| Tags: CS:GO
| Author The Old One
BLAST Premier Spring Groups Play-In Stage Overview
Three more teams have made it into the Spring Finals by way of this qualifier.
The very first S-Tier CSGO event of the year, BLAST Premier Spring Groups, has come and passed, with six teams qualifying for the BLAST Premier Spring Finals in June. The event was a crash course in just why CSGO is one of the most popular esports out there, with a number of upsets, numerous hair-raising thrilling matches, and more magic moments than you can shake an AWP at. We’ve already covered the Group Stage where Team Vitality, FaZe Clan and G2 Esports qualified, so here’s what went down in the Play-In stage afterward.
The first round of the Play-In stage saw German giants BIG take on America’s best contender, Team Liquid, Swedish Major-winners Ninjas in Pyjamas take on Danish GOATs Astralis and an American civil war in the shape of Evil Geniuses vs Complexity. The winners of these matches would move forward to the next round, while the losers would head to the BLAST Spring Showdown for each region.
Team Liquid vs BIG
When you hear about a team ranked number 15 in the world going up against one ranked fourth, you can naturally assume that the one that’s superior on paper will take the win after a good fight. You might even think of an upset, with the underdog managing to scrape through with an amazing performance to inch past the stronger team. Rarely if ever, would you entertain the idea that it’ll be a complete and utter stomp by the “weaker” side, but such is the nature of CSGO.
When BIG picked Nuke as their map and started on the T-side, nobody could have dreamed that they would end the half with the score at a ridiculous 13-2. They gave no quarter to Liquid, who looked dazed and confused as they lost round after round, with only one of their players being able to so much as put up a fight. BIG massacred them 16-2, with Josef ”faveN” Baumann and Nils ”k1to” Gruhne leading the way for their teams.
Things got a little better for Liquid on their map Anubis, but as it turned out, it just wasn’t their day. They only managed to get 4 rounds on the T-side, and that was after having been down 10-1 at one point, and although they seemed to be a little better off than they had been on Nuke, 8 was all they got as BIG ran away with the game. This time, it was Karim ”Krimbo” Moussa and Johannes ”tabseN” Wodarz who topped the table as BIG secured their passage to the next round.
Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Astralis
Swedes versus Danes has been a regular fixture at Counter-Strike events since the game’s first-ever tournaments, and two decades later, the matchup is still on and as exciting as ever. Astralis have a lot to prove following the return of Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, following a long fall from grace since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. NIP, meanwhile, haven’t had a big result in a while, and with a newcomer and a sub in tow, they’d be hard-pressed to produce one here.
Astralis’ pick of Overpass didn’t quite pan out as they may have envisioned it to, with the four-time Major champs only managing to scrounge four rounds together on their starting T-side. After their successful dismantling of Astralis’ attack, NIP got to 13-4 before their opponents mounted a 7-round streak. Just when it looked like Astralis might make a miraculous comeback, however, NIP closed things down at 16-11. Fredrik “REZ” Sterner was far and away the best player on the server, but Danyyl “headtr1ck” Valitov was also excellent.
If Astralis’ pick didn’t pan out, then NIP’s pick of Mirage pretty much blew up in their face. The Swedes were relegated to a 3-round T-side as Astralis ruled the roost, and although they put up a short fight on the defense, it wasn’t anywhere close to being enough as they were creamed 16-7. Benjamin “blameF” Bremer was at his imperious best with 27 kills and 4 assists, while the aforementioned dev1ce also had a good turn on the map.
Coming to the decider Ancient, Astralis were solid on the attack and picked up 8 rounds. Despite a good start by NIP, the Danes’ defense was ironclad as they picked up 7 straight rounds from when the score was at 9-8 in favor of the Swedes. NIP were only able to take one more round at the Spring Groups, because Astralis demoted them to the Showdown with a 16-10 defeat on the map. Once again, it was blameF who shined for Astralis and helped them overcome the efforts of headtr1ck and REZ from the other side.
Evil Geniuses vs Complexity
The two American sides have been fighting for years in regional, lower-tier and top-tier competitions. Both teams have potent squads, with EG having had some new blood pumped into them recently. EG had also shocked everyone with a win over Heroic earlier in the tournament, but for all their recent failures, Complexity’s current squad has been together for a few months now, and certainly have much better team chemistry.
A lot of people were surprised when COL picked Anubis, but they shut down their doubters by taking a whopping 11 rounds on the attack. Having been unable to string rounds together on the defense, EG also failed to make a dent in their opponents’ defenses until the score was 15-4, and when they did, it was just for three rounds as they were demolished 16-7. Michael ”Grim” Wince was on fire for the storied CS team, with Justin ”FaNg” Coakley not far behind.
EG’s pick of Inferno also began well for COL as they raced to a 5-1 and then 6-2 lead, but EG struck back strongly to take a 9-6 half. Once switched, it was an even trade of rounds across the board, but in the end EG won 16-12 thanks to their better first half. Once again, Grim was an absolute beast and FaNg was solid, but EG’s new AWPer Jerric “wiz” Jiang’s frags simply counted for more, much to COL’s dismay.
