Justin ‘jks’ Savage came in at the last minute and helped FaZe win IEM Katowice as a stand-in. It was a fairytale story for the Australian, who was at the lowest point of his career.
As the CS:GO tournament season began at the end of January, jks braced himself for what was coming next. More weeks, potentially months, stuck in limbo, watching old foes from afar, waiting for something to happen.
And then his phone rang.
On the other end of the call was FaZe, asking if he could stand in for Robin ‘ropz’ Kool in the early stages of IEM Katowice after the Estonian had returned a positive test in the lead-up to the Polish event.
Standing in as the 5th member of our professional CS:GO roster to begin IEM Katowice, please welcome @COL_jks!
— FaZe Clan (@FaZeClan) February 10, 2022
Jks had barely touched the game since being benched by Complexity in November following the disbandment of the ‘Juggernaut’ project. He was also coming off a forgetful year with that team, so he knew that if he fluffed his lines, he could find himself in an even worse position in the market.
But he concluded that the benefits of playing top-tier CS:GO on LAN again outweighed the risks, so he decided to give it a shot and hoped for the best.
In the end, he wound up making history for Australian Counter-Strike.
Becoming Australia’s darling
Jks established himself as the best player in Australia and one of the best in the world during his time playing for Renegades and 100 Thieves. He became the first player from his country in history to make it to HLTV’s Top 20 list in 2019 – a magical year for him and his team, who reached the playoffs at the IEM Katowice and Starladder Berlin Majors, in addition to finishing runners-up to Astralis at IEM Beijing.
It was clear that jks had outgrown his surroundings and that he should move to a bigger, non-Australian team to realize his full potential. So when 100 Thieves decided to withdraw from CS:GO, Complexity and jks seemed like a match made in heaven.
But the reality was far different. There was already an air of dysfunction when jks joined the team, and things became even worse during his time there as problems kept popping up. In an interview with Dexerto at the end of 2021, head coach Luis ‘peacemaker’ Tadeu said that the perception that the team was falling apart was very much real.
In a system Benjamin ‘blameF’ Bremer built heavily around himself, jks looked a shadow of the player he had been on his previous teams, averaging a meager 1.02 HLTV rating. He took some of the fault for his low impact and struggles to adapt to his new circumstances, but the instability plaguing the team, coupled with role clashes and internal issues, made it impossible for him to perform to the best of his abilities.
“It could have been really good, but it wasn’t,” jks said in an interview with Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields in November, describing his time on Complexity as “a negative experience overall”.
Stepping in for FaZe
Dressed up in a jersey belonging to Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken with the Canadian flag on the front, jks helped FaZe to move through the Play-In stage and win their first match in the group stage. Still rusty and mostly concerned about not letting his teammates down, he averaged a 1.03 HLTV rating, surpassing the 1.05 rating mark only on two maps.
With ropz coming back to the team for their second group match against Fnatic, it was supposed to be the end of jks’ stand-in spell. But a positive test returned by another FaZe player, Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard, put the Australian on alert. Just 30 minutes before the team was due to travel to the Spodek Arena for their first playoff match against Gambit, jks was told that he was going to play the remainder of the tournament.
The rest, as they say, is history. Despite having only a few days preparation, jks looked much more comfortable stepping into rain’s shoes and playing in some of his usual positions. He became more consistent in the playoffs and delivered some vintage moments of individual brilliance, most notably the 1v2 clutch that secured the marathon Mirage game against G2 in the final. He averaged a 1.13 rating in the playoffs, helping to unlock a number of situations with 0.15 opening kills per round, the fourth-highest in the knockout stages.
There is no understating how important winning IEM Katowice was for this FaZe team, built to climb the highest peaks. Ropz agreed to a pay cut to join FaZe in the hopes that triumphant moments like this would become a regular occurrence. After the match, an emotional Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen expressed relief at finally lifting the trophy in Katowice after losing the 2017 and 2018 finals to Astralis and fnatic.
For jks, too, it was a remarkable moment. He added another entry to his impressive résumé as he became the first Australian player to win a top-tier event in CS:GO.
But at the same time, the victory in Katowice adds to his frustration. With the tournament season underway, chances are that more months of waiting are ahead of him as most teams will ride out the Major cycle before pulling the trigger on roster changes. FaZe themselves could be a destination, but they will likely give the team a few LAN events before passing judgment on rain’s future.
As he watched jks lift the trophy, Complexity owner Jason Lake wrote on Twitter that he hopes the successful stand-in spell will spark interest in the player. According to him, the organization had not received any offers from European teams since his benching.
JKS wants to live & play in EU. We've kept him on a salary and secured his visa but have had no offers yet.
Hopefully this event sparks some interest because he's obviously still a star and deserving of a team. https://t.co/OU00SaipRw
— JasonBWLake.eth (@JasonBWLake) February 27, 2022
In a way, there was a sense of irony to it all: jks’ struggles on Complexity ultimately helped him to win the kind of trophy he had been chasing his whole career. And it’s not just because he was available for hire because of his benching. By his own admission, he is now “more of a complete player”, having “learned how to play differently” during his troubled tenure with the international team. That certainly came in handy when he had to fill in for two different players at a moment’s notice on one of the biggest stages.
With a big trophy to his name, jks will return to his routine, now with a renewed sense of confidence, his stock once again high. He knows it is a matter of time before his phone rings again.
“Whoever wants to contact me, I’m on Twitter,” he told reporters after the event. “I’m waiting to see what happens.”