The 2023 CS:GO season is now well underway, with IEM Katowice set to be the year's first big event. Last year we saw FaZe begin their rise to the top spot in Poland, but much has happened since then, most notably the top spots being blown way open compared to the FaZe NAVI dominance seen then.
Many teams look capable of winning the event, some of which will be looking to stake a claim for the top spot in world rankings in doing so. With that being said, let's take a look at some of those teams and some of the stories surrounding them as they go into the event.
Can FaZe start a second year off in winning ways?
Where best to start than with FaZe? Expectations were high for them going into IEM Katowice 2022, especially after a strong start to life with Robin “ropz” Kool at the BLAST Spring Groups prior. Those expectations dwindled slightly when it was announced Justin “jks” Savage would be standing in for them in Poland, but it mattered for little as they swept the event anyway.
The rest of the first half of 2022 would be much of the same story for FaZe, with them picking up wins at ESL Pro League Season 15, the PGL Major Antwerp, and IEM Cologne. However, after Cologne’s conclusion in July, they would find themselves unable to win another event in 2022.
People have constantly looked towards the idea of FaZe ‘bouncing back’ to form since then, but it’s safe to say that FaZe are no longer expected to win every event they attend. However, they are still undeniably one of the favorites for each tournament they attend, as per the overall quality of their roster.
A strong showing will be key for FaZe in Katowice; otherwise, the seeds of doubt will begin to be sown as to whether a change is what is needed to revitalize the team. A win in Katowice might just be what they need to catapult them into finding another stretch of Major-winning form come May.
Will G2 stake a claim for the rank of the number 1 team?
Valve may have already placed G2 at the summit of their own ranking system, although the same can not be said for HLTV. The Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen finds themselves sat firmly in second place, not far behind his compatriot Casper “cadiaN” Moller’s Heroic.
There was much criticism of this G2 roster following its creation, especially when they crashed out of IEM Rio 2022 RMR contention at the hands of GamerLegion. Since then, however, the roster has gone from strength to strength, with all four of its stars beginning to show their peak levels once more.
Winning BLAST Premier World Finals 2022 was a huge step in the right direction for the team, reinvigorating confidence in them that this is a team capable of winning such competitions. It also marked the organization's first S-tier LAN win since Dreamhack Malmo, all the way back in 2017.
A team in form, going one up from their runner-up finish at Katowice 2022 seems incredibly possible, maybe even likely in comparison to other teams. A win would put them in the top spot in HLTV’s all-important ranking without a doubt, and we’d be looking towards them as the new favorites to take home the Major trophy in Paris.
What’s wrong with NAVI?
NAVI may have qualified from BLAST Spring Groups, but that only really means that they hit their minimum expectation. The team looks out of sorts, epitomized by the fact that qualification was only by the skin of their teeth as they struggled to overcome perennially average North American team Complexity.
Of course, it is understandable that NAVI will struggle at points. Even without mentioning the uncomfortable situations surrounding its players outside of the server and how that will affect them, they are also having to bed in a new and inexperienced member in Andruu “npl” Kukharskyi.
However, more will always be expected from a team that features Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, and that is something the team cannot avoid. The same too can be said of the man himself, with more expected from him than his showing in Spring Group.
It’s obvious that this team will likely never be as great as the one that won the PGL Major Stockholm in the second half of 2021; NAVI hasn’t truly looked capable of winning a tournament since Cologne, possibly even before then. This is a team that has been trailing off for a while; Katowice is the perfect stage for them to turn it around.
Can Heroic win their first big tournament?
Heroic, alongside what is now Cloud9, where one of the big success stories of the online era. Led by cadiaN and given star potential by Martin “stavn” Lund, they looked like they could carry their form over into an offline setting.
Things haven't quite panned out that way, although the second half of 2022 is beginning to suggest that their coming-of-age arc may be nearing its completion. They fell at the last hurdle at the Major in Rio, a finish no one would have expected them to reach. Many would have expected that to be a crushing blow for the young Danish squad, but that wasn’t to be the case.
In their next tournament, BLAST Fall Finals, Heroic would reach the final once more, overcoming FaZe to take home the trophy. This was a big step in the right direction for the team, their only other LAN win coming at the far less impressive Pinnacle Cup Championship.
If Heroic can take the lessons learned from winning a big event and arguably more important ones from losing a final, we might end up finding that Katowice is their time to win their first elite event.
Outsiders fresh faced with KaiRON-
Even more surprising than Heroic reaching the final of IEM Rio was the team they lost it to, Outsiders. Not much has been expected of the team since the departure of Mareks “YEKINDAR” Galinskis, with the Latvian rifler being previously viewed as the key to any success they may have.
However, we all now know that isn't the case, as quietly, with a win at ESL Challenger Rotterdam under their belts, Outsiders continued their strong performances by taking home the crown in Rio. Buoyed by the ascension of Petr “fame” Bolyshev to star material, as well as the ever-reliant combination of Evgeni “FL1T” Lebedev and AWP-IGL Dzhami “Jame” Ali, Outsiders looked like a team capable of vying for the top spots consistently.
However, it seems the team did not agree, and as they crashed out of BLAST Fall Finals, it signaled the end of David “n0rb3r7” Danielyan’s time on the team. Some may consider it a harsh move, although their replacement, Aleksandr “KaiRON-” Anashkin, is highly rated, so much so that he has been Jame’s bold prediction two years in a row.
The young Russian will be looking to make an immediate impact, but that can’t be the expectation of the fans. The intrigue then will be how he changes the shape of Outsiders and the potential he shows to truly push them towards the consistent heights their Major win alluded to.