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IEM Katowice Recap

IEM Katowice came to an unbelievable conclusion in one of the closest 3-0 wins ever. Tears of joy were shed, disappointed stars left the stage with their heads down, but everyone watching won. The series was incredible, a lot of 1vx rounds turned the tides of fate and Faze, led by the legendary IGL Karrigan, held the trophy high in front of the exciting Spôdek crowd. A lot can be absorbed from this event, but there’s one point I want to focus on: Katowice showed how stacked this year’s Top 10 is. 

HLTV rankings stood as follows on 21st of February:

Katowice had every single Top 10 team in attendance as the first LAN of the year. There were some minor issues with the format, but the double elimination BO3s essentially confirmed that the superior teams made it out of the groups. 2021 ended with utter domination from NAVI after months of online supremacy imposed by Gambit, but 2022 is already beginning with a few surprises. MOUZ looked quite dangerous with torzsi, despite having to field JDC as a stand-in. As Thorin pointed out in his recent video, if Frozen steps up and torzsi maintains this kind of performance, the new line-up can be a consistent dark-horse. 

Fnatic were the other non-top 10 team who showed how strong they can be. The swedish-british roster managed to get a 2-1 win over G2, lost to Faze — had to face both finalists during group stage— and fell in a very close series versus Astralis. Brollan played a consistently strong game, Krimz came in clutch in a few maps and Alex seemed to be calling well. Smooya and mezii had some very off maps, but the roster still looked intimidating. The british awper has now been benched, but Fnatic should still be a strong opponent for most of the Top 10 teams. 

Vitality are still powering up. The Danish addition of Magisk, Dupreeh and Zonic seems to be taking a while to jell with the french core. The team was swept by both Gambit and Heroic despite a win over MOUZ. Zywoo had one of his worst performances ever during this tournament though, so him returning to his normal level might be enough to put the team over the line. The Danes are looking great and Apex has maintained his strong form coming out of 2021, so this team will surely be in contention for top 3 throughout the year. 

OG didn’t have a good showing despite their roster being relatively exciting. NIP are still looking weirdly good in the absence of dev1ce, but this unresolved situation is feeling a lot like Faze Clan with olof. It feels like not even the team knows where they should move on from here. Copenhagen Flames are good enough to dip their toes in the tier one lake, but they’re not good enough to keep up with the top 10 teams. 

Top 8 is a more complicated affair. NAVI is a weakened beast right now. They are having much rougher games, all players have had games off and boombl4’s calling hasn’t been as clean as previously. Things might’ve been different in the stage, but the conflict happening between the countries of every single member obviously has tremendous psychological impact on them. Only time will tell what NAVI can do from now on, but their era isn’t over yet. 

VP and Gambit are two very dangerous teams who seem to have a lot to iron out despite neither having made a single change to the roster. Gambit seems to falter a lot on stage and VP are very inconsistent as a whole. Both rosters have a lot of potential, but neither is hitting their ceiling right now. Regardless of how they’ve performed here though, we now know that TOs are starting to ban both teams from playing in their tournaments so it seems that we won’t see them in Tier 1 tournaments for a while. 

Heroic are a strange case. They performed well above expectations during the first half of the tournament, managing to get a bye straight to the semi final. When that series came to be though, the team had the same dip in performance they’ve had in all recent Lan tournaments. They reached the playoffs by sweeping Vitality and VP, two strong opponents, in dominant fashion, but seemed to have no gas left in the tank when they faced Faze. Heroic did lose to the tournament winners, but Faze didn’t even break a sweat to win this series. The danish roster does has potential, but if they don’t get some LAN wins under their belt it is hard to consider them true contenders to the big tournaments. 

G2 has one of the most exciting line-ups in counter strike. Reaching the finals of Katowice with how recent their changes are, seems like they really struck gold with the roster moves. The team has worked really well around Aleksib, having some very dominant T-sides, especially on Inferno. Niko had one of the best tournaments in his career, up to the Finals. Hunter played out of his mind on stage and Monesy really is money. The 16 year old didn’t seem affected by nerves for one second and his role as a second star in this roster will work. He has the raw potential someone like KennyS showed years ago, as Maniac pointed out. With a good system around him, including Niko as the main star, the young awper might be one of the most exciting stars of the decade. 

Faze was the big surprise of the tournament. The team had a very rocky road filled with obstacles on their way to the title, but they conquered every challenge nonetheless. They were forced to play the initial part of Katowice without their new hire in Ropz and won every single match except the BO3 against Navi. Jks did a great job standing in, but the team received some good news when they found out that Ropz would be able to play in the playoffs. Except that Rain was forced to quarantine right before the Spodek weekend, leaving the roster with a new stand-in situation. The team used Jks again, but this time as a replacement for Rain. 

Most rosters would’ve collapsed by then, but Karrigan was the man for the job. The legendary IGL has had a history of success with stand-ins and as an eye for adaptation like no one else. Jks had his best showing in years, despite replacing two different players during the tournament, and Faze didn’t drop a single map in the arena. 2-0 over Gambit and Heroic and a 3-0 to take down G2. The Grand Finals were closer than the results show, but it was a dominant performance nonetheless. Broky rightly was the MVP of the whole event and shone as the brightest star in an incredibly stacked roster. And Karrigan lifted a trophy again for the first time since 2019. 

2022 has kicked off with a weird but exciting LAN and has shown that the Top 10 one of the most stacked in the history of the game. Most teams have the raw talent to take over everyone else and no one is safe in their spot. Let’s see what the next tournaments bring.