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A piece by piece look at the building of FaZe Clan

FaZe Clan will attend ESL One New York at the Barclays Center in September.
FaZe Clan will attend ESL One New York at the Barclays Center in September.

The original FaZe Clan lineup was something of a strange experiment. That roster (jkaem, fox, Maikelele, rain, and aizy) was a mishmash of leftover stars who couldn’t find a place on their best national squads. The lineup went from Kinguin to G2, bearing the misshapen title of Kinguin.G2, before being signed wholesale by FaZe. Throughout the transitions, the team was like a gilded cage. The salaries were good, the players enjoyed a comfortable life, but they were trapped in the middle of the pack. No one realistically expected FaZe to compete at the top level. But things started to slowly change over time. Each position was upgraded piece by piece, and now the mercenaries are a fully fledged team that can compete at the highest level.

The Norwegian Star

Håvard “rain” Nygaard (Jan. 20, 2016)

The only remaining member from the original lineup, Rain is highly regarded for his game sense and decision making. He comes from Norway, a scene that boasts a few skilled players like Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad and Ruben “RUBINO” Villarroel. Sadly there are never enough great players in the right roles to compete at the international level, so most talented Norwegians elect to join mixed teams. It seemed that Rain was doomed to live out his days cashing checks unless he could find a spot on one of the better Swedish rosters, but all of that changed once FaZe found its leader.

The Problem

Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey (joined April 10, 2016)

kioShiMa was once a rising star of the French scene. He was part of the illustrious 2014-2015 LDLC lineup and later the EnVyUs team that won two Majors. On LDLC, he started as a player with a big ego who needed his spots. The team accommodated his desires, and Richard “shox” Papillon played entry fragger for him to success. Eventually, things broke down, and the team decided to remove shox in July 2015, a change that proved disastrous for kioShiMa. Bereft of a tangible role and responsibilities, he looked completely lost in every game. He was eventually kicked from the roster in early 2016, mere months after EnVyUs won Cluj-Napoca.

He was cited to be the problem with EnVyUs, which went on to become a community meme. Although kioShiMa’s confusion was an issue, his bad performance was the manifestation of multiple flaws with the team’s direction (as EnVyUs found out after removing him). With nowhere else to go, he decided to join FaZe and found new life as a more supportive player. He eventually cashed in on being the problem of EnVyUs by signing his Major stick as “The Problem.”

The Finnish Sniper

Aleksi “allu” Jalli (joined Aug. 8, 2016)

Allu was the second player to take up the poisoned chalice that we now call NiP’s rotating fifth player. NiP enjoyed a noticeable run after his acquisition, but he was forced to play leftover positions they didn’t want instead of having a core role. After leaving NiP, he went to ENCE, but the team never found the success it should’ve had with a star player like him. Allu was lost in a way that no one could explain. The potential and the will to win was still there, but something wasn’t clicking. Allu eventually decided to try his luck with FaZe.

Allu is one of the best AWPers in the world, excellent at catching targets with flicks and stable at midrange. He isn’t as explosive as his contemporaries, but he brings consistency and often leaves FaZe in favorable positions to win the round.

The Leader

Finn “karrigan” Andersen (joined Oct. 19, 2016)

Karrigan’s legacy was in jeopardy when he joined FaZe. He was the previous in-game leader of Team SoloMid and led that particular lineup to multiple victories and top placings in 2015. After cutting ties to TSM and creating Astralis, the team was in prime position to dominate 2016. It made a marquee move to bring in Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye for René “cajunb” Borg; on paper, the roster had the potential to win championships. Instead, the team habitually failed to get past the quarterfinals. Something needed to change, the eventual decision was that Karrigan needed to go.

Karrigan compared his last months on Astralis to running a ship with three captains. He steered it one way for eight hours and went to sleep. By the time he woke up, a different captain went into a completely different direction and now no one knew where the hell they were. It was a democratic style of leadership that worked when everyone else had confidence in Karrigan, but once that dwindled they ended up in a quagmire. So by the time he was benched, he decided that democracy was for suckers. It was time to for dictatorship.

Luckily for Karrigan, FaZe was desperate for a leader. FaZe was the worst performing team relative to the amount of skill and firepower it fielded. FaZe’s first official games together were Oct. 21 at ELEAGUE, two days after he arrived. There was no time to prep so he took the disparate parts, with players suffering from low confidence, and led FaZe to its best tournament result in all of 2016. He got them through to the playoffs.

Simultaneously he told kioShiMa to get in form just in case they needed to switch players, as kioShiMa was the one benched for Karrigan. It turned out to be necessary as Karrigan was unable to find a way to unlock Jkaem. The team quickly rose in both coordination and results, but it wasn’t until the final piece that FaZe became a threat for championships.

The NiKo

Nikola “NiKo” Kovač (joined Feb. 19, 2017)

It is one of CS:GO’s great iniquities that NiKo never reached the finals of a Tier 1 tournament in 2016. In terms of sheer individual talent and game sense, NiKo can match any player in the world. NiKo is one of the greatest CS:GO talents in the world; you only need one hand to count the number of comparable players. NiKo does everything. He can pistol, he has one of the best deagles in the world, he can rifle, he can AWP, and he can lead — to an extent.

His main problem was that he was from Bosnia, a country without a highly developed scene. Because of that he had few opportunities to prove himself on the highest level, but was fortunate enough to find a spot on mousesports. At the same time, he carried that team to results that far exceeded expectations. But for unknown and likely complicated reasons, he decided to stay on the Mouz roster. It looked like he was going to be trapped on that middling squad for at least another year.

Luckily for him, FaZe’s negotiations for Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom fell through and the team was willing to pay a hefty buyout for NiKo. Once he joined the roster, the team had one week to practice. They ended up in the finals of IEM Katowice. Any questions about NiKo’s ability to perform on a top team in pressure matches disappeared.

FaZe’s roster is made up of five players from Norway, France, Finland, Denmark and Bosnia. But all the members have two things in common: All five can play at the highest level of competition, and none of them could do it in their home countries. Rain, NiKo and Allu come from areas where there isn’t enough talent to build a top-tier team. Karrigan and kioShiMa found themselves on the wrong end of roster shuffles at inopportune times. But together they have combined their strength into the greatest elite mercenary squad ever conceived. They can challenge the cream of the crop at this point.

Nearly all of CS:GO history has been written by the development of national scenes: Poland, Sweden, Denmark. FaZe represent a different ideal altogether. It gives hope to those players that don’t have the opportunities or personnel to do otherwise.

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