The Falling Giants: What went wrong for FaZe in Cologne?

Reading time  ~11  mins

Not long ago the overwhelmingly dominant force in international Counter-Strike, FaZe have since slowed down significantly, only securing a single title in the entirety of 2023. This negative trend, which was also attributed to a particularly heavy schedule, saw them almost miss out on the BLAST Paris Major altogether, before heading into the summer player break with hopes of a strong comeback. While FaZe returned to a more impressive level in BLAST Premier Fall Groups, securing 2-0 wins over Liquid and G2, their run at IEM Cologne ended after only three series and two maps won. What went wrong for Finn “karrigan” Andersen’s men?

FaZe at BLAST Fall Groups: a deceptive run?

Before going into the specific changes which may have affected FaZe’s performance at the event, we need to address the elephant in the room: outside of a relatively easy opening matchup against NiP, FaZe was placed in the much tougher group and was eliminated after losses to eventual tournament winners G2 and a vintage s1mple-led NAVI. Rather than the quality of the opposition they faced, FaZe should worry about the way both series were lost, as they were never in control against Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen’s side and failed to convert a 12-10 lead on the easier Overpass CT side against the Ukrainian organization.

Furthermore, FaZe’s somewhat successful run in Copenhagen, outside of a loss against Liquid, should also be taken with a pinch of salt. They were not the only team to best G2 at BLAST Premier Fall Groups, with the international quintet also falling to NAVI and Liquid, and dropping a map against Evil Geniuses. G2’s coach Jan “Swani” Müller spoke with BLIX.GG about the event, stating that “We kind of took it as a bootcamp, so we didn't really care too much about the results”, further diminishing the relevance of FaZe’s triumph.

Read More: Swani: "There was no need for us to overreact to a few results"

A similar sentiment was echoed by Astralis’ Victor “Staehr” Staehr, another roster Robin “ropz” Kool’s team faced in the Danish event. Last but not least, the third and final quintet FaZe beat at BLAST Premier Fall Groups, Liquid, failed to even make it to IEM Cologne after losses to future semi-finalists Astralis and 9INE. While it wouldn’t be fair to disregard these results completely, as FaZe also showcased the high level of CS we’re familiar with, they definitely have less impact than those seen in Cologne.

A look at the stats: FaZe’s crumbling T sides

Starting with an analysis of the raw data provided by, we can see first and foremost that FaZe only managed to secure three of the fourteen pistols they played during the German event. While karrigan’s team have never excelled in this department over the past few months, rarely securing a much-coveted over 60% win rate, these numbers are a far cry from even their worst even in recent months, IEM Dallas, where they secured eleven to seventeen lost. Even worse, two of those three came on Nuke against NiP, meaning FaZe had a 1-7 pistol-round deficit in their toughest best-of-threes.

A similar picture is painted by more specific statistics like the number of deaths that were traded. Despite hovering around the very decent 20% mark for most of their events at the tail end of the first half of 2023, FaZe dropped to a worrying 16.4% in Cologne, surpassing even the 16.8% of IEM Rio, an event that took place a single day after FaZe’s last-chance qualifier for the BLAST Paris Major, and where they recorded a single map win due to jet lag and self-admitted lack of preparation. The percentage drops further to 16% on the T side, making FaZe the worst team at trading at the entire event and in turn causing them to not convert man disadvantage situations at a much higher rate than other tournament contenders.

FaZe are now far from their ESL Pro League peaks (Image Credits: ESL | Helena Kristiansson) FaZe are now far from their ESL Pro League peaks (Image Credits: ESL | Helena Kristiansson)

FaZe’s T side struggles are not however news, but part of a trend that can be traced back to the BLAST Major RMRs, the first event after their winning run at ESL Pro League. Since then, FaZe have never recorded more than 42% opening kills on their T side while the best offensive sides in the world, and even inconsistent teams like G2, routinely record percentages in the high forties or even low fifties. In Cologne this tendency has combined with an even more worrying stat: FaZe converted 5v4 situations less than 70% of the time, compared to over 80% at the last event before the break, BLAST Premier Spring Finals.

A playbook unraveled: FaZe’s Mirage T-side

To recap, karrigan’s side often starts T rounds with a man disadvantage, fails to immediately level the playing field more than eighty percent of the time, and even when they get the upper hand they fail to turn their advantage into actual rounds more frequently than other top teams. But what does this mean in practice? An interesting example is FaZe’s Mirage, a map they dropped twice in Cologne: a 14-16 against NiP after leading 10-5 as CT, and a 6-16 battering by NAVI where they only secured a single round. In both cases, the key element is how FaZe routinely failed to anticipate CT aggression.

Against Hampus “hampus” Poser’s side, FaZe’s bane was Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin’s A-side aggression. The Swede took aggressive stances in Ramp or Palace every round, securing key opening kills over ropz’s lurks and allowing his teammates to stack the other sections of the map. FaZe often managed to take mid-control but were lured into dry walking into the A site from Connector (Rounds 17 and 19) or Ramp (R. 23) by NiP’s unwillingness to take fights with the information they had gained. Only in the later rounds did karrigan start defaulting to a two-man presence towards A, with broky punishing the Ramp aggression twice.