Thankfully for COL, things would end on a good note. They put up a strong defense to take 11 rounds on the CT-side, but contrary to a popular “curse” in CSGO which states that if a team finishes a half 11-4 they often end up losing, COL made the best of their lead on the attack. EG did put up a fight, but it didn’t stop the COL train from taking the match 2-1 after a 16-8 win on the final map. This time, it was Johnny ”JT” Theodosiou who led even the in-form Grim.
On the last step to qualification, the Danish dynamites of Heroic would be up against BIG, strong underdogs OG would battle another set of Danes in Astralis, and the plucky Complexity would face the might of Ukrainian giants Na’ Vi.
Heroic vs BIG
After having been thoroughly mediocre for quite a while, BIG have been pulling off some surprise wins lately. Up against the powerful top team in the world, however, they’d need more than just the element of surprise. The folks over at Heroic, on the other hand, have had a pretty shaky tournament — losing to EG and Team Vitality and dropping maps to every single team they’ve won against. As it turned out, this match would be no different.
BIG picked Vertigo, but it might as well have been Heroic’s choice because they broke BIG in half on the map. After limiting the Germans to a pathetic 2-round haul on the T-side, BIG proceeded to finish the map 16-3 in style. Jakob “Jabbi” Nygaard was immaculate, and René “TeSeS” Madsen was absolutely fantastic.
Heroic’s pick Ancient was more of a CSGO match than its predecessor. The first half was a near-even trade of rounds as Heroic picked up a commendable 7 on the attack, but their defense was nowhere near as strong, and they ended up losing the game 16-12. Florian ”syrsoN” Rische and tabseN were the primary fighters for their side.
Moving on to Inferno, it was once again Heroic’s turn to dominate as they went 12-3 up on the T-side. Although BIG fought back hard on their own T-side to claim 7 rounds, Heroic’s lead was just too great, and the razor-thin error margin was too much for BIG to deal with. Heroic won the match 16-10, and made themselves a comfy berth at the Spring Finals. Martin “stavn” Lund’s efforts outdid those of syrsoN and Krimbo.
OG vs Astralis
An underdog starting to punch up some heavyweights versus a former heavyweight that’s now barely more than an underdog. OG have made big strides as of late, taking big wins against top-level opponents and putting up a fight against the best of the best in almost every game. Astralis, meanwhile, finally look like a team and have stopped losing to Tier 2 and Tier 3 sides. They desperately needed this win to bring some purpose and morale back into the team. This would end up being one of the best 3-map series in the history of CSGO.
It all started with Astralis’ T-side on their map Inferno going pretty damn well, with the Danes going up to a 8-3 lead before OG managed to claw some rounds back and make it a more even half. However, their streak continued, and it wasn’t until the score was 13-8 that Astralis were able to strike back. Despite some good back-and-forth, however, OG won it by the barest of margins in regulation time. It was a neck-and-neck fight between Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov and blameF at the top, but the former’s efforts were simply more impactful in the end.
Coming around to Vertigo, it was OG who had a brilliant T-side half to prove how good the map was for them. However, Astralis wouldn’t let things slide so easily, and they came back from 13-10 and then 14-12 down to close the match out 16-14. Shahar “flameZ” Shushan was absolutely incendiary on his team, but Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and blameF’s efforts were worth more when combined.
On the decider Ancient, Astralis seemed to be waltzing their way to victory as they went up to a seemingly-safe 10-1 lead on the T-side of the CT-sided map. However, OG not only took the last 4 rounds of the half to give themselves a fighting chance, but by employing some brilliant strategies, were able to take the lead at one point. Sadly for them, Astralis came back when it mattered the most and tied things up only to win the match in Overtime. Once again, gla1ve and blameF were the main sources of power for the Danes.
Complexity vs Natus Vincere
Here, we have a rivalry that spans decades and two different iterations of the game. However, nowadays Na’ Vi are far and away the better team, and have been for almost the entirety of CSGO’s lifespan. The Major-winning side isn’t at its best at the moment, but they’re certainly more than capable of taking out lower-ranked teams. That being said, Complexity had nothing to lose, and that mindset always, always helps a team or player.
Complexity perhaps picked Anubis based on their success against EG, but the bigger surprise was how they also managed to give Na’ Vi a run for their money. Picking up a dangerous 8 rounds on the attack, they also began their defensive campaign well, but it wasn’t enough as Na’ Vi soon went on a spree. The game was balanced on a knife’s edge at 14-14, but the Ukrainians managed to take it away. Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi was brilliant but we would be remiss not to mention Håkon ”hallzerk” Fjærli’s performance.
It’s not every day that a team not in the HLTV top 20 beats Na’ Vi on the map they picked, but for COL it wasn’t just another day. After a challenging defense where Na’ Vi managed to score 7, against them, COL mounted a brilliant offensive of their own, bullying Na’ Vi courtesy of the in-form Grim and closing out the map 16-11 to the surprise of many.
Winning a map isn’t winning a series, though, and Na’ Vi wasn’t in the mood to play in the showdown (to the relief of every single team in that competition). They had a modest 6-round T-side half on Overpass, but just when it looked like all was lost when COL went up 14-8, Na’ Vi fought back with all they had. Holding on to their years of experience and carefully crafted nerves, they were able to shut down COL’s offense and close out the series with another 16-14 win. This time, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev performed when he was needed most.
Spring Groups may be over, but it’s just the start of the CSGO season, so stay tuned for plenty of content on IEM Katowice along with other stuff on your favorite esport.