The horsemen of the apocalypse collided outside the Spodek and left every team in the field diminished for the big fight. This means that IEM Katowice’s long-awaited LAN return gave us the best kind of final for all the wrong reasons.
If you think about it, every team was battered and bruised in the Spodek. Na’Vi, VP and Gambit got kneecapped by history, FaZe lost their veteran rifler to Covid, G2 had to make do without their coach and Heroic had to play in a LAN event. No one was firing on all cylinders.
In fact, this list extends to the other participants who didn’t even get out of the groups. NIP couldn’t bring device along for the ride, Fnatic had to bring smooya along for the ride and they clearly didn’t want to, Astralis had Xyp9x playing for his spot on the team and it remains to be seen whether he’s done enough to nail it down for the rest of 2022: meanwhile, everyone else had at least the early-season woes and the roster change-related hangovers that led to a wide variety of exciting, if somewhat brawl-ish, CS:GO matches.
This is exactly what went down in the playoffs as well. There was no way we were going to get a full-strength Gambit or Na’Vi side in the Spodek when the players had to stomach news of literal war in their homeland, a historic and horrific occasion that cast a shadow on every moment of the proceedings. As discussed above, everyone else had their issues as well – which is, incidentally, why Heroic’s failure to make it to the final is even more damning of an indictment. When, if not now? What else do you need to shake off the LAN jitters?
It wasn’t to be for those particular Danes. Who you gonna call when something goes wrong, especially when everyone is hobbling? Well, Finn “karrigan” Andersen, the maestro of stand-ins, the wise old sage of IGLs is certainly who you should bet on.
It’s insane to think FaZe never won this event before, or that this is only his eighth top-tier title. No one else has done it with a wider variety of squads, this many disparate pieces, stand-ins left and right. Does throwing out the playbook seem like the best way to go forward, like he said he did on Mirage? Even the first iteration of the FaZe superteam was fairly loose on tactics, something that no longer seemed like a good enough approach in modern CS to put a team to the top.
In that sense, the grand final pitted them against the perfect foil in the form of this new-look G2 side. Roles-wise, it’s tempting to look at further similarities. Young nutty AWPer? Check. World-class rifler? Check. Strong and reliable other rifler? Check. Big brain IGL? Most definitely check.
In most matchups, karrigan’s lackluster fragging output is a significant downside (remember their close matchup against Na’Vi in the groups?): here, Aleksib was a more than reasonable adversary. Not outgunned for once, and certainly not outstratted, a grand final of fine margins may very well have come down to the in-game leaders’ individual performances in the end.
Of course, you can’t ignore the NiKo in the room, yet another horrifying defeat in a grand final, one where he went completely silent for important portions of the series. Just like the 3-0 scoreline, his overall numbers don’t paint an accurate picture: way behind hunter- and m0NESY with a -11 K/D and 81 ADR, he had long stretches of free deaths across the series, making a massive difference in terms of momentum.
A series like this will inevitably have a mental component to it, especially as we reach the later maps and the players begin to crumble. Best-of-fives are like your grandma’s secret chili sauce: special and spicy, and definitely not for everyone. Admittedly, it is a scheduling nightmare, and it would be too much and too long for every occasion, but it is a special affair and often produces incredible storylines.
Stomps are stomps regardless of the match length, but when the teams are closely matched, best-of-fives can be truly magical. Think back to one of karrigan’s heartbreaks, a battle against Fnatic on the same stage in 2018, or SK versus VP at EPICENTER 2017. It is a nice way to make certain events stand out and to create some truly legendary moments. Five maps still let teams remove their permaban, meaning the skill level involved and the strats on display never really dip below a certain threshold – again, as long as the reams are evenly matched.
FaZe and G2 certainly were, and it was a privilege to witness Dust 2 after the first two acts. All in all, it was a memorable grand final. This was the first time an international squad managed to win in Katowice, and both these teams will be title contenders going forward in 2022. They themselves will be in a better shape going forward than they were heading into these playoffs – but it has to be said that the same holds true for their vanquished foes as well…
Photo credit: HLTV