The last big tournament of the year is upon us, and we’re heading into an uncertain year in more ways than one. Only one thing is for sure: the gameplay on display is going to be epic.
The BLAST Premier World Final in Abu Dhabi pits the best-performing teams of the circuit against one another in the last notable CS event of the year, in an environment where we can’t exactly be sure about which is the best team in the world and how the lay of the land will change in 2023.
FaZe Clan had a legendary first half of the year but they haven’t been able to follow through with their conquests after the player break, with the Rio Major serving as an especially ugly blot on the copybook. The team seemed much stronger in the Fall Finals, but they still fell short against Heroic in a closely fought grand final. So where are they now on the power rankings and how will we evaluate their standing should they do well here? The clock continues to tick for rain and karrigan. It’s tough to imagine a definitive answer after this event.
NAVI also remain in limbo, but they have the most understandable reason for it out of all the teams. Their home country torn apart by war between the two nations whose countrymen represent the squad, there can be no doubt that their future gets reevaluated day after day.
Meanwhile, who knows that to make of Vitality’s continued international experiment? The Spinx pickup was a great step forward and they did manage to take down an S-Tier title, but honestly, that’s about it. Is there further internal growth to anticipate? Who knows at this point?
In light of HooXi’s family tragedy, this is going to be an asterisk event for G2, as the understandable mitigating circumstances have been loaded into the chamber before a single bullet has been fired on the servers. That isn’t to say their recent performances could be excused: the team missed out on the Major entirely and they seemed rudderless even after their extended preparation for the Fall Finals. What’s next for this squad? No one seems to know.
Outsiders’ claim to fame is fame and Jame, plus an unlikely Major win in Rio. Heroic have clearly proved that they can hang with the best of them and are genuine title contenders all across the tournament circuit: it remains to be seen whether the Russian squad will join Gambit and Cloud9 as another flash in the pan when it comes to finals. Again, this event won’t prove conclusive either way, but it will serve as an important data point. So it would be for Heroic, if not for the understandable stand-in situation: could you really blame them if they failed to go far here, having to rely on a temporary k0nfig in their CS:GO matches?
Meanwhile, Liquid clearly found their way out of the wilderness, but they are also nowhere near title challengers. What extra dimension can they find to get there? The free rein of daps in the coaching role is an underappreciated aspect of their resurgence, and one that will no doubt bear further fruit with time, and it does feel like we haven’t yet seen the absolute peak of this iteration of the North American squad.
Only one thing is for sure: OG really shouldn’t be here. Sorry, it’s just the truth. They qualified through the Global Leaderboard, courtesy of their showing in the Spring Groups (where they only won a single best-of-three against NIP in the play-in stage) and a fourth-placed finish in the follow-up Finals, plus an admittedly impressive run through the Fall Groups, which they followed up with a dead-last stinkout in the Fall Finals. They are favorites to go last here.
The event also serves as the first elite-level competitive outing for Anubis, and though the “magic Molotov” remains available for this tournament, it will no doubt provide a ton of data and demos to crunch and analyze for future clashes in the digital Egyptian sand.
So, there you have it: lots of question marks swirling around the scene and little chance to get anything clarified heading into 2023. A cliffhanger of a season finale – it should be a ton of fun.
Photo credit: HLTV