It’s knockouts time at the Blast Premier Spring Showdown Europe 2022, and eight sides will battle it out in a best-of-three format starting with the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Last year’s finalists – G2 Esports and Gambit – aren’t to be seen this time around, but make no mistake, there are eight compelling teams – all deserving – who have made it this far.
The total prize pool for the tournament is USD 67,500 and the tournament will run from April 27 to May 1. The biggest incentive here is a slot at the Blast Premier Spring Final 2022, which will be awarded to the side that comes through first. In addition to tier-1 outfits from Europe, there are a few Asian sides who will get the first taste of battle at the big lane.
It will be intriguing, spectacular, compelling, exciting, nail-biting and whatnot.
First up, we’ve got a super close contest that could be hard to pick. The odds are that close, mainly because this is a clash of equals. Two compelling teams with terrific track records and recent results will aim to seal that semi-final berth.
Both sides have been proficient in the Pistol’s round, so expect them to turn the tables there. I’d be keeping the money in my pockets. On paper, ENCE start as marginal favourites, but that doesn’t mean Flames are the underdogs.
Three days ago, Flames received a major shot in the arm when they caused a massive upset by beating Ninjas in Pyjamas to qualify for the PGL Major Antwerp 2022. It was an upset in a true sporting sense because they were dismissed even before the game. For them to have overcome the odds to win against a fancied side showed their character.
That upset is also one of the reasons why the Flames have given themselves a Legends spot at the upcoming major. This means they will bypass the Challengers stage of the competition. For the moment, they join Heroic, BIG, FURIA Esports, all-dominating FaZe Clan, Natus Vincere and Players – all of whom have been accorded Legends Status. That Flames have been accorded Legends status despite not being in the top 10 of the HLTV Rankings goes to show how much of an improvement they have made along the way.
It was at this time last year that they rose to glory, through their performance at the Intel Extreme Masters. Then they exceeded their expectations at the major, only to fall heartbreakingly against NiP in the deciding playoffs.
They have had to deal with a bit of inconsistency and roster changes, but that phase seems to be behind them. They are well and truly back, so watch out for them.
ENCE are in the form of their lives. Winning the vice championship of the ESL Pro League season 15 has been a massive confidence booster.
That they’ve beaten some of the top teams in the world and are now into the Majors is another shot in the arm. Yes, they aren’t in the Legends stage – they qualified with three wins and a loss – but they’re still as competitive as they come.
A loss to Ninjas in Pajamas through a dispute in the third-place playoff by two maps to one is some sort of a setback, but it’s for them to prove that was just an aberration. Either way, this promises to be a blockbuster clash of style v substance. Expect both teams to play with a no holds barred approach.
Heroic made a brave run to the semi-finals of the Blast Premier Europe 2021, before going down fighting against runners-up Gambit by a 2-1 margin. It’s this hurt of having agonisingly missed out on a title-winning opportunity that they have channelled magnificently to come back into the reckoning exactly a year later.
Better prepared, more confident and with confidence under their belt, they will be looking to hit the ground running when they take on NKT in the quarter-finals. There is little doubt as to who the favourites ate – Heroic are miles ahead on every single parameter, but there’s still a simple matter of being able to get over the line.
Heroic have had the rub of the green, in that they couldn’t have asked for an easier opponent first up. Diplomacy aside, you’d struggle to see simply how NKT can give Heroic a run for their money in this one. The match-up is that lopsided.
Currently fifth in the HLTV rankings, the Heroic turning of a corner from 2020 puts them in a fantastic position to make a spirited run. They’ve been on a roll ever since winning the ESL Cologne Europe 2020. Then they were toppers at the ESL Pro League-13, finished fourth at the Blast Premier Fall Final last year in Copenhagen.
They finished 3-4th at the Stockholm Major 2021 and at IEM Katowice 2022. There has been consistency that has come about after years of trying and failing. They have now added another feather to their cap. With Immortals Gaming deciding to sell their Member Team slot, Heroic have bagged that following an in-depth bidding process that was undertaken with several leading teams.
It’s not like NKT have made it here by accident. Yes, the odds may be massively against them. Some will even term this David v Goliath, but they are winners of the MESA Nomadic Masters Spring.
