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CS:GO in 2022 – A Year in Review

Zakaria Almughrabi

2022 marked Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s first full year back at LAN. Coming into the year, multiple prominent teams made huge changes to their rosters in hopes of competing for titles. Last year’s top team, Natus Vincere, was looking to continue their dominance over the scene. It was a new wild west of Counter-Strike following the online era. Here’s what happened with CS:GO in 2022.

CS:GO in 2022

Image Copyright ESL | Stephanie Lindgren

FaZe Clan Carve a Legacy

The first half of 2022 was completely and utterly dominated by FaZe Clan. The international squad led by Finn “Karrigan” Andersen was coming off of a lackluster year. Their big offseason move was bringing in Karrigan’s former MOUZ teammate Robin “ropz” Kool. However, with ropz testing positive for COVID right before IEM Katowice, FaZe would need a stand-in.

In steps Justin “jks” Savage. The rifler was last benched from Complexity in 2021, so expectations for FaZe were tempered. They overcame those expectations quickly by blazing through the Play-In and Group Stages. While ropz passed the COVID test leading into playoffs, Håvard “rain” Nygaard did not, and jks had to play the rest of the tournament with FaZe. In an unprecedented run, FaZe Clan did not lose a single map in playoffs on their way to the IEM Katowice title, all with a stand-in.

FaZe’s dominance didn’t end there. Now with the full roster healthy and together, they won their first ESL Pro League in Season 15. FaZe had all the momentum in the world heading into the first Major of the year, PGL Antwerp. While their initial match ended in a loss, FaZe rallied to qualify for the playoffs in fifth seed.

After taking down Ninjas in Pyjamas in three maps and Team Spirit with a triple overtime on Mirage, FaZe Clan was set for a Grand Final against NAVI. An overtime win on Mirage and a strong closing on Nuke allowed FaZe to defeat the defending Major champions and claim CS:GO’s biggest prize.

More Teams Rise to the Challenge

With FaZe Clan winning every big tournament through May, teams were just now starting to catch up and put results on the board. At IEM Dallas, we saw Cloud9 put up their first impressive run ever since they left Gambit Esports. After taking down FaZe Clan in the quarterfinals, Cloud9 bested BIG and swept ENCE in the Grand Finals to win their first LAN event as a team.

Just after that, NAVI got on the board for the year at the BLAST Spring Finals. After losing their initial match to OG, NAVI fought from the brink of elimination at every point. They swept FaZe Clan in quarters, got their revenge against OG in semis, and dominated Team Vitality to win the trophy. While the heavily revamped Vitality roster wasn’t able to get the job done here, it would be a good sign for things to come for their CS:GO team in 2022.

With these events now out of the way, it was time for the second IEM Championship of the year, IEM Cologne. The heroes of the day were once again FaZe Clan. Now over their post-Major period, FaZe unleashed their most dominant run yet. They didn’t drop a single map in the Group Stage on their way to a first seed finish. In the semifinals, FaZe rolled through the upstart Movistar Riders before once again coming up against NAVI.

The PGL Major Final rematch came down to the wire, with all five maps being required. The teams traded maps early, with NAVI narrowly escaping a historic FaZe comeback on Ancient to go up 2-1. FaZe evened up the series right after, leading to a Nuke decider. With the score at 14-14, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken ran through the NAVI defense twice to bring home the trophy for FaZe.

The Mid-Season Shakes Things Up

FaZe Clan’s trifecta of winning both IEM Championships and the first Major for CS:GO in 2022 pretty much secured them as the team of the year. By this point, teams that had fallen by the wayside had a decision to make. Do they stick with their current rosters assembled at the start of the year, or do they make a change to try and blast into the top tier?

Team Vitality chose the former, as they committed to their Vitality/Astralis fusion project for the long term. That commitment paid off in October, as they were able to win their first trophy as a roster at ESL Pro League S16. They went a perfect 5-0 in the Group Stage, then swept their quarter and semifinal matches. The only team that could contest Vitality at the event was Team Liquid. Even with their best efforts, Liquid could not stop Vitality from winning the trophy with a 3-2 win.

The North American squad had struggled to regain their 2019 form ever since the online era, but this roster of both old and new faces was starting to trend positive. Their newest addition, Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis, was a huge difference maker for the team, adding much needed firepower. He was signed permanently right after their runner-up result at Pro League, cementing Liquid as a contender.

An Unexpected Conclusion

As November rolled around, so did the second and last Major for CS:GO in 2022. The IEM Rio Major would be the first Major to take place in Brazil, which was a massive step for a country that loves the game as much as they do. And to their credit, the crowd did not disappoint. Brazil’s best team, FURIA Esports, rode the wave all the way to the semifinals where a narrow 19-17 loss on Ancient cost them a Grand Finals appearance.

Instead, we saw the Danish stalwarts Heroic make their first Major Finals appearance. A team that no one expected to be here would be opposing them. Outsiders, formerly playing under the banner before the org’s ban from tournaments, made it to the Grand Finals after starting in the Challengers Stage. Led by AWPer Dzhami “Jame” Ali, Outsiders played the best Counter-Strike of their lives.

While their run to the Grand Finals was full of highlights and clutch gameplay, the last match of IEM Rio was controlled and comfortable. Outsiders took their own Mirage pick 16-12 before crushing Heroic on Overpass 16-5 to win the title. Coming into the tournament, Outsiders were an outside chance at getting anywhere near the final. Now, they were Major Champions.

With the year winding down, all that was left was the BLAST Fall Finals and World Finals. This was the last chance for teams to prove to their orgs that they should keep their jobs. Heroic’s first place finish at the Fall Finals over FaZe Clan was reassurance that this team was not done yet just because of one bad match.

The Last Laugh

That said, no team had more to prove come the end of the year than G2 Esports. They made big moves at the start of 2022 by signing young AWPer Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov and in-game leader Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen. G2 as an org had not won a CS:GO trophy in years at this point, and they were desperate for results. After their first half of 2022 was completely dry, the org pulled the trigger on even more changes.

After IEM Cologne, G2 brought in the fantastic FaZe stand-in jks, as well as Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen from Copenhagen Flames to lead the team. Things looked good initially, as G2 managed to place top four at ESL Pro League S16. However, they failed to even qualify for the IEM Rio Major, which was a massive step back for the team.

Needing some tangible results to ensure that they’d have another chance in 2023, G2 Esports came into the BLAST World Final as definite underdogs. After losing their first match, G2 took down the post-Major Outsiders to earn a spot in the playoffs. From there, G2 started ramping up quickly. They beat Vitality and FaZe Clan on their way to the Finals.

Standing in the way of G2’s much sought after trophy was Liquid, another team longing to be back on top of the CS:GO scene. The day belonged to G2, as they convincingly swept Liquid aside to break their Grand Finals curse. This win for G2 was memorable for more reasons than just coming at the end of the year, and it bodes well for their upcoming campaign in 2023.

What’s Next for CS:GO?

It has certainly been a turbulent year in the world of Counter-Strike. From FaZe Clan’s impromptu domination at the outset to the surprise run of Outsiders at the Rio Major, predicting what would happen became almost pointless. The cliché of saying “no one knows what could happen” aside, CS:GO as an esport could not be more open right now.

The Intel Grand Slam, despite being heavily led by FaZe Clan, is still open for anyone to swoop in on. We’ll be back at IEM Katowice in due time, as well as BLAST’s first Major taking place in Paris. It’s never been a more exciting time to be a fan, so cheers to CS:GO in 2022 and a happy new year.