Five reasons to be excited about BLAST Premier Fall Groups

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The off-season’s Rostermania has been the most exciting of all time, and frankly, no one knows what to expect from any of the teams in the coming months.

It’s almost a certainty that some of these teams will fail, and we have an inkling as to a couple that will, but failure is just as exciting as success, especially when it could be as drastic as this.

Luckily for us, the debuts of many of these new teams are right around the corner, and with BLAST Premier Fall Groups 2023 set to kick off in just a few days time, let’s talk about some of the rosters we're most excited to see in action.

The realization of the Blueprint Project

For eighteen months now, Evil Geniuses have been the laughingstock in the world of tier-one Counter-Strike. With numerous, continuously disappointing roster moves, no one has called for the head of a partner team like they have Evil Geniuses.

Six months into that spell, the organization didn’t help themselves, signing two of North America’s unsigned tier two teams onto what they called their ‘Blueprint Project.’ Two rosters that at the time looked like they would never be ready for tier one CS, that assumption was only backed up by the multiple instances in which one of the players on those rosters was called up to the main team.

As Evil Geniuses continued to fail, patience began to run out, and drastic changes needed to be made. High-profile targets were reported, but none would sign, so instead, EG would turn their faith inwards towards the now single Blueprint team that had been performing well both domestically and at the international tournaments they were rewarded with attending.

Their new lineup, consisting of Timothy “autimatic” Ta, Colby “Walco” Walsh, Jeorge “Jeorge” Endicott, Paytyn “junior” Johnson, and Jadan “HexT” Postma bares almost no resemblance to the former roster, with only Major winner autimatic being a member of that team, but both HexT and junior have previously gained experience in tier one, though neither were overly successful during those periods.

A lineup not built for immediate success, fans will need to give this Evil Geniuses roster time to settle and adapt to their new life as a tier-one unit. With youthful determination on their side, the new team will be hungry to prove themselves, and in the wake of Team Liquid’s departure from a majority NA team, their presence is exactly what the region needs to enter a new era.

Timothy "autimatic" Ta, the Major winner, will be looking to step up as the backbone of the new Evil Geniuses roster (Image Credits: Joao Ferreira/PGL) Timothy "autimatic" Ta, the Major winner, will be looking to step up as the backbone of the new Evil Geniuses roster (Image Credits: Joao Ferreira/PGL)

EliGE begins a new era

Evil Geniuses aren’t the only members of North American Counter-Strike to be stepping into a new era. As Team Liquid departed the region, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski departed the organization he has called home since 2015. Now a member of Complexity, he will look to aid them in their next steps to truly become the best team in the region.

Complexity, despite threatening to become a consistent top-ten team, have struggled for a while. Potential reasons are unclear, possibly due to roster stagnation or possibly also due to youth and inexperience within the team. However, one thing is certain, if they have any hope of overcoming these barriers that have prevented them thus far, it is with a veteran like EliGE.

That isn’t to say it will be plain sailing; EliGE is no longer the all-conquering, all-American hero of the Liquid team that won an Intel Grand Slam. He is no longer the consistent top twenty player, the player who was untouchable as the greatest player in the region's history. EliGE will have to refind the player that he once was in order to aid Complexity in taking the leap they must now take.

A feat that is certainly possible, EliGE will fit easily into the roles being left by Justin “FaNg” Coakley, better still, some of those roles will be old roles that he gave up on Liquid to make room for Mareks “YEKINDAR” Galinskis. A return to these roles could also bring about the return of the old EliGE, the EliGE that brought trophies to North America in a way never seen before or after his reign.

Much like Evil Geniuses, it is unlikely Complexity will instantly be the finished article, so just as you must with one North American team, this is another that you must give time and patience to. The road to victory is long and full of twists and turns, even the greatest team in history, Astralis, can attest to that. EliGE has traversed that road before, he can do so again with Complexity, and that journey begins at BLAST Premier Fall Groups.

Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski is embarking on a new journey with Complexity, determined to rekindle his old winning form (Image Credits: Joao Ferreira/PGL Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski is embarking on a new journey with Complexity, determined to rekindle his old winning form (Image Credits: Joao Ferreira/PGL

NAVI’s international debut

Ever since NAVI’s formation in 2009, the organization has been home to a Ukrainian Counter-Strike team. While they have looked past those roots in other games, such as VALORANT, that is something they have never considered in the game of their origin. However, that all changed this past offseason.

Eighteen months ago, NAVI were on top of the world and looked set to be the most dominant team in 2022, just as they had in 2021, but fate would not have it that way. War would break out, and personal issues would come to light, and Captain Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov would depart.

His replacement, Viktor “sdy” Orudzhev, would see NAVI remain at a competitive level, despite being second best to FaZe Clan. However, as they removed him in favor of one of their academy players, Andrij “npl” Kukharskyi, results would quickly fall to a level that could only be considered as disappointing for an organization of NAVI’s stature.

As the BLAST.tv Paris Major saw NAVI fail to even reach playoffs, it felt clear that npl’s time on the roster was done, but no one expected what came after. It wasn’t just npl who departed, both Denis “electroNic” Sharipov and Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy would make way too, dismantling the core that had finally won the Ukrainian organization its first CS:GO Major.

