February 21, 2022
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After a heated week of Counter-Strike action, IEM Katowice 2022 will be taking a small break. Of course, this is a much-needed pause for the six teams heading to the Spodek arena next week, but it also is the perfect time for us to catch up with everything that happened this past week. After a disputed Play-In stage and an even more competitive group stage, there’s a lot to take in.

So, here’s our main takeaways from IEM Katowice 2022 so far!

SLIGHTLY BETTER – ASTRALIS

Expectations for Astralis are all around the place these days. After the BLAST Premier Spring Groups though, it’s no surprise that some expected the Danes to struggle to make to the group stage. No matter what was expected of Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander’s team, his journey started at the Play-In, and it was shaky.

Astralis first had to face MiBR, and the Brazilians put a fight but not enough to really challenge the Danes. Next, though, it was BIG, and that was Astralis first test. At the Spring Groups, BIG defeated Astralis twice without dropping a single map, so their chances weren’t great. Yet, Astralis surprised the Germans. They won their own map pick, Ancient comfortably, but got demolished by Nils “k1to” Gruhne on Dust2. On the decider map of this series, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth came alive and made the difference for Astralis. It was disputed, especially with BIG mounting a comeback on the second-half of the map. Yet, gla1ve and his teammates managed to close the series.

Winning against BIG meant that Astralis qualified for IEM Katowice’s main stage. Their first opponent there was FURIA, and the Brazilians looked strong. Unfortunately for Astralis, they had no chance against Rafael “saffee” Costa on their own map pick. The Danes didn’t fare any better on Mirage, and this time it was Andrei “arT” Piovezan, along with Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato to shut them down. Without winning a map, Astralis was sent down the lower-bracket.

BETTER, BUT STILL SHAKY

All things considered, Astralis did better on the lower-bracket than most expected them to. First, Astralis faced ENCE. The Europeans which had just put a good fight against Natus Vincere. Thanks to a strong showing from Benjamin “blameF” Bremer and Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke, Astralis won that series.

Next up was FNATIC. The Swedes had defeated G2 earlier before getting beaten by FaZe, and it was a disputed match. Fortunately for gla1ve and company, the Swedes failed to win on their own map pick, but then Astralis failed to win on their map choice, too. At the decider map, Ancient, Astralis put a good fight on the first-half of the map as terrorists, and while they started the second-half strong, they lost a tad of steam and let FNATIC caught up to them. Once again, blameF and k0nfig stepped up to the plate, and brought the map to overtime. Without letting FNC win a single round in OT, they won that series.

Unfortunately, Astralis time on Katowice would be cut short by G2. They started strong and won their map pick, but G2 looked completely indomitable. Nikola “NiKo” Kovač was unstoppable whether he was on the defensive or attacking, and as much as k0nfig tried, he couldn’t stop the Kovac. G2 took the series home, including taking the decider map of the series with a 16 – 1 score line.

Nonetheless, Astralis did well in this tournament. Both k0nfig and Xyp9x stepped up their game, and they made the difference for this team. Still, it’s undeniable that this squad was as shaky as a team could be. Besides Ancient, Astralis doesn’t feel comfortable at any map, and as much as the team tries to use Philip “Lucky” Ewald, he has yet to become the AWPer this roster needs. Good, but not enough.

THE BEST THEY’VE BEEN IN YEARS – FAZE CLAN

FaZe Clan came to Katowice with humble expectations. Of course, this team did very well at BLAST Premier Spring Groups, but they’d have to start IEM Katowice without Robin “ropz” Kool. Ropz was the key element for this team success at the Spring Groups. So, not having him was expected to put FaZe on a difficult situation.

Yet, with Justin “jks” Savage standing-in, FaZe had a solid run in Katowice. They had a close match against Sprout before taking down a strong-looking MOUZ in a best-of-three series during the Play-In stage of the event. At Katowice’s group stage, FaZe was set to face even better opponents, but they prevailed. First, it was Liquid. The Americans managed to surprise the Europeans on Mirage, but FaZe took the control of the series from the second map onwards. With a stellar performance, Helvijs “broky” Saukants, they sent Liquid down to the lower-bracket.

