Holidays are over, players are rejuvenated, and a new season of Esports competition can finally begin. Although the Copenhagen Major qualifiers are already providing some action, the first proper tournament of the year is set to begin on the 22nd of January and it will conclude on the 28th of January. Blast Premier Spring Groups will determine which 6 teams from 16 in total, will straight on proceed to the Spring Final, where the prize pool is almost a half million dollars. The rest will get thrown into the second chance Spring Showdown, where two of the best teams can redeem themselves and have another shot at getting into the Spring Final.
Almost all of the world’s best teams are a part of the initial group stage, so competition will certainly be fierce with no lack of exciting moments. As always, some teams take the leading reins, while others are trying to topple those standing at the top of the hill. A new season comes with new roster moves, so there are always a bunch of questions, which only get answered on the game day, but let’s have a crack at this year’s teams regardless.
Without question, the current team to beat is Vitality as they have been on a roll. Vitality haven’t lost a match since last October and they closed out 2024 with victories at Blast Premier Fall and World Finals, securing $700,000 in prize pool money. After a couple of daring roster moves, Vitality have managed to build a solid team around their superstar Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, who no doubt will claim the #1 position in the 2023 player rankings, which will be fully revealed in the coming days. This will be the Frenchman’s third #1 yearly ranking.
The only team that currently can realistically challenge Vitality is the FaZe Clan. The fan-favourite, star-studded roster is always in contention for top places, as FaZe started their Counter-Strike 2 era with 3 event victories. With the launch of CS2, nobody was truly sure, which team would adapt the fastest and FaZe answered this question straight away. Although the end of the year was more successful for Vitality, FaZe Clan can still reclaim their throne, especially since they now have added a new talent amongst their ranks – 21-year-old Slovakian David “frozen” Čerňanský.
Close to greatness
There are plenty of teams which are considered good, yet there are different elements, which disrupt their path to remarkable results. Some of these teams have enjoyed the #1 spot, yet now find themselves struggling to convert tournaments into victories. The main teams that could be included in this list currently are G2, Natus Vincere, Complexity, Cloud9 and Virtus.pro. Considering that 6 out of 16 will proceed to the Spring Final, then there are four more teams besides favourites, which may walk away from the Group stage satisfied with their results.
Although their addition of Nemanja “nexa” Isakovič is a bit questionable, G2 can always surprise if both star players are in the right form. Looking at last year’s player rankings, Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov are both in the TOP 5, so it’s up to other players to pick up the slack. G2 won 2 events in 2023, so they are well accustomed to the winning feeling.
Natus Vincere is a team that has gone through some strange times. Last year June NAVI completely revamped their roster, for the first time in the organization’s history switching from a Russian speaking team to an English one. They brought in 3 new players, in a radical search for results. Of course, as always, their pillar was the widely considered GOAT of Counter-Strike Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, but even the strongest pillars can crumble, as last year’s October s1mple decided to take a break from professional competition. For how long? Only he knows, but fans are hoping for a swift return.
When it comes to Complexity, Virtus.pro and Cloud9, these are teams with solid line-ups and huge potential, yet they have a tendency for shortcomings. Although Complexity almost twice managed to beat FaZe in the closing stages of two tournaments, they cannot make that extra step that defines winners. Similar story for Virtus.pro, who lost out to significant finals in 2023, yet in their defence, they did manage to claim victory in Roobet Cup 2023. Cloud9 is also a team that had a lot of fans excited when the new roster was announced last summer, yet results haven’t been all that notable.
With all this said, we can still expect many of these teams to move forward to the Spring Finals, since there won’t be a singular tourney winner just yet.
Something to prove
This list is probably the most interesting, as it includes teams which are currently in the grey area. Due to some roster moves, some of these teams are yet to show their true potential, which leaves fans guessing how high they can aim in this upcoming Blast tournament.
We’ll begin with Team Liquid, which is led by the Latvian rifler Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis. In many fans’ hearts, this is the team that holds the most hope. At the end of the year, they bolstered their line-up with the experienced Danish sniper and former Heroic captain Casper “cadiaN” Møller, while also securing the former FaZe Clan sharpshooter Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken. Currently, the team has shown an impressive form in the ongoing Major qualifier and it’s a common belief that this team can have a bright future.
Speaking of Team Heroic, they went through a massive roster drama, which we won’t get into now, but they too completely revamped their line-up with new players. New additions of Nico “nicoodoz” Tamjidi and Guy “NertZ” Iluz might just bring back this team to its former days of glory, but with a new English-speaking line-up, the former Danish powerhouse could be in for some challenging days.
The Falcons project deserves a separate article on its own, not for what it is, but for what was promised to be. If you’re not familiar with the story, then at the end of 2023 there were massive speculations that the Saudi Arabian-owned organization will spend ridiculous amounts of funds to build the ultimate CS super-team. Rumours included some of the biggest names in the scene, but the results weren’t all that spectacular. In the end, Falcons landed the former Ence trio, while also luring away Emil “Magisk” Reif from Vitality. Currently, the best player in the team is considered Álvaro “SunPayus” García, who secured the #6 position in the 2023 player ranking. This team could do some serious damage, although it’s nowhere near the strength that was initially projected for them.
Another team that must prove a lot of doubters wrong is Astralis. For sure this team has now inherited a lot of haters, since they acquired Martin “stavn” Lund and Jakob “jabbi” Nygaard, who, amongst the community, are known as backstabbers due to their involvement in the Heroic transfer drama. Both players are excellent in the game, but their actions outside of it will require some time to heal. Of course, we also cannot forget Nicolai “device” Reedtz, who is considered one of the greatest CS players of all time. On the contrary, he doesn’t lack fan love.
We’ll close off this list with Team Spirit. Although this team has never really graced the upper echelons of CS, this might change in the near future, due to their newly added talent. Just 16 years old, Danil “donk” Kryshkovets is already showing signs of greatness, and many believe that this player can one day become one of the best. He joined the current line-up in June of 2023 and already Team Spirit have claimed their sole tournament victory in BetBoom Dacha, where donk claimed the MVP honors.
Hit or miss
During Blast Premier Spring Groups, we will also see such teams as OG, NIP, BiG, and GamerLegion, although it’s expected, that these teams will have to fight tooth and nail to even come close to getting into Spring Finals, as competition that comes before them can prove to be far too fierce. Don’t get it twisted, these teams have some extremely talented players, but when you must stand against the best, then the road is not paved with roses. Naturally, it’s hard to predict how well preparations have gone during the holidays, so upsets are always there to consider, but going all-in on these teams wouldn’t be the most reasonable decision.