SK Gaming keep rivarly with FaZe Clan onesided

Both teams have fought over being declared the best team in the world, but ESL Pro League once again had the Brazilians triumph over the European powerhouse.

by Phoebe Dua

The final showdown of the year between the two top teams in Counter Strike right now was set to be epic. With the Danish crowd resting their hopes on Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen of FaZe Clan, the only Dane left standing in the ESL Pro League Season 6 grand final, who had never been in a stronger position to takedown his greatest rivals. 

FaZe Clan upgraded

With the addition of legendary veterans Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer and Ladislav ‘GuardiaN’ Kovács to the FaZe roster, FaZe had one of the greatest AWPers in history and a two-time major winner who was part of one of the most dominant rosters to ever compete in Counter Strike. 

FaZe were looking as deadly as ever with their new players, going on an impressive LAN streak at a time where SK seemed to struggle following the player break. Both ESL One: New York and ELEAGUE Premier were undefeated runs for FaZe, who were 17-0 at the end of these events by not dropping a map as SK failed to make the semis in either event. The second event win secured first place in the world team rankings for FaZe. For the next two months, the teams switched places six times.

SK Gaming’s roster are formidable for any team. With the top two players of 2016 and wins in nine out of ten finals they made in 2017, any team would feel the pressure. For karrigan, who has failed to ever beat Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo’s team in nine best-of-three and five matches, the grand final was do-or-die.

Karrigan’s kryptonite

FalleN has been a thorn in the side of karrigan since 2015. When karrigan was playing in Team SoloMid, he met FalleN’s roster Luminousity Gaming at DreamHack Winter 2015 in the semifinal. Having convincingly won LG’s map pick Mirage, TSM were prepared to close out the match as they were on an undefeated run on Overpass, their strongest map. Going 5-0 up, TSM were stunned by LG who went on to win 16-6 and take the match by winning Inferno in overtime.

Unfortunately for karrigan, FalleN once again led his team to victory while FaZe had to settle for second place. This year, SK have also beaten FaZe at both IEM Sydney and the ECS Season 3 Finals. The rivalry between the Europeans and Brazilians is intense but has been primarily one-sided throughout its history when more than one map is involved.

In the grand final, FaZe managed to win both pistols on Inferno, SK’s weakest map, but only won 16-13, never looking fully in control. Overpass was a disappointing loss for the team considering out of eleven games, they had only lost the map once, again to SK Gaming who managed a 16-2 victory over them at EPICENTER. Despite an incredible knife kill by GuardiaN which helped FaZe push Train to overtime, FaZe were simply outplayed and were punished for their mistakes.

While karrigan is undoubtably a capable in-game leader, able to control the wild talents in his roster, he came into the grand final in Odense following disappointing individual performances at IEM Oakland and BLAST Pro Series. With the likes of Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač and Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard behind him, karrigan is far more of a leader than a fragger. When going against the likes of FalleN, who is able to IGL, AWP and be a highly impactful player when on form, the difference in leadership becomes very clear. 

Future battles

Now SK is halfway towards the $1,000,000 for the Intel Grand Slam Season 1. With ESL One: Cologne also under their belt, SK need to win only two more events in the next five ESL or DreamHack tournaments. However, FaZe Clan, G2 Esports and Ninjas in Pyjamas all hold a single event title themselves. SK have never beaten G2 in a best-of-three, G2 have never beaten FaZe and still, even with an injection of firepower, have yet to beat SK Gaming. 

With ELEAGUE Major: Boston as the first big hurdle for the top teams in 2018, FaZe Clan will hope to make a strong impression in the Offline Qualifier. While FaZe may wish for G2 to also qualify
in order to eliminate their biggest rivals, neither the players nor the fans will be satisfied until the two teams meet again and karrigan finally triumphs over the Brazilians. SK Gaming will be unable to play with Ricardo ‘boltz’ Prass at the major and it is uncertain whether Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz will have recovered or if Astralis will need a stand-in.

FaZe Clan are in a strong position to claim the major in January, improving on their disappointing group stage finish in Krakow. With GuardiaN, NiKo and rain looking stronger than ever under karrigan, all four players will be hoping to claim their first major regardless of the competition. Success in Boston could be the first step in 2018 to more titles and finally beating FalleN’s roster.

 

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Phoebe Dua

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