There’s really no debate that FaZe deserved to win Starladder. After narrowly losing to Astralis at IEM Masters, Starladder became their sanctuary of strong play. They are a relatively new squad, and it was surprising to see them all playing so cohesively. So, here is an in depth look at how FaZe managed to transition from no roster last year, to having one of the best rosters this year.
A lot of what went into FaZe’s performance was the product of months and months of player swaps and testing out rosters. FaZe seemed to have blundered their way through 2016, not managing to have any noteworthy victories. The two player swaps to this roster that were imperative to FaZe’s success are the addition of their shot caller and in-game leader (IGL), Finn “Karrigan” Anderson, and the addition of one of the best CS players in current play, Nikola “NiKo” Kovac.
Karrigan came to FaZe in December after his previous team, Astralis, benched him. He departed shortly after and found that FaZe were looking for an IGL. This would be the first time in two years he wouldn’t be with the Astralis core of Danish players, and it was a real test for him. In IEM Masters right before Starladder, Karrigan faced off against his old team in the grand finals, and couldn’t quite beat them. It was still an impressive finish for how newly cemented the roster was though. Karrigan showed the strong command of his team and really helped to create a team mentality for FaZe.
NiKo finally left his death-trap team, Mousesports, for FaZe in February, and hasn’t looked back. He has always been noted by his peers as one of the best in the world, and last year he broke into the HLTV’s top 20 rankings of 2016, coming in at #11. NiKo only had three days to bootcamp for IEM Masters and was still able to help his team to the grand finals in his first tournament with them. NiKo instantly became one of the super stars for the team in terms of individual skill.
Both of these players will be pivotal in contributing to FaZe’s forward momentum.
Aleksi “allu” Jalli had an incredible tournament performance, and was a huge contribution to FaZe’s victory. Allu is a player that has a seen a lot of strife over his career. He has always been a world-class awper and player, but his team environments haven’t been the best. After his departure from Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP), he played on the Finnish team, ENCE, as he was hoping to bring life to the Finnish Counter-Strike scene.
After he determined that it was not a worthwhile use of his talents, he made the change to FaZe, where he has been impressive. At Starladder, in particular, he looked extremely strong. His play on Inferno may have single-handedly secured the tournament for FaZe in the grand finals.
The Map Pressure
The pressure he applies on the map is very noticeable. At the beginning of a map, he will let you know which angle he is holding by killing anyone who peaks. Other teams will learn to play around the angles he likes, and they will show him respect by not recklessly peaking.
This is huge, and can generally go unnoticed. The pressure on the map that allu provides gives so much more freedom to his teammates. While he can cover large areas with the AWP, it gives his teammates much less responsibility around the map. On Inferno, for example, when allu covers mid, all it leaves for his teammates to cover is apartments and banana. This leaves two different two-man teams to cover two choke points.
That strategy is what allowed FaZe to run their CT-side on Inferno. With this setup, NiKo has the freedom he needs to set aggressive picks on B, and for Karrigan to delegate more players to more important situations on the map. FaZe’s map movement, as well as individual play, helped them win, creating momentum moving towards the upcoming Counter-Strike Summit.