NiP were also happy to take team fights in Mid, which they either won or used to gauge how aggressive Brollan and hampus could get in their opposite-site holds, pushing Apartments or Ramp and Palace if FaZe showed too much manpower. Mid aggression was the keyword in NAVI’s short CT side against karrigan’s side, as Ivan “iM” Mihai from Connector and Justinas “jL” Lekavicius from Short tore apart the Dane’s defaults. While the Romanian could have been forced out with better utility usage, the Lithuanian seemed to read FaZe perfectly, as he pulled off unexpected re-aggressions in both rounds 17 and 22 while FaZe set up for the late round.

This showing is even more worrying when compared to FaZe’s Mirage before the break: far from a home map, but a solid pick where their T side looked at the very least serviceable. Taking the BLAST Premier Spring Final as an example, FaZe secured a strong 10-5 half against Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander’s Astralis by adapting to the Danes’ continuous mid-pressure. Karrigan himself took more advanced positions in B apps, punishing Aleksander “Altekz” Givskov, or even pushing into Window and CT spawn to help dismantle the A setups. Funnily enough, the international quintet struggled significantly more against Vitality, who were much less aggressive in the early to mid-round.

A puppet on a string: FaZe’s creaking CT sides

For what concerns the CT side, FaZe look like a much better team on paper, thanks to a solid performance in the series against NiP. Removing their opening match from the calculations helps highlight karrigan’s side’s struggles: FaZe only recorded the first kill in 42% of defensive rounds in their matches against G2 and NAVI. None of the five players, including AWPer Helvijs “broky” Saukants, won more than half of their opening duels, with Russel “Twistzz” van Dulken and karrigan recording appalling 22% and 27% success rates respectively. The Danish IGL had the worst time of everybody even while attacking, attempting an opening duel almost once every four rounds, but succeeding less than 10% of the time.

But what went wrong to put them at said disadvantage in the first place? The key issue in FaZe’s matches against G2 and NAVI was HooXi and Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen’s ability to consistently predict, and in the Dane’s case manipulate karrigan’s defensive setups. To better understand this, we need to take a look at specific examples from the maps FaZe played in the two series. Starting with Inferno, ropz, Twistzz and broky produced multiple effective and aggressive A-site setups, which often stopped Nikola “NiKo” Kovač’s men dead in their tracks. This was the case in round 6, where the three-man setup forced G2 to rotate towards B, and in round 14.

Unfortunately for FaZe, HooXi started taking advantage of the holes in the defense very early on, a sign of solid preparation. His forward Banana position in round 4 allowed him to take down both B defenders, who were trying to recover ground after broky died in Top Mid; meanwhile, round 10 saw NiKo catch rain off guard with a similarly aggressive position. As FaZe moved another man towards B to try and alleviate the pressure in the next gun round (r. 12), HooXi called a masterful quick A-site wrap which caught both defenders off guard and secured the round with minimal casualties.

This ability to read FaZe’s setups and work to punish the gaps left open became even more evident on Ancient, especially as FaZe began their CT half with aggressive plays in Mid. In the first real gun round, up 11-8, HooXi correctly guessed this and ordered his team to push as a unit through A main, which was left open, smoking Robin “ropz” Kool off in Donut and taking the site with ease. The following round, as FaZe set up a two-man boost in the back of B and ropz and Twistzz secured mid, the Danish IGL called the same play, this time with NiKo acting as a distraction on the opposite side of the map.

This one-two punch by G2 allowed HooXi to manipulate the defense, forcing FaZe to close the gap. In the very next round (r. 22), ropz took A main control and left his spot in Donut to Twistzz, allowing G2 to take B Lane control with little utility usage and collapse onto the site with a 5v3 man advantage. By this point FaZe had given up on Mid aggression altogether trying to bolster the sites, allowing Nemanja “huNter” Kovač to walk to Red without being noticed in the final round of play to secure the win. FaZe’s response to being read like a book was proactivity, but one basically limited to A Main and ropz.

While the NAVI game had less of this, a similar instance popped up on Overpass: FaZe routinely failed to establish themselves through CT side aggression. Aleksib immediately adapted by slowing down in the early round. In the first gun round, a deep two-man setup at Long was dismantled by Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, in round 21, a double Connector push failed, round 23 saw aggressive pushes by ropz and karrigan led to a NAVI upgraded pistols win, and on round 25 FaZe were outplayed in a costly double B Short push. In the most egregious example, the first round of Overtime saw rain throw away a 5v4 advantage by pushing Toilets, forcing FaZe to rotate to cover the A site and opening the door for NAVI’s execute.

Ultimately, the small amount of maps played by FaZe makes it difficult to establish whether these are trends deriving naturally from a true-and-tested playbook, or caused by a less effective karrigan. While aggressive pushes were often the bane of FaZe, proactivity by its best members was also a key aspect of their win against NiP, especially in the form of the Danish IGL creating space alone or partnering ropz and Twistzz. Whether new coach Filip “NEO” Kubski can turn these glimmers of hope into a functioning system, however, is still up in the air.

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Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.
CS Virtual Trade Ltd, reg. no. HE 389299 Registered address and the principal place of business: 705, Spyrou Araouzou & Koumantarias, Fayza House, 3036, Limassol, Cyprus
Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.