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The Thorin Treatment: FaZe’s Gimmies

ECS S4 Finals and the ELEAGUE Boston Major are must-wins for FaZe in as much as they are presented with a chance to win two significant titles, one being a much coveted and ever-illusive major – effectively Counter-Strike’s World Championship analog, without any of the dangers which have prevented FaZe from winning five of the seven offline events they have competed at with this line-up. Bizarre as it might sound to describe a major as “a gimmie”, for a team of FaZe’s ability and trajectory, it is not only a gimme but a must-win.

The power to dominate

FaZe’s primary strength has stemmed from the star value they brought into their team during the player break and has culminated in a squad with one of the highest ceilings in the game, manifesting most notably on their three home maps (inferno, mirage and overpass). The multi-national squad dominates their opponents on the basis of abusing their mechanical advantage, which is significant against the majority of other teams they face, and a mass of individually-inspired plays, courtesy of having so many players who have been stars and play-initiators in past teams.

Throw in an uncanny ability to win pistol rounds, thus neutralizing their less structured T side, and karrigan’s mastery of the pick-ban, which keeps opponents a little off-balance and ensures FaZe doesn’t face pure anti-stratting as often, since the other team can never be certain which maps will be played in the series, in contrast to facing teams like Astralis and North, who are much easier to predict in this respect. The resulting package is far from a complete and well-rounded team, but rather a high powered rocket which, if pointed in the right direction and launched correctly, can destroy almost any target, with a small handful of notable exceptions.

Courtesy of Daniel Ranki

Where are the trophies?

Despite being such a strong stream, FaZe have failed to win a title in their last four outings, despite reaching the final in two of them. The primary reason for FaZe’s lack of titles across this span of events has been SK Gaming. The Brazilian side not only carries on the legacy of FalleN’s unbeaten offline streak of series play against karrigan’s teams, going back to his days with Astralis and the previous FaZe line-up, but also represents the position of the best team in the world right now. There have been many periods of time in which being the number two team in the game still meant you were in prime position to win titles, even if facing the top ranked side, but unfortunately for FaZe that does not seem to be the case.

Certainly, it is too soon to write off their match-up against SK as an inevitable loss on each and every occasion, with the two sides having faced off with these rosters on only two occasions: a group stage Bo3 at EPICENTER and the Bo5 final of EPL S6. The former saw FaZe facing an SK who were using boltz for the first time offline and thus rendered a lot of scouting information from their past line-up irrelevant, while the latter integrated additional factors of the pressure of playing in a big final, which clearly affects players differently than even a semi-final, and the Best-of-5 (Bo5) nature of the map, which places more stress upon the map pool width of the teams, an area in which FaZe has been shown to be vulnerable against teams with wider and deeper map pools.

Nevertheless, as it stands right now FaZe have a very difficult problem to solve in SK, not least with the Brazilians have won on overpass, one of FaZe’s key maps, every time they have faced, despite FaZe being imperious on the map against practically everyone else, and the edge outside of the shared maps (mirage and overpass) heavily skewing to SK. FaZe’s most clear path to winning titles involves avoiding SK, hard to do when they have reached the final of three of their four offline events with boltz. At ECS and SK, though, FaZe can do that in two key respects.

Firstly, SK Gaming did not qualify for the ECS S4 finals, so their prime opposition is not in attendance. Secondly, the roster lock scenario has meant SK will not be able to field boltz at the major, meaning FaZe will not have to face this SK there at any rate. For a team as powerful and dangerous as FaZe, that makes victory at these two tournaments imperative, both for their legacy and psychologically. Winning those titles would again put them in position to be considered the world’s best team, while failing to win either, particularly the major, would erode some of their boisterous confidence in facing everyone not called SK. It’s easier to reconcile losing to one team, especially if they are the best team in the world. Losing to other teams, as FaZe did against Gambit, VP and NiP—none of whom are considered elite sides—would call into question more about FaZe’s game and trajectory to become the best team than simply their match-up vs. the Brazilians.

