Despite being heavy underdogs, FaZe Clan took down Astralis in a deceptively close 3-0 final at IEM Sydney on Sunday in Sydney, Australia.
The victory comes a month after one of FaZe's pivotal players, Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer Gustafsson, took a hiatus from pro play. Many thought that this would severely hinder the team, and the results proved as much in FaZe's first LANs. Meanwhile, Astralis came into the IEM final in piping-hot form, having dominated DreamHack Masters Marseille and beaten top teams in Syndey's group stage.
The stage was set for another dominant win from Astralis, but once again, Finn "karrigan" Andersen & Co. stole the Danes' spotlight and reentered the conversation of contenders.
The first map of the series was Cache, likely the only map where FaZe was favored. The finals started off with clunky play, as both teams gave up kills on the back of team-flashes. Missed shots and sloppy play allowed both teams to warm up while keeping the score tight.
The first edge of the series for FaZe was Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács's ability to edge out Nicolai "device" Reedtz in AWP-versus-AWP duels on Cache. Guardian sought out these duels and was able to give FaZe the opening during kill multiple rounds against Astralis' most important player. Guardian made a case for MVP in the first map alone, dominating the server and winning a miraculous and pivotal one-on-two against Astralis. His heroics throughout Cache gave FaZe the edge.
A comeback was certainly in the cards for a talented team like Astralis, but on Map 2, FaZe kept making plays that broke its foe's offense. Despite winning the pistol round, Astralis was only able to put three more rounds on the board on its Terrorist side as FaZe players consistently flanked them during its executes. The Danish team once again won the pistol round as it entered the second half in a 5-10 deficit, but while the Danes had a strong Counter-Terrorist side, over-aggressiveness proved to be their downfall.
Although it was clearly the stronger Overpass team, Astralis was too willing to push around smokes and try to make individual plays, effectively giving up the advantage it has shown over the rest of the Counter-Strike scene on that map thus far. The Danes' hubris gave FaZe a way into the game and allowed them to force overtime.
Overpass was as close as it gets, requiring double-overtime to determine a winner. But in the end, it was once again FaZe and its heroic plays that won out.
Map 3 seemed to portend a comeback for Astralis as it went up 10-0 on its CT side on Train. Astralis completely outplayed its opponent for the first time in the series. After yet another one-on-two clutch from GuardiaN, FaZe was able to salvage four rounds out of its T-side, which proved to be just enough.
The second half again looked favorable for Astralis as it won the first two gun rounds after losing pistol to go up 13-7. However, a play around Boiler by Richard "Xizt" Landström during a FaZe economy round turned the tides. After that eco win, FaZe was able to withstand the Danish attack with a solid double-AWP setup, and the underdogs took advantage of GuardiaN's form by making him omnipresent across the map. During the final rounds, Astralis had a very difficult time trading against FaZe's holds, and the dynamic firepower of the latter's CT side proved too much to handle.
FaZe took the third map 16-14, and with it the series, in a sweep.
At IEM Sydney, FaZe proved that despite the loss of olofmeister it can still compete for titles, and the rivalry between these two storied CS:GO franchises has been reignited.