The New Rosters of the Legends Stage (Part 1)
With the Challengers Stage over and done with it is time to move onto to the Legends were we will finally be able to see the likes of Danish super team Astralis, NA's best Liquid, the CIS legends of Natus Vincere. However rather then discuss why the above teams are likely to win the major taking place in Poland, I will be diving into the various roster moves we have seen from the teams that secured themselves a Legends spot from the last major. In the first part of this mini series I will be discussing the good and the bad of BIG, MIBR, and FaZe's newest additions.
Despite the inconsistency we saw from Owen "smooya" Butterfield, losing him is definitely a blow to the German team, but one that they can also learn to adapt to. Despite the frustrations of the team transitioning to English communications and smooya’s own doubt in himself, we saw the AWPer grow tremendously while under the wings of Fatih "gob b" Dayik, and once the post Major roster mania begins, Owen will have a plethora of offers going his way. As most people know, BIG did manage to snag İsmailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş, a man who needs no introduction to how impactful of a player he is for any lineup lucky enough to have him. However, he is not a player that can just fill in the AWPing role and neither can Johannes "nex" Maget who returned to take Smooyas place. This is were Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz comes in, he has always been the secondary AWPer of the team with players like Niels "luckeRRR" Jasiek, Kevin "keev" Bartholomäu and smooya coming in in the past to take over the primary role, and with the current state of the BIG roster it makes the most sense to let him take over as the primary AWP of the team.
Like I mentioned above, tabseN’s skill with the big green gun is usually overshadowed due to his secondary role, but there is no question that he knows how to use it. smooya himself even admitted that the 23-year olds skills are enough to consider him a top AWPer in the world. His style of using the gun is more defensive and pretty much the opposite of smooya’s, which the team used to get opening picks, but with XANTARES’s being incredibly consistent with winning opening duels, they should have no problem balancing out the loss of their British AWPer. This also gives nex leeway to return to the impactful role of handling mid to late round duels, although the biggest question is if he will be able to do this consistently. We saw BIG dominate the IEM Sydney Qualifier in the first week of February, most notably taking down G2 and HellRaisers on their way to a 1st place finish. However that was played online, and if BIG wants to continue forward with this five man lineup they need to place in at least the top eight of the Legend’s Stage.
MiBR have finally returned to a 100% Brazilian roster after trying to integrate two NA players into their lineup. Finding no success with former Major-winning Cloud9 members Jacky 'Jake' "Stewie2K" Yip and Tarik "tarik" Celik, the org has returned to the lineup that brought SK so much success in 2017. Obviously times have changed, but when the core of this now MiBR lineup played with Epitácio "TACO" de Melo, João "felps" Vasconcellos and coach Wilton "zews" Prado they managed to win a plethora of LAN events. Though when it came to the Majors, which they played two of, they only managed to get as far as 3rd-4th place. One of my biggest concerns, specifically with the return of felps, is that he originally left the roster because he didn't fit with the players and couldn't accomplish what was asked of him. In an interview that Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo did with RuHub back in 2017, he revealed that “It's not a secret that felps had to adjust his game a lot to become the player that we really needed him to be. It was very difficult for him to do those new roles, and also to even change his habits in-game .... I think he did a good job... but I think it wasn't that fun for him to play that way, because it's not the way he likes to play.''
Times have changed since the original departure of Felps and all the players, including their coach, have grown tremendously in the year or so they spent apart from each other. I think that the return of these three is MiBR’s way of replicating what FalleN and Fernando "fer" Alvarenga did with Lincoln "fnx" Lau way back when they played for KaBuM.TD. This may not be known by many but they removed fnx from the team because he wasn't as motivated to play as everyone else, and it was hurting the teams overall performance and results. After he left he joined Games Academy and improved tremendously, convincing his former teammates that he had finally found the motivation and drive to be a serious player, ultimately leading to his return to the LG roster. Much like fnx, Felps went on to play and improve with a different team, and has since then grown tremendously as not just a player but a person as well. Ultimately making him a very desirable pick up assuming he can continue to perform at a T1 level which is exactly what he is going to have to prove in MiBRs upcoming major games.
The team that was once on top of the world found themselves in a tornado of standins, leadership changes and LAN results well below the expectations of fans and casters alike in 2018. Not even the return of Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer to the roster was able to fix their problems. In fact, FaZe began 2019 with Nikola "NiKo" Kovač taking over the role of IGL, leading to the release of legendary Danish IGL Finn "karrigan" Andersen and long time coach Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström. NiKo has only called for a handful of events since he became captain of the FaZe ship, most impressively resulting in their first tournament win since EPICENTER. He is definitely still adapting to the role of IGL and playing in Poland will give us a good sense of the route he plans on taking with the current roster. What I really want to discuss is the additions of ex-Gambit player Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev and former MiBR coach Janko "YNk" Paunović. Despite having completely different roles within the team, and the fact that AdreN is just a stand-in, both are here to prove themselves worthy of their job titles.
Despite the rough patch that Gambit was going through when AdreN left the team, he is still a very viable support player and could even come in handy as a secondary caller if necessary. FaZe have received a lot of criticism for letting go of karrigan, there is no denying that he is an amazing strat caller and he is more than capable of making the organization regret their decision to remove him. Sadly, it was clear that the five man roster wasn't going anywhere but down, and given the small market of players available to choose from, AdreN was one of their best options. Even when Gambit won the Major and the majority of the credit went to Zeus, there was still talk behind the scenes that AdreN was also to be credited for the tactical side of their victory. He may not become FaZe’s permanent caller but he can most certainly help NiKo learn how to properly lead if he chooses to continue down that road. As for the addition of YNk as a coach, he is mostly known for his time as an analyst and has only had one coaching job outside of FaZe Clan with MiBR. His run with the mixed Brazilian/North American team did not reap many rewards and it does seem a tad bit odd that he is being handed a job like this for one of the most valuable teams in the European scene. There is no question that YNk has vast knowledge about the game - in fact, at one time in his career, he even played along side NiKo - which also makes you wonder if his connection with the Bosnian player had anything to do with his signing. No matter the reason for hiring either YNk or AdreN, they are two people with lots of value and should help FaZe begin working their way back up the competitive ladder.