BLAST Premier Spring Groups Preview

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BLAST Premier Spring Groups Preview

Breaking down each of the teams participating in the first big tournament of the year.


Top-level CSGO is about to return, and it’s coming back in a big way with BLAST Premier Spring Groups. Since G2 surprised almost everyone to take the World Final trophy last month, the CSGO scene has been blown wide open and anything can happen — especially with 12 of the world’s best teams involved. Since this is a qualifier, there won’t be one winner. Instead, teams will fight for a spot in the Spring Final and BLAST Premier points which will count towards admission to related tournaments throughout the year — including the BLAST.tv Paris Major.

A new season always comes with changes and surprises, so we’re here to update you on how the teams stand ahead of the season’s first S-Tier affair. 

BLAST Spring Groups Teams

These are the twelve teams participating at the event, followed by short glimpses of how they stand: 

  • Astralis
  • BIG
  • Complexity Gaming
  • Evil Geniuses
  • FaZe Clan
  • G2 Esports
  • Heroic
  • Natus Vincere
  • Ninjas in Pyjamas
  • OG
  • Team Liquid
  • Team Vitality

Astralis

  • Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth
  • Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander 
  • Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz
  • Benjamin "blameF" Bremer
  • Christian Møss "Buzz" Andersen

Astralis have had a dark and gloomy 2022, with early exits from Majors, controversy over treatment of players, and multiple losses to little-known second and third-tier teams. Considering how high expectations were for them after they surprised many with a decent run at the with a newly-formed team at BLAST Fall Final 2021, things really didn’t pan out. From replacing Philip "Lucky" Ewald with Asger "farlig" Jensen to trying to replace Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke with Mikkel "MistR" Thomsen, things only got worse for the team that once ruled the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zPvh0FDj_k

The Danish legends might not be the best team in their country anymore, but with one of the all-time greats back in the lineup, things have brightened. Newcomer Buzz is yet to really fit in, and there’s a lot to be set up and fixed if the team is to compete with the very best teams for the top spots, but dev1ce’s arrival has certainly pumped new life into what used to look like a dead, hopeless squad. Here’s to hoping millions of Astralis fans finally get to see their team back to their glorious former selves. 

BIG

  • Johannes ''tabseN'' Wodarz 
  • Florian ''syrsoN'' Rische
  • Josef ''faveN'' Baumann
  • Karim ''Krimbo'' Moussa
  • Nils ''k1to''Gruhne

BIG have had a pretty poor year overall, with their only two notable results coming via winning the online Roobet Cup and reaching the Semifinals of Intel Extreme Masters XVII Dallas. That wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t constantly placed outside the top 3 at almost every tournament of any repute, but such were their performances. Even that little victory was almost 7 months ago now, and since then, their only decent result came at the A-Tier Elisa Masters Espoo 2022, where they lost 2-0 to Fnatic in the final. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8zvqMmf2pI

Nothing has really changed since the inactivity of Tizian “tiziaN” Feldbusch and the return of k1to. BIG have plenty of potential and can take out just about anyone in a vacuum, but they just can’t seem to click when it matters the most. Their play style is a little too erratic, their efforts seem disorganized, and they seem to lack the kind of self-belief that’s needed to keep one’s nerves calm at this level. A new year brings new hope, though, and perhaps they’ll start this season with a BIG bang.

Complexity Gaming

  • Johnny ''JT'' Theodosiou 
  • Justin ''FaNg'' Coakley
  • Ricky ''floppy'' Kemery
  • Michael ''Grim'' Wince
  • Håkon ''hallzerk'' Fjærli

There’s really not much to highlight in a season when the best things you’ve got to show for it are a couple of B-Tier tournament wins and another couple of online qualifier triumphs in a region that’s struggling to maintain its relevance. Complexity’s best performance last year, at least in terms of the scale of the tournament, was their 9th-12th place finish at ESL Pro League Season 16, where they even took a chunk out of FaZe before biting the dust. Other than that, they’ve had a pretty awful time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ThYNyWCsog

Newer players — especially those outside of America — may not know this, but Complexity, known to old-schoolers as coL, are one of the most storied clans in the history of Counter-Strike. By contrast, their situation now is almost depressing, considering the state of their team and North American CS in general. Nevertheless, upsets are always possible with a young team that has plenty of hope and energy.

