There are many exciting questions to answer as we head into the 2023 season of competitive CS, but there’s no bigger score to settle than the one between HUNDEN and Heroic: our brand new villain in the scene may very well face his past team again, and his toxic influence is strong enough to affect the matchup even if he won’t be the one standing behind the Astralis players just yet.
There’s more spice in this BLAST tournament than in Herbert Frank’s books, which means fans all around the world have great reasons to tune in to follow the CS:GO matches. FaZe had to re-jig their roster, G2 didn’t: which superteam will come out better from this? Of course, s1mple is the number one and ZywOo is the number two: but who will start the new year stronger? Will Aleksib’s Ninjas shift into a higher gear, or the less-and-less-dark horses of Liquid get to challenge for the top?
Then there’s Astralis. Oh, goodness me, there’s Astralis.
From a competitive perspective, the return of device overshadows everything else going on, and it will be fascinating to see both how he will fare against elite-level opposition and how well the new-look squad is gelling as we head into the new year. The Buzz pickup was a somewhat disappointing follow-up to the wayward son’s return, and you could easily imagine this team topping its group or missing out on a Finals spot in its entirety.
And yet, the biggest story of the upcoming BLAST Premier Spring Groups event is whether HUNDEN, the dastardly Dane will meet up with his disowned brothers in arms, even if indirectly: of all the possible matchups at the event, there is not one quite like the potential domestic derby between Heroic and Astralis.
It’s tough to imagine a larger own goal than picking up the most disgraced person to be involved with the entire coaching bug scandal, especially considering everything else that followed. (You can get the ESIC report expunged, SCP-style, but you can’t outrun the Streisand effect.) Even if he were the second coming of mid-2018 zonic, adding him to the org chart is not worth the downsides. If it were any other org, you’d stroke your chin and wonder if anything else unsavory may be going on behind the scenes – but come on, it’s Astralis, we all know the answer to that.
Make no mistake, HUNDEN wasn’t hired to remain in the shadows for long: you don’t pick up such a controversial person and take the sort of PR hit that comes with it to add a small cog to the machine. (Ideally, you wouldn’t do so in the first place, and once you did, you wouldn’t compound the error with saccharine PR posts on LinkedIn and empty threats from your comms director on Twitter, but that’s clearly too much to ask.)
There’s always more than enough motivation in a domestic derby, and Heroic clearly overhauled Astralis as the best Danish side in the server. Should they meet again this time, no doubt the prospect of this victory would be the sweetest of them all so far.
But what if one of them lose their opening matchup? Don’t you worry, even if the matchup doesn’t come to pass now, it’s only a matter of time, and this tournament itself offers multiple chances for them to meet up. Shockingly enough, Katowice won’t mark the next opportunity – coming just two days after this tournament ends, a sign of how stuffed the tournament calendar is right now – but the new-look Pro League format might give us what we’re looking for. And in any case, there are only so many potential pan-outs in the elite-level CS:GO brackets: it’s only a matter of time.
Besides, Group A will offer other spicy options depending on how this particular bracket plays out. There’s the Astralis reunion with the Vitality matchup to start things off, and should the right upset come to pass, we would get to see Evil Geniuses go up against a group of dastardly dumbasses instead of the HUNDEN derby, which would be more than enough to make up for any potential disappointment.