With no CS2 Major in 2023 and the release date slipping into the autumn, the early days of CS2 esports were characterized by interesting competitions that nevertheless lacked some of the prestige of the biggest tournaments on the calendar.
Well, that period ends now with the BLAST Premier circuit’s annual World Final, featuring some of the best and most in-form teams and players in competitive Counter-Strike. It’s going to be an awesome event to follow, and we’ve put together everything you need to know about it to enjoy and bet on the action.
BLAST Premier World Final 2023 schedule and format: everything you need to know
The World Final is the culmination of the year-long BLAST Premier circuit, and it is one of the biggest Counter-Strike esports events on the calendar. BLAST, who had the honor of hosting the final CS:GO Major, have come a long way as tournament organizers, and their events are consistently hype-filled must-watch affairs for all fans of esports everywhere in the world.
BLAST Premier World Final 2023 prize pool and schedule
The 2023 edition of the BLAST Premier World Final will see the competitors return to Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena to once again compete for their share of an eye-popping $1 million prize pool. Yet again, the event will run for five days, between December 14 and 18.
What is the format of the BLAST Premier World Final?
The tournament format has also remained unchanged from last year, with the eight teams divided into two groups of four in a double-elimination format (which is also known as “GSL” in gaming circles because of the Global StarCraft League from way back when), with the bottom team eliminated from both groups and the rest of the teams battling it out for seeding. The group winners earn themselves a spot straight in the semifinals, while the runners-up will face the other group’s third-place finisher in the two quarterfinals. Every match in the tournament will feature a best-of-three format.
One of the cool parts about the BLAST Premier World Final is that teams can qualify for it by strong performances and big tournament wins, even ones that are not part of this particular tournament circuit. Some of the biggest events in the world awarded a direct qualification spot for this competition, while the rest were determined by the global leaderboard scores.
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BLAST Premier World Final 2023: the teams and players that qualified (and what you need to know about them)
Heroic (Spring Final winners): TeSeS, sjuush, dupreeh,Zyphon, salazar
In chronological order, Heroic were the first to secure themselves a spot in the World Finals with a win in June’s Spring Final. A lot has changed since then, in and out of the servers alike: the Counter-Strike sequel, CS2, has been released, rendering most, but not all of their past achievements and performances moot heading into the new era.
More importantly, the team roster has imploded, benching their talismanic in-game leader, cadiaN, in shocking fashion. It was soon revealed that two other players of the team, stavn and jabbi, were tapped up by Astralis, and they tried to put the screw on during negotiations and provided an ultimatum to Heroic. Whether they actually expected the org to go through with their apparent wish to bench their IGL will remain a mystery, much like the eventual fallout from all this.
It’s a mess – and not a good omen for the World Finals. At the time of the draft’s original writing, the team doesn’t even have its roster finalized.
Team Vitality (Paris Major winners and Fall Finals winners): apEX, ZywOo, Spinx, flameZ, mezii
Much like Heroic, Vitality have changed a lot since they punched their ticket to the World Finals. The international superteam reached the summit of Counter-Strike esports in Paris, winning the organization’s first Major in what was the last one in the CS:GO era. It also marked the fifth such title for dupreeh as a player and zonic as a coach, both part of the all-conquering Astralis side of yesteryear.
Shockingly, both of them are gone now, and so is Magisk, the other Danish part of the puzzle. Dupreeh was controversially benched immediately after the Major win as the organization swooped in for flameZ as a long-term replacement. Soon, zonic accepted the Saudi-funded Falcons org’s offer to build a superteam and brought Magisk along for the still-infant project, throwing Vitality into chaos.
Nevertheless, after they expanded on their young talent pool by picking up mezii from Fnatic and bringing back their former coach, XQTZZZ, they found a way to win the Fall Finals, ending FaZe Clan’s incredible CS2 winning streak. They have to be seen as one of the, if not the favorites for this event.
Speaking of which…
FaZe Clan (ESL Pro League Season 17 winners): karrigan, rain, ropz, broky, Twistzz
No Counter-Strike team is more exciting, turbulent, hot and cold, and likely doomed, than FaZe Clan in late 2023. Helmed by karrigan, one of the best in-game leaders of all time, someone with impeccable leadership skills and explosive, skill-oriented chaotic gameplay, featuring some of the best players to ever play the game in the form of ropz and Twistzz, this squad has been an exhilarating blend of youth and veterancy since its formation, and they romped through the circuit in the first half of 2022 to earn themselves multiple entries in the CS:GO history books.
Then motivation issues set in, and their results have significantly dipped this year – with the sole exception to this in the CS:GO era being the ESL Pro League Season 17 win that earned them a spot in Abu Dhabi (and completed their Intel Grand Slam).
You could have easily seen the team collapse and fall apart heading into CS2, but instead, the new game was a shot in the arm for everyone involved, and they turned out to be the early frontrunners of the sequel’s competitive scene, winning back-to-back-to-back events and scoring an incredible 18 best-of-three wins in a row.
