FaZe Clan scored an important victory in their ongoing rivalry with Astralis today, knocking the ELEAGUE Major champions out of IEM Sydney and sending themselves to the final.
The match was filled with drama. The two sides are arguably on top of world Counter-Strike right now, but that's only one layer of the intrigue. FaZe Clan is led by Finn "karrigan" Andersen—a man who was removed from his position with Astralis last October. Karrigan and his replacement, Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander, appear to be engaged in a mind games battle—one that FaZe got the better of this time.
Dot Esports spoke to FaZe Clan's Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey ahead of that semifinal about match preparation, his playstyle, and just how on earth that European mix team really works.
How big of an impact has Karrigan's approach had on the out of game communication?
I mean, because we all obviously come from different countries, the main thing will always be communication. All of us try to be more...fluent and smooth in the communication. Like, we have some keywords for example that is being used and it's only one word but can mean an entire sentence. So we have all stuff like that in our team to make the game easier and to make communication faster. It's a bit of everyone that has created this communication style. Whoever has an idea of how we can upgrade the system we just do it.
Right now in the CS:GO landscape we have three well-known mix-teams—Dignitas, mousesports, and yourselves. What would be the biggest piece of advice you could give to these other mix-teams given that you all have experience playing with people from a different cultural background?
As I said, the main thing in that kind of team is the communication. Everyone just needs to improve their communication then the other thing as well is that because everyone comes from a different country, everyone brings a different culture. So it's really hard sometimes because the cultures can clash. But we don't have it that much in our team because, for example, I don't live in France anymore, so I'm used to something else. Like, some people in the team are going out with people from other countries as well so everyone is used to seeing other cultures in our team specifically.
This current iteration of the FaZe line-up is what many would consider the culmination of years work and failed mix-sides. What was the key factor that made this line-up successful compared against the others?
Karrigan. Karrigan is the factor. Before him we didn't have any in-game leader, it was just we would try to take the role of in-game leader but it wasn't as good because no one knew how to play the role. So since Karrigan has come in, we've since a lot of progression in our game, even when Aizy was here before Niko we had started to gain some results. But he decided to go to North so we just let him go. If he wanted to leave he can leave, there's nothing you can do. You can't keep a player when he wants to play with other players. So then we took Niko, and we just thought that Niko would be a straight upgrade of Aizy and he just had more potential, that's what I think. He's better in the role.
Was Aizy's role similar to the role that you slotted Niko in? How did you end up integrating Niko into the side?
I mean, we're trying to do the best for everyone. Everyone has the freedom he wants…in a certain way. So we know that Niko is the best, and what he likes to do so at some point in a match and we're doing a strat or something and we'll give him the role he wants. Since in every team you have one or two star players, that's what we have in our team with Niko and Rain. There the ones that have to shine and we're trying to make them shine as much as possible. If they want a role, we give it to them because they can carry a game.
Cache wasn't a historically strong map for you but ever since the addition of Niko it seems like you've been favouring it more. Given that many top teams don't play Cache at a high level, how important is it in your map pool?
We can play all the maps, so we're trying to play the weakest maps for the other teams. So the reason we play Cache is because there's no team that's like, as you said, really, really good on it. So the map is really open for us. So that's the only reason we've been playing it recently.
What specific role does RobbaN play? Does he manage more of the in-game tactics or is he more of an out-of-game relationship manager that guides the mood of the team?
It's a bit of both actually because strategically, we don't have contact with him obviously so that's more with Karrigan, and Karrigan working with him and saying the tactics to us. RobbaN is also doing all the work out of the game, so like motivational speeches all that kind of stuff, which is really important for us. If you have a problem you just talk to him.
You hit a high individual level that we haven't seen in a while at the StarLadder StarSeries Finals. Walk me through what went right for you at that event that saw you put up big numbers in the crucial games against FaZe and SK Gaming. What was the team dynamic like around you?
We all know that we can carry a game, like anyone in the team can be really good in one game. So, I'm just playing like I want to and just support my teammates and at some point if I have a really good game, we're just going to destroy someone. I'm not the one that's supposed to shine, so if I shine it's just a bonus for the team. Since I have like, sort of hard roles and often time I'll just find like one kill or more just a trade, so if you get more than one, you've done more than your job. So that's where I'm going to shine, just creating space for my team and boosting confidence in myself.
With your recent rivalry against Astralis, how do you view the Danes? Many consider them the best team in the world, but does that number one spot ever come into your mindset when you're playing against them?
I still think that Astralis is the number one team right now, just because of all the stuff they've done in the last few months. They've been winning tournaments, a lot of finals in a row. But since we've been in the finals against them in Katowice, and even though we lost, that was close. Then back-to-back in StarSeries, where we won against them. I think if we manage to beat them this event, we'll be a good contender to be the first because it's been like three matches, one best-of-five, and two best-of-five. And if we win this one, I can say we are the top team.
When you were in Clan-Mystik back in the day you were hyped as one of the big superstars of the French scene. But then over time we've slowly seen you move away from that superstar role that people have wanted you to be in, and take up more supportive roles in sides, often playing uncomfortable positions. How has the been for you individually, taking up these different roles throughout your career and having to change your playstyle?
I was used to playing as I wanted to on Clan-Mystik. I had all the freedom I wanted and that was why I was shining. I had no "you have to do this" and having to support my teammates. There was just no hard roles, I could take whatever I wanted to. Then when I came into big teams like Epsilon and LDLC and when we started to be good, that's when I took the hard roles because I knew there were other players who were better than me who could be better at taking the hard work, and I'm just going to be here to help them. So, it's mainly just I'm there to make them better. I don't care if I'm in front and if I'm shining, if the crowd is shouting my name, I don't care. It's a team game and I want to win, even if I finish with minus thirty and then we win, I don't care. We win as a team, you don't win as a player. That's how Counter-Strike works.