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Fabio | 12. April 2021

16 Teams, 2 Slots at BLAST Premier Showdown

16 teams are entering the fight for a place at the BLAST Premier: Spring Finals. Some of the best teams of recent months are attending, but only two of them can actually qualify. This means that some of the event’s favorites will already have to wave goodbye in the coming days.

The BLAST Premier: Spring Showdown consists of two Single Elimination brackets. Eight teams each will be in contention for one spot at the Spring Finals. This means that there won’t be any second chances. Much worse, not all favorites can actually make the jump, as Astralis, Liquid, G2 and OG are concentrated into one single bracket. There, some of the top teams will have to exit early on.

BRACKET #1: ASTRALIS, OG, G2, LIQUID…

Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander’s troops will open up the first match day against Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen and his men. There is no obvious favorite for this match-up. Even though Astralis haven’t made the Grand Finals of ESL Pro League, OG are not in a great position. So far, their performance with Nikolaj “niko” Kristensen on board has been pretty underwhelming. While their new Israelian import Shahar “flameZ” Shushan promises to elevate them individually, how much can OG actually prepare in a matter of days? Even on a bad day, Astralis have structure. Unlike Gambit or Spirit, the OG boys don’t really possess that dangerous and unpredictable firepower that would help them win over the Danes.

Just like Astralis, G2 Esports have had a rather weak run at EPL. Still, Endpoint shouldn’t be able to touch them, considering that flameZ was their star player. Thomas “Thomas” Utting is a competent replacement, but he’s not nearly as explosive as his Israelian predecessor.

Liquid and EG being absent, Extra Salt have become one of the premier teams of North America. They managed to win DreamHack Open March and the VENN Invitational. But that doesn’t even come close to what they’ll have to deal with once they touch down on European soil. They’re also going up against Team Spirit, who are known for their insane upset potential and their individual talent. Can the tactical foundations of Extra Salt really survive this onslaught, or will they quickly admit defeat to the CIS team?

Team Liquid and Dignitas round out the first bracket. This will be quite the challenge for the Scandinavians, as Liquid should really not be underestimated with Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo at the helm. They only narrowly conceded their match against G2 during the EPL playoffs. Liquid also set themselves on top of Virtus.pro, fnatic, and EG earlier on. We should probably expect to see them survive in this bracket for a while longer.

BRACKET #2: VITALITY, HEROIC, FURIA, GAMBIT

The Frenchmen are still reeling from the benching of Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom. Valve’s Major ruleset forces the teams to only compete with five set players. So if Vitality were to introduce Nivera into the mix, they would receive a Major points penalty. Unlike NaVi, who choose to reduce their lineup back to five for their upcoming RMR event only, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and his men have outright benched Nivera altogether. This should still be enough to stand victorious against 9z Team, but what about the other favorites?

In the Grand Finals of ESL Pro League Season 13, Heroic achieved a 3-2 victory over Gambit. So Rasmus “sjuush” Beck and Ismail “refrezh” Ali have already had a positive effect on the roster, but credit has to go to Casper “cadiaN” Møller for his insane performance. In the last round of the Grand Finals, he clutched a 1v4 that actually started with a knife kill. This shortly after a tournament victory, we can expect Heroic to take that momentum and swiftly dispatch SAW.

Just a few weeks ago, FURIA had dealt with MIBR already. During ESL Pro League, FURIA achieved an effortless 2-0 finish over their Brazilian colleagues. After their upset victory over G2 Esports, Andrei “arT” Piovezan and his men will surely feel confident going into this.

NASR Esports have been a part of this scene for many years. But it’s been a minute since they have actually attended a notable international event. Now, they’ll immediately have to face Gambit and there won’t be any Lower Bracket to catch their fall. At the very least, they can take some valuable experience with them as they fight against the winners of IEM Katowice and runners-up of ESL Pro League.

WHO HAS THE BEST SHOT AT THE SPRING FINALS?

Astralis and Vitality aren’t playing on a consistent level, Heroic and Gambit are on the same side of the bracket. G2 might be able to play better without FURIA being around, but their victory over Liquid was much too close to see them as clear favorites. OG and flameZ are the biggest question mark in the first bracket. The underdogs don’t inspire a lot of confidence. After all, they wouldn’t need just one upset, but three!

WHO’S ALREADY QUALIFIED FOR THE SPRING FINALS?

In the Group Phase, the Ninjas in Pyjamas, BIG, Complexity, EG, NaVi, and FaZe made their way through. Looking at the two most recent events, it becomes painfully obvious that these aren’t even the strongest rosters. They can count themselves lucky that Gambit and Heroic can’t both qualify for the BLAST Premier: Spring Finals.

So for the Showdown teams, this is about much more than just qualification. Should a roster from the second bracket actually manage to best Gambit and Heroic, they become legitimate title contenders. But Astralis, G2, and Liquid also have a shot at advancing from the Showdown and securing a solid placement later on.