Elite-level CS:GO never stops: with the Rio Major in the books, yet another amazing tournament is coming up, this time under the auspices of BLAST. The tournament in Rio was so full of upsets that only two of these elite teams made it to the playoffs there, making this an amazing opportunity for them to redeem themselves and for fans to recalibrate expectations. Here’s what you can expect from each of the teams, plus some other observations.
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The tournament features eight of the best teams in the world, with the eventual winner earning an invitation to December’s World Final in the same circuit. With so many squads falling short at the IEM Rio Major, they will be hungry to secure glory for themselves and their fans in Copenhagen’s Royal Arena.
The BLAST Premier Fall Finals begin with a group stage: the teams are divided into two groups of four, and they play out a double-elimination (also known as GLS) bracket of best-of-three matches. The group winners are seeded directly into the semifinals, with the second- and third-place finishers meeting each other in the quarterfinals of the single-elimination playoff bracket. The teams finishing last will be eliminated from the competition.
FaZe Clan and NAVI already have an invite to the World Finals thanks to previous tournament wins (alongside Team Vitality and Outsiders, who are not participating in this event.) Three teams will be invited based on their points total on the global leaderboard: Heroic and G2 are neck-and-neck, with OG right behind them. They have a great chance to make it even without a direct win, but Team Liquid can still leapfrog a few of these squads.
Here's what you can expect from the Fall Finals, from player performances to wider narratives.
BLAST Premier Fall Finals: storylines and betting tips
Group A: who can avoid another embarrassment?
All these teams underperformed in Rio, and in the case of G2, they missed out on the event entirely. FaZe Clan have the most pressing concerns: not to diminish the legendary Danish in-game leader’s accomplishments in the game, but 32 years spent on Planet Earth are 32 years spent on Planet Earth, and they don’t exactly set you up well to perform elite-level CS.
FaZe Clan were dominant before the player break and racked up a record amount of silverware, but they haven’t been anywhere near their sterling best since their return, a downward spiral that culminated in their shock 0-3 elimination at the Rio Major.
Worse still, some of karrigan’s calls and decisions were a big part of this lurch (leaving Vertigo open against BNE and over-rotating on key rounds on the decider map), so they need to stop the spiral now. Rio showed how FalleN, his fellow big-brain veteran also couldn’t cope anymore with the demands of play: with poor play in the Pro League as well, FaZe need to step up now. Their invitation to the World Finals is already secure thanks to their previous Major win: still, it feels like they have a lot on the line. A cheeky punt on another upset might not be the worst idea in the world…
As for Heroic, don’t underestimate the team that so many people love to hate: coaching controversies and cadiaN’s villainous showboating aside, Heroic have been there or thereabouts in many elite-level events, including their runner-up finish in Rio. Their current world #2 ranking by HLTV is a textbook case of recency bias, but with all other teams floundering, they could make a deep run or even qualify directly.
Aleksib and his team of Ninjas also performed poorly in Rio despite a promising 3-0 record in the RMR qualification process. For a heavily protocol-based in-game leader like the Finn, any bit of extra time will go a long way to further embed his ideas in the team: expect better things from them this time around. His reunion with OG, his former org, will be quite spicy, but nexa and co. are still the most likely candidates to finish fourth in the group – but make no mistake, no matter who’s going to miss out on the playoffs, they will have egg on their faces going into the holiday period.
Group B: all about the seeding?
Fluxo, the Brazilian squad that qualified via the Americas bracket of the Fall Showdown, seem like a surefire candidate for a fourth-place finish in this group. The upset potential in CS:GO matches is significantly lower when they have a best-of-three format, as the quality of teams and players tends to shine through much more consistently here than in a single-map affair. G2, NAVI and Liquid are expected to duke it out for that first-place spot and the playoffs bye that comes with it.
G2 have nothing to lose – since they already lost everything. OK, perhaps this is a little harsh, but punting Aleksib and then getting rid of their coach, XTQZZZ, just a few months after installing his replacement in the form of GIGACHAD HooXi is a rash decision. G2’s CS:GO team has shown that they can blow anyone away and they can also blow up in their own face: their brittle mentality means that anything is possible when they get on the server, and if you can spot early signs of a downward spiral, you can make a quick buck off it. Also, don’t expect quick fixes on the AWP front – kennyS is now fully gone from the org, having joined forces with Falcons in a bid to rejuvenate his career.
As for NAVI, they have the best player in the world in the form of s1mple, so they always have at least a puncher’s chance going into any battle. However, the legendary AWPer underperformed in Rio, and no one can blame him and his teammates for not firing on all cylinders when their homeland is at war. With rumors of replacing the Russian players in the primarily Ukrainian squad, who knows how stable this squad truly is?
The new-look Liquid is getting stronger by the day as the injection of European talent has rejuvenated the North American squad. NAF and EliGE are performing as well as they used to thanks to daps’ coaching, and they are great dark horses to consider betting on for qualification – and not just because of their logo.