With a dozen of the world’s best CSGO teams competing, this past weekend’s IEM Oakland was a doozy. One of the most keenly contested group stages in recent times gave way to historically competitive and exciting playoffs.
In the end, Ninjas in Pyjamas retained their title in dramatic fashion against FaZe Clan. Let’s recap all the action.
With each team playing the other five in the two groups just once, getting off to a quick start was key. In Group A, The MongolZ never got the memo. They finished with a 0-5 record.
Ninjas in Pyjamas grabbed the top spot with a 4-1 record. Their only defeat came against SK Gaming. The battle for the two spots in the quarterfinals proved especially intense.
In the end, Cloud9 and SK Gaming claimed those places by a single point ahead of Astralis. The odd team out finished with the same 3-2 record but missed out due to an overtime loss to SK.
Group B saw a number of games head into overtime. These proved crucial in splitting the bottom four teams. OpTic Gaming and Gambit Esports made it into the quarterfinals in a heated set of matches.
FaZe Clan, the tournament favorites, won the group with a 4-1 record, although they were somewhat thrashed in the opening match of Day Two by Gambit Esports.
With FaZe Clan and Ninjas in Pyjamas seeded into the semis, the first two games in the playoffs pitted OpTic Gaming against SK Gaming, while Cloud9 took on Gambit Esports. The two Group A teams came through their games. With no losers bracket, it was a straight elimination for the defeated.
SK Gaming were dominant in this best-of-three fixture with OpTic Gaming, winning their opening two maps. They took the first 16-2 and the second 16-12 to move smoothly into the semis. Cloud9 faced a tougher task against Gambit Esports. They lost the first map in overtime 19-16, but then bounced back to win the next two maps by 16-11 scores.
In the next round, Ninjas in Pyjamas and SK Gaming fought closely. Ninjas gained their revenge for an opening round defeat, winning the opening map 16-9. Then, SK Gaming struck back to level matters with a 16-8 win. In the decider, Ninjas came through 16-11 to earn a place in the final.
The second semi was more straightforward with FaZe Clan outclassing Cloud9 with a 2-0 victory (16-8, 16-6) to confirm they were still very much the favorites to win this title.
The final was expected to be a classic, and it met expectations.
In the end, the choice of which maps to ban for each team would prove key in deciding the winner. FaZe Clan’s decision not to ban the Cobblestone map, on which they have a zero percent win , ultimately came back to haunt them.
Ninjas chose to ban Mirage, an unusual choice too, given that FaZe Clan were undefeated on Cache in LAN matches. However, with Cobblestone not banned, Ninja’s selected this as the first map of the final. As expected, they came through with a 16-10 victory.
Next up, FaZe Clan selected Inferno. They duly won 16-7 to level matters before Ninjas selected Train, a risky choice according to many experts. That said, it worked out, and Ninjas took another 16-10 victory. In the fourth game, FaZe Clan recorded a 16-6 win on Overpass, setting up a final map showdown.
At that point, many Ninjas fans’ hearts sank. The fifth game would be played on Cache, terrain where FaZe Clan had dominated.
The match ebbed and flowed, but to the surprise of almost everybody watching, Ninjas racked up nine straight round wins as terrorists early on. This gave them the platform to go on and record a 16-10 win and a huge upset.
With each team earning an additional $1,000 for every win in the league stage on top of their winnings from the event, Ninjas in Pyjamas took home a $129,000 total prize, and FaZe Clan earned $54,000 for their efforts.
Next up in the Intel Extreme Masters series is the Season XII World Championships in Katowice, Poland starting Feb. 27.