FaZe karrigan’s PGL Major Antwerp win was a journey six years in the making

. 1 month ago
Stephanie Lindgren/PGL

Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen’s wait for a first Major crown finally ended on Sunday as FaZe were crowned PGL Major Antwerp champions. The veteran in-game leader joins Counter-Strike’s pantheon of immortals, and he has no plans to stop playing anytime soon.

As karrigan began his slow walk toward the centre of the Antwerps Sportpaleis stage, where the PGL Major Antwerp trophy waited for him, reality began to sink in. That was the culmination of a journey that had begun in 2016, one that had been too long, too bumpy and at times seemed to have no destination.

karrigan was the first to lift the trophy, then his teammates and FaZe esports director Edward Han, each greeted by a thunderous roar from the crowd. As it returned to karrigan’s hands, he brandished it one more time and held on to it tightly.

It was a stark contrast to that night almost four years earlier, when he sat in his chair, his head in his hands, as Cloud9 celebrated victory at ELEAGUE Major Boston. What should have been a joyous occasion turned into a nightmare for him and the rest of his FaZe team after Cloud9 had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a dramatic final that was etched into Counter-Strike folklore.

It became a stick with which to beat karrigan, another entry on the list of ‘what if’ moments that had been abundant in his career since his days on TSM/Astralis. That team famously had a long history of choking in big moments — a mental barrier that was only overcome when Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander was brought on. karrigan went on to join FaZe, and while the team enjoyed incredible highs in his first two years there, there were also some painful lows.

As FaZe watched the Boston Major title slip through their fingers like dust, many wondered if karrigan’s Major championship moment had passed him by.

“I feel like I built a boat. I came over to cross the ocean, and right as we had to go into the harbor we fell down and drowned,” he told Dexerto in 2021 about the team’s early successes before the Boston collapse.

Reinventing himself

Despite all the titles that FaZe had won under karrigan’s watch, the team’s confidence in his abilities as an in-game leader began to dwindle. After a 0-2 start to the FACEIT Major, Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač did not hesitate to take over leadership responsibilities, stating a few months later, after another disastrous showing, that karrigan would not call again. Before the end of 2018, karrigan was gone.

After a turbulent loan stint with Envy, karrigan found himself back on MOUZ, an organization he had represented three times before between 2010 and 2014.

Bart Oerbekke for ESL
karrigan enjoyed success again after returning to MOUZ

He helped assemble an interesting cast of players, joining the existing duo of Robin ‘⁠ropz’ Kool and Chris ‘⁠chrisJ’ de Jong while bringing on Özgür ‘woxic’ Eker and David ‘⁠frozen’ Čerňanský — two players still finding their feet at the highest level.

At the same time, karrigan did some soul-searching and thought hard about the lessons his FaZe stint had taught him. “I was too much of a ‘democracy-leader,’” he admitted.

Under karrigan’s guidance, MOUZ reached new heights and became a legitimate title contender, ending 2019 as the No.2 team in the world. But their progress stalled after the pandemic hit and tournaments shifted online. At the same time, NiKo walked away from FaZe after becoming enamored with the idea of playing alongside his cousin Nemanja ‘huNter-‘ Kovač on G2 Esports.

That opened up a spot on FaZe, who began courting karrigan just as he was entering the final months of his MOUZ contract. He returned to his old home two months into 2021, ready to finish the job.

Breaking down a barrier

Delivering a Major title was firmly in karrigan’s sight, but the event in Stockholm came too soon for this new version of FaZe. It took months for the team to find some sort of stability as they showed clear signs of dysfunction in the server with Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David. Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer’s return restored some sense of order, but questions remained about the long-term plans as it was clear that the Swedish veteran was merely a band-aid solution.

Those questions became even more pressing as FaZe ended 2021 without a single title to their name, a semi-final run at IEM Cologne one of the few bright spots of an otherwise disappointing year.

Shortly after joining FaZe, karrigan had said that he harbored the “dream” of playing again alongside Robin ‘⁠ropz⁠’ Kool, who had enjoyed the most successful period of his MOUZ career under the Danish tactician. Soon it became clear that their reunion was a matter of when, not if, and karrigan had only to wait until the beginning of 2022 for the move to come to fruition — giving him a lineup that could go toe-to-toe with NAVI and the new international lineups that G2 and Vitality were assembling.

Without surprise, ropz proved an immediate sensation as FaZe picked up titles from IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League — the first with Justin ‘jks’ Savage as a stand-in for the majority of the tournament. But FaZe and karrigan had won plenty of titles like those before, with better and worse rosters, sometimes also with stand-ins. Winning that elusive Major title became the measuring stick, the end-all, be-all for the team.

But as much as the narrative around FaZe became centered on whether they would avoid a repeat of their ELEAGUE Major Boston run, it soon became clear that this team has little in common with the 2018 roster.

Stephanie Lindgren/PGL
Every player on the FaZe roster has had time in the spotlight

For starters, it is much less reliant on one star to succeed, as evidenced by the fact that each of their title-winning runs this year has produced a different MVP. Fueled by community comments that he should have been replaced by jks in the aftermath of IEM Katowice’s run, 27-year-old Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard showed vintage form in Antwerp with a tournament-high 1.24 HLTV rating, picking up his first MVP medal in almost five years.

But that doesn’t tell the whole picture. Perhaps the most important factor behind FaZe’s success in Antwerp is their mental fortitude, the ability to dip into reserves of mettle and resilience in long games, even when things are threatening to spiral out of control. That is how they managed to stay composed in their playoff series, even after letting a 12-5 lead go to waste against NAVI on their own map pick of Inferno.

As NAVI jumped out to a 15-13 lead following a dominant run, 2018 FaZe would have crumbled under the pressure. This team, however, remained cool and collected under the most intense pressure, grinding out the win in overtime. They knew they could not lose, and they carried that attitude into the next map, Nuke, where they were in control from the start and never let go.

“I’m stronger than I was in Boston and I think that showed today,” karrigan said after the final. “Regardless of what we go through, we keep a positive mindset. We can lose a 1v5 and win the next round.”

That attitude will be put to the test in the weeks and months to follow as FaZe look to establish their own era. But for now it’s all about enjoying the moment.

“I want to re-lift that boat,” karrigan told Dexerto in 2021. “[I want to] sail it one more time, and this time finish it with a Major win. That’s the reason I am here.”

Six years after joining FaZe for the first time, karrigan has finally completed that journey, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest in-game leaders in Counter-Strike history. He may not have the same achievements as gla1ve, but his title-winning record with multiple teams under different organizations is unmatched.

The ghosts of Boston 2018 officially banished, karrigan will now aim to get more Major titles to his collection. Retirement is not something that has entered his mind. “I’m enjoying every single tournament and every single minute [of it].”

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