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After a short break, the highest level of competition in Counter-Strike returned to the servers this past week. At BLAST Premier Spring Groups 2022, fans saw a number of elite teams in action with their mostly new rosters, and had plenty of surprises over the course of the week.

The event saw its last games being played this Sunday. So, with the Spring Groups now over, it’ll be time for us to take a look at what happened during it. Here are our main takeaways from the BLAST Premier Spring Groups 2022!

ASTRALIS – IT JUST DOESN’T WORK

Lucky couldn't save Astralis at the Spring Groups.

After the Spring Groups and Funspark ULTI Finals, it’s becoming more and more clear that this Astralis isn’t working. From a quick look, it’s easy to blame Astralis’ lack of results on its players individual performances, but there are more to it than just that.

As Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen explained, Astralis is having a major clash between player roles. With some players which were already struggling being moved to positions they might not be fully comfortable in, their performances could only get worse after all.

However, one issue doesn’t mean that you can ignore the other. It’s undeniable that Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke has been incredibly underwhelming in 2022, and Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth has been facing issues with his individual level for a good while now.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about this Astralis iteration besides that this team isn’t working. Sure, they managed to win over a struggling Natus Vincere and the underdogs of the Spring Groups, MiBR, but just like they couldn’t qualify for the Spring Finals after being defeated by BIG twice, we don’t expect this roster achieving much. That is, unless their coach, Alexander “ave” Holdt, and in-game leader, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, find a miraculous way to get this squad back on track. Until then, though, Astralis is far from being a contender.

The Danes will be getting back on the server on February 15th as they are set to take part of IEM Katowice 2022’s Play-In stage.

EVIL GENIUSES – HOW MANY CHANCES LEFT?

CeRq needs to get his individual form back as his level at the Spring Groups was disappointing.

Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov, Evil Geniuses AWPer, has been with the organization since its return to Counter-Strike. He was also part of the NRG core that EG built upon since 2017, and was a key factor for his teams’ success. He was just great on the AWP, and he was even named one of the 20 best players of 2019 by HLTV. However, CeRq hasn’t been the same for a while.

However, even though CeRq had a disastrous 2021, Evil Geniuses decided to give him another shot in 2022. After all, when at his best, the 22-years-old was a monster. With EG being a mess last year, maybe that affected his individual level. So, under a new leader and a better team atmosphere, there is a chance that both him and Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte recovered their individual levels.

Unfortunately, at least this first showing from EG didn’t show any revitalization. During the Spring Groups, Evil Geniuses’ biggest issue wasn’t Timothy “autimatic” Ta, who just returned from VALORANT. Instead, it was CeRq, which once again, disappoints on the AWP. The Bulgarian simply can’t hit important shots, and his utility usage is far from great. Whether is a wrong flashbang being throw or a vital shot missed, his mistakes leave his teammates at a serious disadvantage.

NOT ALONE

While CeRq misses certainly leave a bigger impression, we can’t forget about his longtime team mate Brehze either. The 23-years-old has yet to show his old level that earned him to be featured twice on HLTV’s Best Players of the Year lists.

Fortunately, Brehze managed to give us a good showing against Team Liquid in their best-of-one during the group stage. There, Brehze and even CeRq both looked comfortable, even though it was a defeat. A close one, sure, but a defeat nonetheless.

Nonetheless, after the Spring Groups, the biggest doubt about this EG continues unanswered. Can Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip really revive the remaining of the old Evil Geniuses? So far, seems that automatic won’t have any issues getting back to Counter-Strike, so that’s one less doubt, but the stakes on Brehze and CeRq are too high and if they can’t recover, the future of this squad is already compromised.

EG finished the BLAST Premier Spring Groups in last place. We won’t be seeing the North American squad back in action until late March, as they will be playing on the last group of ESL Pro League Season XV.

FAZE CLAN – NOW, COMPLETE

One of the most hyped roster moves from this most recent shuffle season certainly was Robin “ropz” Kool leaving MOUZ for FaZe Clan. With this move, FaZe was finally looking like the team that their captain, Finn “karrigan” Andersen, envisioned when he returned to FaZe back in 2021. As for ropz, he would finally be on a team that could be a contender, and he’d be reunited with Karrigan, too.

