Champions – An Astralis Story

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This is the story of how 2018’s greatest team, Astralis, have came to be to where they are today; a united, skilled and dominant CS:GO team. Image from RFRSH

If Counter-Strike was a game of Monopoly, where teams owned the equivalent of a single property, Astralis would own the entire red, green and blue sets. In 2018, they have redefined the way teams approach the game, crushed their opposition and made history. Their current roster will go down in the record books, reverently talked about by esports fans for many years. This lineup has battled their way through tough periods to breakthrough as both the best team of our current time, and the best team to ever to play Counter-Strike.

Foundations – 2016

The first serious player-owned organisation within Counter-Strike, the former Team SoloMid players founded Astralis in January 2016. The roster at the time was Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth, Nicolai “device” Reedtz, Finn “karrigan” Andersen and Rene “cajunb” Borg, all coached by Danny “zonic” Sorensen. The team’s first event under the Astralis banner was DreamHack Open Leipzig 2016. They did not win, falling in the semi-finals after a 2-0 defeat to the Brazilian Luminosity.  In April the team stumbled again at DreamHack Malmo 2016, crashing out of the group stage by failing to make it into the top-eight, and it was this disappointment that triggered a roster change. Astralis traded away cajunb for Dignitas’ young star player, Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerbye. The powerful rifler would blossom in Astralis, and proved to be a key cog in their system.

The team continued to struggle, and after a defeat to GODSENT at the WESG 2016 Europe & CIS Regional Finals, the team made another major change. In-game leader karrigan was passed to FaZe Clan, and replaced by former stand-in Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander. The ex-Copenhagen Wolves and Heroic player took the reins for Astralis as the play-caller. There were three events left in 2016: IEM Oakland, ELEAGUE S2, and the ECS S2 finals. They finished top-four at Oakland, runners-up at ELEAGUE following a frustrating loss to OpTic, but then won the ECS S2 Finals in a rematch with OpTic. The team struggled in 2016, but the players dupreeh and Kjaerbye showed strength by the end of the year, as the team picked up confidence and improved. This would prove vital going into the next tournament; the ELEAGUE Major 2017.

Hot Start, Cool End – 2017

Going into the ELEAGUE Major held in Atlanta Georgia, Astralis were the favourites. The team looked much stronger mentally under gla1ve’s leadership; choking in semi-finals was to be a thing of the past. dupreeh and Kjaerbye were performing brilliantly, Xyp9x was playing solidly and device provided a strong AWP presence for the team. The tournament opened with a best-of-one against GODSENT on Train, Astralis’ best map. It was not meant to be though, as the Swedes shocked the world by crushing the Danes 16-6. Arguably, it was this rout that knocked sense into Astralis. It is common knowledge that bouncing back is a characteristic of champions; that they did. Back-to-back Train wins over OpTic and G2 left Astralis within touching distance of Legends status, but they were rebuked 17-19 by SK on Dust2. Astralis were now 2-2, going into a crucial elimination match against a struggling Team Liquid. The stakes were too high for Astralis to let this opportunity slip away from them, they obliterated the Americans 16-3 on Mirage. Legends status was obtained; now to NaVi, one of the world’s top teams, in the quarter-finals.

After the opening map in the series Overpass was secured by Astralis, Mirage was the next pick. At 14-14, dupreeh dropped out onto A-site and made a last-ditch effort to plant the bomb. The man to stop the plant and secure the round was the heroic Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, who gave his team the economy and momentum to close out the map for NaVi. Remember bounce-back ability? NaVi were not able to make the next map as exciting and Astralis won it on Dust2 16-10. This placed them into the semi-finals, a stage at which they famously always fell. Facing the Swedish fnatic, despite going into overtime on Cache, Astralis were able to despatch of the Swedes quickly on their way to the finals against Virtus.pro, a legendary team. Following a 16-12 defeat on Nuke to the Poles, the Danes bounced back on Overpass and Train, dragging the two maps out 16-14 to win their first ever Major championship.

The team had historically been one of the best teams in the world but had always fallen at the final hurdle. Not anymore. HLTV named Kjaerbye the MVP after an important 1.21 HLTV-rated showing from the young Dane. After the tournament, Astralis secured top-four at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, then another championship at IEM Katowice, which ensured their spot as the best team in the world. This would be short-lived though, as other teams surpassed the Danes; FaZe Clan and SK Gaming, who would share the majority of championships for the remainder of 2017.

Those teams were the main thorns in Astralis’ heels for 2017, but other teams did the job too. At IEM Sydney, FaZe eliminated Astralis in the semi-finals, then at ECS S3 Finals SK did the same. At the PGL Major Krakow, Astralis faced the underdog CIS team Gambit in the semi-finals also, but fell and Gambit won the entire Major. Going into the end of 2017, Astralis continued to be starved of silverware. At Blast Pro Series Copenhagen, despite being on home turf with stand-in Dennis “dennis” Edman for the unwell device, would not see this be changed. In the grand finals, Astralis fell 2-1 to the Brazilians on SK. The team ended 2017 with a top-four finish at ECS S4 Finals, where it was mousesports who halted them.

