BLAST ended 2022 with the final S-tier event of the year, which makes it only fitting for them to kickstart 2023 with the BLAST Premier Spring Groups. It will feature 10 of the top 20 teams from the HLTV World Ranking, one of them being G2 – the BLAST Premier World Final victors.
The BLAST Premier Spring Groups event has become familiar to regular viewers of Counter-Strike over the past couple of years. Although this is the first S-tier event of the year, many will still be saving their excitement for IEM Katowice, which is taking place in February.
BLAST have been known to offer weird and wacky formats in the past. Luckily this event is fairly standard; however, it is essentially a qualification event for the BLAST Premier Spring Final event or, for those who place in the bottom six, the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown.
The BLAST Premier Spring Groups event’s format begins with the group stage where teams are divided into three groups. This is followed by a single-elimination bracket for the teams who don’t win their groups. We’ll cover the individual matches in our betting preview article, where you can learn about our individual match odds.
Group A consists of Heroic, Evil Geniuses, Team Vitality, and Astralis. There is certain to be much interest in this group, with the focus primarily on Astralis, who recently re-signed Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz. He was the face of Astralis during their dominant era when they won back-to-back Major Championships, so it’s no surprise that everyone has been excited to see his return at the CCT North Europe Series 2 and CCT Central Europe Series 4 events.
Unfortunately, Astralis didn’t find the success they would have hoped for, and many would have expected, at those events – especially considering the teams who also attended them. At the BLAST Premier Spring Groups event they are going to field yet another new member, Christian Møss "Buzz" Andersen, who will have to quickly adapt to playing against the world’s best.
Another team in Group A that have recently made changes are Evil Geniuses, a team that haven’t found success since late 2020. They have started 2023 by parting ways with Tsvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov, a player who was a staple of the team during 2019 and 2020. This seems to have been a long time coming, as he earned a 0.99 HLTV Rating across the entirety of last year, a rating that is disappointing for any AWPer.
Evil Geniuses currently reside outside of the top 30 and failed to make it inside the top 20 at any point in 2022. The team will be hoping to make a resurgence in 2023 and BLAST Premier Spring Groups would be a great starting point with its forgiving format, although I imagine anything other than last place (10-12th) would be a success for them.
The final two teams in this group are Heroic and Team Vitality. Heroic had a fantastic end to 2022 and are the current world number ones. They’ll need to do everything they can at this event if they want to retain this spot. Vitality’s Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut will be looking to dismantle the Danish side to give his team an immediate spot in the BLAST Premier Spring Final.
Group B consists of FaZe Clan, Complexity Gaming, Team Liquid, and OG Esports. OG Esports’ place at the World Final was questioned by almost everyone, who pointed out that by simply attending each of the BLAST events and achieving results, they were able to gain enough points to qualify. However, they managed to win their group and show exactly what they had been building towards.
They are sure to be doubted again at this event, especially as it was Team Liquid who knocked them out of the World Final; however, the other teams will probably take them a bit more seriously this time. Abdulkhalik "degster" Gasanov will be asked upon to go above and beyond to help OG Esports win this group.
FaZe Clan were champions of IEM Katowice, ESL Pro League Season 15, IEM Cologne, and the PGL Major Antwerp. These are the pinnacle of CS:GO events and it can be classed as a true success for any team to win any of them, let alone all in the same year. After struggling at the end of year and bombing out of the IEM Rio Major, Finn "karrigan" Andersen will be looking to lead his team to an early victory in 2023. Another result that FaZe Clan achieved in 2022 is having four of their five players in the HLTV Top 20 players list. This truly shows the full depth of their roster and will scare every other team at this event.
Team Liquid managed to find form halfway through the year after signing Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis. The Latvian has been an incredible addition to the squad, propelling them into regular playoff runs. It would be expected for them to qualify to the BLAST Spring Final from this event, especially as they are easily regarded as the second-best team in their group.
The problem they faced in 2022 was consistency. Whilst “YEKINDAR” was performing at an exceptionally high level, his teammates struggled to switch on at the same time. This isn’t just a problem Team Liquid have struggled with, as many others in the tier-1 scene have also had this issue. If Team Liquid can find consistency, I’m sure they can find a tournament win post BLAST Premier Spring Groups.
Group C features G2 Esports, BIG, NAVI, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. This group has a lot of unknown elements. For example, NiP have made a very recent addition to their team, which once again has led to a transition in team roles, and BIG played a good portion of the last half of 2022 with a stand-in.
With that being said, I think this group has the closest competition between the teams. Despite the current state of the NiP line-up, they’ve managed to beat NAVI in their last two meetings. That statistic, combined with the inconsistency of G2 Esports and BIG, allows for a group where anything can happen.
G2 Esports are the current World Final champions and will be looking to continue with another BLAST victory. Nemanja "huNter-" Kovač has already solidified his place in the HLTV Top 20 and at the time of writing, Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov and Nikola "NiKo" Kovač are hot prospects to be inside of the top 10. The team have struggled with leadership, but the Dane nicknamed as the “Gigachad”, Rasmus "HooXi" Nielsen, has shown how well he has been able to utilise the players on the team.
BIG will be labelled, along with NiP, as one of the weaker teams in this group. They had many issues with attending events with their full roster across 2022. Towards the end of the year, BIG even had to field Elias "s1n" Stein from their academy roster. Luckily, they’ll have their full roster at the BLAST Premier Spring Groups. This event is a good chance for BIG to get games against NiP or NAVI, two teams with new additions to their rosters. If there was ever a time for them to capitalise on a situation, Group C is it.