February has been a busy month for Counter-Strike fans. With IEM Katowice 2022 running for the better part of the month, fans had plenty to discuss, observe and watch over these past weeks. However, February is coming to an end, and with IEM Katowice 2022 having closed this past Sunday, it’s time to look back at what happened at the event.
From its play-in stage through the grand-finals, there’s a number of takeaways from the event to be discussed – and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing here. These are the main takeaways from IEM Katowice 2022 (spoilers ahead, by the way)!
IMMEASURABLE DISAPPOINTMENT – BIG
If you’re a fan of German Counter-Strike, IEM Katowice 2022 won’t be a tournament you’ll be remembering very fondly. While not much was expected from Sprout, the German underdogs which were also eliminated during the opening stage of the event, the same can’t be said for BIG. After a strong showing at BLAST Premier: Spring Groups, an event they attended before heading to Katowice, BIG disappointed massively in Poland.
As for what happened, it’s simple. BIG struggled from their first match, in which they faced Movistar Riders. After a disputed game, they left the server with a win, but it didn’t feel as comfortable as it should. Movistar Riders is a team with massive potential, but not a team that BIG should be getting headaches from. And the worries followed on.
BIG’s next game saw them in a best-of-three series against Astralis. Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz squad had beaten Astralis twice at the Spring Groups, though, and this shouldn’t be an issue for them. Yet, the Danes managed to take that series to the third map, Overpass, and they surprised BIG there. After being defeated by Astralis, BIG still had a chance to bounce back on the lower-bracket of the Play-In stage. This time, they’d face FNATIC.
The English squad wasn’t looking too hot in Katowice at that point, but that didn’t stop BIG from getting beaten. The Germans threw a 3 – 12 score line advantage on the first map of their BO3, and almost lost the series with a 2 – 0 record as FNC mounted a comeback on BIG’s map pick, too. In the decider map – Overpass, once again – BIG had a terrible attacking side. They tried to get back into the game, but FNATIC closed it before their comeback attempt became a threat, and sent BIG home.
CAN’T DROP THE BALL LIKE THIS
For a team like BIG, which is trying to, at the very least, keep their place as one of the best fifteen teams in the world, this result isn’t acceptable. After such a strong showing at the Spring Groups, disappointing at a LAN event like this will be opening more doubts regarding this roster. Nils “k1to” Gruhne, for one, had some great maps in these past weeks. However, he’s becoming a liability for this squad as he’s too inconsistent. As shown in the series against FNATIC, he can be at the top of the scoreboard for BIG in one map and at the very bottom in the next one. This kind of inconsistency simply won’t fly at the level BIG is playing.
Moreover, it’s time to point how BIG is adapting to the return of LAN events. The squad has attended six LANs in the past six months, and their better result was a 3 – 4th finish at V4 Future Sports Festival. An event which didn’t feature as many high tier teams as the other five tournaments. While both k1to and Tizian “tiziaN” Feldbusch have issues both in online and offline matches, it seems that their struggles are even bigger offline.
Unfortunately for BIG, IEM Katowice 2022 is an event they left with their heads down. They never faced an impossible to beat kind of opponent, and yet they left the event before reaching the main stage. It’s time for them to have a hard discussion about what’s happening before they start getting left behind by the competition. Back to the drawing board.
IMMEASURABLE POTENTIAL – ENCE
ENCE left IEM Katowice 2022 in 13 – 16th place, but don’t let this result fool you. The squad led by Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer performed well, and it’s clear how much potential they have. Yet, at the same time, it’s also very clear that they aren’t quite ready to compete against the best just yet. And it’s not a simply matter of time either.
ENCE started their journey by taking down Entropiq. With a strong defensive side, ENCE managed to send them to the lower-bracket without any major issues. Unfortunately, OG had their number, and ENCE was sent to the lower-bracket after barely putting a fight. Fortunately for Snappi and his teammates, ENCE had their next opponent’s number. GODSENT managed to win their own map pick, but nothing more than that.