Photo via Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

Missing competition

At both tournaments, FaZe get to dodge more than just their primary foils of SK. Only four teams have a winning record against FaZe: SK Gaming, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Virtus.Pro and Gambit. None of those four teams will be in attendance at ECS and NiP will not be at the major and SK are forced to use their previous player, felps.

One could certainly make the case that all of those opponents except SK are far from locks to defeat FaZe anyway. Gambit scored their key Bo3 series win early, at the first event for both team’s new line-up (Dreamhack Malmo). Since then the teams are tied in map wins and FaZe won the one Bo3 between them, in the EPICENTER group stage. NiP lived up to the moment of the IEM XII Oakland final in epic fashion, beating out FaZe in a full five map series, but the much closer margins of NiP’s wins, in contrast to their heavy losses, coupled with the Swedish sides complete inability to replicate anywhere close to that force before or since somewhat rules out FaZe needing to worry about a repeat of Oakland each time they face, in the same manner as they fine the game playing out in similar fashion against SK each time they battle.

Likewise, Virtus.pro’s EPICENTER form was an outlier and the Polish teams fails to qualify for tournaments involving an online component anyway, so their fear of Snax and company is likely not significant to any future match-up. So for FaZe, it is not these teams missing the event which matters as much, but the lack of teams with any history of beating FaZe does heavily skew the likelihood of NiKo and the gang of taking ECS outright.

Throw in that Astralis, a team who were not beating FaZe with their main line-up but who were a side capable of joining that group of teams who have, cannot field device, their star player and primary AWPer, at ECS and possibly the major too, and FaZe’s chances only increase.

The bulldozer

Being considered the favourite or top ranked team at an event is no clear indicator a team will win it, but FaZe have plenty of numbers and factors on their side, a notable one being the afore-mentioned lack of teams with a proven history of having beaten them. FaZe over their seven tournament tenure together are an astounding 68.97% in maps won at 40:18. “Ah, yes” you might say, “but those numbers must be skewed by FaZe’s two undefeated title runs at ESL One New York and the EL Premier”.

Looking at the numbers only from EPICENTER onwards, when FaZe has not won a title, we see that they are still at a very solid 60.53% in maps won at 23:15. For the purpose of ECS and the context of this article in highlighting FaZe outside of their match-up against SK, over the same post-EL Premier span of four tournaments, FaZe are 16:6 (72.73%) in maps against teams not called SK Gaming.

Expand out to Bo3 series played and the numbers are similarly spectacular. Overall karrigan’s men are 8:3 (72.73%). Again, if we isolate to the post-EL Premier period we get 4:2 (66.67%) and if we then remove SK games, we arrive at 4:1 (80.00%). SK’s match-up against FaZe may have attracted the head-lines and taken place in the spotlight of being a recent big final, but take that team out of the mix and FaZe roll over practically everyone else. In 14 of 31 (45.16%) maps played against teams not called SK Gaming since the EL Premier, FaZe held the opponent to fewer than 10 rounds each time.

Photo via ELEAGUE

Refining FaZe’s identity

FaZe have been a consistently excellent team since overcoming the growing pains of that initial tournament, reaching the final of four of the next six offline events and winning two of them. SK have clearly been a point of weakness for them, but with no SK in attendance at ECS and them unable to field the current line-up at major, FaZe can delay their solution to the SK problem a few events. ECS and the major are more about finding out just how dominant FaZe can be in a world without SK. 

If they can take advantage of the external factors which have increased their likelihood of winning these two events and adding to their trophy haul, then when focus returns to the SK match-up it will be clearer that FaZe must find a way past SK or hope for other teams to beat them in order to be the best team of this era. If FaZe should suffer a fall and fail to win one of these events, then it we will learn a lot more about their weaknesses and limitations as a team, which have rarely been on display previously, and not least since at ECS the upset will have to come from an entirely new angle of a new challenger besting them.

