FaZe Clan have defeated G2 3-0 (19-15, 31-27, 16-14) in a five hour battle of endurance at IEM Katowice. For the third time in recent memory, FaZe have taken a stand-in to the podium ceremony — but this time, there’s a difference.
The stand-in was none other than Australia’s Justin “jks” Savage, who performed marvellously in multiple positions as COVID impacted the roster.
Over 1.1 million viewers tuned in to watch FaZe Clan take out the $400,000 USD prize — a record viewership for IEM Katowice outside of it’s status as a Major in 2019.
For our Aussies, it was a mixed bag.
While jks stood atop of the world holding the trophy, OCE squad Renegades struggled in the Play-In qualifier, while Chris “dexter” Nong’s MOUZ entered the event with zero expectations but came out stronger than ever before.
Super-sub jks savages G2 in Grand Final sweep
Justin “jks” Savage spent the off-season in Europe but away from Counter-Strike.
Riding the pine at Complexity, his 2022 future in the short-term was unknown.
In a late move after Robin “ropz” Kool contracted COVID, FaZe Clan reached out to jks to act as a stand-in ahead of their Play-In opener.
That was two weeks ago. This is how it ended overnight.
jks is Australia’s first tier one LAN champion, almost five years on from his previous top event win at StarLadder i-League Shanghai with Renegades, and he did it in incredible fashion for FaZe.
The Aussie rifler started slow at the Play-In but quickly came to grips with Finn “karrigan” Andersen’s system, posting numbers in their qualifying win over MOUZ.
With FaZe qualified for groups and ropz cleared to play once again, jks switched out, and that appeared to be that.
But as they defeated Fnatic to book their quarter final spot at Spodek, the team were hit once again by COVID; this time, it was Håvard “rain” Nygaard testing positive.
With the playoffs right around the corner and rain unable to play from the hotel, jks was once again called upon to substitute, but this time the stakes were that much higher.
And boy, did he deliver.
jks’ form held through FaZe’s quarter-final win over Gambit 2-0 (16-5, 16-11), while tournament MVP Helvijs “broky” Saukants led the team to the grand final following a victory over Heroic 2-0 (16-11, 16-5).
In what would prove to be a marathon final against G2, jks was everywhere.
He combined with broky and karrigan to hold off G2 on B in the Inferno opener, with FaZe walking away winners 19-15 in overtime.
Mirage would also go to overtime — five of them — and jks’ impact would be felt far and wide.
The Australian dropped 42 kills in the 31-27 win, including a remarkable 1v2 clutch in quintuple overtime to secure FaZe their second map in the grand final.
G2 weren’t going down still after two overtime losses, and FaZe would need the entire 30 regulation rounds on Dust 2 to finish them once and for all.
ropz, broky & jks combined for 70 kills in the final map, overcoming a lights-out performance from Nemanja “huNter-” Kovač to put the series beyond doubt 16-14.
This isn’t the first time captain Karrigan and FaZe have won with a stand-in. The team took out IEM Sydney 2018 3-0 over Astralis with a player down, then followed up at ESL One: Belo Horizonte with a different stand-in, defeating Mousesports in five maps.
This Katowice win is arguably the best of the three, with jks having to play multiple positions and filling for two different players, all while performing at the top level on one of the most imposing stages in Counter-Strike.
His future may still be clouded but jks has done everything possible to secure a spot on a tier one roster going forward — it’s just a matter of when.
In the meantime? Pop the champagne, give us a public holiday and cast jks in bronze outside Qudos Bank Arena.
New look Renegades fall short at Play-In
The return of Jay “Liazz” Tregillgas wasn’t enough for Renegades to qualify for the main event, going down fighting to OG and Entropiq.
“[It] hurts a lot travelling all this way to be knocked out in two days and two games,” said Alistair “aliStair” Johnston following the team’s elimination.
“It’s still very early days with this line-up and we’re excited to keep building.”
Renegades managed less than a week of practice entering a highly competitive Katowice Play-In, with a powered up OG their first hurdle.
RNG struggled on their Mirage CT side, managing just five rounds and conceding six straight to end the half down by a significant margin.
But a bomb plant in the pistol and a force buy round win saw the Oceanic squad back into the map, and they took it with both hands.
Liazz (28-21, 1.21 HLTV rating), who had disappointed fans on Extremum, looked like a completely different player in the best-of-one opener.
Together with Simon “Sico” Williams (26-23, 1.13 HLTV rating), Renegades bounced back on the T side brilliantly, ultimately forcing overtime.
But OG ramped up the speed, catching RNG unawares, and a number of small mistakes cost the boys an early shot at the Katowice group stage going down 16-19.
It’s as close as Renegades would come to the Spodek stage. Despite a second solid performance from Sico (31-29, 1.03 HLTV rating), Russian side Entropiq brutally ended the Aussies’ hopes in Poland 2-0 (16-6, 16-5).
RNG have since returned home to Australia, gearing up for the rest of the season at home. Planned appearances include ESL ANZ Champs — starting this week — as well as the Oceanic qualifier for the PGL Antwerp Asia Qualifier later in March.
No Bymas, no problem as MOUZ’s mice dazzle
With Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras out after a positive COVID test, MOUZ were forced to turn to MOUZ NXT front man Jon “JDC” de Castro to stand in at late notice.
He wasn’t the only rookie debuting for the line-up — ex-teammate Ádám “torzsi” Torzsás was promoted to the main team in the off-season, while Counter-Strike veteran Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt was making his return after a brief stint in Valorant.
All together, captain Chris “dexter” Nong had his work cut out for him.
But excel they did — MOUZ exceeded all expectations in their 2022 debut at Katowice, qualifying through the Play-Ins and remaining competitive in groups.
“I’m so proud of everybody, especially JDC & torzsi,” said dexter.
“We had no opportunities to practice for this tournament and this is how far we go. I’m so excited for the future.”
MOUZ took down Godsent in their Play-In opener before dropping to FaZe Clan in the qualifier.
Dexter led MOUZ in their lower bracket run, avenging his former team Renegades first against Entropiq in the Play-In, then defeating OG in the group stage opener.
It’s as far as MOUZ would make it, though. Losses to Vitality and Ninjas in Pyjamas spelled the end of their Katowice conquest, but with plenty to hope for ahead of the European season.
MOUZ return to the server in two weeks time, taking on the likes of G2, NiP, Fnatic and Australian reps LookingForOrg at ESL Pro League Season 15.