After a year of tournament after tournament, it's now down to Astralis, FaZe, Liquid and NiP.
The culmination of a year’s worth of BLAST Pro Series’ is the Global Finals in Bahrain, a four team event with a $500,000 prize pool. BLAST has been pretty controversial in the CS:GO scene, mainly due to its format; BLAST has usually stuck to having many best-of-one games with just one best-of-three, but fortunately, the Global Final is double elimination, all best-of-threes.
Astralis and Liquid are the illustrious rivals of the last year, and they meet in round one. They’re joined by sleeping giants Ninjas in Pyjamas and FaZe Clan, whose form in recent times has been, at best, hit and miss.
Astralis come into the tournament as favourites, and with good reason. They have traditionally been the big sibling in the rivalry; the Juventus to Liquid’s Torino, the Serena to Liquid’s Venus, the CSGO to Liquid’s CoD. They’ve traditionally been the better team in every match-up, and have, subsequently, won a lot more trophies.
They haven’t been the same dominant force that maybe they’ve been at times in the last 12 months - not making the finals of one of the BLAST Pro Series’ and losing to mousesports in the semi-finals of the Pro League in their home country were definitely low points. This tournament, however, should be an Astralis lock-in. Their only challenger seems to be Liquid, which is Astralis’ comfort zone.
One should always fear the wounded predator, and Astralis have never been so wounded. It feels like someone is going to get a hiding.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride; while Astralis prowl the top of the scene, Liquid seem incapable of being the best. Liquid get bullied off of the trophies by their bigger brothers like the runt of the litter gets bullied off his mother’s teat, but at some point little brothers grow tired of being beaten up.
The longest journeys start with a simple step, and while beating Astralis and winning the Global Finals wouldn’t satiate Liquid, it could be the start of something big. Liquid, however, have been travelling all over the world, and looked lethargic in Odense for the Pro League finals. With another flight across the world for some more tough games, what Liquid will we see?
FaZe have been pretty awful since Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David replaced Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen, with flashes of being okay. karrigan just bested Astralis in the semi-final of the Pro League, and FaZe could probably use someone of his talents. A roster full to the brim with name value, if not cohesion - the most star-studded roster of all-time might, oddly, be a dark horse capable of upsetting the favourites.
Whilst tactically they lack the depth to beat the top teams, they do have firepower in abundance. Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovac and coldzera might be the most dangerous duo - in theory - since MacBeth and Lady MacBeth, and it’s backed by some serious quality, old and new. Expectations for FaZe are as low as they could be, which could be a blessing in disguise.
NiP come in with similarly low expectations. With rumours of legendary rifler Patrik ‘f0rest’ Lindberg’s departure being imminent, and results being weak, it's been a long time since NiP were the force in Counter-Strike they’re known for.
The Swedes have typically had a good match-up against their Danish counterparts, however, and usually put up a decent fight against Astralis regardless of their skill gap. Some analysts posit that their random, aggressive and individualistic style makes for a good stylistic match-up.
They’re going to need some magic to win this tournament against two of the best teams in the world, but magic is something NiP are known for - and they haven’t had a miracle run for a while.
BLAST Pro Series starts on Thursday, kicking off with FaZe vs NiP and Liquid vs Astralis on day one. Don’t miss it!
Image via Blast Pro Series