The Blast Pro Series Madrid has come to an end and Finnish team ENCE emerge as the victors. The Finnish team took revenge for the IEM Katowice 2019 Major Grand Final loss. They defeated Astralis in two straight maps to secure their first Blast Pro Series victory. This tournament saw many of Astralis’ streaks come to an end. they lost their 31 map streak on Nuke as well as their dominance over other Counter-Strike teams.
Despite winning the Blats Pro Series Madrid, ENCE is still not a participant for the Blast Pro Series Global Finals in December.
The Grand Finals
The Grand Finals maps were Nuke, Train and Dust 2. The three maps represent some of the strongest maps for Astralis. In fact, Astralis had a 31 map win-streak at the start of the map and were the strongest team in the scene on Nuke. Nuke has always been one of their best maps, back from the days when the players were playing under the Dignitas tag.
Map 1: Nuke
The first map of the series was Nuke and Ence opened the map with a very strong CT side. They won their first six rounds before losing a couple of rounds to the Astralis T side. The ENCE playstyle was characterised by excellent coordination and the entire team stepped up to play their hearts out. The spread of kills on the scoreboard for ENCE suggests a very even distribution, which is why this team remains a threat to the entire top echelon of Counter-Strike.
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The First half of Nuke continued with a few close rounds towards the very end. However, ENCE managed to come out of the first half with a lead, the score was 11-4. Despite Astralis’ best attempts, ENCE only had to win 5 rounds to win the map. It was a pressure situation as with each victorious round, ENCE edged closer to dethroning Astralis from their record.
The unbeaten record on Nuke is NIP’s 32-0 in the early days of Counter-Strike. Astralis looked set to break that record, however, they were unable to move past ENCE in map 1. The decision to leave Nuke in the map pool was a conscious decision by the Finnish squad. They preferred to play to their strengths rather than focussing on an unknown map like Vertigo. It paid off as ENCE managed to defeat Astralis with significant ease.
Map 2: Train
In terms of playstyle, Nuke and Train are sort of similar. Both the maps provide an advantage to the Counter Terrorist side. They require some aggression from the CTs to gain information.
The Danish team decided to take the game by its horns on Train. They had an excellent start on the CT start, mostly due to winning close rounds against the Finnish squad. They won the pistol round after a very tense 2v2 situation and they continued their early lead to secure the next few rounds. The first few rounds saw ENCE on a small losing streak, due to their insistence to play a very fast paced game against Astralis. However, after their initial setback, the Finnish team adjusted their gameplay to provide a slower and stable playstyle.
They won the next four rounds as they relied on pick-offs rather than brute force. The first half ended in a very even 8-7 lead for Astralis.
However, on their T side, Astralis seemed to be unable to crack the ENCE defence. The Finns were very strong in making aggressive and often unexpected plays. However, for the most part, they were winning their aim-duels which was the single biggest reason for their victorious rounds.
The strong CT defence put ENCE at 15-11 and Championship point. Aerial had a very strong game as he ended Map 2 with 25 kills. He was rightfully named as the MVP of the tournament.
The Prize Pool Distribution
The total prize pool of $250,000 saw a distribution as follows:
- ENCE – $125,000
- Astralis – $50,000
- NiP – $25,000 (+$20,000 from Stand-off)
- Natus Vincere – $15,000
- Cloud9 – $10,000
- Giants – $5,000
Does this mean the end of the Astralis era?
For the entire past year, Astralis has been the strongest team in CS: GO. They have dominated the LAN circuit, crushing their opponents with relative ease. The manner of their victories was very repetitive and for some, it became a very boring playstyle. However, there is no denying the fact that Astralis’ playstyle worked and it propelled them to the top of the scene. However, this is the second tournament that they have been unable to secure a victory. Astralis lost Blast Pro Series: Sao Paolo against Team Liquid in the Grand finals. While Team Liquid was not present at this tournament, they had to face off against their Major Grand Finalists. They were unable to secure victory at this tournament too. While the Blast Pro Series has come under fire for the lack of a good competitive format, the Grand finals were all a Best of Three-match series.
Astralis’ inability to secure the victory does raise some questions, but it is still too early to put a full stop to the Astralis era. The Danish team is also skipping some of the upcoming events, so we might not see them in action against the very best for some time. Either way, they do seem to present a few flaws in their playstyle which other teams are catching up to. The change in the map pool is definitely something that will present Astralis with a problem. With Vertigo in the official map pool, Astralis will have to put their focus on learning and planning for the new map. They start on an even footing with the other teams and it might be the difference between a strong map pool and finding the weakness in the Danish powerhouse.
ENCE: Still not a contender for the Blast Pro Series Finals
The Blast Pro Series Global Finals will take place in December 2019. RFRSH entertainment is already confrontation with ESL regarding the tournament dates according to a report by Dekay on Dexerto. With the tournament organisers squabbling regarding the tournament dates, the exclusivity clause for the Blast Pro Series means that ENCE will not be attending the Global Finals. This is despite the fact that they have secured a strong positioning in the Blast Pro Series leaderboards. After all, they secured the third position in Sao Paolo as well as a championship trophy at Blast Pro Series Madrid.
ENCE would be tied with Team Liquid for second place with the 10 points from Madrid and six points from Sao Paolo. With only one tournament left in the Blast Pro Circuit, ENCE should have really been a part of the Global Finals in December.
However, RFRSH’s exclusivity clause means that only their partnered teams will be given an opportunity to participate in the Global Finals. According to the current standing, these teams would be Astralis, Team Liquid, NIP and Faze Clan. An argument could be made that these are not even the strongest teams in the current CS: GO circuit.
RFRSH to possibly increase the number of tournaments from next year.
Also, in regards to running less, the rumour currently is 9 or 12 events next year. If this is true and the format foes not change, you might as well change CS from esports to eentertainment. The circuit will be a mess.
— Matthew Trivett 🐺 (@Sadokist) May 7, 2019
According to the Sadokist, RFRSH will host around 9 -12 tournaments in the upcoming year. This would essentially mean one Blast Pro Series event per month. With the contracts with respective top teams, RFRSH is slowly gaining a foothold into the CS: GO industry. However, it does affect other tournaments organisers as well. RFRSH can leverage their contract to force teams to choose between events. It would lower the viewership numbers for the competition and provide an advantage to RFRSH.
For now, ENCE has an opportunity to bask in the Madrid victory glory while Astralis will next be seen at the ECS Season 7 finals in June.