It’s been a long wait for North American fans, but after five years of waiting, they finally have their home-continent heroes. The all-American squad of Cloud9 fought their way through a murderer’s row of the best CS:GO teams in the world—including the #1 ranked SK Gaming—to make it into the finals of ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018, then emerged victorious from a grueling, three map, double overtime match against the European superteam of FaZe Clan.
On paper, this looked like one of the most lopsided grand finals in CS:GO Major history. FaZe Clan is notorious for being “the most expensive team in Counter-Strike history”, having bought out the contracts of the best players from several of the best teams in the world. One of their players has won two Majors in the past, and the rest of them have made it deep into the elimination brackets at previous Majors. With SK Gaming, the only higher-ranked team in existence, suffering from the loss of one of their core players, the consensus was that this was FaZe’s tournament to win.
Cloud9’s current lineup, on the other hand, is composed entirely of younger players with fairly modest winnings to their names. As a team, they’ve never even made it into the top eight of a Major, and most of the individual players have never made it anywhere near this far in this caliber of tournament. Few people were predicting this outcome.
Not only did the American underdogs come out on top, they did so in a manner that made for one of the most spectacular grand finals in Counter-Strike history. They started things off inauspiciously, losing their own map pick in a 16-14 nail-biter; this set them up to have to face FaZe on Overpass, a map that Cloud9 has lost four times in a row to FaZe in previous tournaments.
Despite that history hanging over their heads, the young team put on a clinic in the early rounds, pulling out a variety of aggressive, exciting plays to drive the score up to an imposing 15 rounds to 4. FaZe showed signs of rallying after half-time, as Håvard "rain" Nygaard found his groove and started posting some big frag numbers, but the comeback was eventually shut down by Cloud9 for a final map score of 16-10.
This set the stage for a final showdown on the final map of the tournament, Inferno, where both teams had demonstrated strong tactics in previous matches. Cloud9 got off to a strong start on the CT side, eventually settling for a respectable first-half score of 7-8 in FaZe’s favour. Things began to look grim for the Americans during the second-half, however, as FaZe strung enough rounds together to cripple Cloud9’s economy, driving them to the brink of death with a 15-11 scoreline.
Then, to the visible frustration of a FaZe Clan who felt that this tournament was theirs for the taking, and with the hometeam crowd threatening to bring down the arena roof, Cloud9 posted four consecutive rounds to bring the score to 15-15 and force overtime.
It took them two overtime sets, and a few scarily messy-looking rounds, but Cloud9 finally got the job done. Final score: 22-19.
For the young players of Cloud9, this marks a new high point in their Counter-Strike careers, and for fans of Cloud9 and North American Counter-Strike in general, it marks the end of a drought that had stretched on so long that it began to feel like an unliftable curse. Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, the quiet Cloud9 player who was awarded the tournament MVP trophy, was asked in the post-match interview what was ahead for Cloud9. His answer was simply, “a lot of tournaments.”
We can only hope those future tournaments are half as electrifying to watch as this weekend’s has been.