Then Team Vitality happened in the Fall Finals.
By that time, there were other clouds gathering over their head, too, as the parent company of Complexity, GameSquare, bought the struggling FaZe org. Counter-Strike esports regulations strictly forbid multi-team ownership structures, making it quite likely that this incredible squad will be torn apart by economic realities. Reports suggest that a deal for Twistzzz’s return to Team Liquid is all but done, but at the time of writing, everything remains a mystery. Except for the part that all these players are awesome – and if any leader can handle these complications, it’s karrigan, the man who won tournaments with stand-ins like cromen (who?) and Xizt (circa ten years past the Swede’s prime).
MOUZ (ESL Pro League Season 18 winners): frozen, torzsi, xertioN, siuhy, Jimpphat
BLAST’s mostly-closed circuit of tournaments (soon to come to an end, courtesy of Valve’s upcoming new CS2 esports regulations) means that there are certain top teams we almost never get to see at their events – but qualification for the World Finals via non-leaderboard avenue offers exactly this sort of fresh air.
Case in point, the enterprising youngsters of MOUZ, who set the world alight at the eighteenth season of the ESL Pro League and have been strong contenders heading into CS2 as well, helmed by the impeccable Jimpphat and his monstrous numbers. They made it to the grand finals of the CS Asia Championships, proving their mettle in the new game as well. They are definitely a team to watch at the BLAST Premier World Finals.
Has there ever been a team that’s more difficult to make heads or tails of than this G2 core in Counter-Strike? It features some of the best individual players in the world, yet they can easily tilt off the surface of the planet and go missing in action. They rely on the services of an in-game leader of questionable pedigree (but impeccable memes) who can flub the easiest of matchups while also going toe-to-toe against the greatest minds of the game and come out on top. They can win tournaments undefeated or go out in the groups, with everything in between.
Perhaps this latest roster move will help them (and us) figure things out. Aussie legend jks is out, and Serbian stalwart nexa is back in. Though he was vocal about no longer wanting to in-game lead, his presence surely must light a fire under HooXi’s bottom side.
It’s a w0nderful world for NAVI, and things are definitely no longer as s1mple as they once were. The best AWPer to have ever played Global Offensive is off to a long-overdue sabbatical now, forcing the org to scramble for some sort of a replacement.
But how do you substitute the CS:GOAT? It’s a question Aleksib, and his blursed international squad needs to figure out sharpish if they want to become a strong challenger in CS2 esports. Realistically, it’s way too early for them to find the answers by the time this event rolls around, but at least we will have a better idea of the specific questions they need to sort out with this roster.
Much like MOUZ, ENCE have been another one of those plucky underdog orgs with well-scouted (mostly) international rosters that punched above their weight by becoming much more than the sum of their parts. The chaos and the rostermania of the early CS2 days also impacted this squad, too, however, as their in-game leader, Snappi, was snapped up by Falcons.
The 33-year-old Dane has seen an incredible late-career renaissance over the past two years, and rumors suggest his replacement will be none other than gla1ve, the mastermind behind the legendary all-conquering Astralis lineup. Who will come in for saW, the coach, is yet to be determined, either. With so much of the brains of the operation gone, ENCE also seem to be looking at a transitional event in Abu Dhabi.
It seemed like the CIS superteam, the best parts of the former Gambit and NAVI rosters fused together into a monstrous machine of raw talent. Initial results turned out to be quite disappointing, however, so Cloud9 went back to the same well for more, bringing back Boombl4 from the cold.
NAVI’s Major-winning former in-game leader threw away his career for a Russian escort (it’s quite a story), but now he’s got another shot with a star-studded squad, and their initial showings have been promising. However, much like many of the teams above, it is still way too early to tell how the team chemistry will shake out and how all these players will be able to adapt to CS2. One thing is for sure: they will be exciting to watch.
Also, a note of commiserations for Astralis, who would have made it through the leaderboard had one of these four teams qualified could have pipped Vitality to the post in one of their extra event wins. Then again, seeing how and what they did with Heroic’s players, maybe this is a time for some schadenfreude instead.
And these are the opening matchups of the tournament and when they are expected to begin:
Cloud 9 vs Ence - 07:00 on Wednesday Dec 13th
Team Vitality vs Natus Vincere 10:00 on Wednesday Dec 13th
Where to watch the 2023 BLAST Premier World Finals
Fans can follow the BLAST Premier World Finals on BLAST’s Twitch and YouTube channels, with HLTV offering minute-by-minute written commentary. There’s also Bitsler’s live coverage to follow.
What you just learned about the 2023 BLAST Premier World Finals, summarized
The event will run between December 13 and 17 in Abu Dhabi
The teams will compete for a prize pool of $1 million
A double-elimination group stage seeds six teams into a single-elimination playoff bracket
The participating teams are:
Due to a combination of form, roster changes, and CS2-related factors, Vitality and FaZe Clan are the favorites, with MOUZ right behind them to consider as a dark horse.
It’s going to be a ton of fun.
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