It took a while, but we’ve finally reached the point in CSGO where the majority are happy to call Team Liquid the best in the world and admit that the reign of Astralis is over. During their time as the number one team, the Danes were declared the greatest side Counter-Strike has ever seen by many of the foremost experts, so how is it that they were overtaken with such ease by the Americans, and could not hold onto their throne despite their place in history?
The obvious answer is ‘complacency’, with the decision to skip a few months of play costing them their edge – and the crown –, but there are also aspects of Astralis’ ascent that made them easier to catch. They were not just dominant but forced the rest of the world to do what they did, and eventually paid the price.
“Like all men of genius, he had no heirs; he carried everything in him, and carried it away with him. The glory of a surgeon is like that of an actor: they live only so long as they are alive, and their talent leaves no trace when they are gone.” The Atheist’s Mass, Balzac
It’s a common line that this current iteration of Team Liquid is like a combination of the last two great teams CS:GO had, as though the FaZe team that looked like it had broken Counter-Strike mated with the Astralis side that reinvented the game and had a baby you really don’t want to meet in the server. In many ways, that is correct, but Liquid are far from the only scion of Astralis’ dynasty, with many of the top teams today having also been inspired by gla1ve’s gang.
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The Danes showed the rest of CS:GO that they had essentially been missing out on massive amounts of free damage and tactical advantage by optimising the way they used utility around the map. Combine this with a level of team coherence that was impressive but not unprecedented, plus some tactical planning that was ahead of its time, and you have 90% of what made them so scary, with the final ten being a bit of dev1ce and xyp9x in the clutch.
So everybody learned, Liquid included. Where the Astralis boys used to have the top of the utility usage charts on HLTV to themselves, others began to creep up. Their Nuke run was testament to their tactical brilliance, but even before the Danes went dark and stuck with BLAST event for months, their superiority was in question – unless you were at a major, where they stomped the playoffs like it was their home turf, which largely comes down to the ‘clutch factor’ any team will get from repeated victories over their rivals.
When you break it all down, Astralis were like great doctors who discovered the cure for a disease before they died, leaving the world better for their existence with the shared knowledge they had passed on to the world. By contrast, Liquid are like surgeons, and a surgeon’s hands only last as long as he lives, with his precision, delicacy and skill unable to be passed onto the next generation in the way a miracle cure can.
Today, nitr0 and NAF are their best utility users, but they combine that with a level of skill no other team has had in recent times – or maybe ever. Technically speaking, there is no weak link in the team, and you can’t even really know where the ‘best’ player is to avoid him, with Liquid having an array of stars, any one of which can pop off on any given map. They have taken elements from the Danes, but then combined it with that FaZe Clan-esque ability to just outskill you, in a way that maybe even FaZe themselves couldn’t do.
Liquid are like the surgeon then – as no amount of study can make you as good as Twistzz or NAF –, but with the miracle cure tucked in their back pocket too. They may end up like Astralis, shooting themselves in the foot, but if not, their run could extend well beyond what the Danes managed, as you cannot learn what they are doing better than you, in the way pretty much every team worth watching did during Astralis’ reign.