It took almost six hours and all five maps, but when the dust settled, Ninjas in Pyjamas walked away from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, with the IEM Oakland Counter-Strike title after defeating FaZe Clan 3-2 in a wild series full of ups-and-downs.
Entering the tournament as the defending IEM Oakland champions, conventional wisdom would suggest Ninjas in Pyjamas should have been favored. In the time since NiP won the event last November, the organization has claimed just a single tournament win (DreamHack Valencia in July).
FaZe Clan, however, had all the pieces in place for another big win at this tournament. Since assembling its current roster a few months ago, FaZe has claimed two huge wins at ESL One: New York and ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier. That didn't seem to matter Sunday, however.
From the onset of the series, NiP didn't look fazed at all in the face of this high-powered roster. NiP opened on its map pick of Cobblestone, taking an early 1-0 series lead after a 16-10 win. Once the teams loaded up on Inferno for Map 2 and FaZe walked away with an easy 16-7 win, it was clear that fans would be in for a long day of Counter-Strike at the Oracle.
What preceded was one of the closest grand finals in recent memory, as each team put it all out on the table every single map as they went the distance in this six-hour series. While FaZe may have taken the seemingly easy 16-7 win on Inferno and another breezy 16-6 win on Overpass, NiP grinded out all three of its wins in this series.
Helping in that grind was 19-year-old Fredrik "REZ" Sterner, who showed up in a major way during the grand final to push NiP to victory. He had been leading the tournament from a statistical standpoint all week, and that didn't change on Sunday. He may not have ended with the most kills on his team -- that honor went to Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg's 82/64 KD (kills/deaths) -- but his 68/64 line was nothing to scoff at. Not only that, but he seemed to land the shots when they truly mattered. None was more evident than his key frag on FaZe in-game leader Finn "karrigan" Andersen in the final round of the tournament-winning map of Cache. That kill flipped the round and set the team on the path to greatness.
The current iteration of NiP has now proven that it deserves attention as one of the best teams in not just Europe, but all of Counter-Strike. This tournament also made it clear that FaZe has weaknesses that can certainly be exploited. While it overcame karrigan's poor three-kill showing on the second map, his overall KD of 36/67 was simply not enough to keep up with this multi-faceted NiP roster.
With IEM Oakland now in the books, both teams will now look towards the ECS Season 4 Finals and the ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals. NiP and FaZe have already qualified for the Pro League Finals, while NiP has two weeks left to secure its spot in the ECS Finals.