Na’Vi Completes Lower Bracket Run to Win BLAST Global Final
The first big tournament of 2021, BLAST Premier Global Final, has come to a close. Natus Vincere recovered from a brutal first round loss and ran through a full gauntlet on their way to the BLAST trophy. A clean 2-0 sweep of Astralis in the Grand Finals put a cap on their tremendous streak.
Na’Vi’s first match of the year came against a revamped Team Liquid squad. In a complete surprise showing, Liquid wiped the floor with the favorite CIS squad. Map one of Inferno saw Keith “NAF” Markovic, Jonathan “ELiGE” Jablonowski, and new addition Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo combine for 37 kills in the first half alone. Liquid continued to crush on their map, taking a quick series lead 16-6.
Next up was a rather safe pick for Na’Vi in Nuke. The map has been a go-to for them, but it was Liquid who got off to the hot start. A whopping 10 rounds in a row went to the North American squad out of the gate. Things were looking bleak for Na’Vi until star player Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev got to work. His 16 frags helped lead Na’Vi to five T side rounds before the side swap. The momentum continued in the second half as Na’Vi’s comeback slowly mounted.
Eventually the score was tied up. FalleN and s1mple each pulled off clutch plays to give their teams the edge, but it was Liquid who would take advantage in the end. Despite Na’Vi earning a 14-12 lead, Liquid was able to take the final four rounds of regulation and complete the 2-0 sweep upset.
After the unexpected thrashing, Na’Vi was left gasping for air in the BLAST Global Final lower bracket. One more loss would eliminate them from the tournament and a brutal gauntlet of strong teams awaited them. No match would be a gimme for the third highest ranked team in the world. Even so, Na’Vi would continue forward. Throughout the rest of BLAST Global Final, they would only drop two more maps total.
One of those maps came against Complexity in their first losers’ match. A very close Mirage picked by COL came down to overtime. Stand-in Jakob “JUGi” Bremer was the difference maker in a key round, bringing his squad to match point and eventually a 19-17 map one victory.
It was now do or die for Na’Vi, just one map from total elimination. They would catch their breath on Nuke. A strong 11-4 T side start led to an easy 16-8 close out to even up the series. Their first map win of the tournament was then immediately followed by a decisive 16-11 on Inferno. S1mple alongside usual key contributor Denis “electronic” Sharipov combined for 91 kills over the two wins, carrying the squad to advancement.
Na’Vi’s most dominant showing of the tournament came against G2 Esports. The French-Serbian squad was coming off a very close three-map loss to Astralis in the upper bracket semifinals. Now against Na’Vi, they just looked out of gas. Na’Vi’s Train pick was a complete stomp. Despite G2 winning a second-round eco, they only managed four points on the favored CT side. The map quickly snowballed into a 16-6 win for Na’Vi.
Mirage was more of the same with Na’Vi playing well across the board. A salvageable 6-9 T side for G2 slipped away in the second half. A 16-8 finish was the result. Although this match had little to see, one thing was very crucial for Na’Vi. This was the first time where all five of their players showed up in force. The lowest HLTV rating on the team was still a strong 1.20.
The Revenge Arc
Na’Vi was now in the top four. A rematch against Team Liquid was on the table. Liquid’s Inferno was up first. While this resulted in a 16-6 stomp in their first matchup, things were completely different this time around. Na’Vi technically have a six-man roster with Valeriy “B1T” Vekhovskiy, although he only plays on Inferno. In the first meeting between these two, B1T was the worst performer at 9-17 with 55.1 ADR.
Now, the Inferno expert was on point. B1T carried Na’Vi’s CT side with key rotations and utility usage, racking up a 16-6 K-D ratio in the process. A 9-6 halftime lead was the result. The second half was very tight all the way through, but for a different reason. Whereas Liquid had multiple players who contributed heavily, it was the s1mple show on the Na’Vi side. He put up an oppressive 20-8 K-D with 115.2 ADR, good for a 1.89 rating. That hard carry performance was barely enough for a 7-7 half, but it did get them over the finish line at 16-13.
Na’Vi’s Nuke was an even closer affair. Egor “flamie” Vasilyev subbed back in and performed above expectations. Him and s1mple each earned 15 kills and over 100 ADR. Although they were down 7-8 at the half, it was a great result for the T side. A six round streak to start the second half brought them to a 13-8 lead. Liquid were no slouches themselves, coming back into the game thanks to clutches out of ELiGE and NAF. In the end, it was not enough to uproot the CIS squad. A 16-14 win completed Na’Vi’s revenge sweep in dramatic fashion.
Completing the Run
The top three rated teams in the world were now the final three left at BLAST Global Final. Na’Vi’s next opponents were Team Vitality who just fell to Astralis 2-1. A duel between the two best players in the world ensued. First was Na’Vi’s usual Nuke pick. After a suboptimal 7-8 CT side start, the French squad won eight of nine and earned six map points at 15-9. Unfortunately for them, Na’Vi would not be deterred in the slightest. Overtime came after a dominant streak to end regulation. Na’Vi would then narrowly pick up their map 19-17.
Although Vitality lost six map points in a row, they kept their composure on Overpass. A tight 7-8 start from T side turned into a stalwart defense led by ZywOo. His 19-7 K-D and 141.6 ADR helped bring Vitality to a comfortable 16-12 equalizer. Dust2 would be the map to decide who made the Grand Finals.
It was the most one-sided map of the series. Although s1mple was going wild as usual, the rest of Na’Vi found impact at all points. S1mple’s 18 kills on the T side were nearly matched by Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov at 16. Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy and flamie also earned big multi-kill rounds on their way to a 10-5 T side start.
Vitality was unable to replicate that success and fell by the wayside. They went out with a whimper, losing the final map to Na’Vi 16-10.
The Blast Global Final Grand Final was now set. Astralis and Na’Vi would play for the $600,000 cut of the prize pool. Their last matchup was at the IEM Global Challenge in December which Astralis took 2-1. This time, their fortunes would be reversed. After a first-round pistol win, s1mple needed to pull off a 1v3 to stop Astralis from stealing the economy.
Astralis expectedly stabilized on the favored CT side. They won seven of eight rounds in a row to take a 7-5 lead, but some late half heroics from Boombl4 helped Na’Vi end on a high note. An 8-7 lead was the result. A 4K on the second half pistol by flamie allowed Na’Vi to extend their reach. With the score at 14-9, Astralis finally started to find their mojo. Unfortunately for them, it was too little too late. Two bombsite retakes in rounds 26 and 28 gave Na’Vi a leg up in this final 16-12.
Astralis needed to win on Inferno to keep their chances alive. However, Na’Vi’s in-game leader Boombl4 knew exactly what to do. He earned a 19-6 K-D and 104.8 ADR, shutting down Astralis at every turn. The Danish side only earned five rounds on their attack. They would need to get an early streak going on defense. B1T denied them that luxury with a pistol round 4K.
Astralis would go winless on their CT side as Na’Vi cruised to the championship. A 16-5 victory completed the most dominant map of the entire tournament.
This victory for Na’Vi is incredibly important. They have now won the first S-Tier tournament of the year twice in a row. In between IEM Katowice 2020 and now, they didn’t manage to win one. With more international play returning to CS:GO this year, Na’Vi has a chance to rise to incredible heights and stay there.