Fortunately, this move seems to have done wonders for FaZe. Not only ropz is looking great, the entire squad is flowing much better. As we saw in their second game against Vitality, and in their BO3 against BIG, this team still has some minor issues in their map pool and overall approach to the game, sure. Even so, they are looking far better than the FaZe we saw in 2021.

Most importantly, though, one of the biggest worries about FaZe heading into 2022 was regarding Håvard “rain” Nygaard’s individual form. If the Norwegian performance at the Spring Groups is anything to go by, he will have a much better year in 2022. Rain was key for FaZe quick qualification for the Spring Finals, and we can only hope he keeps his form from now on.

FaZe Clan returns to action next week at the IEM Katowice 2022 Play-In.

NATUS VINCERE – SLOW START

Coming to the Spring Groups, Na’Vi was supposed to have an easy, or at least comfortable enough tournament. They were the favorites of their group, and without Gambit here, no team seemed to have good chances of beating them.

Yet, on their first game, Natus Vincere was defeated by MiBR, the tournament’s underdogs which were playing with a stand-in. And it wasn’t sheer luck in MiBR’s side; Na’Vi just failed to answer their opponent’s plays.

However, Na’Vi woes didn’t stop then. After MiBR, it was time for Astralis to take a win over Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev’s squad. This defeat put Na’Vi on last place of their group, and things weren’t looking good for the best team in the world.

In their next game – this time a best-of-three – Na’Vi faced Team Liquid, and managed to take them down with a 2 – 0 record. Still, even then Na’Vi didn’t quite looked the same: s1mple played well, but the rest of the roster was still playing a sloppy Counter-Strike.

SCRAPPING A SPOT AT THE FINALS

After eliminating Team Liquid from the Spring Groups, it was time for Natus Vincere to face NiP. This time, Na’Vi started strong, and after a strong T-side, won the first map of the series. However, Na’Vi lost their momentum, and after a not-so-strong showing on Overpass, Na’Vi lost the second map of the series. To close the series, we saw a dominantly-looking NiP against a weak Na’Vi on Mirage, and the Ninjas took the series home.

However, one day later, Na’Vi faced NiP once again, and this time we saw an improved Na’Vi, which while wasn’t at the same level of that team who won the PGL Major Stockholm last year, was miles better from what we saw earlier on. With this final win over NiP, the CIS squad qualified for the Spring Finals.

Nonetheless, it was a surprise to see Natus Vincere like this. Sure, it’s just the first tournament of the year and there aren’t reasons to worry about this team just yet. Still, this team closed 2021 looking so strong, and watching Denis “electroNic” Sharipov playing such a sloppy CS, for example, was something no one expected before their first game.

In any case, Natus Vincere finished in 4 – 6th place at the Spring Groups. They will be returning to action this 17th at IEM Katowice 2022.

NiP – BETTER THAN ANTICIPATED

Hampus was key for NiP at the Spring Groups.

When NiP headed to the BLAST Spring Groups, it was hard to expect something great from them. After all, they’ll be playing with Love “phzy” Smidebrant instead of Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz for a while, until the latter returns from his medical leave.

Having to play with a stand-in was just the latest of worries NiP has to worry about, though. From Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora inconsistency to the team having to adapt to Patrick “es3tag” Hansen, NiP had plenty of issues to deal with it.

Even so, the Ninjas came strong for the Spring Groups, and while they ultimately failed to qualify for the Spring Finals, they gave fans a good showing. With wins over BIG and Natus Vincere, taking the new G2 to overtime and even taking a map from the new, strong-looking OG, Hampus “hampus” Poser and his crew did well all things considered.

IN THE RED

Besides their in-game leader hampus – which had an incredible event by the way – no one on NiP finished the Spring Groups with a positive HLTV rating. Even Fredrik “REZ” Sterner, NiP’s rifler, failed to get a positive rating to kick off the year.

Unfortunately, this is worrying for NiP. Without device, more than ever they need their riflers to step-up. As phzy keeps adapting to the new level of competition he’s facing on their main squad, hampus desperately needs REZ, and now plopski to provide the frags.