That got them entry to the Blast Premier Spring Showdown Europe, where they pipped their local sides at the qualifier to get here. D13 and IHC, the two highest-ranked outfits at the four-team event were pitted against each other in the single-elimination semi-final bracket, with D13 winning 2-0.
In the other semifinal, NKT squared up against The Shine, with NKT winning 2-0 and quite emphatically at that. In the grand finale, the team led by ImpressioN took the three-game series 2-1 with a mighty impressive 16-12 scoreline for NKT.
Call them inexperienced, but they’re here on merit in what is a cut-throat competition for places. It’s a coincidence that they took the last qualifying spot to make it this far. The next week or so will mark another chapter in their development.
Astralis are the favourites for this one alright, but their form of late has been patchy at best. Is it because of the slew of changes and reshuffles? It’s something they will do well to answer. The fact, though, is they haven’t been able to scale the heights that they did in 2020 or even pre-pandemic. Is it the transition to the online environment that has made such a massive difference? It’s he’d to tell.
Now, there’s a simple matter of having to overcome a number of challenges to become one of the more stable sides. They don’t have performances to back up lately. Their show at the ESL Pro League Season-15 was ordinary at best. They beat sides they were expected to beat, like AGO, Complexity, EG and Entropic but lost to sides that promised tougher contests, like NaVI, Heroic, FURIA.
The result was a finish between 5-8. If that was expected to spur them to a better performance at IEM Katowice 2022, they underwhelmed there, too, finishing 7-8th place, with wins only over ENCE and Fnatic.
So there’s ample proof that they’re far from being a top-10 European outfit. Moviestar Riders have sustained momentum with them at every level, and Astralis can’t afford to drop their guard from start to finish. The margins for errors are that thin.
Movistar have slowly shown signs of graduation from the wee tiers for several years. The Spanish outfit is finally ready to write a new chapter. At the ESL Pro League Season 15, they made it through to the playoffs without a single loss.
However, in their first playoff fixture, they were given a ruse shock by ENCE. Despite featuring in two open qualifiers they failed to make it through to the PGL Major Antwerp 2022 Europe RMR tournament, so no one should be under any illusion that they’re championship material.
The statistics on the map pool of the teams are nearly identical, and it’s likely the Danish outfit will choose nukes, while Movistar pick either inferno or mirage. Overall, put your money on Astralis purely for their experience and individual style of play.
Let’s get the facts out of the way. NIP are the better-ranked outfit. They’re currently seventh as per HLTV rankings. Bad News Eagles are 25th. NIP have won four of their last five games and are the form team with the odds firmly in their pockets.
The two sides last met a month ago at the PGL Major Antwerp 2022 European RMR with NIP winning quite comfortably by a 16-11 margin. Bad News Eagles have also got some winning momentum – three wins in five recent games – but those wins have come against teams that are in the middle or lower rung of the ladder.
And while there’s nothing like winning momentum to carry into a big game, they will be under no pressure because the pressure to do the running is firmly on NIP.
Whatever the result on Wednesday, Bad news Eagles can be proud of what they’ve done. They created history on April 24 when the Kosovan outfit made it through to the PGL Antwerp Major by beating Sinners 2-1 in the European Regional Major Rankings.
The result would qualify as a massive upset but made waves on social media. So much so that even the country’s prime minister Albin Kurti congratulated the team for their feat. All players belong to Kosovo, making their feat all the more commendable. What is also impressive is that the entire roster was put together less than three months ago. The wins will come but they have so far ticked every box in the developmental spectrum.
They have gotten to the Majors by beating sides like Entropiq, ASG, and SINNERS. They will begin the\ challengers part of the tournament on May 9. They couldn’t have asked for a better build-up than participating at the Blast Premier Spring Showdown 2022.
|Blast Premier Spring Showdown Europe Information|
|Teams||NiP, Bad News Eagles, Movistar Riders, Astralis, ENCE, NKT, Heroic|
|Location||Online event, conducted in Europe|
|Time||Wednesday, April 27 at 10.30 AM EST onwards|
|How to watch||Official Twitch channel|
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