Let there be no doubt: this truly is the Astralis era. It’s not just the fact that they’ve won the major but the ruthless fashion they’ve accomplished this feat in. The Danes had to face FaZe Clan, Team Liquid and Na’Vi in the playoffs and they haven’t even given up a single map on their path to the trophy. Good luck, potential challengers: you’re going to need it.
The gla1vephant in the room
It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen such a dominant performance from any team who would go on to win the major. Only two maps lost in the entire event, both in overtime – the Danes didn’t drop a single map in the playoffs and didn’t allow either Liquid or Na’Vi to even double digits on any of them, not even their own picks. They butchered three teams from the top five without even batting an eyelid and are now definitely in contention for the title of the best ever team in CS:GO.
It’s not just good tactics: the players’ individual performance levels are also much higher than what we’d normally expect from a roster with such a cerebral approach. All players are playing fantastically well too, not having to rely on a star player to carry them across the line in any given situation. They are not just the best but also the most balanced team right now, which is especially valuable if you consider what’s going on with the rest of the field right about now.
There’s a stark contrast between Astralis’ well-oiled machine and the many internal issues plaguing the rest of the pack. Na’Vi and Liquid are good teams in their own right but clearly lack the special oomph needed to go up against the Danes – it’s hard to see how a roster move would improve them without jeopardizing their current level of play, leaving them in a limbo of sorts. Meanwhile, FaZe may be getting ready to remove their IGL, mousesports went off the rails with the inclusion of Snax, MiBR are still trying to put the puzzle together with so many pieces from wildly different sets, North have clearly shown that their Stockholm win was nothing more than a fluke, BIG are not ready to go up against the big boys (pun intended) and may be getting rid of their AWPer, NiP are promising but nowhere near the finished article and this may be the worst Fnatic side in CS:GO history. This is the current top ten according to HLTV at the time of writing!
With the post-major shakeup imminent, we’re guaranteed to see many crazy roster moves in the near future. Again, those players will take time to bed into their new environment, making it even less likely that someone can crack the Danish code in the near future. Fnatic’s infamous LAN streak involved crazy comebacks, insane mental fortitude and standout individual performances – they would cut your head off with an unexpected slash of the sword while this Astralis side simply chokes you to death. Fast and loose moves were a long-running weakness of this core, one of the few ways you could reliably break down the well-oiled machine: even that doesn’t seem like a reliable option anymore. If they can stay hungry and motivated, they could stay atop the summit for a long time to come.
At least some of the other teams showed promise. While Liquid were trounced in the semis, they have clearly established themselves in the elite over the last few months and NiP’s commendable performances are also a good sign for the future. They were the only ones apart from Liquid to take a map off them in this tournament and they also gave them a good game in Stockholm: their failure to qualify to the playoffs was mostly due to a very punishing set of opponents in the New Legends Stage and they were still fairly close. They could very well be the best-positioned team to take advantage of the upcoming chaos in the scene.
While we were fortunate enough to watch Astralis take out everyone in their path through the toughest possible bracket in the playoffs, the lack of proper seeding has once again soured the experience. Pitting FaZe against mousesports in the elimination match with Winstrike and Cloud9 in the other game was a complete travesty while HellRaisers made it to the top eight without beating a single top-ten team during the event. The Legend re-invites fail to keep up with the seismic changes in the scene from major to major and the format has way too high variance – no wonder every playoff match was a blowout, even discounting Astralis’ dominance.
With the myriad of tech issues and a batch of undeserving teams stinking up the place, this didn’t feel anything like the pinnacle of Counter-Strike – and with the continued growth in the tournament circuit, its importance will continue to lessen without major (pun intended) reforms. It’s impossible to take any event seriously as a barometer of skill where Cloud9 and Vega Squadron get a re-invite but mousesports doesn’t – but in many ways, all this added adversity makes Astralis’ triumph all the more impressive. It didn’t matter how high the variance was and what a stacked bracket they ended up in, gla1ve and co. made it look easy in the end.