ECS and the ELEAGUE Boston Major are must-wins for FaZe and as close to “a gimmie” as any elite team will get in the modern era of Counter-Strike.

Photo via ELEAGUE

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Thorin’s CS:GO Top 10 World Rankings – 11th December 2017

CS:GO has always struggled for a consistently updated and coherent set of World Rankings, with so many teams attending different events and the difficulty of judging the context of which event’s results should count for more than another. Rather than construct some kind of elaborate point system and place my expertise into the task of allocating which would receive how many points, I’ve instead looked back over the recent form of each of the teams out there and determined, according to my own analysis and intuition, which team ranks where in my global top 10.

Offline results are the only ones I take into consideration. In general, I consider the results of a team across a range of around three months, with those at the beginning of that period being weighted a little less, in contrast to more recent tournament results. Finishes, consistency, current form and opponents faced are all factors to be weighed up and considered.

Since the last edition of the rankings we’ve had the ROG Masters EMEA, EL Premier, Asia Minor, Europe Minor, Americas Minor, CIS Minor, EPICENTER, Dreamhack Denver, iBUYPOWER Masters, IEM XII Oakland, Blast Pro Series, ESL ProLeague S6 Finals and ROG Masters.

These are my CS:GO Top 10 World Rankings for the 11th of December, 2017.

1) FaZe (NiKo, Rain, GuardiaN, olofm and karrigan) [+2]

Photo via ELEAGUE

Recent form:

ESL One New York (1st)

EL Premier (1st)

EPICENTER (5th-6th)

IEM XII Oakland (2nd)

Blast Pro Series (3rd)

ESL ProLeague S6 Finals (2nd)

FaZe may not have won an event since ELEAGUE but their two finals have made this their strongest ranking, being as New York just sneaks in under the three month restriction. Expanding past placings alone, FaZe have one of the most insane resumes of ranked wins I have seen in the history of this series. The international powerhouse have won 13 maps against top 10 ranked opponents and six Bo3 series. SK are pressuring this placing hard, but FaZe’s overall excellence cannot be denied right now.

2) SK Gaming (coldzera, FalleN, fer, TACO and boltz) [-1]

Photo via RFRSH

Recent form:

ESL One New York (3rd-4th)

EL Premier (9th-12th)

EPICENTER (1st)

IEM XII Oakland (3rd-4th)

Blast Pro Series (1st)

ESL ProLeague S6 Finals (1st)

Winning three tournaments, a Bo5 over FaZe and four other ranked Bo3 wins shows the power of SK and why they are in hot pursuit of the number one spot, but the Brazilians have only had boltz in their line-up since EPICENTER and so their results prior to that cannot be held in the same regard as those after. Their three titles, to FaZe’s two, do mean FalleN and company are not far from taking the top spot, though.

3) Astralis (device, dupreeh, Kjaerbye, Xyp9x and gla1ve) [+3]

Photo via ELEAGUE

Recent form:

ESL One New York (5th-6th)

EL Premier (2nd)

EPICENTER (4th)

IEM XII Oakland (7th-8th)

Blast Pro Series (2nd)

ESL ProLeague S6 Finals (9th-10th)

Astralis looked to be very much headed down, and indeed have suffered from using stand-ins at recent events, but they have still managed three top four finishes, making the finals of two of those events. The resume looks tasty too, with nine Bo1 wins and three Bo3 wins. Of course, the results with the stand-ins are counted as less significant, but these performances are enough to keep one of the best teams of the year in an elite position in the rankings.

4) Cloud9 (Skadoodle, RUSH, tarik, Stewie2k and autimatic) [+4]

Photo via Cloud9

Recent form:

ESL One New York (3rd-4th)

EL Premier (3rd-4th)

Dreamhack Denver (1st)

iBUYPOWER Masters (1st)

IEM XII Oakland (3rd-4th)

Hard to believe Team Liquid looked primed to be the best NA team to close out 2017, as C9 have again reclaimed that crown and continued to rack up solid placings. Three top four finishes at big events go along with wins at lesser tournaments. In the ranked wins department C9 is shining too, with four Bo3 series to their credit. They don’t win big tournaments, but C9 are showcasing impressive consistency, albeit in the face of not qualifying for a few tournaments.

