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FaZe vs. NAVI: A Classic Rivalry

Nikhil Kalro

In May 2022, a record 2.04 million viewers tuned in from all over the world to witness Natus Vincere and FaZe Clan clash in the final of the PGL Major Antwerp. This was the second most-viewed CS:GO event ever – there were 2.7 million viewers that tuned in to the final of PGL Major Stockholm. The interest in Antwerp merely reiterated the growing popularity of the sport and set in stone a rivalry for the ages.

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Image Credit: IEM | Helena Kristiansson

The match lived up to the hype. Inferno was a hard tussle, but FaZe Clan won Nuke without breaking a sweat. Finn “karrigan” Andersen had a reward for all the hours of toil when he became the oldest CS:GO Major winner. When he was signed at 31 as an in-game leader, many eyebrows were raised. However, a whirlwind 18 months later, the Danish player etched his and FaZe’s name into the history books.

He had broken the previous record held by Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko, who took the PGL Major Krakow 2017 by storm with his team Gambit at 29. Karrigan was, of course, part of an unlucky FaZe team that blew a 15-9 lead in Inferno at the Boston Major final in 2018 against Cloud9. This victory was sweet. It carved a legacy for him and ushered the start of an exciting NAVI-FaZe rivalry that seems to now be growing from strength to strength.

“It hasn’t even gone through my head what we’ve done this season,” Karrigan told HLTV. “We won four of the biggest trophies there is, ESL Pro League with all of the best teams in the world, IEM Katowice, IEM Cologne and the Major. It’s not really realistic. The main goal for next season is the Intel Grand Slam. When and how we win it doesn’t even matter, hopefully we’ll have a slow start to the season, it’ll be intense but we’ll do our best to keep up the same performances.

“We’re the best team in the world when you look at the results of this season, four trophies to us, one to Cloud9, one to NAVI. There’s no discussion that we’re the best team in the world and I’m super happy to see NAVI perform at this level so far with sdy. They’re definitely coming back next season to try and grab that first place. We managed to play our worst maps really well against NAVI. What a team performance, I think everybody just gave everything they had.”

This rivalry was once again on view in the final of IEM Cologne, when FaZe Clan came back from 2-1 down to beat NaVi 3-2 in the grand finale. The two teams had tussled with 22 others, and came through an exhaustive and exhilarating filtration process after three stages of match-ups. Both NAVI and FaZe secured their spot in the finale after completing a perfect run in the previous stages of the tournament, defeating all four of their opponents. And on cue, in the final, every map was decided by a narrow margin, with either side giving themselves a great chance to close it out.

Making a run to the summit, there were several parallels for both sides, NAVI defeated MOUZ, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Movistar Riders and Astralis to reach the final. FaZe, on the other hand, defeated 00NATION, Spirit, Astralis and Movistar Riders to claim the top spot in their bracket. Where FaZe hadn’t made roster changes, NaVi brought in Viktor “sdy” Orudzhev as the replacement for Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov. While the roster change did make things challenging, they overcame adversities.

By the time they came to the finals, for NAVI it was a question of being able to avenge their Antwerp Major defeat in an attempt to dethrone FaZe. While that wasn’t to be, just the fact that they could dare to dream and had this burning desire – something they had spelt out loud even before the tournament started – spoke of how they valued the rivalry.

Prior to the final, NAVI and FaZe Clan had clashed in four games in 2022, with both sides winning two each. No love lost, no inch given; no one backed down from a fight. If the Antwerp final was exciting enough, their match-up at the BLAST Premier Spring final – where NAVI had secured a 2-0 win – added an aura to the rivalry. What would it be this time around?

FaZe started with a 16-13 win on Inferno before NAVI fought back with a 16-13 victory on Overpass. Then they went 19-16 on Ancient to take the lead. FaZe didn’t give up, and overturned a poor start in a must-win to eventually take it 16-9 on Mirage to force a decider on Nuke. NAVI had momentum and had surged to take five straight points and a 14-13 lead in dramatic circumstances, but FaZe course-corrected in the final moments to take the thriller.

“We knew that Nuke could be tough on the CT side, NAVI has been famous for the past three years for having a fantastic Nuke,” Karrigan said. “We lost only one Nuke with the full lineup, I think we lost one to MOUZ with jks, but with the full lineup we just lost to ENCE in Dallas. Coming into Nuke I had so much trust in the T and CT side, and obviously winning the pistol set us up good.

“We maybe had a couple of missed calls here and there, but we figured out what we needed to do in the 13-14 round. Then Russel [Twistzz] wanted to repeat the call again and we did it a bit different, he just jumped on Main and got the entry. That’s the showcase of how great this team is, when we’re in this type of moment. Everyone can chip in with small ideas and we do it all together, and with Twistzz’s aim when he wants to do something you just let him go.”

The genesis of this rivalry stems from both sides being ultra-competitive and delivering one thriller after another every time they have met. Results have almost always tended to have been decided in the final map, which is a broadcaster and fan’s dream. The verbal volleys and online banter between fans from both teams have added a larger-than-life intrigue to these battles over the years. Such an intense rivalry in esports isn’t always commonplace, but that we’re getting there is testimony to the intensity and commitment of these two, and several other teams who are thriving in the CS:GO scene.

Such has been their imprint in the gaming scene that FaZe are making their debut in the stock market as a listed organisation. Known for their lifestyle and digital media platforms committed to gaming and esports, they have teams in CS:GO, Fortnite and Call of Duty. With over 500 million followers, there’s clearly a market for their commercials.

Both have been in-form teams for a while, following a similar path. Despite being the most successful CS:GO team in 2021, NAVI started slowly this year. However, after a second-place finish at PGL Major Antwerp and a tournament victory in the BLAST Premier Spring Finals 2022, NAVI had the big chance to try and pull off a coup in Cologne. Even though the result didn’t go their way, the series of impressive results overall stand them in good stead.

FaZe have enjoyed a terrific year, winning IEM Katowice, ESL Pro League Season 15, and PGL Major Antwerp 2022 apart from being runners-up Roobet Cup. This one in Cologne counts as the ultimate crowning glory.

Between FaZe and NAVI, they have it in them to dominate the CS:GO scene for the immediate future. This makes their tussles all the more exciting. Clearly this is just the start of what promises to be a fierce rivalry in the years to come.