The climax of BLAST Premier will finally be arriving on January 19th 2021. After a year of BLAST Showdowns, Series, and Finals, eight teams have qualified for one ultimate event, featuring a million dollar prize pool and a double-elimination bracket.
BLAST Premier, like all other tournaments for the foreseeable future, will be played online. What should’ve been the most exciting start to the year possible, with eight of the world’s top twenty teams (according to HLTV and ESL’s rankings) in attendance, doesn’t quite have the same hype around it. BLAST Events also boast some of the best production in the world, who have gained a reputation for putting together some very best shows in E-Sports building the excitement for these events more.
All the teams attending have vastly different stories to tell. They each have their own unique problems to overcome and strengths to make the most of. Let’s start with the teams that have the lowest chance to triumph, the pretenders to the throne.
Coming into the summer of 2020, it seemed that the Evil Geniuses’ roster had failed to adapt to the online era of CS:GO, as they had fallen out of the top ten for the first time since 2019. They quickly inverted this narrative, winning three events on the trot (BLAST Premier Spring, cs_summit 6, and ESL One Cologne), to set themselves up as one of the top three teams in the world. Evil Geniuses maintained this prestigious ranking thanks to two more podium finishes at ESL Pro League and IEM New York.
However, critics saw a slightly different picture to the one painted by the various algorithms used to rank teams. Thanks to Covid-19, it had been over six months since they had last faced any European competition, who were still considered to be the elite of the world of Counter-Strike. Thankfully, an opportunity for Evil Geniuses to prove they were legitimate contenders presented itself in the form of the BLAST Premier Fall Series 2020.
They finished last place.
Their opening game was against OG, who were looking to bounce back from a disappointing finish at Dreamhack Open Fall. The series was close, but it was OG who came out on top. This knocked Evil Geniuses down to the lower bracket. In order to keep themselves alive in the tournament, Evil Geniuses were tasked with defeating a skilled yet rather unproven NiP team, comprised of young Swedish talents, headed by Hampus “hampus” Poser and Fredrik “Rez” Sterner. Evil Geniuses were swept aside by NiP with relative ease, putting in the kind of performance that left many fans wanting more from the NA side.
Apart from another regional event against only North American competition, this was the last time we saw Evil Geniuses in action. Combining the last place finish with their inactivity in December, they’ve reached a new low in the world rankings, leaving them with much to prove. The players on the team have been struggling in the last three months, with none of them managing above a 1.00 HLTV Rating against competition in the Top 20.
However, their placement here is not a complete write off. Brehze, CeRq and Ethan all have the potential to put together explosive performances, and if two of them go off at the same time, there are few in the world who can hope to match them. I doubt this team will make a deep run. However, if they do, you can expect these three names to be at the top of the scoreboard.
The Juggernaut have somehow managed to place themselves as the eleventh best team in the world, despite the fact that they haven’t won a tournament since June, or made a top four placing since early November. Luckily, winning the title at Blast Premier Spring 2020 qualified them for this event, so their string of disappointing results don’t prevent them from being here.
The team have been held back by two events that were seemingly outside of their control. Firstly, the departure of Owen “oBo” Schlatter. The following integration of Justin “jks” Savage has been a slow and painful process, with the Australian rifler struggling to find his place in the team. Secondly, their starting AWPer, Valentin “poizon” Vasilev, has been unavailable due to health issues since early December. This meana that the team will be playing with a stand-in.
Whilst their ranking might be inflated, the danger they present is very real. Together, Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke and Benjamin “blameF” Bremer are one of the most explosive rifle duos in world Counter-Strike. If they start hitting shots, it becomes almost elementary to win games. All they would need then would be a good showing from jks, and they would immediately be an upset threat.
Their biggest problem is going to be playing with a stand-in. The team have just announced Jakob “JUGi” Hansen will be standing in for poizon, which is a huge downgrade in terms of firepower. There is also much doubt over how well JUGi can integrate himself into the team from a tactics and chemistry standpoint in such a short period of time.
Complexity could still have a great showing at this event, but it would be the least likely outcome. They are going into this tournament with a weaker, less prepared roster than they would have hoped, and have been on a bad run to finish 2020. Coming into 2021, the Juggernaut has never looked easier to stop.
This is probably going to be a surprise for everyone. The team was able to adapt to life without Nick “Nitr0” Canella fairly well. They integrated Michael “Grim” Wince into the team and relied on Jake “Stewie2k” Yip to take over the In-Game Leadership. Whilst at first glance the team seemed to be doing fine, their inability to win the regional events led to the most recent change, where Russell “Twistzz” Van Dulken was replaced by Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo.
This change of personnel comes with a change of In-Game Leader. Fallen will be taking over that responsibility. That will allow Stewie2k to focus more on his fragging than he could while leading the team. What will be interesting to see with this role change is how it affects Keith “NAF” Markovic, who was the primary AWPer for the team. Fallen has been a dedicated AWPer for the entirety of his illustrious 15 year career, and has found a great deal of success with that weapon in CS:GO whilst calling. Will they hand the AWP duties over to Fallen, or will the Brazilian mastermind be the one making the sacrifice?
Team Liquid will certainly have title aspirations coming into this tournament. After all, they have been in contention for the title of number one team in the world in 2019 and early in 2020. They have much to prove if they want to re-enter that fight. This is the first step towards their lofty ambitions.
Passion and aggression. The two aspects that have taken Furia amongst the elite in Counter-Strike have also landed them firmly into the hearts of CS:GO fans. Furia got off to a terrible start on their European road trip, but have since recovered to a more acceptable level. BLAST Premier Global Finals is their turn to take the spotlight and show us why many consider them to be the best team in the North American region.
The beating heart of the team is undoubtedly Andrei “arT” Piovezan, his nickname spelling out exactly how his play-style looks. He leads his team from the front, calling strategies that build upon his seemingly over-confident aggression. With the momentum he builds, his team hypes themselves into a frenzy that few can match, dancing and shouting at the top of their lungs with every round they win.
With players like Yuri “yuurih” Santos and Kaike “KSCERATO” Cerato following up behind arT, it becomes a case of picking your poison when facing Furia. Even the other player on the roster, Vinicius “VINI” Figueiredo, has been performing well, making Furia an outlier amongst the elite teams as they have all of their players performing at, or above, what is considered an average level.
Here we find our issue. The team is down a man. Henrique “HEN1” Teles has been benched from Furia, just as the MIBR roster has fallen apart. He has made no secret of the fact that he longs to play alongside his twin brother, Lucas “Lucas1” Teles. Thankfully for him, it is likely to happen shortly in the team being put together by Raphael “cogu” Camargo.
The rumours that are currently circling have linked Furia with the young American AWPer, Paytyn “Junior” Johnson. The fit, however, is questionable. Unless Junior turns out to be secretly bilingual, the team’s communications are very likely to take a hit at this event.
If Furia make it to the final, expect fireworks along the way. They clearly have the skill and the strategic depth to go all the way. However, their extreme risk taking can always backfire, leading to an early exit. Furia are THE team to watch at the BLAST Premier Global Finals, maybe not for the results they will attain, but for the sheer entertainment they provide.
It may seem a little harsh to refer to these teams as Pretenders, but there are too many question marks surrounding them to put them as Contenders. The truth of the matter is that the other four teams at the event are in a better place to produce the kinds of performances needed to win.
If you are a fan of these teams, do not be saddened by this prediction. They all made it to this tournament by merit and still have a chance to overcome the odds.
For a look at the teams that are more likely to have a chance, take a look at our ‘Contenders‘ article.