Four key storylines heading into BLAST Premier Fall Final
Delve into some of the important storylines of the first Big Event after the Major, where teams will once again play in front of a live crowd.
The first Big Event following the end of PGL Major Stockholm is nigh. In under 24 hours, we'll get our first glimpse at new compositions among some fan-favorite rosters as eight teams clash at the BLAST Premier Fall Final in Copenhagen, Denmark, vying for the $425,000 prize pool from November 24-28. The tournament will utilize a double-elimination bracket to determine its champion, who will earn a spot at the World Final in December where a whopping $1,000,000 will be on the line. Points on the BLAST Premier World Leaderboard are also up for grabs, which will determine the final three teams who qualify for 2021's culminating event.
The Fall Final will kick off behind closed doors for the first two days before opening up to the public, with all eight attending teams having the opportunity to play in front of the crowd on Friday as the elimination matches get underway. With Natus Vincere entering the tournament as strong favorites to take the title, it'll be up to the other seven sides to surpass expectations — although that's easier said than done, for most.
Astralis debut with blameF and k0nfig
Change has been a long time coming in the Astralis camp, and it all finally came to a head after the team's 12-14th place elimination at PGL Major Stockholm. Rumors had been swirling for months regarding the impending departures of Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen, Emil "Magisk" Reif, and coach Danny "zonic" Sørensen as their contracts are set to expire at the end of the year, and it wasn't long after their Major run was brought to an end that the Danish organisation made roster changes a reality. The outbound trio — who are reportedly headed to Vitality — were succeeded by former Complexity duo Benjamin "blameF" Bremer and Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke, while former CS 1.6 legend and ex-North coach Alexander "ave" Holdt was enlisted to fill the spot left vacant by zonic.
For the once-unrivaled Danish super-squad, change of this magnitude rips apart any final semblances of recognizability from the team's former roster, with just Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander and Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth now left remaining. In a way, it offers a fresh start as a whole, one in which the team will need to heavily rely on the output of blameF and k0nfig, the latter of whom will be playing his first official matches after sitting out to recover from a wrist injury in September.
On top of the uncertainty regarding k0nfig's form, potential role overlaps and the individual level of Philip "Lucky" Ewald are also in question, especially with the 18-year-old's experience in comparison to some of his opposition. If the new Danish composition can figure out their growing pains and mesh together though, there is the fearsome possibility of an Astralis that can contend for titles rising again — although that happening at this event, so soon into the roster's tenure together, seems more like a pipe dream than anything when Natus Vincere seem in unbeatable form. An opening match against NIP awaits the Danish roster, and although it's not even close to the same grudge match as previously, Astralis will still be looking to make a strong statement with their new roster and claim revenge for the battering they received from the Swedes in Stockholm — especially when matches take to the arena on Friday and they get to play in front of a home crowd.
es3tag replaces LNZ on NIP
It's been no mystery that NIP were spying another change to their roster after swapping out Erik "ztr" Gustafsson for Linus "LNZ" Holtäng. Giving the youngsters a chance to prove themselves has played a pivotal part in their careers and provided both members the chance to develop, but you'd have to be kidding yourselves to suggest that either player currently had what it takes to compete against the best teams in the world and win consistently.
That's why the addition of Patrick "es3tag" Hansen presents such a tantalizing prospect for NIP — a stable, consistent force who can be the glue for the team on the server, providing support to Hampus "hampus" Poser's aggressive stances and helping to serve as a backup to Nicolai "device" Reedtz. Despite recent history with Cloud9 and Complexity coloring his name, es3tag was a force to be reckoned with during his time alongside device on Astralis, a level of talent that NIP sorely need if they hope to contend for titles.
Although es3tag's addition won't solve all of the team's problems — namely, their disastrous T sides and the recently waning forms of Fredrik "REZ" Sterner and Nicolas "Plopski" Gonzalez Zamora — it could well be the catalyst for swift improvement on the server. It's hard not to expect more from the team after making such a change, but much like the other teams who are making changes, we're unlikely to see them surprise against NAVI.
Liquid running dry, Vitality depleted
It's not quite the last dance for Liquid as they will still attend IEM Winter with their current roster, but the writing is definitely on the wall. With reports indicating that Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and Jake "Stewie2K" Yip have been evaluating their options, as well as Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski confirming during a stream that there is internal conflict and they have not practiced ahead of BLAST Premier Fall Final, changes are inbound, and hopes for the North American team impressing in Denmark are not high.
Despite looking in improved form at BLAST Fall Showdown, Liquid have struggled to replicate any of their prior consistency to perform at a top level, and without coach Eric "adreN" Hoag in tow at the PGL Major, bowed out early from the event in 12-14th place. With impending roster changes, it's hard to get excited about Liquid's final tournament bid, but one can only hope that the talent on the roster don't phone it in and try to bring this iteration of the team to an end on a high note.
Conversely, the French lineup of Vitality is also about to run its course, with the aforementioned Astralis trio inbound by the end of the year and Richard "shox" Papillon reportedly in talks with Liquid. However, the team are still approaching the event with gusto and have continued to practice leading up to its start, putting them in a better position to pull off one final deep tournament run before swapping out players.
NAVI looking to go 3 for 3 in LAN trophies
Following a historic, undefeated run at PGL Major Stockholm, Natus Vincere enter the BLAST Fall FInal as the unrivaled favorites to take home the title. For the Russian-Ukrainian lineup, the event is just the next notch in their belt, another title they should almost assuredly add to their tally as they look to continue imposing their dominance over every team below them.
They are also in pole position to take home titles at all four of the LAN events they will attend in 2021, having already won IEM Cologne and PGL Major Stockholm. While they will be absent from IEM Winter, a spot at the BLAST World Final is already guaranteed, and with so many teams still integrating their new rosters and heading into their matches in Copenhagen and a handful of rosters on their last legs, NAVI are looking unstoppable as they prepare to take to the stage in the Royal Arena.