Winning against GODSENT got ENCE qualified for IEM Katowice main event, and there they surprised. ENCE faced Natus Vincere in their first game, and they gave Na’Vi one hell of a headache. Na’Vi crushed ENCE attacking side on Mirage, the first map of their series, but on their own map pick, Nuke, it was ENCE doing the crushing. The series was then taken to a third-map, where ENCE’s fragging trio composed by Lotan “Spinx” Giladi, Aleksander “hades” Miskiewicz and Pavle “maden” Bošković pushed Na’Vi to their limits. Unfortunately, Paweł “dycha” Dycha, which was fundamental for ENCE’s success on Nuke had an off map, and at the end of the day, ENCE was sent to the lower-bracket.
In the lower-bracket, ENCE faced Astralis. ENCE was pushed to their limit in the first map. ENCE won, but Astralis had them exhausted. The Danish squad won the second map and showed why they are one of the most dangerous Ancient teams in the third one. ENCE was then sent home.
SMALL MISTAKES LEADING TO BIG LOSSES
ENCE has a lot of potential when it comes to individuals on this team. For example, dycha. The Polish rifler had a rough time with ENCE in early 2021, but he has been quickly improving. ENCE’s AWPer, hades, has also been quite the player to watch. The 22-year-old struggled in big events last year, but his performance in Katowice was quite the improvement.
However, ENCE is far from reaching their full potential. From players having the same issues as BIG’s k1to where they disappear in key maps, to a map pool that could use some work, ENCE has their work cut for them before they truly start rivalling the best teams in CSGO. As good as some of these players might be, individual power can only take you so high, especially when inconsistency is a factor to be taken in account.
So, ENCE can be proud of what they have accomplished in Katowice. However, they can’t be in no way satisfied with it. They got some highly valuable experience these past weeks, and it’s up to Snappi and coach Eetu “sAw” Saha to best use it. ENCE has an incredibly bright future ahead of them with this roster if they put in the work. Won’t be easy.
FINALLY, CHAMPIONS – FAZE CLAN
Finn “karrigan” Andersen and the rest of FaZe Clan’s Counter-Strike division have to be incredibly proud of what they have done in Katowice. Against the odds, this squad rose, whether they had their full team in the server, or a stand-in. After a long, rough year in 2021, it was no surprise to see the smiles of FaZe players lifting the trophy this Sunday, either.
Now, we’ve discussed FaZe’s journey up to the group stage, so let’s focus from the quarter-finals onwards. First and foremost, it needs to be said that FaZe had a spectacular playoffs run. The squad didn’t drop a single map against Gambit, Heroic and G2 after all. Most noteworthy, they demolished Heroic which up to that point, was looking very strong too – more on that later. G2, the other finalist, gave FaZe a challenge. Unfortunately for them, the trio of Helvijs “broky” Saukants, Robin “ropz” Kool and Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken gave them a taste of what they’re capable of together. As great as G2’s stars – or any other team for that matter – can be, it’s going to be hard to beat these three.
Talking about broky, the Latvian AWPer is also proving to be quite the gem for FaZe. Not that his usefulness for this team was ever in question, but since ropz joined he has been unleashed. Last year, his performances on Ancient were highlighted, but this year, no matter the map, he’s delivering the goods. Now, can you imagine if this FaZe becomes comfortable enough to bring Ancient against the likes of Gambit?
With Ancient or not, FaZe is one threatening squad at the moment. And let’s not forget about the stand-in situation. Justin “jks” Savage was incredible, no questioning that. Standing for two players in different roles, and doing so looking good proved that he’s the one benched player every team on the lookout should be sending offers to. However, as good as jks is, playing with a stand-in just isn’t ideal. Which makes this victory even more great for FaZe Clan.
Now, FaZe won’t be have much time to commemorate this win as their next challenge draws closer. However, with this performance, everyone will be looking at FaZe which very different eyes. In these past months they went from a disappointing team missing a piece of the puzzle, to a promising squad with ropz, to a real contender. So, it’s fair to say that expectations have just turned up to eleven. Everyone will be expecting a great showing from FaZe in EPL Season XV, and that’s justified.
