As I watched G2 fall short against NAVI in the Royal Arena in a semifinal series that went long into the night, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it might have been NiKo’s last hurrah at the business end of a Major. At this point, what’s the secret sauce missing and who’s the cook that could add it to the recipe?

It often feels like FaZe Clan’s Counter-Strike team is everything G2 wishes to be. An aging Danish in-game leader with inconsistent fragging bringing enough brains to make up for the occasional lack of brawns, playing an incredible brand of in-your-face CS that blows people off the server at their sterling best. Aided by a generational rifling talent and one of the best AWPers in the game, with an ex-VP player behind their back in a coaching role, they belong at the business end of the biggest tournaments – with the big difference being that one of them has a stuffed trophy cabinet and a 7/7 appearance rate in CS2 grand finals, and the other is G2.

Is it blasphemous to criticize NiKo’s output, the player who’s still the second-highest-rated player of the squad behind m0NESY? It might be so, but it’s worth doing it anyway. His output has been woefully lacking in Majors, and his numbers have taken a nosedive after the sequel’s launch, even if he is on the road to recovery.

For what it’s worth, it’s clear that the old NiKosports narratives no longer hold water, if only because of the way the industry has changed over the years: orgs hold a firmer hand on the steering wheel when it comes to roster decisions. There hasn’t been any sign of complaints or coups regarding HooXi, either, so as unmanageable as G2 may sometimes seem, the toxicity of old seems to have faded.

But this isn’t the only way he is no longer the NiKo of old. He was truly a one-of-a-kind rifler who could rival the impact of AWPers on the server, capable of some of the most monstrous solo carries we’ve ever seen in Global Offensive history. That is clearly not the case in CS2, and if you squinted hard enough at the end of the CS:GO era (especially when Majors were concerned), you could get a glimpse of a Cristiano-Ronaldo-at-Juventus kind of figure, someone who still has a monstrous output but warps the team around himself to the detriment of all involved.

Where does this G2 team go from here? We keep asking this question, and there never seems to be a good answer. Where are the tournament wins this team was destined to rack up, and what changes can you make to find a new gear? HooXi still feels like a ticking time bomb and it’s questionable how he will mesh with TaZ in the long run – and more and more often, the team’s star rifler goes missing in the playoff games.

Cue the clip, please, still the stuff of nightmares.

So, farewell, G2, we are now down to the final two. Aleksib deserves immense credit for wrangling NAVI all the way to the grand final despite losing s1mple and iM struggling for most of the tournament, maintaining his 100% record against his former teams along the way. Still, it’s tough to shake the feeling that he is just the third wheel in karrigan’s date with destiny tonight – but no matter how the final goes, the black-and-yellow outfit has proven that here is a future to be had after s1mple, and it is indeed a w0nderful life for all concerned.

Still, you’d surely bet on the team that beat Team Spirit and Team Vitality in the most consequential CS2 matches played to date to go all the way tonight. That said, ChatGPT is 6/6 so far on playoffs predictions, and it had NAVI winning the whole thing, so who knows what's about to happen?