Counter-Strike is back. And, it’s actually been quite fun.
Usually, the season curtain-raiser is just bad games where teams compete to be the least out-of-practice, especially in a forgiving format like BLAST’s new sextuple-elimination nonsense, but there’s still nothing like the first time a new lineup gets battered.
We’ll take watching that honeymoon glow turn into gamer rage over a sunset any day. And, naturally, it didn’t take long to kick off.
Vitality, with new boy Spinx, got everyone excited by beating OG and NIP in best of ones before bottling a 12-6 lead on the CT-side of Mirage against Astralis in the group final. Yes, Mirage. Against Astralis.
G2, though, weren’t gonna let Vitality be the main story. HooXi boldly declared that he “could shoot nothing for six months and we could still win every tournament” before promptly shooting nothing and finishing Group B in last place. Yikes.
NAVI, meanwhile, lost their opener to Complexity of all people. It was grim viewing for the ‘b1t is better than s1mple crowd’ (yes, we know that’s just aizyesque), as the s1mple-less NAVI gave coL their first LAN win over European opposition of 2022.
In classic old-school NAVI fashion, B1ad3’s boys recovered to win the group, including a 16:14 win over G2, a 16:3 stomp over Complexity in the consolidation final, and an even more impressive 16:4 win over Liquid in the final. Ignore what we just wrote about b1t — he got 2.05 and 1.66 ratings in those two last games.
In Group C, the big story was FaZe failing to win the group, losing their group final to Heroic.
Now, of course, none of these fun results really matter in spite of cadiaN acting like he just won the Major final. BLAST’s format means none of their precious partner teams are eliminated just yet, with these group games just affecting the seeding for stage two of the group stage: the ‘Gauntlet’.
What is a gauntlet, you ask? Well, it's their new tournament format, with a three-stage single elimination bo3 bracket.
Round 1 features an elimination game between 3rd place of each group against a 4th place team (OG vs coL; G2 vs BIG; NIP vs EG). The winner of those games then play a team that placed 2nd in their group (FaZe, Vitality, Liquid) to decide who will play the 1st-placed teams (Astralis, NAVI, Heroic). The winners of that final game will then qualify for BLAST Fall Final in Copenhagen.
So, after 18 best of ones and nine best of threes, BLAST will only have eliminated three teams — because there’s another chance for the partners, a third stage.
These will be single playoff games between teams that lost in Round 2 and Round 3 of the Stage 2 ‘gauntlet’ to decide the final three slots for the BLAST Fall Final.
But wait: it’s not really the last three slots because there are two more on offer in the BLAST Fall Showdown in October.
And guess who’s invited? The partner teams that were ‘eliminated’ in this nine-day group stage. You could have paper armour and still run through this bloody gauntlet.