Until that happens, though, it’ll be hard to see NiP becoming a contender. If anything, though, we at least know that this team can do much more than what most originally expected from them coming into 2022. This team, even without device, can find success, as phzy has shown that he has the potential to be a more than reliable stand-in. However, it’ll have to be an all-hands-on-deck kind of effort in order for them to consistently threaten the best teams in the world.

NiP finished the Spring Groups in 7 – 9th place. Their next stop will be at Katowice, for the IEM Kato Play-In, which starts on February 15th.

OG – BOOSTED BY NEXA

In late January, G2 announced that they had made a trade with OG. Then G2’s IGL Nemanja “nexa” Isaković would go to OG, while their IGL would move to G2. At first, this move seemed to be a good one for both parties, as G2’s new IGL would be back at leading a world-class team, while nexa would be playing in a team with less pressure.

However, the OG we saw at Spring Groups was much better than anticipated. In every match, OG just worked, from individual levels to roles, they played some excellent Counter-Strike this week. Moreover, while Shahar “flameZ” Shushan and Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså both hand a great tournament, it was nexa himself who stole the spotlights. OG’s new captain gave fans a reminder of how individually strong he can be, and he’d be a serious contender in the discussion for MVP of this Spring event.

WE NEED TO SEE MORE

OG finally had a good tournament, and it’s hard to not be excited for this roster. However, it’s wise to hold out our expectations just a tad, as OG themselves have shown time after time that one event doesn’t mean a lot for the future.

For that reason, we’ll be keeping a close eye on OG at Katowice. After all, that’ll be a great opportunity to see how this team fares at the biggest stages that CSGO has to offer. Katowice will be a LAN event with its playoffs being played in front of a live crowd, so the pressure will be on.

OG next event will be at February 15th, when they will start their run at IEM Katowice 2022 Play-In.

Team Vitality – The Zonic Effect

Vitality had a great showing at the Spring Groups.

Everyone agreed that bringing Danny “zonic” Sørensen, Emil “Magisk” Reif and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen to Vitality was a promising move. The duo of dupreeh and Magisk are two excellent players that would be upgrades for Vitality, and having the opportunity to have Zonic to coach your team is something an organization won’t want to miss.

However, the general idea around this move is that it could take sometime until the team adjusted itself. After all, there is a culture clash between the original French core of Vitality, and the new Danish players. So, coming to the Spring Groups, a Vitality fan wouldn’t be blame if he was cautious about his expectations.

Yet, Vitality finished the Spring Groups in a high note. Sure, the squad looked a bit shaky at times in their encounters against FaZe Clan and G2, but that doesn’t change the facts that this team is looking much better than most expected from their first showing. Dan “apEX” Madesclaire had an incredible tournament, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut still is the same world-class AWPer he has been for these past years, and dupreeh especially seems completely revitalized.

IT’LL KEEP GETTING BETTER

It’s early days for this Vitality squad, and there aren’t signs that this team is going through a honey moon phase. Instead, this Vitality team looks like a squad which will only get better from now. After all, during the Spring Groups, we didn’t see Emil “Magisk” Reif or Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier playing at their best level. If – or better saying, once – these two players get back on their usual level, them this Vitality will look almost unstoppable.

Moreover, this initial result might make us forget about our initial doubts about this team. It’s obvious that apEX and Zonic still have work to do, and feedback from this event to take in account. This means that Vitality isn’t completely ready now, and even so they still put one hell of a performance. It’ll be very interesting to see this roster developing over the coming weeks and months!

Team Vitality’s finished the Spring Groups in 1 – 3rd place. Their next showing will be at IEM Katowice 2022, which starts at February 17th.

MORE TO COME

With the BLAST Premier Spring Groups 2022 over, the highest level of competition in Counter-Strike is back. From now on, the action will only get hotter, and soon enough it’ll be time for IEM Katowice 2022, the first event to feature live crowds in 2022.

If you want to keep up with everything Counter-Strike, make sure to follow us here!

The author

My name is Marcos, I have been following the CSGO pro scene since 2015 but really got into in following games and pro teams in 2016. Used to bet a lot, stopped a bit but never stopped following the esports scene. I’m a student right now so I got a lot of time to keep with it and discover new things.

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