Cloud9 to clash with BIG for BLAST Premier Spring Final spot
The Russians will try to once again spoil the party for a BLAST partner team after knocking out NIP.
Cloud9 are one series away from qualifying for BLAST Premier Spring Final and have one final hurdle ahead of them, BIG, in the Spring Showdown grand final. The Russians are the heavy favorites in the qualifier’s grand final, which is reflected in the one-sided odds from bookkeepers — not a shock after seeing BIG’s struggles, which only became worse after star AWPer Florian "syrsoN" Rische was moved to the bench.
|BLAST Premier Spring Showdown 2023 Europe|
For Cloud9, this is an opportunity to mimic their BLAST Premier Spring trophy run in 2021 when, still under Gambit, they took out the likes of FURIA and Heroic in the Spring Showdown before clearing the online Finals undefeated, including two victories over the mighty Natus Vincere.
Now, with the maturity of LAN experience, which includes a trophy at IEM Dallas, Cloud9 have an eye on mimicking the past as the outsiders in a field of partner teams, but this time on LAN at this year's Spring Final. The Russians should not count their chickens before they hatch, however, as despite the odds being against BIG in the closing Showdown match, they are nothing to scoff at online — even in their current form.
The last time the two teams met was in 2022, in the Roobet Cup semi-finals, and BIG came out on top in a 2-0 showing before taking the online title against FaZe. The Germans, who were playing with Nils "k1to" Gruhne standing in for Josef "faveN" Baumann — they have been struggling to maintain a steady five since mid 2021 —, prevailed against Vladislav "nafany" Gorshkov and company with strong performances by two players no longer in the team, syrsoN and Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch.
Before that, the two sides played on three different occasions at IEM Dallas, ESL Pro League Season 15 and the Funspark ULTI 2021 Finals, with the Russian combine coming out on top on every occasion. So far in the Showdown Cloud9 had to face Ninjas in Pyjamas in a three-map series after dismissing Copenhagen Flames 2-0 in the opening round. BIG faced top 30 teams Rare Atom and 9INE, and to Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz and his men’s credit, the Poles have been showing much potential since the addition of Olek "hades" Miskiewicz.
The style clash will be that of two teams that like to play clean, straightforward Counter-Strike, with the Russians relying more on the pure talent of gamechangers like Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov or Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov, while the Germans will be relying on their structure, discipline and the odd gimmick to find an edge.
Dust2 and Ancient have long been the stomping grounds for the two teams in their head-to-heads, but without the former in the map pool any longer, a large constellation of possibilities opens up. Cloud9 are expected to ban Nuke, and Anubis is a map they do not play much, which could be exploited by BIG, although the Germans could also go the route of Overpass — where they have an 80% winrate and their only map not hovering around the 45-60% mark. It is on Overpass that they beat the Russians at IEM Dallas 2022 in their 1-2 series loss.
Mirage is a map both play much, the Germans tallying a 60% winrate in ten series in the past three months and the Russians clocking 78% in nine showings. The Russians also have the upper hand on Vertigo, where they boast a dizzying 91% winrate, and Ancient, where their 67% is well above BIG’s 44%. Were the series to go to a third map it could be the classic, Inferno, a map amply played by both with similar winrates slightly above 40%. Last time they played it in the Roobet Cup last year it went the way of BIG, 16-12.
Now more than ever BIG will need their youth call-up, Marcel "hyped" Köhn, to step up and be an impact player with his AWP. He has a 1.16 rating in the six maps played in the Showdown, which makes him seventh-highest in the qualifier, albeit still a ways away from sh1ro’s 1.26. Karim "Krimbo" Moussa and tabseN, the heavy-hitting riflers, have also been crucial in BIG’s run so far, only surpassed by Abay "HObbit" Khassenov and Qianhao "Moseyuh" Chen — the latter only with one best-of-three series to his name — on the individual leaderboards.
It’s hard to see Cloud9, who have won 14 out of their last 15 matches with the sole loss coming at the hands of FaZe in the EPL grand final, letting this one fall through the cracks. Konstantin "groove" Pikiner’s men were molded in the online era and not even a team known for their offline prowess such as BIG should be able to stop them from punching their ticket to the BLAST Premier Spring Final unless key players go missing at crucial times. Out of character in Cloud9, but not unheard of.
So far this year BIG were knocked out of IEM Katowice in 13-16th place, they lost their star AWPer syrsoN, finished Pro League in 17-20th place, didn’t make it far in the IEM Dallas qualifier, and were upset by GODSENT in the BetBoom Playlist Urbanistic quarter-finals. The team’s struggles were even acknowledged by the organization’s CEO, Daniel Finkler, on a post in LinkedIn. In it he appealed to the team's ability to claw their way back to the top after periods of turmoil, which they have done in the past.
It is doubtful BIG will turn things around this soon, however, as they edge the higher numbers of the top 20, or against an in-form Cloud9 that is just starting to hit its stride with the team’s newest addition, Timur "buster" Tulepov, while dipping back into the top 10 in the team ranking. This is a golden chance for the Russian side to once again crash the BLAST partner teams' party and enjoy one of the small pleasures in life. If one thing is certain, Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer will be cheering them on.
The winner of BLAST Premier Spring Showdown Europe will join the following teams in the upcoming BLAST Premier Spring Final on June 7-11 in Washington, D.C., USA: