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Stories to Watch at the IEM Rio Major Legends Stage

Zakaria Almughrabi

The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive IEM Rio Major continues, with the Legends Stage beginning on November 5th. The first eight teams were just eliminated during the Challengers Stage, leaving only 16. This is the first time that we’ll be seeing most of the favorites play in Rio. With a $1,250,000 prize pool and the Major title on the line, which teams will show up strong at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s most important tournament?

IEM Rio Major Legends

Image Copyright ESL | Adela Sznajder

IEM Rio Major Legends Stage Teams

Legends Contenders
FaZe Clan Natus Vincere MOUZ Bad News Eagles
Ninjas in Pyjamas ENCE Outsiders BIG
Sprout Team Spirit FURIA Esports Fnatic
Heroic Team Liquid Team Vitality Cloud9

The FaZe Factor

The biggest story by far here at the IEM Rio Major is surrounding FaZe Clan. The international squad has made headline after headline this year. FaZe have picked up trophies at both IEM Championships (Katowice and Cologne), ESL Pro League S15, and the PGL Antwerp Major. They’ve been a top two ranked team in the world according to HLTV ever since mid-March, and rank one for over five months.

If FaZe Clan manage to take home the IEM Rio Major trophy, it will be the crown jewel on top of one of, if not the best year in CS:GO history. Not only would FaZe join 2015 Fnatic and 2019 Astralis as the only teams to sweep Majors in a year, they’d also be the first team to finish the Intel Grand Slam with a Major title. While discussion of an “era” in CS:GO is always foggy, few would be able to discount 2022 FaZe for one if they did come take it.

Despite being incredibly successful this year already, FaZe has not been without fault. We’ve seen them fall short on a couple occasions. Notably, FaZe’s exits at IEM Dallas and ESL Pro League S16 left a bad taste in their mouths. Teams have found ways to beat them on the right day, when prep and form were not in FaZe’s favor.

That said, FaZe’s biggest strength this year has been their ability to peak higher than anyone else. When Robin “ropz” Kool finds multikill after multikill, when Helvijs “broky” Saukants’s AWP can’t miss, when Finn “karrigan” Andersen’s calling can do no wrong, that’s when FaZe dominates. This FaZe roster has five of the best players in their roles period. If they show up in form, few will be able to stand in their way.

Contending for the Title

Aside from FaZe, there are a few teams that are also being looked at as potential champions. There’re the usual suspects in Natus Vincere. The CIS squad has had a down year by their standards, but is still very competitive in every tournament they enter. Their sole trophy of 2022 came at the BLAST Spring Finals, but NAVI also made Grand Finals appearances at PGL Major Antwerp and IEM Cologne.

Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev has been in near-peak form for many of his performances over the past six months. He’s sitting in the top three HLTV ratings for players at the Major, only behind Vitality’s Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and tied with Cloud9’s Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov. If the rest of NAVI can supplement s1mple’s output, they’ll be threatening as usual.

Ninjas in Pyjamas made a massive change right before the RMR events began, replacing Nicolas “Plopski” Zamora with G2’s former in-game leader Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen. As a result, NiP’s former IGL and best player, Hampus “Hampus” Poser, could move to a full fragger role. The result was an easy 3-0 for NiP over the likes of Astralis and Cloud9 at the RMR. We’ll see if the new NiP’s honeymoon phase continues at the Legends Stage. Aleksib is no stranger to leading a team to the Major finals after all.

North America’s Team Liquid also can’t be forgotten. They’ve made huge strides to reclaim some of the standing they lost during the online era. Now with CIS star rifler Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis officially signed, Liquid has the experience and firepower to contend with the big boys again. Anything less than a top eight would be a disappointment for NA CS’s last bastion.

Don’t Underestimate the Challengers

Right now, the pecking order of CS:GO teams is as uncertain as ever. It feels like anyone ranked in the top 20 can beat anyone, barring maybe the top three or four teams. This is especially prevalent in a Swiss system with best-of-one matches to kick off the bracket, as evidenced by the likes of Vitality and Cloud9 very nearly being eliminated in the Challengers Stage.

There are many threatening teams in the Legends Stage that are flying under the radar compared to others. Aside from the Vitality’s and C9’s down there, the likes of MOUZ and Bad News Eagles are definitely here to play. These two squads were the biggest success stories, each going 3-0 in the previous stage.

MOUZ’s run included wins over Outsiders and Fnatic, both teams who ended up qualifying as well. MOUZ is a very young team made mostly of pieces from their MOUZ NXT academy team. This is the first Major for three of their players and coach. With how fast they’ve risen over the past year, MOUZ can do some real damage here.

While Bad News Eagles only faced one advancing team on their 3-0 run, they ended with the highest round differential of any team at +34. If their name sounds familiar, it’s because BNE last appeared at a top event at the PGL Antwerp Major. The orgless Kosovar team made history there by advancing to the Legends Stage.

It was a touching story at the time, and great to see less-represented nations find success in CS:GO. The reality is that they went 0-3 in the Legends Stage and quickly made their exit. This time around, BNE looks even stronger than before. With Major experience now under their belt, the Eagles will be looking to soar for some wins.