Counter-Strike: NiKo’s FaZe Isn’t a Great Team

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Counter-Strike: NiKo’s FaZe Isn’t a Great Team

It’s easy to be baited by FaZe. They are a team who show their strengths in the reflection of their trophies. From ESL One New York 2017, to EPICENTER 2018 over a year later, the ‘feel’ of a FaZe win is impossible to replicate. It’s as explosive as it is clinical; as overwhelming as it is suffocating. With Karrigan, this force seemed to attack you from map control gained in the middle of the round. Under the leadership of NiKo, it’s pressed to the extremes. The Bosnian calls executes with either staggering care and patience, or eye-wateringly fast aggressive tempo.

There’s strategy and structure, but not in the same subversive way that say, the Brazilians managed to create. FaZe’s tricks lie more in how individuals approach positions rather than how the team conceptualises their game on the whole. Confusion as a viewer arises as to how stars like NiKo can create ‘that’ much impact, not where ‘that’ flash came from.

The ease of characterising FaZe though, can create a trap. When we feel like we understand a team, it becomes easy to mistake familiarity and appreciation for longevity and ability. FaZe are clear in the way they want to become a great team, but that doesn’t mean they are one.

FaZe formed their line-up well over a year ago as of writing. The side more closely resembled a constellation than a Counter-Strike roster given the amount of stars the organisation managed to throw together.

For a very long time, maybe longer than they should have been able to do-so, their luminescence over the Counter-Strike space matched this impossible density of star talent. They were the best team in the world, near major champions, and lifted six international trophies, two of which were done with two different stand-ins. With the right mix of factors and form, they still might be able to do so again.

The same reasons we might be led to optimism for FaZe’s future though, are also the elements which will deny them transcendence of the elite grouping of Na`Vi and Liquid, and especially Astralis. That’s not to say they can’t beat these aforementioned teams though. They’ve done as much for all three, in series, on LAN, and in back-to-back tournaments.

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In Chicago they were able to do what no team has done to this iteration of Astralis – 2:0 the Danes. To even arrive at the Astralis match-up though, they barely edged out a 16:14 win over LDLC, and a 2:1 series to MIBR, both of which could’ve gone either way. From the momentum of their Astralis win, three days later they couldn’t even put up more than five rounds over two maps against Liquid.

The easiness that comes with looking at FaZe’s game and understanding their win conditions hints at the linearity of their win conditions. Those extremes of NiKo’s calling, either extremely slow or fast rounds are not the building blocks of a consistently elite team in-game. Their T-side is nothing to scoff at, especially with NiKo himself being in such insane form, but they don’t have the grinding power of say, Liquid’s. Their win conditions outside of individual talent is painfully binary despite their status as a top three team in the world.

More of a problem than their stylistic on-the-noseness is their map pool. Their LAN record over the last six months with Olofm shows just how dire the map situation has become for FaZe. Mirage seems to be the lone pillar holding up the facade of their greatness. They’ve been allowed to play it in every series they’ve won since the major. One can imagine this will change in the coming tournaments as sides either begin forcing them onto off maps or directly anti-stratting their game as we saw Liquid do in Chicago.


Karrigan’s individual level has been fine since pushed off leadership duties, while both Guardian and NiKo have seen booms of form themselves. When these hot runs cool off though, the consistently underwhelming play of rain for nearly four straight months will start to become more of a sore point. Also, this will put more pressure onto the calling of NiKo to flesh-out the macro win conditions of lieu of a coherently dangerous three to four man fragging core.

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The beauty and ugliness of FaZe though, is that even in-spite of these issues, they still have five of the most legendary players in CS:GO history at their disposal. The peaks of players outside of NiKo are unlikely to be hit again without a fresh change. For Karrigan and Guardian, this came with NiKo’s leadership. For the rest of the side – except for NiKo himself – there is little other reconfiguring FaZe can do to spark consistently dominant play again. As much has been seen and dispensed with over the 15 months they’ve been together as a roster. Even in-spite of this though, they’ll still be able to take series off top teams. They may even beat someone like Astralis or Liquid again before the year is over in an epic series.

These results though, as their performances at Chicago hint at, would be the last brilliant bursts of energy from a dying, giant star. Intermittent surges of greatness will come at increasingly more distant times from each other as they do for all once-great teams slowly falling to entropy. NiP can win IEM Oakland 2017, but make a roster move a handful of months later after never repeating their success. Same can be said, Fnatic, and Mousesports. FaZe are, after all, beholden to the same laws of all Counter-Strike teams even if they may be one of the most special of all-time. Not even NiKo, despite the seemingly limitless expanse of his skillset, can elevate FaZe above the pressing limits of their own timeline, and shortcomings inherent in the rosters construction.

Max Melit | CS:GO Writer
Max has written for ESPN, Dot, Blitz, HTC, Rivalry, Red Bull & Cybersport. He has appeared on CS:GO podcasts from Counter-Points to Writer Block. Max has interviewed at CS:GO events around the world. Twitter bio: @max_melit.