FNATIC was next, and this time, ropz was back. The English squad was looking dangerous after beating G2 in their opening game, though, and came with high hopes against FaZe. Håvard “rain” Nygaard, however, had different plans for them, and demolished them in their own map pick. Unfortunately, rain lost his momentum in the following map, and FNATIC managed to push the series to a third map. Unfortunately for FNC, though, FaZe as a team came together in the third map and took the Brits down.

LOOKING BETTER BY GAME

By beating FNATIC, FaZe had already guaranteed their ticked to the Spodek arena this next weekend, but they had one final opponent to face still: Natus Vincere. The current best team in the world isn’t looking as hot at they once did, and after a close game against ENCE and a not-so-comfortable match against FURIA, FaZe definitely had a chance.

It was an incredibly disputed match – and one you should watch if you missed it live – but Natus Vincere were the ones who left the server with the win. This only happened after an incredibly heated third map, though, which went overtime twice. Unfortunately, at the end of the day Finn “karrigan” Andersen performance costed FaZe this last map. The captain finished the series with a 0.63 HLTV rating, and a 29-70 K/D.

Karrigan’s performance aside, FaZe is looking stronger than they did in ages. As they head to the playoffs, they certainly are contenders, especially if rain can be with them. The Norwegian is currently in isolation as he tested positive in a test last week, and if he can’t get a negative test in the coming days, he won’t be able to play at the Spodek. Nonetheless, FaZe has shown to be quite the threat, even with a stand-in, and no team will be underestimating them at the playoffs.

CAN’T STOP THIS TRAIN – HEROIC

It was hard to know what to expect from Heroic before IEM Katowice started. The Danes are always a threat, but after a disappointing end of the year in 2021 and being defeated by K23 in their first game of 2022, they became an unknown. Well, after this group stage we now know very well what to expect from Casper “cadiaN” Møller and his boys. Nothing but greatness.

Heroic started their run in Katowice in a disputed game against OG. The European house took the first map of their series, but Heroic took their map pick, Overpass, home. Thanks to a strong performance from Martin “stavn” Lund and Rasmus “sjuush” Beck in the third map, Heroic won their first match in Katowice.

Team Vitality was next, and that match promised to be one of the best series in the whole tournament. It was a great game at the end of the day, but it was cut short as Heroic managed to win their map pick and then took Vitality’s map too. Once again, sjuush and stavn both had great performances, and with Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut being shut tight by cadiaN’s game plan, Vitality had far less chances than what they hoped for.

A TICKET FOR THE SEMI-FINALS, PLEASE

As if taking Vitality down with a 2 – 0 score line wasn’t enough, Heroic prepared something even better for their next game. This time, cadiaN and his teammates would be facing Virtus.Pro, which was looking mighty before their encounter, and was expected to be a good opponent for the Danes.

Unfortunately for the CIS powerhouse, Heroic crushed VP on Mirage, and while they managed to get double the rounds on their map pick, it wasn’t enough. Heroic crushed Virtus.Pro in their best-of-three series, and the squad led by Dzhami “Jame” Ali couldn’t even get more than 16 rounds in this BO3.

Now, Heroic looks forward to playing in front of a crowd at the Spodek this weekend. They’ll be facing either FaZe Clan or Gambit, but neither team will have a clear advantage over Heroic. In fact, the winner of this series will have to do a lot of preparation in order to not get surprised by cadiaN tactics and stavn and sjuush’s incredible form.

BACK TO THE OVEN – TEAM LIQUID

Expectations for Team Liquid coming to IEM Katowice weren’t high, but as some say, hope dies last. Yet, not only Team Liquid failed to win anything but one map from a ropz-less FaZe Clan, but the team didn’t look great at all. From questionable map picks such as picking Ancient against FaZe to failing to built upon pistol round wins, this Liquid has some big issues to deal with.

Alongside with all issues shown by Liquid in the server, Richard “shox” Papillon place in this team becomes more and more remote. Team Liquid left Katowice with shox as their worst rated player, even behind Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella. Shox definitely is far from a bad player, but Liquid is struggling to properly use him. At the end of the day, Liquid brought back nitr0, which isn’t a performer right now. This puts a strain on the team already. But then, you add a role player which isn’t bringing kills nor being effective on his roles, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately for Liquid, they left Katowice in a worse place than when they started this run. Before last week, most thought that this team would work given time, but after this display, this is now questionable. It’s up to the team now to figure if they really want to keep with this roster going forward, or if it’s better to do changes now before it just becomes a waste of time for everyone involved.

