The hierarchy of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gets a shakeup at the IEM XII Championship in Sydney, Australia as the European powerhouses make room for the resurgence of South America's SK Gaming. Even Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač, bought earlier this year for $US500,000 ($674,127), couldn't save FaZe Clan.
The shadow hanging over the IEM Sydney grand finals was in the shape of a star. Despite SK Gaming thrashing Optic Gaming in the semifinals, it was FaZe Clan's triumph over rivals Astralis seemed more prophetic. If one of the top teams in CS:GO was able to unseat the champion of ELEAGUE 2017, the IEM XI World Championship, and Esports Championship Season 2, than it seemed almost axiomatic that they would go on to eek out a win against whoever they met in the grand finals.
But SK was the only team in the tournament to go 3-0 during the group stage, and while Optic might have looked like a mid-tier scrimmage partner during the semis, the clockwork performance by the Brazilians spoke for itself.
A quick double-tap from Fallen was symbolic of SK's edge all series long.
That said, FaZe looked to be closing the distance in the second half of game one, forcing SK to 16-12 on Train by the time they conceded the loss despite despite failing to get on the board for six whole rounds at the start. Nevertheless, the FaZe walked away with negative kill/death ratios across the team with the narrow exception of Finn 'karrigan' Andersen, the equivilent of letting SK land a clean right hook in the opening minutes.
But game two was to take place on Cache, giving FaZe more or less home field advantage. Prior to the series, Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey had told Dot Esports in an interview, "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."
Karrigan defuses the bombsite right under SK's noses to steal a round.
As a result, it offered the ideal opportunity for FaZe to make a stand and reverse the momentum in their favour. This time the Europeans were able to draw first blood, outgunning their counterparts in the first three rounds. It didn't last, however. Before they could catch their breath again, the score was already 11-4 against them.
It wasn't until game three that FaZe were able to claim a win for themselves, but by then it almost seemed too late. Through the uphill struggle in game four, the European mix team appeared to slowly wither and die in the second half, growing less poised and more tired after each offensive wave crashed futility against a stalwart defence by the Brazilians, who were able to clinch game four after a brutal 10-2 stop while on the counter-terrorist side.
And with that the finals were over, less a repeat of the tense showdown between FaZe and Astralis than a more competitive workout for the Brazilians following their breezy stroll through the rest of the tournament. SK leave Australia with a $US100,000 ($134,825) share of the prize winnings and a new target on their back. Only time will tell if this is a true return to last year's form or simply a momentary triumph.
You can watch the entire series here.