In Counter-Strike’s busy calendar, massive tournaments come and go, with teams often traveling from one $500,000 international event to the next within a few weeks. Though some tournaments have reached their own level of acclaim separate from the rest, still nothing quite equates to, or will ever quite reach the individual prestige of, the glory and stamp on history that securing victory at a Major has.
Fourteen of those Majors over the course of nine years — that is how long Finn “karrigan” Andersen has been on the hunt for Counter-Strike’s most coveted crown, managing five quarter-final appearances, two semi-final finishes, and most notably coming in spitting distance of claiming victory at ELEAGUE Boston only to fall in heartbreak fashion to a historic run from Cloud9.
For one of the most storied and tenured in-game leaders to ever grace the game to still not have that achievement to his name is a tragedy. Now, as we approach PGL Major Antwerp with FaZe sitting on top of the world rankings, karrigan is in perhaps the best position he’s ever been in to finally claim the title that has eluded him for so much of his career. Below, we take a look at his past attempts to get the biggest trophy there is, and just what exactly makes now, when so many other superteams have also formed, FaZe‘s best chance to take home the crown.
karrigan has put FaZe in pole position to take home this Major trophy
After transitioning from a successful period playing for fnatic in 1.6, karrigan‘s initial results in CS:GO took a downturn, with the journeyman having stints on German and Danish teams as he looked to find his place in the scene. He remained a stalwart presence in the Counter-Strike sub-top, attending numerous international events but failing to make deep runs at most. When DreamHack Winter 2013, the first Valve-sponsored Major rolled around, karrigan was on n!faculty, but the lineup lacked the pedigree and individual prowess to make a deep run, going out in 9-12th place.
The following two Majors, EMS One Katowice 2014 and ESL One Cologne 2014, were much the same, with karrigan failing to find success with Reason and CPH Wolves, respectively. Unable to contend with the likes of Virtus.pro and NIP, karrigan was once again eliminated in the group stage, still requiring more experience and better players around him as the scene developed further. The next months were a period of flux for the Danish tactician as he played a handful of tournaments for CPH Wolves, Dignitas, and MOUZ, but by the time next Major rolled around he was comfortably starting to settle into a roster that had the potential to take on some of the world’s best teams, one that would become a long-time home, and a staple core for years to come.
United under TSM with Nicolai “device” Reedtz, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, and René “cajunb” Borg, karrigan‘s record at Majors immediately improved, with the Danish lineup making a run to the quarter-finals of ESL One Katowice 2015 before they were eliminated by NIP, who went on to finish in second place. Subsequent tournament appearances saw that TSM roster rising to notoriety as they took home a handful of titles, establishing themselves as a staple name among the elite teams in the world.
TSM continued to flounder in their Major appearances, exiting Katowice in 5-8th
However, Major titles and indeed deep tournament runs in the most highly acclaimed tournaments continued to remain elusive for a lineup that quickly became known for a penchant for choking deep into serious tournaments, and that narrative continued to haunt the team as they exited ESL One Cologne 2015 in 3-4th place and DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 in 5-8th.
Ever a consistent presence deep in tournaments, the TSM lineup hit a hiccup at the end of 2015 as they cut ties with the organization, later forming what is now the Astralis brand with team manager Frederik Byskov. By the time the next Major, MLG Columbus 2016, came around, karrigan and company were well-established names under their new banner, but the same storyline persisted, with the squad unable to overcome teams when the playoffs got underway not just in Columbus, but also in Cologne later that year.
For the team, it was time to make a change, years of missed opportunities finally overcoming the camaraderie shared among the players. By October, karrigan was the one on the chopping block, but he almost immediately found a home on a new, international project — FaZe. Results for the players in that organization immediately improved, but they still weren’t title contenders, lacking the firepower to truly overcome some of the competition, unable to achieve the results that would prove the viability of an international project.
It was only the following year, when FaZe acquired Nikola “NiKo” Kovač from MOUZ, that things began to change. After FaZe suffered a quarter-final exit at ELEAGUE Major Atlanta 2017, the superstar Bosnian rilfer was recruited to bring the team to a new level, and an improvement was almost immediate as karrigan secured his first offline international title in over two years at StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3. That was, however, the only title the team had to their name over the following months, despite a number of deep placements and runner-up finishes, and it all came crashing down at PGL Major Krakow as FaZe fell in the group stage, being one of the first two teams eliminated with an 0-3 record.
As the player break dawned, changes were on the horizon, and the team went on to add Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács. With karrigan at the helm, that roster attained rapid success, claiming titles at ESL One New York and ELEAGUE Premier 2017 mere months into their tenure. It seemed as if the early exit from playoffs curse that had plagued karrigan‘s teams had finally lifted, and even more runner-up finishes at other top events followed, with FaZe looking to be in top shape as the year reached its end with them winning ECS Season 4 Finals as we moved into 2018.
It seemed to be destiny, then, when the stars aligned for karrigan in Boston at the start of the year — midway through a parity era FaZe were peaking in form, putting themselves in pole position to make a deep run at the second ELEAGUE Major. With no dominant team there to halt their run, entering the tournament in top shape and with the superstar abilities of NiKo and GuardiaN led by a karrigan who had hit his stride, comfortably proving himself as one of the best in-game leaders in the world over the past two years, FaZe were a surefire favorite to take home the title.
