IEM Katowice produced some of the most exciting counter-strike we’ve seen in a long time, and along with the action came the development of many captivation player and team storylines.
First and foremost, one must give a hand to the gentlemen of FaZe Clan for nearly defeating the world’s best team, after only four days of practice with the newly acquired talents of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač. It certainly would have been quite the Cinderella story if FaZe were to have taken the victory here, but they certainly won’t be too unhappy with their performance. If anything, their achievement after four days of practice shows how good this team really can become, and solidified FaZe’s position in the upper echelon of Counter-Strike.
It is evident that Finn “karrigan” Andersen’s impact on the team has been immense. Prior to signing the famed Danish IGL, FaZe was a team full of talent but lacked direction. The problem that many teams have when a new IGL is brought into the picture is that the players on the team try and mold their playstyles to fit the new shotcaller’s needs – Karrigan has done the opposite.
He has realized the strength of his team’s aggression and has fit his calling around his weapons, you need not look further than the several eco-round wins that FaZe captured throughout the tournament and Grand Finals to find evidence of Karrigan’s leadership at work.
It was only last year that there was only one dominant Danish squad in Counter-Strike – now there are three. North had an amazing showing at the ELeague Major with help from the young and talented Emil “Magisk” Reif, but unfortunately came up short of the results they wanted here at IEM. The real surprise (for some, but not Thorin) was Heroic, who took group stage wins over North, Na’Vi, and Virtus.Pro. It certainly wasn’t an easy path to the semi-finals, but through tiebreakers the squad were able to secure the top seed in the group. Though they were not able to follow through on their upset potential in the playoffs, Heroic should chalk IEM Katowice up as a big victory.
Na’Vi once again met Astralis in the quarterfinals of the tournament, which for many is quite a depressing turn of events; however, it is probably about time that the community stops pretending that Na’Vi’s results would have drastically changed if the playoff brackets were different.
Yes, the team is good and packed full of talent that in the past has been unleashed, but losing to Astralis two tournaments in a row in the quarterfinals only emphasises the inconsistency the team has been struggling with even before picking up Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. Valve shooting Na’Vi’s gameplan in the foot by banning coaches has shown the community how valuable Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko really was to the team, but their struggles can’t be accounted for by any single factor at this point – rather it is a culmination of unfortunate events that will hopefully be eradicated soon.
To continue with their trend of disappointing finishes, Cloud9 once again came very close to making it through to playoffs before dropping three straight maps to eliminate themselves from contention. Whether or not Cloud9 need a roster change to shake things up is a subject of much debate, but it is unclear whether or not this is what the team needs at the current time.
Ninjas in Pyjamas on the other hand are quite the opposite; where it would seem to be some sort of roster change may be the only way for them to conquer what is becoming one of the worst slumps in the team’s history. After a horrendous start to ESL Pro League, NiP once again came up short and failed to make it out of groups. Much like Na’Vi, this is a team full of legendary players that together have done great things; yet the ice is wearing thin for NiP as the coming months will be sink or swim for the Swedish lineup.
Virtus Pro and SK Gaming both failed to make it out of groups. João “felps” Vasconcellos was quietly SK’s best player in the event, and in contrast veterans Epitácio “TACO” de Melo and Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo both heavily underperformed. Virtus.Pro is an animal in itself when it comes to analyzing the teams successes and failures, and as such their results at IEM Katowice are both below expectations yet entirely ordinary at the same time. The Polish band of brothers can be the scariest competition any team can face at any time, but unfortunately it was not meant to be for them on home soil at IEM Katowice.
OpTic Gaming was the only team at the event who did not win a single map. The status of Spencer “Hiko” Martin is still currently up in the air, but the green wall should not get their hopes up that he is going to stick around following this event. Of course, it is still entirely possible that he does sign with the team as they try to find the success they briefly had a few months back. Either way OpTic needs to take a closer look at how they handle adversity and pressure moving forward, as well as either locking down Hiko or better yet, acquiring another core IGL as soon as possible.
IEM Katowice has given teams a great deal to think about, but perhaps the biggest takeaway from the ESL tournament is this: it’s definitely time to call it quits with the EDM acts at eSports events.