The Group Stages
Until Dreamhack Masters Marseille, there really wasn’t a team post-Major that pundits could point to as being the clear best team in the world. That was until Astralis’ return to form with their particular brand of tactical Counter-Strike. Marseille proved no challenge for the Danes as they swept aside everything in their path with little difficulty. Heading into IEM Sydney, it seemed no team would be able to stand in their way. The group stages didn’t do much to change that perception, with Astralis breezing through to the Semi-Finals after a minor overtime scare against NRG. SK Gaming’s downward spiral continued as the recent inclusion of Jake ‘Stewie2K’ Yip has failed to turn things around for the Brazilians. They lost in overtime to China’s Tyloo and then suffered an embarrassing defeat to home side Grayhound, going down 2 - 1. The Aussie teams in general did a lot to showcase their region by being very competitive in the group stages. Renegades in particular impressed with a stellar 2 - 1 win over FaZe in the Group A upper bracket Semi-Final. Here’s Justin ‘jks’ Savage with an emphatic 1v4 win on the second map: FaZe again had a tough time in their Group A lower bracket Semi-final, having to work their way past Grayhound to earn a hard-fought 2 -1 in their favour this time around. Since the addition of Richard ‘Xizt’ Landström, FaZe were looking vulnerable. Following that, they showed a better side of themselves against a lacklustre Cloud 9 in the lower bracket Final. This got them into the Quarter-Finals, but didn’t do much to convince anyone that they would be factor in the tail end of the tournament. The team most thought would be Astralis’ greatest challengers, Mousesports, mounted very little of one against the Danes in the group B upper bracket Semi-Final. They were able to best G2 Esports 2 - 0, but few held out hope that they could beat Astralis in the playoffs.
FaZe vs fnatic: 2 - 0
The European team were in no mood for a repeat of IEM Katowice’s Grand Final and this time were able to put the Swedes down with relative ease. Here’s Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač with some pinpoint tap shooting to win a round with a triple kill: Renegades vs Mousesports: 1 - 2 This was one of the best series in the entire competition. Mousesports were determined to win the game as the favourites, but the home team were equally determined to stay in it. The first map was a relatively comfortable victory for Mouz. Inferno was anything but. Triple overtime and some incredible highlights followed. Most of them courtesy of Renegades’ American AWPer and in game leader Noah ‘Nifty’ Francis, who had the performance of his life. The Australian crowd were in raptures. Renegades dramatically equalized the series thanks to their 25 - 23 scoreline. Take a moment to appreciate Nifty’s sublime work: Unfortunately it was not to be a famous home victory for the mostly Australian outfit as Mouz barely squeezed past them with a 17 - 19 overtime win on Train to move onto the semis.
Tyloo vs FaZe: 1 - 2
China’s best team had a commendably clean run to the Semi-Finals with some excellent work in the group stages. Here again FaZe showed some weakness against a team they would normally have had no trouble against. They managed to recover after stumbling on the second map, Inferno, and moved on to the Grand Final with two fairly comprehensive map wins.
Astralis vs Mousesports: 2 - 1
The second best of three series between these teams on the tournament was little tougher this time round for Astralis. That said, it certainly started well for the Danes with a 16 - 3 mauling of Mouz on Dust II. On Inferno, Mouz showed great character to win 17 - 19 in overtime to set up the decider on Cache. A decider that again turned into Mouz getting curb stomped 16 - 5, as Astralis moved to face FaZe in the final. Here’s Magisk with a great defensive 3K to gain match point on Inferno:
FaZe vs Astralis: 3 - 0
It was probably the closest 3 - 0 win in a best of five series in CS:GO history. It could just as easily have been an Astralis victory and probably should have been if form and the rest of the tournament are taken into account. For the first time in at least a year, FaZe were the clear underdogs thanks to their recent shakiness. Astralis were favoured to easily take the series, with most analysts predicting no map wins for FaZe at all. It seems the underdog status took the pressure off Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen’s crew. NiKo, Guardian and Rain all delivered the kind of individual performances we know they’re capable of. At the same time. In a Grand Final. This is something that hasn’t happened in a long while. Cache was won in 19 - 17 in overtime by FaZe. Astralis were not giving up at any point though. Here’s Xyp9x with one his customarily calm 1v3 clutches: Another map, another overtime. Overpass delivered a double overtime 22 - 20 thrill ride. NiKo showed up in a big way and created probably the best moment of the final, with this 1v3: Train was no less competitive, although overtime was narrowly avoided with FaZe’s 16 - 14 win despite Astralis’ mighty first half. Witness Rain and NiKo combining to put them on match point with this stylish shutout: Astralis will be ruing letting this one slip as they were heavy favourites to take the title. Magisk, Xyp9x and device all had solid performances in the Grand Final. FaZe went one better with their trio of stars burning brighter. They were not about to let yet another Grand Final pass them by and were crowned the deserved IEM Sydney champions. It was an impressive performance in front of one of esports’ best crowds in Australia, in yet another tremendous final.