Los Angeles served as home for the most recent stop in the BLAST Pro Series 2019 circuit this past weekend. While the end result is surprising to no one, this event did show us a small glimpse into the future of professional Counter-Strike. But what exactly did we learn?
Team Liquid Remains Unstoppable
The North Americans over at Team Liquid continue their dominance over the rest of the CS:GO scene. Fresh off their Intel Grand Slam victory, Team Liquid's win here marks the fifth consecutive tournament where they've come out on top. Liquid's performance at BLAST Los Angeles showed us why they are the number one team in the world right now. Their teamwork, utility usage, calculated risk-taking, and unmatched raw skill allowed them to crush any opponent that stood in their way of the trophy - and they did so without dropping a single map.
With players like Keith "NAF" Markovic and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken headlining the roster, it's easy to see why they're so hard to beat, with the former powering through the competition to be named MVP of the tournament. Awe-inspiring plays from Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and Jake "Stewie2k" Yip, all led by in-game leader Nick "Nitr0" Cannella, make a recipe for terrifyingly consistent success. And, with the StarLadder Berlin Major just over the horizon, they don't appear to be slowing down. This star-studded lineup may be reaching their peak at just the right time to bring North America its second Major victory.
FaZe Clan Show Signs of Life
Though they weren't able to put up much of a fight against Team Liquid in the grand final, FaZe Clan did show glimpses of their old form. The European lineup was able to put up a strong victory over North American side NRG, as well as close wins over Renegades and MIBR. The team did fall hard to Team Liquid in the round-robin group stage and suffered a loss to a nearly brand new Cloud9.
FaZe Clan's biggest wins this weekend were their individual performances. Nikola "NiKo" Kovač hit the ground running in Los Angeles, putting up a stellar performance on day two and carrying his team to a semi-final victory over NRG - dropping 53 frags over two maps to do it. Another name to mention is Håvard "rain" Nygaard, whose performance continues to improve, and this tournament was no exception. With those two firing on all cylinders, along with Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács putting up numbers with the AWP, the team was able to make a convincing run to the grand final. Their showing here was reminiscent of their late 2017-early 2018 form, though in a Team Liquid era it will be difficult for them to reach that level again. Still, if they can remain consistent, there may be hope for FaZe Clan's future.
Cloud9 Down But Not Out
After a tumultuous 2018 and a rocky start to 2019, Cloud9 fans felt there may be no light at the end of this tunnel. Since their unforgettable victory at the Eleague Boston Major in January 2018, the North Americans have suffered multiple roster moves, some foreseeable, some not. A brief stint as a majority-European lineup ended in disappointment as they were not able to qualify for the StarLadder Berlin Minor, after willingly giving up the spot they had secured at the previous Major in Katowice. That loss may end up being a blessing in disguise, however, as it made way for them to form the roster they have now. With only Tim "autimatic" Ta remaining from the Major-winning team, they have fortified the roster with experienced in-game leader Damian "daps" Steele, Spanish AWPer Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas, versatile rifler Kenneth "koosta" Suen, and young-gun Tyson "TenZ" Ngo. Any long-time NA CS:GO fan knows daps has a knack for creating teams and bringing them to the top, and it appears he may be doing it again here.
Coming into BLAST LA, the team had less than two weeks to practice before facing off against some of the best teams in the world. It was baptism by fire, as their opening match was against world number one Team Liquid. Though they did lose at the hands of their North American neighbors and Renegades, the new team did manage a win over FaZe Clan, as well as ties with NRG and MIBR. That was enough to send them to the semi-finals, again against Team Liquid. A mountain ahead of them, Cloud9 fell again on their own map choice before moving onto Liquid's map pick, Inferno. Liquid soared to a 13-2 scoreline at the half, but calculated strategies from Cloud9 in the second half allowed them to push the best team in the world to all 30 rounds, losing narrowly in the end. Cloud9 came into this tournament with the goal of being competitive, and it's safe to say they definitely achieved that goal.
Is There Life After Coldzera For MIBR?
Alongside Cloud9's questionable roster changes came MIBR's own questionable roster changes. Going from a mixed American lineup back to an all-Brazilian one, they did manage a semi-final finish earlier this year at the IEM Katowice Major. Though, they haven't been able to produce consistent results, and haven't won a big tournament since 2017. A couple of weeks ago, they replaced João "felps" Vasconcellos with Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles, hoping once again to climb back to the top. Former best player in the world Marcelo "coldzera" David had had enough, and benched himself from the team. Coming into BLAST LA, they filled coldzera's spot with their coach, Wilton "zews" Prado. Already handicapped, fans didn't have much hope for the team in LA. Though MIBR didn't win the tournament, or even make playoffs, they didn't look completely dead. Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and Fernando "fer" Alvarenga both performed at a level they haven't shown in quite a while. Securing a close win over Renegades and a tie with Cloud9, they didn't let themselves be pushed around. They still showed the resilience and grit that they built their name on.