5) Virtus.pro (Snax, byali, pasha, NEO and TaZ) [NEW]

Photo via EPICENTER

Recent form:

ESL One New York (7th-8th)

EL Premier (13th-16th)

EPICENTER (2nd)

StarLadder i-League Invitational 2 (2nd)

The return of Virtus.pro to the rankings is a welcome sight, as runners-up finishes at EPICENTER and StarLadder put the Poles back on the map. With three Bo3 series wins (Gambit, FaZe and G2) going along with three Bo1 wins (TL and two against SK), TaZ and company blasted back into the rankings with a brief burst of form, but it was enough to push them fairly high up. Having not attended an event for a while since means VP will struggle in the coming months, though.

6) Ninjas in Pyjamas (GeT_RiGhT, f0rest, REZ, draken and Xizt) [+4]

Photo by Carlton Beener via [ESL](http://photos.eslgaming.com/Press-Gallery-IEM-Oakland-2017-CSGO/i-TQ8c9cs/A)

Recent form:

EL Premier (9th-12th)

IEM XII Oakland (1st)

Blast Pro Series (6th)

ESL ProLeague S6 Finals (9th-10th)

NiP weaved their magic at Oakland and have done little since, but winning a big event, a Bo5 against FaZe and a Bo3 against SK goes a long way. For a flash in the pan, NiP have a solid enough resume to bring them close to the top five.

7) G2 (shox, kennyS, apEX, NBK and bodyy) [-5]

Photo via DreamHack

Recent form:

EL Premier (5th-8th)

EPICENTER (3rd)

IEM XII Oakland (9th-10th)

Blast Pro Series (5th)

G2 can be proud of being a seventh ranked team with one of the best resumes you’ll see. Third at EPICENTER combines with four Bo3 series wins, including two over Astralis, to keep shox and friends poised to move up higher. Obviously falling so many spots hurts, but much of that came by virtue of so many other teams, including the likes of VP and NiP, charging back into relevance.

8) Team Liquid (Twistzz, steel, nitr0, EliGE and JDM) [-3]

Photo via ESL

Recent form:

ESL One New York (2nd)

EL Premier (13th-16th)

EPICENTER (7th-8th)

Americas Minor (1st)

iBUYPOWER Masters (3rd-4th)

IEM XII Oakland (11th-12th)

ESL ProLeague S6 Finals (11th-12th)

Team Liquid were in free-fall and the recruitment of steel hurt in as much as they weren’t able to use him at all of their events. Even so, what they did earlier in the time period, including the ESL NY final still on the books, couples with their wins from that time period to maintain a top 10 ranking. With that top placing soon to disappear, TL is in serious danger of starting 2018 outside of the rankings.

9) North (Aizy, k0nfig, cajunb, valde and MSL) [-2]

Photo by Jennika Ojala via DreamHack

Recent form:

EL Premier (3rd-4th)

EPICENTER (5th-6th)

Blast Pro Series (4th)

ESL ProLeague S6 Finals (11th-12th)

TL has the wins but not many of the placings, while North has some decent placings but not many wins. In fact, the Danes can only boast a Bo3 over TL and Bo1s over IMT and FaZe. Winning gun rounds won’t keep you ranked if you can’t win maps and series.

10) Na`Vi (Zeus, Edward, electronic, flamie and s1mple) [NEW]

Photo by Adela Sznajder via DreamHack

Recent form:

ESL One New York (5th-6th)

EL Premier (9th-12th)

Dreamhack Winter (1st)

This far down the rankings it often gets tough to separate the teams and so Na`Vi edges out teams who had decent placings and more ranked wins, but not a result like Na`Vi’s Dreamhack Winter victory, which came at a tournament featuring many of the teams battling them for this final ranking spot. Na`Vi didn’t beat any ranked opponents there, but they did win the tier two event. For now, they return to the top 10.

