The 2021 professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive season kicks off with the culmination of the BLAST circuit at the Premier Global Finals. Hosted live from their studios in Copenhagen, Denmark, though the tournament will once again be played through an online format thanks to the continued issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament will have a prize pool totalling $1 million, with the winners scooping up over half that amount alone. Only two events in the entire calendar year of 2020 had a prize pool bigger than $600,000 (and both of them were Flashpoint), so there’s no overstating just how big of an event these finals are for the scene.
North America was badly hit by the pandemic and subsequent disruptions around the world, forced to compete in local online regional tournaments, rather than the far bigger editions hosted from Europe. The magnitude of the BLAST Finals however has given the best sides from North America the chance to compete at the highest level once again, and Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses and Complexity Gaming have all booked in gruelling tours of Europe to compete in the event.
But do any of these sides stand a chance of going all the way and win one of the game’s most prestigious tournaments?
The end of 2020 was a turbulent and interesting time for Team Liquid. They arrived in Europe ahead of the BLAST Fall Showdown and DreamHack Masters Fall Finals, and whilst they initially struggled to match the aggressiveness and speed of their European opponents, things began to click at the IEM Global Challenge for Liquid. The team rallied at the last event of the year, taking down the likes of FURIA, Heroic and BIG to reach the grand final against Astralis.
The conclusion of the IEM Global Challenge might have booked their place at the BLAST Finals, but it also brought with it the shock announcement that three year veteran Twistzz would be stepping down from the active lineup. At one point the finest aimer in North America, Twistzz looks set to join up with a European org going forward, but Liquid have already booked in his replacement with the addition of Brazilian veteran FalleN.
The two time Major champion has a wealth of experience and will immediately slot in as the side’s in-game leader and primary AWPer. Liquid have lacked a traditional in-game leader and a primary AWPer following the benching of Nitro, and FalleN’s introduction could be the missing key needed to unlock the potential this roster still undoubtedly possesses.
Predicted Finish: 4th
Evil Geniuses are perhaps one of the sides hit worst by the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Emerging from the old NRG roster in the wake of the last Major Championship at StarLadder Berlin back in September 2019, Evil Geniuses were a side surging up the CS:GO odds and worldwide rankings following a string of good performances, most notably at IEM New York where they bested both Team Liquid and Astralis, the two top rated teams in the world at the time.
Whilst they didn’t start 2020 in amazing circumstances, the North American roster were routinely nestled in the quarter and semi finals, as well as being a regular face in the HLTV top 10 world rankings. Months and months of playing only in NA regionalised tournaments led to their competitive edge fading however, and the side struggled when they briefly toured Europe midway through 2020, leading to many people assuming it will be a similar story for their appearance at the BLAST Premier: Global Finals.
Evil Geniuses nevertheless have a great coach in Zews who has proven his pedigree countless times since arriving from MiBR just under a year ago, as well as hard to match blend between the experience of Stanislaw and Major Winner Tarik and youthful aggression courtesy of Cerq, Ethan and Brehze.
Finding their feet in the European meta faster than what they managed last time around, as well as unlocking the potential of their heavy hitters is going to be key for Evil Geniuses to defy the odds and have a long run against some of the best sides in the world, though stranger things have of course happened in the world of Esports.
Predicted Finish: 5th-6th