FaZe were favorites as they took to the stage in Boston
A 3-1 record in the Challengers Stage gave way to a flawless run through to the playoffs, and FaZe seemed set to make good on the expectation for their team at the tournament. karrigan‘s calling supported by superstar numbers from the talent around him saw the team comfortably defeat MOUZ and Natus Vincere in the playoffs to make it to the grand final, where they met Cloud9 — a team who were having a Cinderella run of their own, recovering from an 0-2 start in the Legends Stage and going all the way through the playoffs.
In perhaps one of the most intense Major grand finals to ever play out, Cloud9 and FaZe battled through three maps, Cloud9 hoping to secure the first-ever Major title for North America and FaZe looking to prove the viability of an international roster. The European combine opened the series with a narrow win on Mirage, but faltered on their own map pick, Overpass, a selection which had been karrigan‘s choice over Cache — a map that other players on FaZe would go on to say that they would have rather played.
A mere round would separate karrigan from a Major title on the Inferno decider, but the 15-11 lead FaZe had held began to dwindle, karrigan‘s calling unable to help his side take things over the line. Overtime ensued and Cloud9 leapt ahead, the haunting memory of past chokes rising up again for karrigan as FaZe were left staring down a 15-18 deficit. Despite forcing a second overtime, the opportunity for the Danish tactician to close things out and claim his first crown had passed, and it was instead Cloud9 who came out on top, claiming victory in the second overtime as FaZe were left dejected, karrigan heartbroken as the title slipped away like water through unclasped hands.
After the Major, FaZe remained a title contender as further runner-up finishes and deep playoff appearances continued, but any momentum they had hoped to build was cut short as olofmeister was sidelined due to a wrist injury ahead of IEM Sydney 2018. Despite the setback and with former NIP in-game leader Richard “Xizt” Landström as a stand-in, karrigan again proved his abilities as a captain, leading FaZe to take home the Australian trophy over Astralis. karrigan‘s incredible ability to lead any band of players and form a contending team continued to be displayed as he secured a second title victory at ESL One Belo Horizonte in another stand-in situation, this time with Jorgen “cromen” Robertsen filling in for olofmeister, and FaZe remained a team that was a stalwart in deep event appearances, but one that couldn’t quite establish a foothold as a title-winning team.
By the time the FACEIT Major in London rolled around, FaZe were no longer favorites to take home the title, and it was another quarter-final elimination that put an early end to karrigan‘s hopes of taking home a title. Despite winning EPICENTER 2018 a few months later, results began to spiral for FaZe, and they remained inconsistent. By the year’s end, it was karrigan who was put on the chopping block once again, with NiKo having assumed control of FaZe and karrigan left a journeyman once again.
the FACEIT Major ended with FaZe once again faltering well before the grand final
Following a brief trial period on Envy during which karrigan failed to qualify for IEM Katowice 2019, the veteran found a new home, joining MOUZ with whom he went on to secure a number of titles throughout the year. Robin “ropz” Kool was a shining beacon of talent already, but with karrigan‘s tutelage behind him, the team’s results improved exponentially; however, the StarLadder Berlin Major was a point of failure for the team as they didn’t even make the playoffs, a disappointment despite the stellar run of form the team enjoyed toward the end of the year, winning four titles through to the start of 2020.
Once the online era hit, MOUZ‘s title-winning form waned as they were unable to contend among the top crop of European teams. A labored year for karrigan saw MOUZ falter repeatedly, and once 2021 hit the Danish captain returned to FaZe, linking up with Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken and Helvijs “broky” Saukants as well as reuniting with Håvard “rain” Nygaard. The team still were missing a piece though, and the swap of Marcelo “coldzera” David for olofmeister was not enough to make them a championship-calibre team. Early exits and lacklustre tournament placements persisted, and with the online era keeping karrigan‘s Major opportunities at bay, FaZe remained nothing to write home about for almost the entirety of 2021, including at PGL Major Stockholm, where they were eliminated in the group stage once again.
Rumors of change had been brewing for much of the year though, the potential of a different reunion: That of ropz and karrigan, the Estonian rifler finally escaping the doldrums of MOUZ and using his exceptional talent to elevate FaZe to a world-class level.
That move became a reality as 2022 began, ropz arriving to replace olofmeister. The change immediately bore fruit for the team as they achieved a top three finish in their BLAST Spring Group, before going on to secure back-to-back titles at IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League Season 15. The former event had karrigan using yet another stand-in in the form of Justin “jks” Savage, again demonstrating his versatility and capability as an in-game leader to take home a title.
FaZe secured their second trophy at ESL Pro League Season 15
Now, as we approach PGL Major Antwerp’s Legends Stage, karrigan is in position to make another run at a Major title, this time with a roster of hand-selected players who entirely trust in his system. On top of that, the experience of struggling in numerous finals and playoffs has accumulated, and FaZe are heading to Belgium in stellar form, with no player break to halt their momentum.
They have challengers, sure: ENCE have risen up as a contender, and G2, Natus Vincere, Cloud9, and Heroic are all chomping at the bit to take this Major for themselves. However, FaZe have everything going for them as a team, enough individual skill to overcome any roster, and karrigan bringing an unparalleled level of experience to a team who have enough capabilities on their own.
The Antwerp Major is karrigan‘s proving ground to finally showcase that he can power an international roster to a Major trophy, his best chance yet to finally ink his name in the history books. Like before, FaZe are rising up in a period of uncertainty, but this time they have all of the talent, faith in karrigan, and few teams who can contend against their top level. This Major may be karrigan‘s to lose, but absolutely the one he should win.