: it’s always been about getting the most about his squad and counter-stratting the opposition in an effective manner.
Teambuilding and resilience are both on the up and up, and karrigan himself has stated that he considers himself a better IGL today than he was back in the Boston days.
Perhaps this is a controversial take, but the 2018 edition is probably impossible to top in this regard. You can’t just rely on sending in an olof, a NiKo or a (younger) rain expecting them to single-handedly entry-frag their way into a won round nowadays: it’s tough to overstate just how for above the pack that squad was in terms of individual prowess.
A quick glance at the HLTV numbers bears out this assumption:
It’s easy to identify the subtle shifts. In accordance with modern trends, the main damage-dealer is the AWPer in the form of broky, and the supporting cast is more solid and less spectacular, with karrigan’s fragging output remaining similar across the years. Looking at the new roster, ropz is a lurker at heart, sometimes spinning his way out of a round without impact. T-side entries have become tougher in the new meta, but the way how FaZe 2.0 often started out rounds 4v5 almost by default until the Estonian’s arrival, and sometimes things still fall apart when brute-forcing doesn’t work out.
An SK team slowly on the downswing, a Fnatic falling apart, an Astralis not yet rampant, a Na’Vi that was a perennial runner-up: it was a transitional time at the top of competitive Counter-Strike. It is a big part of why FaZe’s inability to fully secure dominance was seen as such a disappointment in retrospect, even if expecting a top team to get an era by default is one of the more annoying parts of the modern CS:GO commentariat.
The field feels similar nowadays. Na’Vi look to adjust to the dark waves of history, North American CS is in disarray, Astralis and NIP are both waiting for Godot on the bench, G2 lack cohesion… the list could go on. FaZe filled the void in the first half of the year but the real challenges are only just approaching.
What’s truly incredible about this side (for what seems to be the first time in karrigan’s long career) is the complete lack of any potential for drama. There is no NiKo or w0xic to stir shit up, just a loyal lieutenant in the form of rain, and another longstanding stalwart wielding the AWP.
It’s a group of great personalities, the young core young enough to potentially stick together for a very long time. Right now, the only ticking clock is karrigan’s age, which is a pretty incredible thing to be able to say about an elite-level CS:GO team at this time.
Cutting your way across elite-level CS:GO matches in 2022 is a tougher proposition than it was in 2018. This team has a higher floor, as evidenced by their sturdier mental foundations and strong results at the business end of the biggest tournaments, most notably a Major, but their floor is also lower. Besides, some of FaZe’s inexplicable failures happen earlier in the tournaments than they used to, meaning they don’t even get the chance to choke in the playoffs like they used, because when things go wrong, they go really wrong.
Ultimately, it is a close call. Imagining a matchup between the two sides, perhaps this is a reasonable proposition: if the ’18 edition storms to a lead, no one will catch up to them. However, if the game becomes a slugfest, I’d bet on the ’22 edition to close out the fight.
Photo credit: HLTV