Back to jks, FaZe’s stand-in for Katowice, we can only hope the Australian will find a home soon. His time in Complexity simply didn’t make justice to all of his talent, and he made the best out of this opportunity in Katowice. Congratulations to FaZe, and congratulations to jks, too! I can’t believe he isn’t signed yet!
BE SAD IT’S OVER – FNATIC
FNATIC didn’t had the easier time in IEM Katowice 2022, but no one expected the squad to simply break afterwards. Unfortunately, that’s what happened, and this event will be the last time – at least for the short while – where we’ll see that promising, mostly British roster rising against the odds.
Let’s not pretend for a second that Alexander “ALEX” McMeekin and his teammates had an excellent event. The squad started their run by being defeated by Copenhagen Flames once again showing that their defensive side had too many flaws. They managed to bounce back by eliminating Wisla Kraków, and then BIG, but none of these matches saw a really impressive FNATIC. That would change in the group stage, though.
In FNATIC’s opening match of the group stage, they faced G2, and they won. The Brits were demolished in their own map pick, but took G2’s to take the series to a third map. Then, thanks to ALEX precise calling and William “mezii” Merriman taking the charge, FNC upset the favorites. FaZe was next, and unfortunately, ALEX’ crew got demolished on their own map pick. Once more they recovered by taking FaZe’s pick, but they were no match for Karrigan and Twistzz on the decider map.
Finally, FNC faced Astralis in the lower-bracket. Once again, FNATIC couldn’t win on their own map, but managed to take their opponent’s map to take the series to a third map. They managed to take Ancient to overtime, but Astralis always felt like the more comfortable team there, and managed to win the game.
Differently than FaZe, G2 or even BIG, this FNATIC doesn’t have a future. It’s over. As announced by the organization, the organization benched their AWPer, Owen “smooya” Butterfield first. The Brit was struggling since the start of the year in the squad, and it certainly didn’t help that he became aware of his upcoming move to the bench before the tournament was over.
The even worse news for FNATIC fans came after that, though. It was revealed through various sources that Ninjas in Pyjamas is looking to acquire Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin. The Swede has been the star of this team for a while, and losing him is a major blow for the squad. He has benched himself for the time being, and the squad had to take two players from their academy team to complete the roster.
It’s sad that this was the end of one of the most promising FNATIC rosters they had in the past year. For now, the team can only hope they manage to qualify for the upcoming RMR events. They have failed in their first try, but there’s three more chances ahead of them.
A WIN NONETHELESS – G2
G2 is leaving Katowice with their hearts broken. They reached the grand-finals of IEM Katowice 2022, but couldn’t cross the finish line against FaZe. This defeat definitely hurt the squad and their fans, but it’s far from a disappointment. What G2 did in Katowice definitely has to be considered an achievement when we look at the big picture.
When I mention the “big picture”, I’m talking about the current G2’s situation. It’s easy to forget that this squad doesn’t have even three months since they got together. Also, it’s not difficult to forget that their AWPer, Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov, just attended his first premier LAN with a live audience. It’s also easy to forget that G2’s captain Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen spent the last year playing in a team that refused to work together for various reasons. Yet, here they are, finalists.
Now, this isn’t saying that G2 had a perfect campaign in Katowice. The squad faced various issues across the group stage. For one, their match against FNATIC on Inferno had Aleksib completely out called by FNC’s captain. FURIA also managed to make the team look very uncomfortable on Mirage. G2 over-relied on Nikola “NiKo” Kovač at times, and that’s a bit worrisome, too.
Still, as many issues as this team has, there’s time to solve them. As shown by them in the playoffs, this squad already looks better than they did in the group stage. And we can’t forget that G2 actually went to the playoffs without their coach! Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam tested positive for COVID-19 and had to take a break. The news came just after the coach received high praise from NiKo for his ability to bring the team together when things get difficult. His absence definitely hurt G2 chances at the end of the day.