Evil Geniuses

  • Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte
  • Jerric "wiz" Jiang
  • Timothy "autimatic" Ta
  • Jadan "HexT" Postma
  • Sanjar "neaLaN" İshakov

Speaking of formerly great teams who have hit hard times, EG has had an absolutely terrible 2022. Their sole moment of glory came when they won the regional Regional Major Rankings for the IEM Rio Major, which was a relief because they were knocked out long before the final in the RMR for the PGL Antwerp Major. To be fair, they played fewer events than Complexity, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that they were quite dreadful almost every time they went up against high-level opposition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsRbbv6dycA

EG’s plight isn’t new — they have been struggling ever since LAN CS came back. Gone are the glory days of 2019, when they won ESL One: New York, StarSeries & i-League Season 8 and placed in the top 8 at several other tournaments. Even in the online era during the Covid-19 days, they were doing much better. One can’t help but blame the lack of good incoming talent to replace the outgoing old ones. With the recent recruitment of wiz and neaLaN before him, maybe they can surprise a few unsuspecting big hitters.

FaZe Clan

  • Håvard "rain" Nygaard
  • Helvijs "broky" Saukants
  • Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken
  • Finn "karrigan" Andersen
  • Robin "ropz" Kool

What a year it’s been for FaZe! They won BLAST Spring Groups, IEM Katowice, and ESL Pro League 15 back to back before clinching their first Major at Antwerp as well as IEM Cologne. FaZe were looking untouchable at big events, but when they were inches from the Intel Grand Slam, they hit a rough patch of form and lost in the Quarterfinals of Pro League 16 and suffered an unceremonious 15th-16th place at the Rio Major. They also went mighty close to winning Fall Finals and reached the Semis of the World Final, but couldn’t win either.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrDvR5a_db4

There’s not much to say about FaZe that hasn’t been said already. They are an absolutely fantastic team that’s probably got more raw skill on board than any other squad out there. However, some of their players tend to disappear at times. We know not every player will always play their best, but if FaZe are trying to dominate the scene, they’ll have to be a little more pristine than they have. All said and done, though, they are undoubtedly one of the top contenders for this tournament or any.

G2 Esports

  • Rasmus "huNter-" Nielsen
  • Justin "jks" Savage
  • Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov
  • Nikola "NiKo" Kovač
  • Nemanja "HooXi" Kovač

Few people, if anyone, expected G2 to have as ordinary a year as they did following their second-place finish at 2021’s Stockholm Major, but fewer still foresaw them taking the trophy at the World Final. G2 have been a top contender for the biggest trophies for quite a while now, and they began the year with a strong second-place finish at IEM Katowice. However, the next few months were pretty bleak as they struggled to fit Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen and then HooXi into the team. Thankfully, the year ended with everything paying off.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-7FYTNVHpg

It wouldn’t really be honest to say that G2 are expected to be one of the top contenders in such a hotly-contested event off the back of just one good performance. Sure, they seem to have found their groove and looked brilliant at the World Final, but their IGL is still struggling to perform up to par as far as aim duels go, and once their tactics are dealt with, they could very easily follow in Outsiders’ footsteps and crash out early after a big win.

Heroic

  • Martin "stavn" Lund
  • Casper "cadiaN" Møller
  • René "TeSeS" Madsen
  • Rasmus "sjuush" Beck
  • Jakob "Jabbi" Nygaard

It’s been a long journey for Heroic from the backwaters of Danish CS to its very pinnacle, but they are here and it looks like — at least at the moment — they’re here to stay. From getting ousted in the Quarterfinals of Antwerp to winning the Pinnacle Cup, reaching the Grand Final of the Rio Major and finally winning an S-Tier offline tournament in front of a cheering home crowd in the form of the Fall Finals, Heroic has come a long way. They didn’t do as well at the World Final, but to be fair, they were playing with a substitute.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrG1gS58icU

There was a time when this team of mixed talents was known as a bunch of onliners. Their much-celebrated win of Pro League 13 was their greatest achievement for a long time, but now they’ve added many recent triumphs to that list. With possibly the best team chemistry, a passionate group of players, and a never-say-die attitude, Heroic are undoubtedly one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the CSGO scene right now.

