IEM Rio Major winners Outsiders are clear favorites heading into their game against Team Liquid
G2 Esports will face a tough challenge when they come up against FaZe, despite their recent middling form
Heroic are confident after an excellent record over the last two months, and will back themselves to beat OG
Natus Vincere are on the lookout for a title after a year on the sidelines, while Vitality haven't been in the best shape since the ESL Pro League
Rio Major winners Outsiders are in the form of their lives and will carry their form from the Major into the Blast World Finals. They're the obvious pick against Team Liquid in this contest.
Outsiders are on top of the world after winning IEM Rio Major, the first Major title in their history. It was a classic underdog story – they came into the tournament with a middling record but surged from strength to strength up to the Grand Final, where they beat Heroic 2-0.
They had a sensational 10-2 record across maps with a 1.21 KD and 1.15 team rating, only dropping one each to Heroic and MOUZ. MVP Dzhami 'Jame' Ali ended things with a 1.30 HLTV rating and 1.20 impact rating, along with an excellent 74.9 rate of damage per round and 0.78 kills per round on average.
The last three months have borne excellent results for Team Liquid. They seeded 1st-3rd at the Blast Fall Groups in late August, finished as runners-up in the ESL Pro League Season 16, and came in 3rd-4th at the Blast Fall Finals last month. The only disappointing result in this timeline was a 9th-11th place finish at the IEM Rio Major.
Ever since July, they've maintained a ranking in the top five, but it slipped down to number eight after they crashed out of the Major. Across the last three months, their record of 30-19 across maps with a 1.02 kill-death ratio, and superstar Mareks 'YEKINDAR' Gaļinskis has the team's best individual rating of 1.16.
Pick: FaZe Clan
FaZe are still reeling from their result at the Rio Major, and will look to make up for that. They should have a smooth time against G2, who have not hit their best all year, save for the Pro League.
FaZe are still a formidable force, despite a few results not going their way in recent months. They crashed out of the IEM Rio Major last month in 15th-16th place, finishing last in the Legends stage following losses to Cloud9, Team Vitality, and a shock defeat at the hands of Bad News Eagles.
After that upset, they rallied admirably and upped their game for the Blast Fall Finals. There, they came in as runners-up after losing 1-2 to Heroic in the Grand Final. Now they will look to go one better and seal the biggest Blast event of the year.
After G2's excellent showing at the ESL Pro League Season 16 back in October, where they finished as semifinalists, things could have gone better for them. They couldn't qualify for the IEM Rio Major following a dreadful showing at the Road to Rio: European RMRs, where they finished in 12th-14th place following losses to Cloud9, 1win, and Team Gamer Legion.
It was a humiliating exit, but they didn't fare too badly at the Blast Fall Finals after that, coming in 5th-6th. They'll be aware that they haven't been performing up to their potential lately, and now they have another stage to prove themselves.
Heroic are world number one but still give off the impression of a team on the rise. There's been no stopping them these last few months, and they won't be too troubled at the thought of their upcoming fixture against OG.
Heroic have been hugely impressive this year and are going from strength to strength. Their results have improved steadily over the last couple of months: their jaw-dropping run at the IEM Rio Major saw them coming in at second place following a 0-2 defeat to Outsiders.
They kept up that momentum at the Blast Fall Finals, triumphing after beating favorites FaZe 2-1 in the Grand Final. They've held a 30-15 record since the start of October, along with a 1.09 KD ratio. Stavn and cadiaN have been their best performers, rated at 1.17 and 1.12, respectively, but they've all pulled their weight.
OG are at number six on the Blast World leaderboard, but their recent results have yet to inspire a lot of confidence - they are coming up against the world's best teams and will have a hard time competing at their level.
They came in 1st-3rd at the Blast Fall Groups, but couldn't keep up that consistency at the corresponding Finals; they finished 7th-8th after losing to Ninjas in Pyjamas. A 16-18 record over the last three months doesn't suggest the best of form, and aside from flameZ and degster, rated at 1.13 and 1.09, respectively, the other roster members have yet to be up to the mark.
Pick: Natus Vincere
NaVi have been the most consistent team all year, but they haven't seen results in big, important matches. A win at the Blast Worlds would be the ideal way to close out an excellent year, and Vitality, though a strong unit on their own, might need help to stop them here.
The last three months have been frustrating for NaVi - they crashed out of the quarterfinals of both the ESL Pro League and the IEM Rio Major, and then coming in 5th-6th at the Blast Fall Finals. Of course, this is a record that most teams would give an arm and a leg for if you consider that they have not finished lower than a 5th-8th seed at any point during the year.
But the lack of trophies will bother Na Vi at this point - all they've managed to win in 2022 is the Blast Spring Finals more than six months ago. This is the last big tournament of the year, so they've got one more chance to prove themselves.
Vitality's world ranking is down to number nine, following a disappointing 12th-14th result at the IEM Rio Major. They were ranked number one for a short while following their heist at the ESL Pro League, but they haven't been able to maintain that momentum.
A 1-4 record at the Legends stage of the Rio Major - losing to Na Vi, MOUZ and ENCE, despite an encouraging victory over FaZe, spelled the end of their hopes there. The heroics of Zywoo - rated at 1.34 over the last three months - haven't been enough to carry Vitality over the line without support from his teammates.
Teams: Outsiders vs Team Liquid, FaZe Clan vs G2 Esports, Heroic vs OG, Natus Vincere vs Team Vitality
Location: Abu Dhabi
Time: Wednesday, December 14 at 1 am ET onwards
How to Watch: Official Blast Premier channels on Twitch or YouTube
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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