For G2, all they can do at this point is take the experience they got in Katowice and keep fighting. They are heading to the ESL Pro League next, and we expect to see a much more confident and solid-looking team from their first game there.
But if anything, they can be very proud of what they have done this past weekend. Both as a team and individually, too! Their AWPer definitely went above and beyond during the playoffs, and Nemanja “huNter-“ Kovač stepped up when his cousin couldn’t. NiKo had an off day at the grand-finals, but until then, he was definitely the one pushing this squad forward. At the end of the day, G2 is a team made to be successful, and they will. It’s a matter of time.
LOVE DOING HIS BEST – NINJAS IN PYJAMAS
Lastly, we have to talk about the Ninjas. NiP came to IEM Katowice 2022 with mixed expectations. Also, once more, without their AWPer, Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz. Sure, their current AWPer, Love “phzy” Smidebrant is doing everything he can to not disappoint his teammates. Yet, it’s undeniable that he isn’t ready for competing against the likes of broky or m0NESY.
Nonetheless, that didn’t stop NiP from having some great showings in Katowice. The team took down Wisla Kraków in their opening game, but was stopped by Copenhagen Flames afterwards. In the lower-bracket, NiP faced Movistar Riders and demolished the Spaniards to send them home.
At the group stage, NiP started right of with a bang. The squad faced Gambit, one of the favorites back then, and took them down. They managed to best Gambit in Ancient after a massive comeback led by Hampus “hampus” Poser and Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora. Then, Gambit took back the control of the game in the second map, and took the series to its decider. There, it was phzy’s show. The young AWPer paired with Fredrik “REZ” Sterner and hampus to shut Gambit down in an impressive showing.
NiP then faced Virtus.Pro, and the Swedes couldn’t hold the CIS plow. After being sent to the lower-bracket, they faced the impressive MOUZ we saw in Katowice, but the Europeans were no match for NiP. The team advanced after beating MOUZ with a 2 – 0 record, and faced Gambit once more. This time, Gambit made sure to shut phzy and only hampus did damage against them. It wasn’t enough, and NiP was sent home.
ROSTER MOVES ON THE WAY?
Now, phzy is a young player. He’s set to make mistakes as he faces the best teams in the world at this point of his career. The team will undoubtedly receive an upgrade if dev1ce gets back. Especially if he brings with him his form from 2018 or 2019. However, phzy isn’t NiP’s biggest issue right now. Unfortunately, Patrick “es3tag” Hansen, the team’s support player isn’t bringing the frags, and Plopski keeps struggling with his consistency. You simply can’t have your second rifler struggling like that when you also have a support player like es3tag.
As mentioned above, though, it seems that NiP is looking to do some spicy roster moves. If the rumors are to be believed and they are interested in FNATIC’s Brollan, then we could see Plopski getting replaced. Bringing Brollan to this team would most likely take this NiP from a team gate-keeping the top 10 to one challenging to break the top five. Once dev1ce returns, the sky will be the limit for this roster.
Until the rumors get confirmed, though, NiP is a team trying to do the most they can with the cards dealt to them. And when you see their situation like that, they have been doing fairly well. They might have left the tournament earlier than they would’ve liked, but it was a solid effort.
IEM Katowice 2022 was an incredible tournament, and once more, I’d like to congratulate FaZe Clan on their win. It was a colossal effort and an even bigger achievement for this roster.
Now, as you might’ve noticed, no team from the CIS region were given their own space in this article. The reason for that is that the form they shown at the playoffs shouldn’t be completely taken in account. Players from Gambit, Natus Vincere and Virtus.Pro certainly have a lot in their mind right now. And it definitely weighted on them. For Andrii “B1ad3” Horodenskyi. Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, and Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi, we have nothing but respect for the strength they have demonstrated over the entire tournament, both in the server and outside of it. It also goes without saying that all the empathy and support being shown from their colleagues is nothing short of beautiful. We hope for the best for these players and their families and friends.