The expansion of the Astralis roster has been the talk of the town in CS:GO of late. The concept of a larger squad in the game has been discussed for years, but assumed to be unviable due to the complexity of the game, even though all traditional team sports almost exclusively operate in this way. So why have the Danes decided now is the time to experiment with extra bodies in red-and-black shirts? With so much of the conversation dominated by potential shady explanations, we decided to take a look at the serious (and not quite so serious) alternatives that emerge if you take the org’s statements at face value.
For the most obvious answer/meme we must obviously head to G2’s Twitter account.
First up, it should be said that Astralis are pioneers of player management, and have been for some time. When they were being written off as BLASTralis, one of the themes from experts in the scene was the idea that there was no way they could return to their peak level, but somehow the Major rolled around and the Danes rolled everyone again, proving they had peaked at just the right moment.
Whether that was fully planned or just as fortunate as it sounds is one thing, but they are the only team to achieve as much as they have at the top level of the game. They also realised long before the rest of the scene that Majors are what matters: despite Team Liquid blowing away Season 2 of the Intel Grand Slam, 2019 was another year of the Danes in the minds of most fans.
If we accept that gla1ve really needed a break, and the Danes really plan to rotate a larger roster, itr makes sense that they are using this period of low importance to test out a theory. In many ways, 2020 isn’t a significant year for CS:GO esports: the landscape has been dominated by the global pandemic and there hasn’t been a proper LAN in months. If you were ever going to experiment, now would be the time to do it.
Equally, even if Magisk is only IGL for a while, we’ve already seen the value in the role enrichment the Danes engage in from dupreeh’s time with the AWP. You can imagine how that would translate to the in-game leader role. Astralis have revolutionised CS:GO time and time again, and it may be that in a couple of years we have totally new paradigms, like site IGLs or double calling, prompted and pioneered by gla1ve’s time off.
While player sales aren’t going to match deals with companies like Audi or Danish sportswear company Hummel in terms of raw income, there is a good chunk of change to be made in offloading talent. If Astralis can find a way to ‘flip’ players like JUGI, it could provide them with the extra income they so desperately need.
With the number of events going on (and Valve making the path to the Major a little clearer) it would make sense if you could run a couple of teams to increase brand exposure, even if they are in the same name. In this sense, Astralis’ B team would be like the B team you see in the English FA Cup, where Arsenal reserves will play in all but name, while most of the first team players get a day off.
We also know the Astralis group loves a good franchise, as we can see from their keen observation and participation in CS:GO and their moves into League of Legends. We also know Riot have a new game coming. Nobody is really sure what pro VALORANT will look like yet. It could very well turn out to be a watered-down version of Counter-Strike.
With that in mind, it would be little effort for the likes of dev1ce, dupreeh and the rest to roll out of bed now and then to flex their skill in VALORANT too. We’ve seen what the likes of kennyS and ScreaM can do, so what if Astralis were planning to build a 12-man roster and interchange between the games depending on which is more important week by week? Seems strange, but esports is a strange place, and you never know what is around the corner.
Most importantly, all this is a low-risk investment at this stage for Astralis. JUGI was free and es3tag wasn’t a massive investment, meaning that the path back is painless if it turns out five-man teams are the only way forward in CS. If not, then who knows what 2021 and beyond could look like, with squads, not teams a potential now more than ever.