Team Liquid has left IEM Katowice 2022 in last place. They will be back in action in March, as they head for ESL Pro League Season 15’s Group C.

LEFTING A MARK – MOUZ

Heading to IEM Katowice 2022, MOUZ was considered to be one of the underdog teams in the tournament. Not only this roster didn’t look great, but the squad would also be fielding a stand-in as Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras tested positive for COVID.

Yet, with Jon “JDC” de Castro taking bymas’ spot, MOUZ impressed. The team first took down GODSENT: the Brazilians played well, but they didn’t look to be at the same league as MOUZ. Next up was FaZe – and that was a massive clash. MOUZ managed to look incredibly solid on their own map pick, Nuke as their new AWPer, Ádám “torzsi” Torzsás, shined. FaZe took the series to a 1 – 1 record on Inferno, and the series headed to Mirage. There, MOUZ managed to push FaZe to their limits, but unfortunately, as good as torzsi was, he couldn’t stop FaZe.

With that defeat, MOUZ was sent to the Play-In’s lower-bracket. Entropiq was next, and while the Russian squad looked promising, they failed to impress on their own map pick. With that, MOUZ took the series with a 2 – 0 record, and advanced to IEM Katowice group stage.

A REAL TEST

At Katowice’s group stage, MOUZ wouldn’t be having a single easy match. First, they headed for a match against Team Vitality, and that was a disputed series until the third map. After being sent to the lower-bracket, MOUZ managed to take down OG without any major issues and with a 2 – 0 record.

Unfortunately for MOUZ, their next opponent, Ninjas in Pyjamas had their number. The Swedes managed to shut MOUZ AWPer, and then had an incredible strong performance at Ancient to close the series with a 2 – 0 and send MOUZ home.

While leaving IEM Katowice 2022 before reaching the playoffs isn’t ideal, it’s a good result for this new MOUZ roster. When we remember that this squad was playing with a stand-in, it becomes even better. For one, Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt, which is just returning from VALORANT, showed to be in a far better place than most expected. He had some rough maps, sure, but he also had an overall decent performance all things considered. Then, we are now sure that torzsi is the right man for this team, and his development in the coming months will be very interesting to follow.

All things considered, MOUZ did well, and I cannot wait to see them with a full roster. We’ll be seeing this squad back in action in early March as they take part on EPL Season 15.

ZYWHO – TEAM VITALITY

Much like G2, Vitality is a team that has their potential acknowledged, but it’s also expected that they take sometime before reaching it. After all, this roster was playing in French, with a fully French roster just a few months ago. However, now, they’re playing while communicating in English with two players and coach from Denmark.

However, Team Vitality fared a bit worse than some expected after their run at the Spring Groups. The team led by Dan “apEX” Madesclaire had a close encounter with MOUZ in their first game of the event, but managed to win after a solid performance on their third map of that series. Next, Heroic was up, and that’s when the issues started popping up. Heroic managed to shut ZywOo and took their match home with a 2 – 0 record.

Next, it was Gambit, and while Heroic shut ZywOo, Gambit crushed the star AWPer. Gambit won the first map of their series with a 16 – 7 score line, and that demolished Vitality momentum. The squad managed to recover in their own map pick, but at the second-half of the second map in the series, Gambit once again took control of the game, and sent Vitality packing.

Going forward, Vitality must immediately address the way their star AWPer was shut by both Heroic and Gambit. Interestingly enough, Gambit’s in-game leader commented, he was able to catch ZywOo unprepared various times and break his confidence. Fortunately, Vitality will have some time to prepare – and hopefully take notes from what happened in Katowice – before their next event. Team Vitality returns to action in March as they will be competing at ESL Pro League Season 15.

THIS WEEKEND AT THE SPODEK

For now, IEM Katowice 2022 will be taking a break. However, later this week the action resumes, and this time, in front of a crowd. Until then, we’ll be waiting, but it won’t be long before you will be able to cover its playoffs. So, make sure you won’t miss a beat by following us here.

@mjunior