Majesty – 2018

2018, the year of Astralis. It did not start that way though. After crashing out of the ELEAGUE Major 2018 without maintaining Legends status, changes were due and a key player opted to leave the team. After hardly consulting his teammates, Kjaerbye shocked the world by departing for Danish rivals North. The move shook Astralis to the core. Many tipped the Danes to add hotshot Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke to replace the departing Kjaerbye. Astralis instead opted for former OpTic and North rifler Emil “Magisk” Reif, to round out the roster. He was a highly rated talent in Denmark but had yet to prove he was of superstar calibre. The team’s first tournaments, StarSeries i-League S4 and IEM Katowice, resulted in okay showings. Finishing within the top eight at your first tournament as a team is not a bad showing, then the team followed this up with a top-four finish in Katowice. It was the next tournament, DreamHack Masters Marseille, where Astralis kicked off.

Astralis played ten maps at DreamHack, they won nine. The only map they lost was a tight clash with Liquid on Mirage 14-16, and the teams’ battles would come to epitomise 2018. Beating Space Soldiers, Liquid, FaZe, fnatic and Natus Vincere, only dropping over ten rounds on a map four times, Astralis clinically won the tournament. It shocked many, for a few reasons: the team’s domination, gla1ve’s unprecedented 1.34 HLTV-rated individual performance, and most of all their unique in-game style. It was at this tournament where “Total Counter-Strike” was born. A homage to the legendary Netherlands football team of the 1970s, gla1ve and zonic birthed a new way of playing Counter-Strike. Important grenade stacks to kill enemies, effective trading, a mobile CT-side device and a free-flowing style fascinated viewers. Before the upcoming FACEIT Major, Astralis won three more premier tournaments. EPL S7 Finals, ECS S5 Finals and ELEAGUE Premier 2018. In all three, the Danes dominated the competition and then dominated a strengthening Team Liquid in the grand final. The events were not close affairs by any means; Astralis were firmly established as the best team in the world. Then came the FACEIT London Major.

This Major was unique in three main ways. It was FACEIT’s first-ever Major, the UK’s first ever Major and the most one-sided Major in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive history. After dropping just one map in the Main Qualifier, an overtime affair to NiP, Astralis entered the main event brimming with confidence. Losing out only one map, another overtime match this time to Liquid, Astralis re-established their Legends status. Then came the playoffs where Astralis just dominated. The quarter-finals came as revenge against FaZe; a swift 2-0. Next, Liquid. In a match played many times throughout a year, Liquid vs Astralis in a best-of-three, a clean 2-0 followed. In the grand finals came Natus Vincere, the second best team in the world, who were competing in their third Major final. In the most dominant Major grand final showing in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive history, Astralis won 16-6 and 16-9 on Nuke and then Overpass. The Astralis Era was officially cemented, though it had truly begun back in Marseille.

After the Major, Astralis won the Blast Pro Series Istanbul, IEM Chicago, ECS S6 Finals, and finally, the EPL S8 Finals. The last tournament was the most impactful. It gave Astralis the first ever Intel Grand Slam — a healthy $1 million boost for the team’s coffers — and was their first proper LAN win on home soil. Odense proved to be the penultimate victory of the year for Astralis, who closed the book on an astonishing 2018 with a solid victory at BLAST Pro Series Lisbon.

The Best There Ever Was

Astralis are the best team ever to play Counter-Strike. From a tough 2016, with limited silverware came a mixed 2017. The year bore a glorious Major win that was overshadowed by a poor end to the year which motivated the Danes going into a perfect 2018. The team has hardly lost in finals, dominated their rivals, and made Counter-Strike look easy. The talismanic device has stepped up for the team, Magisk has proven to be a crucial player, dupreeh has continued to be excellent, Xyp9x remains the world’s best support player and clutcher, and gla1ve is the world’s best in-game leader. gla1ve’s excellent fragging sets him apart as a new kind of captain; one who can also step up for his team, shattering an old Counter-Strike rule. Solid CT-sides, free-flowing styles, exemplary utility usage and more…none of it would be possible without zonic, 1.6’s best in-game leader and Global Offensive’s best coach. The morale boost, togetherness, and style he has brought to Astralis have pushed them over the line as the world’s best team and the best team ever to play Counter-Strike. The history-makers’ excellent performances and overruling style do, in fact, give them this status.

They are a team of champions. They have struggled, fought, and grafted their way to blossom as the world’s best in 2018. Their utter domination of Counter-Strike has been astounding to witness, and long may they continue to set the standard for teams to follow.

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