Hoisting a trophy in front of an adoring home crowd is an image most people piece together in their daydreams at work. Imagining cashing in their share of a $125k cheque alongside that experience might make one almost angry. The grandeur of the silverware, the life-changing assets of the spoils, and the restful moment directly afterwards knowing you’ve accomplished a feat few can. It’s a powerful scene. It’s so out of reach for the average person, however, that it’s invisible presence can be a source of jealousy or spite for those that actually live it.
S1mple lives it. But post-StarSeries Season 5, even his incredible MVP role in that awesome moment of victory isn’t enough. For s1mple, the money, the home-crowd, the trophy and the result next to his name are nice, but they aren’t what matters.
When s1mple looks around him, individually, he has no peers. Even matching his team to others, almost none seem out-of-reach. The alleged second best team in the world in FaZe were easily handled with s1mple watching his tag-team partner electronic do a bulk of the dirty work at the EPL Finals. The Ukrainian didn’t even need to break a sweat against the supposed international super-team. Mouz might’ve tested, and continue to test Na`Vi’s map pool, but have also been beaten twice in playoff series from Marseille to now. Fnatic, SK, and NRG, all have been dealt with in a similar fashion.
Sure, upsets happen, that much is guaranteed in the current climate of play. But on-paper, and given their current trajectories, the only real result that matters for a player like s1mple is a victory over the best. That elusive series win over Sith Lord-level Astralis.
In the previous iteration of StarSeries, in Season 4, Na`Vi were able to roll over Astralis in the round-of-8 with ease. But this, for a true competitor like s1mple, wasn’t an honest match-up of legendary play. Magisk had joined Astralis a little over a week prior, and as we’ve seen since, Magisk’s Astralis is not a side that performs with little preparation. They thrive when given the time to formulate and bolster a plan. A week is not an adequate runway for a super-jet like Astralis to take-off.
It’s in this encounter, s1mple has the chance to not only make himself potentially the greatest Counter-Strike player of all-time, but to validate the very philosophies of the game. CS is a series founded on the idea of the individual. It revolves around any player being able to, in-theory, win any situation based on his own level of skill. The individual and the super-star dominate the Counter-Strike lore and psyche. It’s the very foundation upon which the esport is built.
S1mple, the ultimate representation of this idea, the apex of his pursuit, can in-theory, best Astralis by hard-carrying Na`Vi. This would see s1mple beat a team characterised by almost the exact counter to these defining ideas of s1mple. Astralis are cohesive, they’re a Danish wall which punishes mistakes and neutralises danger, maximising opportunity for their own stars. They’re incredibly talented individually for sure, but this feels more like a by-product of an intensely structured environment of play that denies the opportunity for under-performance.
To beat this approach, as we’ve seen from side likes SK, Fnatic, and NiP historically, one has to almost make it a scrappy, guerilla brawl. Sides have to play loose but smart, an off-kilter brand of play to make Astralis’s preparation void and force them into a more direct and raw battle. Na`Vi aren’t a team known for doing this, but s1mple is a player who can force even the most fundamentally sound players in the world into uncomfortable straight duels. He’s so confident in every position on every map and with any gun that he can almost purposefully orient situations to awkward moments. His creative use of ranges with the AWP and positioning around utility are great examples and extensions of this idea.
But for s1mple to deploy these tools is one thing, to actually beat the best team of all time in Astralis is another. Na`Vi aren’t a side defined by their depth and in such a match-up of titans, the play of electronic, flamie and especially Edward will be called upon. It’s as much a test of s1mple skill as it is his teammates resolve when push comes to shove.
For s1mple to beat Astralis on this scale and in-form is for the impassable Danish bastion of teamplay and structure to fall to the solitary force of prodigious Ukrainian talent. In such a victory we’d be made known to the awesome power of the individual at the highest level CS, and likely esports as a whole has ever known. It’s two forces colliding from opposite ends of the spectrum in a way no-one has seen. Just as the Hadron Collider forces particles together at unimaginable speed and analyses the by-products of the explosion, so to will we be forced to pick over the remains of such a series.
God willing, it’ll happen.