Out with the old, and in with the new, and new was found in the form of Ivan “iM” Mihai, Justinas “jL” Lekavicius, and Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen. The second-best player at the BLAST.tv Paris Major, a Lithuanian prodigy, and an IGL that must now finally become the leader he promised to be on ENCE in 2019.

The truth is, this roster could easily fail. iM’s seeming ascension at the Major could prove to be just a flash in the pan, while jL’s worrying signs of struggling in big games could also become a consistent issue. As for Aleksib, this is undoubtedly his last chance to prove he deserves the repeated opportunities he gets at the highest level. That being said, it could also easily be an excellent roster, and with the greatest player in history, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, to provide the ultimate firepower, this roster realizing its potential feels probable.

Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, the greatest player in history, will, once again, look to lead NAVI in their international debut (Image Credits: Stefan Petrescu/PGL) Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, the greatest player in history, will, once again, look to lead NAVI in their international debut (Image Credits: Stefan Petrescu/PGL)

Astralis ready to fight

For an organization that was once home to the greatest roster in Counter-Strike history, the last couple of years for Astralis have been, on the contrary, disappointing, to say the least. With stars such as Kristian “k0nfig” Wiennecke, Benjamin “blameF” Bremmer, and the apparent greatest IGL in history, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, the lack of real achievements is far below what was expected of them. Even the return of Nicolai “device” Reedtz couldn’t turn that around.

Firepower was their biggest issue. Even with the titans of blameF and device on their side, Christian “Buzz” Andersen still struggles to translate online form to LAN environments, while both Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth and Alexander “Altekz” Givskov failed to have a real impact from the backlines. However, the biggest issue potentially was found in gla1ve’s total descent from the best fragging IGL in the world to a relatively poor one at best.

Changes, just as they have been on numerous occasions since the departure of device in 2021, were needed again, and both Altekz and gla1ve would lose their spots in order for Astralis to undergo a much-needed roster revamp.

Arriving ahead of the previously reported schedule is Victor “Staehr” Staehr, a prodigious Danish talent who has made a name for himself on German organization Sprout, as well as Johannes “b0RUP” Borup, a player who was once a member of Astralis’ national rivals, Heroic.

In b0RUP, they will find stability and experience in a role that has long been without both of those factors, a player that, while unremarkable, doesn’t require to be so in order to be successful for Astralis. As for Staehr, he can be the third star Astralis haven’t had since the departure of Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen and Emil “Magisk” Reif, a consistent threat that will allow Astralis to battle against the world’s best rosters.

Buzz may still be required to step up to truly allow Astralis to become contenders once more, but in this collection of players, they have the greatest collection of players they have assembled in years. It may not yet be fit to match the likes of Heroic or Vitality, maybe not even FaZe or G2, but BLAST Premier Fall Groups 2023 will provide us with a great outlook as to how close they are to doing so.

Benjamin "blameF" Bremmer will look to lead Astralis in their first event in the post Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander era (Image Credits: Joao Ferreira/PGL) Benjamin "blameF" Bremmer will look to lead Astralis in their first event in the post Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander era (Image Credits: Joao Ferreira/PGL)

OG will provide comedy

Not everyone can win during Rostermania, and on paper, OG looks to be the biggest loser. Losing flameZ was always going to be huge, but the replacements on the roster failed to spark any degree of excitement.

Of course, it will be nice to finally see Iulian "regali" Harjău get his chance to play in tier one, the Romanian AWPer has more than proved his worth in tier two, and when so many tier one AWPers struggle to find consistency, it is only fair he has been given this opportunity. Early signs are promising, too, during stand-in performances, there has been very little difference between his ratings and the man he is replacing, Abdul “degster” Gasanov.

Maciej “F1KU” Miklas can also be considered a positive. A very stable and consistent Support player, he would likely have been going the same direction as flameZ had the previous OG roster had any success. Support players, particularly passive ones, are often underrated, and considered to be pieces that look easily upgradeable, so it speaks volumes that F1KU remains.

Sadly, that is where the positives end.

Firstly, there’s the return of Nemanja “nexa” Isakovic. While casuals may rant about Aleksib’s opportunities, real aficionados understand it is the Serbian who has a more baffling track record, an IGL often held in high regard, there is very little he has achieved in his career to suggest he is actually that good. Even more troubling, the rest of the team suggests he also rates himself highly enough to become a star IGL in a way that players much better than him would struggle to do.

Then there is Nils “k1to” Gruhne, a player that, if he was actually good, would still be playing for his former team, BIG. That isn’t to say he’s awful, he’s not. He’s also not spectacular in any way: a system player in a team that desperately needs stars; they will not find what they need in k1to.

And then there’s Dion “FASHR” Derksen, a player who cooked up a storm on ECSTATIC in tier two, just to be relegated to supportive roles on fnatic. A player who will likely be promoted to star roles once again will have to step up to ridiculous levels if this roster is to succeed.

The European EG, OG, will be sure to provide comedy in the coming months. We don’t even feel bad for them that they have been given a group of death at BLAST Premier Fall Groups; we’re just excited to see how many rounds they get.

Nemanja "nexa" Isakovic and OG need some more time to figure things out before they're ready for title contention (Image Credits: Stefan Petrescu/PGL) Nemanja "nexa" Isakovic and OG need some more time to figure things out before they're ready for title contention (Image Credits: Stefan Petrescu/PGL)

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Sam "AN1MO" McKenzie

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