As much of an interesting alternative these events were initially to the usual tournament grind, a decent chunk of the community seems to be getting tired of the BLAST Pro Series. It’s understandable: all-but monopolizing Astralis for a high-variance format with lots of meaningless games and an emphasis on the in-person audience making it impossible to follow the whole event online is a bit of a mess. Here are a few suggestions to improve the competitive stature of these tournaments without sacrificing their unique, short-but-sweet concept.
The BLAST Pro events have three selling points: having top teams in attendance, the guarantee that you’ll get to see them play throughout the whole event, and a “unique” format. How can we keep all these elements intact – and perhaps even enhancing some of them – while also increasing the competitive integrity of the tournament? After all, bad tiebreaker rules (just ask anyone unfortunate enough to start on T side Nuke about using the rounds won as a decider) and the odd anomalies of draws make the set of often-meaningless best-of-ones all the less impactful.
To answer this question, we have to unpack the white lie behind the second selling point. Make no mistake: the notion that you’ll get to see six competitive matches played by your favorite side at a BLAST event is absolutely not true. Once a team is out of finals contention, it’s tough to be motivated to take the rest of it seriously – just ask NiKo, who’s gone on record in a recent HLTV interview saying “you just want to make the finals and you don't care if you finish in third or sixth place”. With that in mind, how about a format that is a little more serious from a competitive standpoint and quickly puts the less-impressive sides into an alternative “fun” bracket?
Just ditch the round-robin format and use an ECS-like single elimination bracket instead for the real competition, with the losers of the first round immediately moving over to a side-event of sorts where you can showcase the aim maps and other wacky formats you come up with. Of course, this is predicated on proper seeding and requires eight teams instead of the current six, but the plan to showcase local talent with the Iberian play-in and the Cloud9 invite already suggests there would be many benefits to a slightly larger field. This would also ensure that the leaderboard for the eventual grand final wouldn’t put the teams that don’t get invited to the current six-field lineup every time (like ENCE) at the sort of disadvantage as it does now.
This solution guarantees that they will stay active throughout the entire event and also leans into BLAST’s unique nature. It would also allow a healthier distribution of the current nineteen maps of Counter-Strike played before the final: both the quarterfinals and the semis could played with a best-of-three format, with the winner of the “fun bracket” still given the opportunity to select on of the non-finalists for a final standoff.
Such a setup would still guarantee constant action, the guaranteed presence of all teams throughout both days of the event with games of similar stature (because let’s face it, the last round robin match between two teams already out of contention is likely taken even less seriously than a wacky custom map would be) while making the competition itself a bit more than a wacky mess and a Trojan horse of an exclusivity strategy for RFRSH and Astralis.
We can only hope.