Intel Extreme Masters always seems to be loaded with surprises, and this year was no different as Fnatic surprised everyone by taking the finals of the event. CS:GO events over the last year were pretty much dominated by SK Gaming and FaZe Clan, but this year other tier one teams are surging forward to contest that dominance, and to stake their own claims to being the best CS:GO warriors in the world. Fnatic’s final showdown with FaZe Clan at the IEM finals in Katowice was a powerful demonstration of this, while teams like Astralis and Team Liquid also showcased some very powerful plays.
Fnatic defeat FaZe Clan twice at Intel Extreme Masters
When Fnatic entered the event no one thought they would even qualify for the playoffs, let alone win the event. But they defeated the odds to take the championship. Fnatic’s first victim was Heroic, whom they defeated by seven rounds in Cobblestone. G2 Esports was the next team to go down before them, but winning against G2 Esports was hardly as easy as wining against Heroic. G2 Esports dominated Fnatic in Cache, winning the match 16:7. However, Fnatic staged a massive comeback in the next two maps, Mirage and Cobblestone, crushing G2 with their momentum and strategic plays.
Fnatic then went up against FaZe, and surprisingly, FaZe were unable to win a single map in their best of three with Fnatic. This is a new low for FaZe, as they have never failed to win at least one map in a best of three before. Team Liquid put down Ninjas in Pyjamas hard, and went on to face Fnatic next. Fnatic then put the Liquid team down as hard as they had done FaZe Clan. Fnatic would face FaZe again in the Finals, in a bitter set of firefights that would break the myth of the ‘super-team’ forever. Let’s take a look at what happened there.
Intel Extreme Masters Finals – A predictable session of bans and picks
The finals of Intel Extreme Masters was an exhausting best of five, and both teams decided to ban their weakest maps. FaZe Clan banned Cobblestone, while Fnatic took Nuke out of play, as they more or less always do. The teams then went on to pick their best maps next. FaZe took Cache, while Fnatic took Inferno. FaZe then chose Overpass as the next map to be played, while Fnatic took Mirage. Train, as the last map left over, became the decider. Incidentally, has anyone ever noticed how often Train is the decider at event finals?
Chance played no role in Fnatic’s win
Chance absolutely did not play a role in Fnatic’s win at Intel Extreme Masters. They’ve defeated teams at Intel Extreme Masters that have consistently played better than them over the last year. Fnatic have certainly stepped out of the shadow of their mediocre stretch of plays, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world. FaZe put up a bitter fight during the final battle, and there were times when the match could have gone either way. Here’s how the battles went in the final face-off.
FaZe Clan started out strong in Cache
Fnatic actually started out winning the first pistol round, thanks to KRIMZ. FaZe Clan managed to plant the bomb in the first round and both teams traded kills on the bombsite. Finally, KRIMZ alone remained, facing off against two members of FaZe Clan. He showed some excellent tactical sense, defusing the bomb under cover of a smoke, and then taking a kill shortly afterwards. Fnatic then went anti eco in the next round, and eliminated all the members of FaZe. However, FaZe hit back in round three, and eliminated the Fnatic team in their turn. They then went on to plant the bomb successfully twice in a row.
Fnatic went eco and then tried a comeback, nearly winning round seven, but it was not to be. NiKo clutched the round for FaZe in a one-versus-three firefight. The most astonishing play we saw in this map was from olofmeister, as he took four kills with just five points of health, though he was finally put down by JW. Interestingly JW took a quad kill in the same round, which was exceptional, as Fnatic were going eco in that round, but still went on to eliminate a fully-equipped FaZe Clan. FaZe dominated the first half, taking eleven rounds, while the second half ended in just six rounds, with a crushing defeat for Fnatic.
Golden and flusha win Inferno for Fnatic in a second overtime
Things were looking bad for Fnatic after their first crushing defeat in the first map of the finals of Intel Extreme Masters. While Fnatic did choose Inferno themselves because it is one of their best maps, FaZe are actually equally comfortable in Inferno, and proceeded to prove it. FaZe took the first pistol round by defusing the bomb. They then successfully held on to their advantage, giving away just two rounds to Fnatic until the match got to round eleven. Fnatic finally managed to detonate the bomb in round twelve, and then went on to win the three remaining rounds.
