BLAST Premier Fall: Group A
Four teams, two spots at the Fall Final.
Only few days after ESL Pro League Season 14 has ended, it is already time to focus on BLAST Premier Fall, as twelve teams are going to be in the group stages before we inevitably move to the BLAST Premier Fall Showdown, IEM Fall, PGL Major Stockholm 2021 and the BLAST Premier Fall Finals themselves.
Either way, first to go will be group A, so it’s time to take a closer look at the storylines and the units which are going to participate in it.
Contender once again
It did not take too long for Team Vitality to return to their usual selves after putting “Kyojin” in once “RpK” decided to hang the mouse - the team is once again back to the top of the food chain. Solid fundamentals, decent map pool, ability to explode, switch pace and clutch anything and all of that even without mentioning “ZywOo”’s name, who might be the only player in the world capable of competing with “s1mple” in his current form.
Even the map pool looks solid, as the Frenchmen simply moved Ancient to their permaban over Train and can play all of the other six maps, depending on their opponent and what the situation requires them to do. It says a lot about where Team Vitality currently are, as Dust2 might be their worst map out of six they play - a map, which was considered as their best less than a year ago.
Either way, now comes the key stretch for Team Vitality, as they should be able to sweep through this group and then go to IEM Fall and PGL Major Stockholm 2021 with very high aspirations, as the French team have not won a Major since Cluj-Napoca in 2015, when Team EnVyUs core triumphed for the second time in less than a year.
Battling for the second spot
As the BLAST Premier Fall group stage will allow six teams to advance straight to the Fall Finals, there is another spot on the line, if Team Vitality, as expected, go through in the first place. And who better than two old rivals to clash for that, as Astralis and Team Liquid are searching for the old glory.
The Danes posted a semifinal appearance during the IEM Cologne 2021, showing that even without “device” holding the AWP they are more than capable of making a run, but bombed out of the ESL Pro League Season 14 group stage, losing to every team which finished ahead of them. Roster changes, “gla1ve” taking a break due to his family expanding, “Lucky” getting a taste of t1 competition and “Magisk” back to calling - it might be the last dance for this golden Astralis core, but they are not ready to tap out just yet. Team Liquid look to be in the similar boat, as they did not play well during Cologne, but should have at least got to the semifinals at EPL if not for that unfortunate “refrezh” clutch in the quarterfinals. The North American team looked rejuvenated, but the question now is finding old consistency, as both of these units were known for that for years.
Team Liquid’s map pool is very clear at this point, as they swapped Train for Ancient as a permaban and can play all the other six, albeit no map looks as a guaranteed win in their current form. Astralis still permaban Mirage and play everything else, but it remains to be seen if their Ancient is as good as their old friend, Train.
Both teams would like to guarantee themselves a berth at the Fall Finals over going to the Fall Showdown during the tough stretch where they still need to qualify for the PGL Major Stockholm 2021, especially, the Danes, considering that it’s going to be held in Copenhagen.
Still a mess
2021 was not a good year for Evil Geniuses, even if they randomly are going to walk to the Major and sweep it, as EG posted no strong results, got eliminated early from nearly every t1 competition besides BLAST Premier Spring, where they made the Spring Finals. There is no roster stability once “Ethan” decided to pursue a career in VALORANT and even during the group play at BLAST Premier Fall, Evil Geniuses will play with “daps” and “SPELLAN”, as “stanislaw” and “Brehze” wanted to stay in North America and prepare for the IEM Fall.
Map wise it does not look pretty either, as EG will likely try opting into something comfortable like Inferno, Dust2 or Nuke instead of playing complicated maps such as their old playground of Overpass, so making it out of the group will be as hard as it gets. Some more valuable bonding experience for the unit before returning to play IEM Fall to return to the PGL Major Stockholm 2021 might be Evil Geniuses’ only real goal at the tournament.
Team Vitality should be able to deal with both Team Liquid and Astralis to book themselves a first spot and despite all the history between the two, it is still hard to go with the Danes over TL, as the latter looked very promising during the ESL Pro League Season 14 unless a freakish clutch has prematurely ended their season. But as Team Liquid fans would say, they can’t ever beat Astralis, so it remains to be seen if their success against the Danes is going to be on the same level as the one against Evil Geniuses, who are all but guaranteed to finish fourth in this group.