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Thorin’s CS:GO Top 10 World Rankings – 8th October 2017

CS:GO has always struggled for a consistently updated and coherent set of World Rankings, with so many teams attending different events and the difficulty of judging the context of which event’s results should count for more than another. Rather than construct some kind of elaborate point system and place my expertise into the task of allocating which would receive how many points, I’ve instead looked back over the recent form of each of the teams out there and determined, according to my own analysis and intuition, which team ranks where in my global top 10.

Offline results are the only ones I take into consideration. In general, I consider the results of a team across a range of around three months, with those at the beginning of that period being weighted a little less, in contrast to more recent tournament results. Finishes, consistency, current form and opponents faced are all factors to be weighed up and considered.

Since the last edition of the rankings we’ve had the Dreamhack Masters Malmo, Dreamhack Montreal, ESG Tour Mykonos and ESL One New York.

These are my CS:GO Top 10 World Rankings for the 8th of October, 2017.

1. SK Gaming (coldzera, FalleN, fer, TACO and felps) [-]

Courtesy of Dreamhack

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (1st)

PGL Krakow (5th-8th)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (5th-8th)

ESG Tour Mykonos (3rd)

ESL One New York (3rd-4th)

While SK are visibly in a kind of free-fall never seen before, even after the core cooled off and stopped winning in the latter half of 2016, the Brazilian team still boasts a very solid resume. Their victories have fallen away, with the exception of Cologne, but they have made the play-offs of four tournaments they’ve attended since and one of those included a top four finish at a big tournament (ESL One New York).

As far as wins go, SK are still the most impressive team in the game. They have seven single map wins over top 10 ranked squads and three Bo3 series (FaZe, C9 and VP). As much as they may not win tournaments, those kinds of results still keep them high in the rankings and ensure teams below have to build up a solid streak before they will be displaced.

Cologne will be gone by the next edition of the rankings, so SK must add some more big wins, which they have been letting slip by them thusfar.

2. G2 (shox, kennyS, apEX, NBK and bodyy) [+2]

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (5th-8th)

PGL Krakow (9th-11th)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (1st)

The French side’s win in Malmo blasted them further up the rankings, with wins over the two Brazilian sides (IMT and SK) as well as the trophy. As one of the few teams not to change roster in any shape or form, they get to count their Cologne top eight for themselves fully. The French side hits the highest ranking during their time under the organisation, even the shox and ScreaM squad, which made two big finals, only peaked at fourth.

3. FaZe (NiKo, Rain, GuardiaN, olofm and karrigan) [-1]

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (3rd-4th)

PGL Krakow (15th-16th)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (9th-12th)

ESL One New York (1st)

FaZe blazed their way to an incredible win in New York, but their tournament path only saw them beating C9 in a Bo3, which finalists TL unranked at that point. Bearing in mind this roster changed two players, FaZe’s Cologne result is much less significant than it might appear on paper.

4. Gambit (AdreN, mou, Dosia, HObbit and fitch) [+1]

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

Recent form:

PGL Krakow (1st)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (3rd-4th)

ESG Tour Mykonos (5th-6th)

Gambit no longer field legendary captain Zeus, but they shocked the world by finishing top four in Malmo, adding another big placing, and beat Astralis in a Bo3 to do so. Mykonos was a disaster, but Gambit’s resume of series wins (FNATIC, Astralis twice and the new FaZe) is impressive, even one takes away a fifth of the significance from the two prior to their roster change. Few would have imagined Gambit’s ranking peak would come after Zeus’s departure, but CS:GO is a strange world right now.

5. Team Liquid (Twistzz, stanislaw, nitr0, EliGE and JDM) [NEW]

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (5th-8th)

ESG Tour Mykonos (2nd)

ESL One New York (2nd)

Team Liquid roar back into the rankings, hitting fifth and making C9’s peak during their run in the Summer, but failing to match OpTic’s incredible third early in the year. TL not only have the placings to justify a top ranking, with runners-up finishes at ESG Tour Mykonos, not the most stacked tournament admittedly, and ESL One New York, a tournament containing numerous ranked sides, but also have stacked up some seriously special series wins.