Natus Vincere

  • Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev
  • Denis "electroNic" Sharipov
  • Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy
  • Valerii "b1t" Vakhovskyi
  • Andrii "npl" Kukharskyi

Na’ Vi have had quite a tumultuous 2022. From being uprooted from their homeland by the war in Ukraine to losing their IGL midway through the season, the year has been far from kind to them. It’s a mark of how good this team has been in recent years that a season where they placed second in a Major and at IEM Cologne, won BLAST Premier Spring Finals, and never placed worse than in the Top 8 at any tournament is a mediocre one. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJPpQ2qb-0s

It’s one thing to replace an underperforming teammate, and another to take away an integral cog in a well-oiled machine. Attempts to replace their ex-teammate haven’t quite worked out, but for the time being, they’re sticking to their latest academy recruit npl. There’s still plenty of firepower on the team, but what little we have seen of npl was far from convincing. That being said, the kid is young, and we hope that the last three months have strengthened his bones.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

  • Fredrik "REZ" Sterner
  • Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen
  • Hampus "hampus" Poser
  • Danyyl "headtr1ck" Valitov
  • Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin

It’s been a very long time since NIP has been a dominant force in professional CSGO, and their last season was a curious mix of good and bad results. On one hand, they couldn’t make it to the main stage of any Major and were knocked out in the Group Stage of Pro League 16. On the other, they made it to the Semis of Pro League 15, won Global Esports Tour Dubai 2022, and ended the year with a great Semifinal run at the BLAST Fall Finals. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zbEvcKj7N8&t=2004s

Considering NIP as an organization, though, it’s heartbreaking to see how far they’ve fallen. Their unwillingness to stray out of Sweden and apparent inability to recruit effectively has been a thorn in their side. With the recent acquisition of Aleksib, exit of Patrick "es3tag" Hansen and the influx of rookie headtr1ck, it might be a rough ride for them for some time yet. 

OG

  • Shahar "flameZ" Shushan
  • Nemanja "nexa" Isaković
  • Adam "NEOFRAG" Zouhar
  • Maciej "F1KU" Miklas
  • Abdulkhalik "degster" Gasanov

Far from the juggernauts they are in the Dota 2 world, OG have been a struggling side since the inception of their CS team. 2022 wasn’t too far from the norm for them, although they did pull off some upsets here and there. Their best results initially came in BLAST’s Spring and Fall Groups, but they rounded things up with a brilliant Semifinal run at the World Final.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7oV4IYZOIg

OG have been looking to find firm footing in the pro scene for quite a while now, and this new lineup of apparent misfits seems to somehow be clicking for them at last. Beating Heroic at the World Final wasn’t much of an achievement as the Danes were playing with a stand-in, but beating Vitality as well to top the group — especially after the latter just beat Na’ Vi — was quite a feat. If OG can prep their youngsters well, they can certainly become a team that regularly competes for expensive silverware.

Team Liquid

  • Nick "nitr0" Cannella 
  • Joshua "oSee" Ohm
  • Keith "NAF" Markovic
  • Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski 
  • Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis

Liquid had a chaotic start to the year following the surprise recruitment of Frenchman Richard "shox" Papillon. During this time, they crashed out of the Antwerp Major and couldn’t make the top 4 of any competition save for one qualifier. Just when it looked like they were at the end of their tether, however, in stepped YEKINDAR. The Russian has breathed new life into the side, and their Grand Final runs at both Pro League 16 and the BLAST World Final had a lot to do with his efforts. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH3DEYraeDE&t=1s

They might not have won any major silverware or attended the playoffs of any Major last season, but there’s no doubt in any expert’s mind that Liquid seems to have turned a corner. They seem much more confident with their ideas, seem to trust their own skills as well as their teammates’, and have looked like an exciting, potent side. Here’s to hoping they make it one step further upon reaching a big final this year. 

Team Vitality

  • Dan "apEX" Madesclaire
  • Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut
  • Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen
  • Emil "Magisk" Reif
  • Lotan "Spinx" Giladi

Last but not the least, the French-Danish-Israeli side put a cherry on an otherwise subpar year (for a team of their caliber) by clinching Pro League 16. Following the replacement of longtime rifler Kévin "misutaaa" Rabier with Spinx some time after getting second place at BLAST Spring Finals, it looked as though they had something of a superteam on their hands. After the Pro League success, however, they couldn’t replicate the same performance at any tournament and crashed out of the Rio Major in the Legends Stage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQiEQDyWrh4

Make no mistake; Vitality is undoubtedly a superteam on paper. The problem seems to be a mixture of nerves, tilting, and inconsistency at big events. It’s no secret that their stalwart leader apEX — for all his qualities — is notoriously easy to tilt, and now even dupreeh tends to get visibly tilted or disappointed when he or the team aren’t doing well. If they can conquer their demons, they will undoubtedly win some silverware this season. 

Join us as the tournament unfolds for regular recaps, and feel free to go through our CSGO section for more on your favorite game.