Stories to Watch at the BLAST Premier World Final
The last big Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament of 2021, The BLAST Premiere World Final, is about to get underway. Eight teams from around the globe will gather in the BLAST Studio in Copenhagen for a massive $1 million prize pool.
Each of these teams has earned their spot at the BLAST World Final by either winning a BLAST associated tournament or placing at the top of the BLAST Global Leaderboard for the past season. Initially, there were supposed to be five tournament winning teams and three teams from the Global Leaderboard.
The first two teams to lock their spots were Gambit Esports and Heroic. The former took the trophy at the BLAST Spring Finals, while the latter won ESL Pro League Season 13. There should have been three more teams to qualify for the BLAST World Finals throughout the year. However, NAVI’s countless tournament victories have them holding three of the five winner spots. ESL Pro League Season 14, the BLAST Fall Finals, and the PGL Stockholm Major all went to NAVI.
The extra two spots were given to two more teams from the BLAST Global Leaderboard. Thanks to this, Astralis and Team Liquid managed to sneak in as the final two teams. G2 Esports, Team Vitality, and Ninjas in Pyjamas will join them at the BLAST World Final as the three highest leaderboard squads.
The tournament will be in a double elimination format with all matches being best-of-three. The round one matchups are as follows:
Natus Vincere vs Team Liquid
Gambit Esports vs Heroic
G2 Esports vs Ninjas in Pyjamas
Team Vitality vs Astralis
NAVI Close the Year Out
Natus Vincere are undeniably the best CS:GO team of 2021. In addition to their numerous tournament wins, they also managed to lock down the two biggest accomplishments possible in Counter-Strike. The Intel Grand Slam and the PGL Major saw their trophies added to NAVI’s extensive case. As such, NAVI are the easy favorites to earn the BLAST World Final title.
This NAVI squad is in the best form they’ve ever had. Everything has been on point, from the mechanics to the strategy. The one thing worth mentioning against NAVI is that they did take a two week break after the BLAST Fall Finals. Meanwhile, every other team present at the World Final played at IEM Winter in the meantime. This either means that NAVI could be a bit cold starting off, or they’ve rested up and will come in looking fresher than ever.
Vitality Break the Curse
Speaking of IEM Winter, Team Vitality took full advantage of NAVI not being there. Vitality had been on a massive trophy drought that lasted the entirety of 2021. They hardly had any decent results in the first half of the year. Vitality then earned two grand finals appearances at ESL Pro League S14 and the BLAST Fall Finals that both ended in losses to NAVI.
After getting out of Group A in second seed, Vitality narrowly took down Gambit Esports in three maps before sweeping Virtus.pro and Ninjas in Pyjamas on their way to their first trophy in exactly 364 days. Let it be known, no one stops Vitality from winning at least one trophy in a year’s span.
Just because NAVI is here at the BLAST World Final doesn’t mean that Vitality should be counted out, however. They are still a very strong team with all the makings of a title contender. Additionally, they have been seeded at the complete opposite side of NAVI, making their run to the grand finals a very realistic one.
Last Second Swaps
One of the more interesting stories coming into the World Final is that NiP will be missing their star AWPer. Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz couldn’t play in the final two matches of IEM Winter due to illness. He is still not fully recovered, meaning NiP will play without him once again. Despite this seemingly massive hole in their ranks, NiP have a temporary solution.
They have promoted the AWPer from their Young Ninjas academy team, Love “phzy” Smidebrant, to fill in for dev1ce. The 19-year-old had a surprisingly good showing in his tier one debut at IEM Winter. In the semifinal match against G2, phzy earned a 1.04 HLTV rating and won the most opening duels of any player. While he is certainly not bringing dev1ce quality play this early in his career, phzy can likely hang with many of the AWPers here.
Another team that is dealing with a last-minute roster shift is G2 Esports. However, they will be getting a player back instead of losing one. In-game leader Nemanja “nexa” Isakovic missed the entirety of IEM Winter due to visa issues. The team played with their former fifth member, Kenny “kennyS” Schrub and managed a top four finish. Now, nexa is back and ready to lead his team. At worst, G2 will show some early signs of readjusting to their main system.
Can Liquid Keep Up?
North American Counter-Strike’s last bastion barely managed to sneak into the BLAST World Final. The closest that Team Liquid got to winning an event that would have qualified them was a top six at the BLAST Fall Finals. However, NAVI’s dominance throughout the year has earned Liquid one last shot at a trophy in 2021.
While Liquid is by no means favorites, they have the potential to be a lot more competitive than many think. Their last two performances at the Fall Finals and IEM Winter featured wins over NiP and Astralis. If a couple upsets go in their favor, Liquid could find themselves making a run into the later rounds. Unfortunately, their draw has pitted them against NAVI in round one, turning that prospect into an uphill battle.
The BLAST Premiere World Final begins on December 14 at 9:30 AM CT.