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Stories to Watch at the BLAST Premier Fall Finals

Zakaria Almughrabi

The penultimate BLAST tournament of the year, the BLAST Premier Fall Finals, begin on November 22. Eight teams will be competing for the $450,000 dollar prize pool and a spot at the BLAST World Finals in December. Over half of the teams present are coming in with a roster change, so there’s many more variables than constants heading into the tournament.

BLAST Fall Finals 2023

Image Copyright: Helena Kristiansson, ESL FACEIT Group

BLAST Premier Fall Finals Teams

Ninjas in Pyjamas Heroic FaZe Clan Team Vitality
Natus Vincere Astralis Cloud9 Complexity Gaming

FaZe Dynasty in the Making

The story of CS2 so far has been centered around FaZe Clan. While this roster certainly had their time in the sun towards the end of Global Offensive, they’ve been a whole new beast in this new iteration of Counter-Strike. FaZe won back-to-back-to-back events, including both CS2 LANs at IEM Sydney and the CS Asia Championships.

The manner in which FaZe wins is the impressive part. They don’t simply steamroll their opponents, the field is too competitive for that. Time after time FaZe find themselves down, sometimes heavily, in key matches. Despite these frequent deficits, they still manage to come back and win more often than not. FaZe is easily the most exciting team to watch at the moment, and their results are the cherry on top.

Pioneering their newfound success is Robin “ropz” Kool. The Estonian rifler was already a force to be reckoned with in CS:GO. Ever since CS2’s closed beta test came out, he’s been grinding away. In addition to bringing top-of-the-line mechanics, ropz has helped FaZe get a jump on the meta with brand new setups and plays courtesy of CS2’s map and grenade changes.

Of course, the rest of FaZe Clan are no slouches. The entire team is able to step up and frag when it matters, even in-game leader Finn “karrigan” Andersen. While they are by no means unbeatable, FaZe Clan in CS2 is a force to be reckoned with and they’ll certainly be looking for their fourth straight trophy.

Danish Drama

Danish Counter-Strike has always been a very interconnected scene with teams routinely shuffling the same players around and vying for the same up-and-coming talent. When an early October report stated that Heroic were moving on from AWPer IGL Casper “cadiaN” Moller, many found it strange. CadiaN had been the heart and soul of Heroic and the mastermind behind their success in CS:GO. Still, sometimes teams just want to shake things up.

However, Heroic came out a few weeks later with a statement that they were benching Martin “stavn” Lund and Jakob “jabbi” Nygaard due to an alleged “breach of trust.” Both players had been tied to a move to Astralis in the preceding days which Heroic management seemed to be unaware of. These events are likely connected in some way, as cadiaN cited differences in vision for the future of the team.

Now, Heroic has tried to cobble together a roster to finish the year out. They snatched up Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen from the free agent market and have been filling the rest with temporary Danish stand-ins. In a surprising turn of events, cadiaN is back to lead the team for the rest of 2023 before he moves on to his next home.

Astralis is also going through some inner turmoil as a result of this. Since stavn and jabbi are likely to join Astralis at the start of next season, some of the remaining players are unsure of where they stand on the team. After all, two of them would have to be cut to make these changes happen. Astralis and Heroic are in the same group at the BLAST Fall Finals, so there could very well be a grudge match coming in hot.

New NAVI vs Old NAVI

Meanwhile in the other group, NAVI and Cloud9 are set up for a game one clash. NAVI has been in a rebuilding phase ever since Summer and recently took another big hit. CS:GO’s GOAT Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyljev has decided to step down from NAVI’s active lineup for various personal reasons. Their replacement is Ihor “w0nderful” Zhdanov, an 18-year-old who made a name for himself on Team Spirit and Sprout over the past year.

Cloud9 also lost their star AWPer around the same time. Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov decided to step down from the roster following the switch to CS2. Cloud9 has also been in a rebuild of their own, one that hasn’t gone at the same pace as NAVI’s. They’ve decided to go a different route for sh1ro’s replacement, picking up former NAVI in-game leader Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov.

Cloud9 has been struggling with leadership issues for a while now. Ever since the departure of Vladislav “nafany” Gorshkov, they’ve lacked an IGL by trade. Denis “electroNic” Sharipov took over the duties when he came over from NAVI, but he’s much more comfortable as a pure rifler. And since AWPing is less prevalent (but still important) in CS2 compared to GO, C9 plan to share AWPing duties around.

With Boombl4, electroNic, and Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy in their ranks, this Cloud9 roster has a majority of the NAVI players from their godlike 2021 campaign where they won a Major and an Intel Grand Slam. The big question is if this core can regain their form and mesh with the existing Cloud9/former Gambit players who were once their rivals. For fans of that prime NAVI roster, with s1mple on leave from new NAVI, this C9 roster may even be more compelling to root for.

High Hopes for NA

Complexity Gaming is the one North American team present at the BLAST Fall Finals they’re also the only team here besides FaZe Clan that has a stable roster. On top of that Complexity turned heads at IEM Sydney a month ago by qualifying for the Grand Finals and coming just a couple rounds short of taking down FaZe.

While they did bow out of the Thunderpick World Championship early, that was at the hand of MOUZ who are one of the best teams CS2 has to offer right now. That plus the fact that the BLAST Fall Finals will be a return to LAN play makes Complexity a threatening team to watch out for.

Complexity is in Group B alongside Astralis and Heroic. Team Vitality is also trying to adjust to a new fifth player in William “mezii” Merriman, as well as the departure of coach Danny “zonic” Sorensen. If Complexity doesn’t at least make it to playoffs, it would be a disappointment for this team.

The BLAST Premier Fall Finals begin on November 22 at 4:00 AM ET. The opening matchups are:

FaZe Clan vs Ninjas in Pyjamas

Cloud9 vs Natus Vincere

Team Vitality vs Heroic

Complexity Gaming vs Astralis