Where C9’s summer run saw them feasting on the empty calories of lower ranked teams and easier brackets, TL have had to beat SK, the world’s number one ranked team, twice to get their placings and also took down Astralis, notoriously difficult to best in series, as well as VP, who admittedly were largely ranked thanks to their major run.

The only NA team in history with a comparable resume of wins to their names is the C9 team of summer 2015, who also made back-to-back finals, twice in fact. TL are not just one of the world’s top teams, they are battling to prove themselves the best from their region to ever play CS:GO.

6. Astralis (device, dupreeh, Kjaerbye, Xyp9x and gla1ve) [-3]

Recent form:

PGL Krakow (3rd-4th)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (5th-8th)

ESL One New York (5th-6th)

NY was Astralis’ first ever finish outside of a play-off position since gla1ve’s arrival. The squad’s wins have evaporated seemingly entirely, left only with series wins over SK and Na`Vi. Astralis have never been ranked lower than fourth this year, but the teams above them having the placings and the series wins to push them down to sixth.

7. North (Aizy, k0nfig, cajunb, valde and MSL) [NEW]

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Jennika Ojala

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (9th-11th)

PGL Krakow (5th-8th)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (2nd)

Dreamhack Montreal (1st)

The last edition of the rankings finally saw North drop out entirely, but their roster move, bringing in valde, has revitalised this side and seen them go on a run of wins and placings which has brought them back. North has beaten SK, IMT twice, Gambit and C9 all in Bo3 series. A runners-up finish in Malmo was a big time result, with most of the game’s elite teams in attendance, and winning in Montreal allowed them to add a decent tier two event win and two series wins over ranked squads (IMT and C9).

North look primed to jump higher in the rankings in the coming months, especially as their results are all fresh and others are set to lose events like ESL One Cologne and the major.

8. Cloud9 (Skadoodle, RUSH, tarik, Stewie2k and autimatic) [-2]

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Pierre Yves Laroche

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (2nd)

PGL Krakow (9th-11th)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (9th-12th)

Dreamhack Montreal (3rd-4th)

ESL One New York (3rd-4th)

C9’s top four in NY saw them largely benefiting from the flaws of the new Na`Vi, who do not really live up to their ranking. Two roster changes also reduce some of the impact of the final result of their summer run still standing (Cologne), but a respectable resume of wins still keeps this team from dropping too far.

9. Immortals (boltz, steel, kNg, HEN1 and lucas1) [-2]

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Pierre Yves Laroche

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (12th-14th)

PGL Krakow (2nd)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (5th-8th)

Dreamhack Montreal (2nd)

IMT’s line-up will not be the same by they play their next offline event, but for now their previous line-up remains a ranked side. A play-off finish in Malmo and a runners-up performance in Montreal added to a bevy of single map wins (Na`Vi, Gambit, FNATIC, G2 and C9) keep the party gang considered a top 9 team in CS:GO, even if it seems inevitable they will disappear from the rankings soon enough.

10. Ninjas in Pyjamas (GeT_RiGhT, f0rest, REZ, draken and Xizt) [NEW]

Courtesy of Dreamhack and Adela Sznajder

Recent form:

ESL One Cologne (5th-8th)

Dreamhack Valencia (1st)

Dreamhack Masters Malmo (3rd-4th)

Despite mouz winning a tournament, NiP are the team who break back into the top 10 first. The ninjas and their new recruits managed to finish top four in Malmo and beat four fifths of the major champions (Gambit) and took down the new Na`Vi in a close series to do it. In single maps they’ve beaten OpTic, G2 and FaZe. While this is not a strong grasp on a top 10 ranking, it shows how up and down this period is that the bottom ranked squad has two ranked Bo3 series wins.

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