Finishing third after favorites FaZe Clan and G2 Esports, MAD Lions snatched the final European slot for IEM Katowice 2020 from ENCE with a 2-0 win. Despite finishing third, MAD Lions put on the strongest performance of the qualifier.
Most would think that ESL’s decision to exclude FaZe and G2 from the 10 direct invitees would have irritated both teams, especially FaZe. Widely regarded as a top-10 team, FaZe’s spot was essentially offered to the 17th-ranked team, Virtus.pro. That snub didn’t seem to light a fire under FaZe, though.
While the final results look ordinary, the games were not. FaZe Clan narrowly defeated ARCY, a team led by Polish legends Filip “NEO” Kubski and Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas, 16-14 on Nuke and 16-12 on Dust 2.
While the 2-0 looks nice on paper, FaZe looked underprepared against a team they were significant favorites against. The close series would be one thing if its was a one-off result, but scraping by against lower-level teams seems to be a new trend for FaZe.
Whether it’s overconfidence or something else, FaZe walks a fine line in matchups against weaker teams too often, especially with a roster comprised of some of the greatest names in Counter-Strike history:
It is unclear where the team is headed, but it doesn’t seem like they’re headed to the top at the moment. While FaZe will likely enjoy decent odds to win IEM Katowice 2020, those who follow the team closely won’t be surprised if they go home early.
Despite -YNk’s knowledge and experience, he seems unable to fix whatever is wrong with his team. The analyst turned coach has always been prepared, whether on the desk or behind his players, but it’s not making a difference for a FaZe roster doesn’t seem to be in peak form.
What fans saw over the past week was disappointing from a squad once heralded as the first “international superteam.”
Viewers saw similar issues with G2 Esports as the French squad struggled with AGO Esports in the quarterfinals. G2 narrowly scraped by with a close 2-1 match victory before taking down MAD Lions 2-1.
Though G2 won, the narrow margins they had in victories do not speak well regarding their chances against the competition they’ll face in Katowice. Unfortunately, it’s what fans have come to expect from a G2 roster that includes arguably the most famous AWPer of all time:
G2 and FaZe both made significant roster changes late in 2019, dropping Lucas “Lucky” Chastang and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, respectively. With how the two teams have looked since, it’s becoming clear they weren’t actually the problems.
Both AGO and ARCY deserve credit for what they nearly accomplished at Katowice’s qualifiers, but the reality is that both FaZe and G2 should’ve won handily. Whatever is going on behind the scenes, viewers shouldn’t be surprised if changes come to the two rosters after Poland.
While a brand new Cloud9 roster made an impressive run in North America, MAD Lions’ own fresh team made waves in the European closed qualifiers. MAD Lions initially fought their way through the quarterfinals, defeating Team Heroic 2-0 before losing its semifinal matchup against G2.
In the lower bracket, the Spanish team put away Illuminar Gaming 2-1 and stifled ENCE 2-0 to take the last European slot in Katowice. MAD Lions acquired the Tricked Esports roster in November and the team has made steady progress since its move. While a non-factor in online competition, the MAD Lions’ roster is a dangerous force in a LAN setting:
While it’s unlikely that the current roster will make it deep into IEM Katowice this year, fans can expect teams to scout and recruit both roeJ and Bubzkji in the near future. Both of the young players possess raw talent that could be a team’s missing piece.
If MAD Lions’ can find a replacement for HUNDEN’s leadership while adding firepower at the same time, the organization has the potential to be a serious contender.
MAD Lions’ run in the 2020 IEM Katowice closed qualifiers, especially in the context of the effort that FaZe and G2 showed, indicates that the landscape of Counter-Strike competition is changing. With BLAST Premier and a rumored organization-owned league in the works, there is little incentive for established pro players to put effort into anything that isn’t a league with revenue sharing attached to it.
Change is coming to Counter-Strike, for better or for worse.