IEM Rio 2023 has now reached its conclusion with Vitality claiming their first trophy of the year. Overshadowed slightly by being sandwiched between the RMRs and the BLAST.tv Paris Major, Rio still proved yet again why Brazilians are some of the most passionate fans in the world of Counter-Strike.
With the event over, here's our five biggest takeaways from IEM Rio.
The event calendar is still oversaturated
As said previously, IEM Rio began just days after the RMR events for the Major, and with everyone's minds fully focused on Paris, it did somewhat feel like this event just wasn’t needed.
Fans have been complaining that it was hard to feel too excited about the event, especially given the later start times due to the Brazilian time zone, and it didn’t feel like we were seeing the best versions of the teams in attendance.
Players have also been complaining. Both Russel “Twistzz” van Dulken and Dan “apEX” Madesclaire have spoken on Twitter about the tiredness they are experiencing, and it feels like with so many events in a row, that’s a very reasonable way to be feeling.
We’re not sure what the solution is, while many events of the pre-COVID era no longer exist, there’s still the fact that ESL and BLAST have to compete to get their tournaments scheduled, but something needs to be done to get the calendar into the best shape for the players.
FaZe are very inconsistent
Credit: PGL/Stefan Petrescu
A month ago, FaZe were celebrating victory at ESL Pro League Season 17. The win that wrapped up their Intel Grand Slam — a win that looked like it would be a turning point in their quest to get back to their dominant form from the first half of 2022.
Unfortunately for FaZe, it hasn’t quite panned out that way. The RMR was a shaky performance as FaZe failed to win three successive BO3s and were knocked down into the LCQ, while Rio saw them fail to even make the Playoffs with a 9th-12th place finish.
It’s clear that this FaZe team is one of the best teams in the world still, after all, how could they not be with the players they possess? But the consistency that made them so fearful in 2022 is long gone.
Maybe it’s a product of the general level of competitiveness at the top level of CS:GO in the current era, maybe it’s down to the nature of FaZe’s gameplan being unsustainable if one of the star trio; of Twistzz, Robin “ropz” Kool and Helvijs “broky” Saukants, doesn’t show up. Whatever it is, FaZe need to figure it out if they stand a chance of adding another Major trophy to their cabinet in Paris.
ZywOo isn’t the most important player on Vitality
Credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson
As a two-time number-one player on HLTV still in his prime, it feels somewhat absurd to say that Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut is no longer the most important player on Vitality.
That statement doesn’t mean that ZywOo isn’t Vitality’s X factor. An AWPer with a ceiling such as his will almost always be the driving force for their team in most games, but Vitality are now at a point where their victories are a result of almost anyone else on the team stepping up.
Just look at Vitality’s semi-final versus Cloud9. If Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen hadn’t rolled back the years with a dominant performance on the Vertigo T side, Vitality would have been eliminated with a whimper and an incredibly quiet performance from the Frenchmen. Even in the final, overperformances by apEX, Emil “Magisk” Reif, and to a lesser degree, dupreeh, were the bigger reasons why Vitality were able to overcome a team like Heroic.
When the average performances of the team typically mean that they would get steamrolled by the teams they beat in Brazil, it’s beginning to become a trend that overperformances are the only thing that can set Vitality up to win events.
Heroic are the best team in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win trophies
Credit: PGL/Joao Ferreira
If you were to look at the CS:GO landscape since IEM Cologne 2022, Heroic are likely the best team in the world.
One of the very few teams that can be considered meta-defining in the current era, Heroic’s heavy metal, proactive CT sides have seen them ascend to the of every world ranking since the addition of Jakob “jabbi” Nygaard halfway through 2022.
The issue is, being the best team in the world over a sustained period doesn’t make you the best team in peoples’ minds if it doesn’t come with multiple tier-one trophy wins.
To put it into analogical terms; Heroic are like Liverpool in the past few years. Multiple finals, a few runners-up finishes, a trophy here or there. The problem comes when G2 are Manchester City, when FaZe are Real Madrid, and when there are other teams that for at least a one-tournament period, will heat up enough that Heroic being the overall best team matters for very little.
If the Counter-Strike circuit was run as a league season, Heroic would undoubtedly be the victors. But it’s not, and the Danes are running out of time to truly make their current level memorable.
Cloud9 need to seriously rethink their roster
Credit: PGL/Luc Bouchon
When Cloud9 introduced Timur “buster” Tulepov to the roster, the move was met with trepidation. Many people believed that Timofey “interz” Yakushin had been unfairly singled out as the root of the team's problems, instead thinking that Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov’s calling was the bigger problem.
With both a runners-up and top-four finish with buster now under their belt, the move, at least at face value, still appears a sideways move. But let’s take a look a little deeper.
Any achievement for the Russian team in 2023 is overshadowed by their failure to make the Major. An inexcusable result for a team considered to be one of the best teams in the world and it will likely be the dark cloud that overshadows everything they do for the rest of the duration of CS:GO.
Let’s also not forget that they had Vitality dead to rights in the Semi-final in Rio. After a 16-6 demolition of Vitality on map one, Cloud9 had blown their rivals away to a 12-3 lead on map two. It was only a complete capitulation that allowed Vitality to come back and go on to win the match.
All of this is without mentioning how one-dimensional Cloud9’s game plan is. The lack of flashbangs, the lack of learning from nafany in regard to playstyle, and the number of big games in which Sergey “Ax1Le” Rykhtorov has gone missing.
For a team that was one of the stars of the online era, for a team that possesses one of the best AWPers in the world and one of the best riflers in the world, Cloud9 continues to disappoint. They need to rethink this roster or risk their disappointing run getting much, much worse.
Feature Image Credit: PGL/Stefan Petrescu