In a best of five series it is crucial to ban maps which could be dangerous for your team, and nowhere was this as well demonstrated as at the Intel Extreme Masters Finals. Unlike a best of three, where each team gets to ban twice, and four maps are banned out of seven, in a best of five, each team gets only one chance to ban a match. The choice one makes can change the course of an event. And then there are map picks, which can help decide the order of play. Get it right, and you may not even have to play all the matches in a series.
Each team can counter the other on map picks. If one team chooses their best map for a first match, then the second team can do likewise for the second match. Leaving one’s best map for the last is never the best option, because a best of five may potentially be won before that.
What were FaZe’s and NiP’s bans? Did they make the right choices?
Knowing oneself can be a strength, and so can being willing to accept that one might have weaknesses. We have often seen a team lose just because they chose the wrong map. Ninjas in Pyjamas had the first opportunity to ban a map, and they chose to ban Mirage. It would have been better had they chosen to ban Cache instead, as FaZe Clan have a one hundred percent win-rate in this map in LAN matches.
NiP’s mistake was matched a few moments later by FaZe when they banned Nuke, instead of Cobblestone. There is no doubt that Ninjas in Pyjamas are better in Nuke than FaZe, but FaZe have a zero percent win-rate in Cobblestone. It was a rather a mistake on FaZe’s part to not ban a map where they had minimal chances of survival.
NiP’s and FaZe’s Map picks
Since Cobblestone was not banned, NiP took the opportunity to pick it for the first match. Perhaps they knew that FaZe were ill-adapted to Cobblestone. FaZe Clan picked Inferno for match two, which was a good choice, since Ninjas in Pyjamas are weak in Inferno. Next it was NiP’s turn to pick a map for match three. Now they were pretty much in a corner, and had to pick Train because they had no other option. This would not have happened if they had banned Cache instead of Mirage. Overpass was chosen by FaZe for match four, since they are a little better at it than NiP. The remaining map was Cache. In the end FaZe Clan managed to get three maps where they could be said to have an advantage. This boded well for them as the Intel Extreme Masters Finals began.
FaZe Clan lost Cobblestone, despite some excellent plays.
Ninjas in Pyjamas played as Counter-terrorists in the first half and dominated FaZe Clan by winning nine rounds out of fifteen. At one point the bomb was successfully planted by FaZe, but NiP not only eliminated all the FaZe players, but also defused the bomb in time. At this point, as you can imagine, NiP’s economy was set. They used this to their advantage, and won the next two rounds as well.
But FaZe were determined to take the Intel Extreme Masters Finals.
FaZe coldly lost some eco rounds, and saved their cash to stage an incredible comeback. They took NiP by surprise and won by eliminating all the Ninjas. NiKo hit back, single-handedly taking out two FaZe players, Xizt and f0rest. FaZe then went on to win five more rounds in sequence. Finally, in round ten, Ninjas in Pyjamas kept FaZe occupied and did not let them plant the bomb in time. The match turned here, and NiP won all the remaining rounds in the first half.
It seems Ninjas in Pyjamas are really quite good at Cobblestone, because they won the pistol round in the second half as well. As Counter-terrorists, FaZe couldn’t do much against Ninjas in Pyjamas. FaZe did win four rounds in the second half, but failed to show consistency. They were not able to stop NiP at all, with NiP successfully detonating the bomb three times. The Ninjas took the first match of the Intel Extreme Masters Finals, to the cheers of their fans. But it was a portent of things to come that FaZe were able to win ten rounds in this, their worst map.
The intrepid Ninjas got their hands burned in Inferno.
After an expected defeat in Cobblestone, Inferno must have felt like home ground to FaZe. FaZe crushed the Ninjas here. By winning the first pistol round, FaZe managed to dominate the first half until round five. FaZe also managed detonate the bomb in three of those rounds, which ensured that they had plenty of money. This was a big advantage, since AK-47s are cheaper than M4s, and Terrorists do not have to buy defusal kits.
All this came in handy when FaZe lost rounds six, seven and eight. FaZe reworked their strategy and smashed NiP in round nine and kept putting them down hard until round thirteen. Ninjas in Pyjamas won round fourteen and lost the last round of the first half.
In the second half, NiP successfully planted the bomb in a hoped-for comeback. Those hopes were brutally crushed when FaZe successfully defused the bomb. NiP did win three rounds in series but could do no more. FaZe controlled the match from then on, destroying the Ninja squad in round after round. Even though NiP lost, the highlight of the match was REZ, who took a triple kill in round five, and a quad kill in round seven.
FaZe then met with an accident in Train.
Unlike the previous matches, the teams were equally matched in the first half and the match hung in the balance. FaZe won the pistol round, but could not stay in control, and were taken down in the next two rounds by NiP. Each team won three rounds before the match reached round nine. After that they were just trading rounds, and NiP won eight rounds to FaZe’s seven.
But in the second half Ninja skills started to dominate the match, with NiP playing Counter-Terrorists. The Ninjas took FaZe down swiftly and lethally, giving away just three rounds to the opposing team before taking the match. Olofmeister played brilliantly in round twelve, eliminating four Ninjas single-handedly.
FaZe overwhelmed NiP’s ninja magic Overpass.
This map was a make or break shot for FaZe, and they were desperate. If they lost this one, their hopes of dominating the Intel Extreme Masters Finals would die with it. On the other hand, NiP wanted close down the event in Overpass, since FaZe had never lost in Cache in LAN matches. The match started and FaZe utterly dominated Ninjas in Pyjamas, who seemed quite disheartened. Olof was all over the map, with some utterly lethal tactics, lightning reflexes and lethal accuracy, shutting down Ninjas everywhere.
Counter-terrorists have a big advantage in Overpass, since both bomb sites are close to their spawn area. Ninjas in Pyjamas took advantage of this and began a come-back in the second half, but FaZe only needed three rounds to win the match. FaZe took those rounds against NiP’s best efforts, and so Cache would decide the winner of the Intel Extreme Masters Finals.
Ninjas in Pyjamas then crushed FaZe in their best map.
Against all expectations, Ninjas in Pyjamas performed brilliantly in Cache. It is not that NiP are bad in Cache, but FaZe’s performance have always been much better. NiP shocked both commentators and fans when they crushed FaZe in the first half by winning the first nine rounds as Terrorists. Especially when FaZe had won the pistol round. Xizt played really well, retaking losing rounds for his team.
FaZe once again won the pistol round in the second half and kept that winning streak for just two rounds. NiP calmly went eco until they could go for a full-buy. They counter-attacked in round nineteen, and then were all but unstoppable right up to round twenty four. Now they only needed one more round to win the league, but FaZe struck back in the next round, after a tactical pause. But losing a round did not break NiP’s economy and they hit back even harder in the next round eliminating all the FaZe players to take Cache and decisively win the Inter Extreme Masters Season XII Oakland.
Yes, the Ninjas are back in action, and the CS:GO universe just may have changed forever. Watch out for this brilliant team in future, because they just staged a comeback of the sort most teams only dream about, and against what may well be the greatest team in the world.