BLAST is bringing their Pro Series to Sao Paulo for their first event of 2019, and pretty much every tier one team is in attendance, minus Na’Vi. This makes for an enticing follow-up to the Katowice Major, as there are several intriguing story lines to follow. The limited field also creates a ton of matchups, as the event is played round robin, and allows for even more precise outrights, although there isn’t really much of a discussion as to who’s going to win the event. Check out more BLAST Pro Series Tournaments here.
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The Dominance of Astralis
Astralis have taken the title of best CS:GO team of all time. They’ve won three Majors, two back to back, and have had one of the longest dominant stretches since the 87-0 NiP, although Astralis’ streak is far more impressive due to the tougher competition in this era.
The question now is, how far will they go to cement their legacy. They could retire right now with a comfortable buffer between them and the rest of the pack, but it looks as though they’re as motivated as ever. They could go down as one of the most dominant teams in esports history if they keep up this pace till the end of this year. With another Major win under their belts, and with a pristine resume through 2019 (like they had last year), it’ll be tough to find many franchises in any competitive endeavor like Astralis over the last couple years. I’m talking Bill Russel’s Celtics good, that’s the kind of dominance Astralis has shown over the rest of the scene.
They should keep pushing, and they could really prove that they’re the best of the best, ever.
The Newcomers, ENCE
Somehow, ENCE have become one of the legitimate challengers to the Astralis dynasty that’s held the CS:GO scene hostage for the last year. The Finns have managed to find a sweet spot, combining the experience of their veteran leader Allu with the firepower of some of the most exciting young talents that Finland has to offer.
They showed out at the Major, ruining many a pickem, and landed themselves in the Major final. They ran Astralis close on Train but fell 0-2. A repeat performance in Brazil certainly isn’t assured, but it feels likely if ENCE has the right mentality.
There are certainly teams that would be crushed after pushing so deep into a Major, only to get swept in the finals. Hopefully ENCE are looking at Sao Paulo as a bounce back tournament and are ready to take advantage of Astralis’ hypothetical Major hangover.
Liquid were the golden boy headed into Poland. They had just added one of the most decorated NA players of all time to an already stacked roster, and they looked ready to dethrone the juggernaut of Astralis for the first time ever.
Unfortunately, they fell to ENCE in the semis. Not quite as exciting as most people were predicting. This tournament serves as a great way for Liquid to get back into the swing of things and reestablish themselves as a legitimate threat. I think anything short of the finals would be a disappointment for Liquid, as they’re supposed to be the second-best team in the world.
This team should theoretically get a lot better as they continue to mesh, as they are absolutely stacked with talent. Pound for pound, they’re probably better than any team save for Astralis, but their system is confusing, and they have a ton of role overlap.
MiBR has brought a 2-year-old lineup back from the dead, and they managed to play Astralis as close as anyone at the Katowice Major. Coldzera looked to be in form again, and the team should be on the rise for the next couple months, at least. MiBR is my favorite to topple Astralis, as they have the best roster composition, best star player, and best IGL out of any other contender.
The favorite, obviously. Astralis is probably going to win this tournament. So, instead of presenting the case, I’m going to try and talk you out of betting on them.
Besides the iBUYPOWER Masters, BLAST Pro Copenhagen was the last time Astralis didn’t win a tournament. Best-of-one round robin is the format that suits Astralis the least, as it gives their opponents repeated chances to get lucky and steal away a game. Astralis is coming off of a Major win, which means they should have been out drinking and celebrating with their girlfriends/wives, rather than prepping for this tournament.
I’m surprisingly convicted by that. Let’s look at who might take the tournament, in the event of an Astralis collapse.
Liquid have the second-best odds, which I’m not a fan of. Getting them at +400, after their lackluster performance in Poland, doesn’t provide a ton of value. Yes, on paper they have some of the best firepower at the event, but they haven’t shown me that this roster can work together in a meaningful, non-puggy way. They’ll have enough to take wins off NiP, but I don’t think they can win enough games over Astralis, MiBR, and ENCE to make it through to playoffs.
MiBR are my pick to take the tournament. You can get them at +600 which is fantastic, coldzera looks primed for an MVP caliber tournament, and they should be emboldened by their close series against Astralis. They’re one of the teams who could feel comfortable in a best-of-one against the Danes, and they would certainly have enough gas to make it past any of the other teams at the event.
ENCE is my other favorite bet here. +1000 is incredible after their showing at the Major, especially if sergej and Allu both show up to play. I don’t think there’s a team in the world ENCE couldn’t beat in a best-of-one, which makes them exceedingly dangerous in this format.
My dream would be to see an MiBR ENCE finals, which doesn’t feel unrealistic. Allu is one of the 5 or so best players attending the tournament, and ENCE as a whole is stacked. Watching them take MiBR head on would be a fun show.
I’m sure you all know how I feel about FaZe by now. They don’t have a real IGL, don’t have a real system in place, and their players (except NiKo) are going to flounder until that changes. It would be wise to keep an eye on them as an upset candidate, as they have the firepower to surprise in a best-of-one, but it’s doubtful they’ll win enough of them to make it into the finals. And even if they did, they aren’t beating any of the top four at this tournament in a best-of-three.
Poor NiP. They’re outclassed and playing with a stand in, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go winless. Unless Draken turns into prime kennyS, which I can’t imagine he will, NiP don’t stand much of a chance, even as an upset team.
This looks like a fun tournament. Unfortunately no one really has any props up yet, and first round matchups haven’t been announced yet, but I may be back to you all with some more picks when that happens.