FaZe then took the second pistol round in the map as well. However, this time they immediately lost their advantage in the next round, and lost three rounds in succession. However, they hit back hard by detonating the bomb in the next three rounds. It looked like FaZe were going to take the finals of Intel Extreme Masters, but Fnatic started to read them correctly at last, and began to counter them. Fnatic won six rounds in succession, and were just one round away from taking the map itself. However, FaZe went all out in the last two rounds and forced an overtime.
Both teams duked it out to a draw in the first overtime. However, this situation changed in the second overtime, when Fnatic managed to win two rounds as Terrorists. FaZe Clan were unable to do the same, and so lost the second overtime, and the match went to Fnatic.
FaZe Clan seem to have lost their touch on Overpass
Overpass used to be one of FaZe Clan’s strongest maps, but they’ve been losing on it quite a lot recently, and especially so at event finals. Fnatic are supposed to be dismal in Overpass, with a win rate of just twenty percent. They didn’t let the stats stop them here, though, decimating FaZe Clan on what is supposed to be one of Fnatic’s worst maps.
The first half saw some fairly balanced play, with FaZe Clan scoring seven points, and Fnatic eight. But for some reason FaZe Clan were not able to win a single round in the second half. Instead, Fnatic went all out, winning eight rounds in series to take the map. The best moment in this map was when GuardiaN took down the entire enemy team alone.
FaZe Clan with their backs to the wall in Mirage
Doesn’t anyone think it odd that these best of fives always reach the decider. What are the odds of that, really, that the two teams in the finals should always be so finely and perfectly balanced that they almost never manage to close a best of five in the first three – or four – maps? Anyway, that’s how it went here, with a FaZe Clan who were down and out suddenly pushing to an astonishing victory, winning round after magical round against a Fnatic that suddenly seemed to have forgotten how to play.
Fnatic did try to hit back in the second half, but failed, and FaZe calmly put them down to win Mirage. As usual, the best of five went into the final decider map, and as usual, that map was Train. Any more of this, and we’ll start believing in karma, destiny, fate and things of the sort.
Fnatic proved that they can face off with a fully equipped FaZe, and win
The decider map Train went into a crucial overtime that would decide the winner of Intel Extreme Masters. The most heroic play in this map was by flusha, as he took down all the members of FaZe Clan in the last round of the map, giving his team a chance to win against FaZe in overtime. This was not the first time in these finals that flusha’s ACE won his team a round, or even a map. Flusha took three ACEs in this best of five, and two of them were in Train. Not only did his ACE drag the match into overtime, but his triple kills in overtime also won his team the championship. He was also chosen the MVP of the event. Incidentally, it might interest you to know that the last major offline event won by Fnatic was IEM Katowice in 2016.
Astralis took the third spot at Intel Extreme Masters
Astralis are definitely back, playing better than ever before, and are a team to be feared once again. Their first match against Renegades was very close, with Astralis winning by just three rounds. They then went up against SK Gaming. Astralis was a clear winner in Overpass, but their next map, Mirage, went into overtime two times. Both teams did very well as Counter Terrorists, but in the second half of the second overtime, Astralis won an extra round as Terrorists. Astralis took the match. They went on to face Team Liquid, and their victory against them moved them into the playoffs.
Team Liquid are back on their feet
This team made a very courageous decision when they replaced stanislaw and jdm64, players who sometimes laid out the kills, but were unreliable when the team needed them the most. Team Liquid went on to defeat SK Gaming in the CS_Summit 2 Finals, and again in StarSeries i-League Season 4, taking third place there. They have now done just as well at Intel Extreme Masters. Their first match was against Gambit Esports. Gambit Esports are not as strong as they used to be, but still put up a good fight. However, Liquid put them down hard in the second half.
Cloud9 were Team Liquid’s second opponent in a best of three. Cloud9 were a little under the weather and off their game, and they did not win a single map against Team Liquid. However, this was a temporary loss of capability with Cloud9, because they later went on to crush Renegades and SK Gaming, who seem to be the team it is fashionable to crush this season. As for Team Liquid, their victory against Cloud9 directly qualified them for the playoffs, and their next match was against Astralis. Unfortunately, Team Liquid’s tactics did not work against Astralis and they lost to the danish squad. This doesn’t mean their play hasn’t been exceptional, and we look to see Fnatic, Cloud9, Astralis and Team Liquid dominate a good many events this year.