With all the concerns and consternation about the wider state of the CS:GO landscape and the drama around the competing leagues, it’s easy to forget that one of them is slated to launch in just a few days. BLAST themselves are also no strangers to franchising controversy in the scene, and they certainly ruffled a few feathers with their invitations, but the competition is nevertheless worth keeping an eye on. This is what we will be looking out for in London as Group A kicks off on the 31st of January.
It’s worth noting that no team actually gets eliminated at this stage from the competition: the whole thing is a fight for two direct spots in the Spring Finals (set to take place in Moscow in July) while the other two teams will proceed to the Spring Showdown where twelve teams will eventually battle it out for the last two invites, making it eight participants overall. One has to wonder how this will impact the competitiveness of the matches, and whether the group stage finals between the two qualified teams will have anything meaningful on the line.
The groups themselves are a simple GSL format, and unlike the BLAST Pro Series of yesteryear, every match is a best-of-three. The opening matches were seeded based on the HLTV rankings.
The competition will kick off with a rematch between FaZe Clan and NiP, a rematch from last year’s Global Finals. It was the Ninjas who scored the upset win there, and both teams very much remain in flux. The departure of f0rest marks the beginning of a new era for the Swedish side, and it will be fascinating to see how they will cope without such a leadership figure. That is something which is also in short supply in FaZe nowadays, posting disappointing result after disappointing result since NiKo’s coup, a downturn so harsh not even coldzera’s signing could alter the trajectory. Realistically, FaZe should still be able to take second place in this group behind Liquid, but it’s not at all guaranteed based on their recent showings
Next up is Team Liquid’s match against MIBR, one which promises endless amount of schadenfreude for those who aren’t particularly keen on Brazilian CS. No amount of rebranding or roster rejigs brought FalleN’s men anywhere close to their past peaks, who haven’t really impressed at any event apart from the Katowice Major, which in retrospect looks more like a honeymoon period than anything else for that iteration of the side. Right now, the Made in Brazil name also needs an asterisk in light of the pickup of the Argentinian player meyern, and one can’t help but think this may be the last roll of the dice for a legendary in-game leader and whatever’s left of the core of his greatest side. Stewie and zews likely have very different thoughts about the way 2019 has unfolded for them.
All in all, Liquid should easily take this one, and though there are real questions about their brittleness and ability to go toe-to-toe with the top tier sides nowadays, these won’t be answered in this group. In a sense, the North Americans have everything to lose: nothing but a dominant showing at BLAST Premier will assuage fans.