Everything You Need to Know About How Astralis Came to the Top of the CS:GO Foodchain


by in CS:GO | Apr, 3rd 2019

Scandinavian countries have been known for producing the world’s biggest CS:GO talents from day one. It’s safe to say that countries such as Sweden and Denmark are the cradles of what we call esports these days.

These countries are true early adopters of this new industry, and we can do nothing but thank them for it. They are the forces that helped evolve the CS:GO esports scene into the giant we all know and love.

Of course, through this process, Sweden and Denmark have produced a ton of talented players and teams that have been ruling the professional scene ever since its earliest days. The most notable teams are Fnatic and Astralis, both of which are being labeled as the GOAT.

The latter, however, is much closer to that title with back-to-back Major titles and utter dominance throughout the last year or so. And that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing in this article — Astralis’ dominance over all other CS:GO teams in 2018 and early 2019.

Knowing the brilliance behind The Great Danes, there is a ton of stuff to go through here. However, to keep this article as short and concise as possible, I decided to go with just the five biggest reasons behind their superb track record.

So, shall we begin?

Five Reasons Behind Astralis’ Dominance in CS:GO

Many components contribute to Astralis’ dominance, and they range from quality individual players to solid teamwork and beyond. Although there are many reasons behind Astralis’ dominance in the CS:GO competitive scene, we’ll key in on just five of them here.

Optimal Esports Environment

It’s no secret Sweden and Denmark have been at the top of the CS:GO food chain since day one. Thanks to progressive, modern, and tech-savvy society, these Scandinavian countries were among the first to recognize the potential of gaming. They recognized it could develop into something much bigger, and when esports really exploded in popularity, their domestic players and clubs enjoyed exceptional results.

But what drives these players to pursue careers as professional esports athletes in the first place? Sure, their countries are supportive of such endeavors, but there must be more to it than that.

Our answer could be the so-called snowball effect. A similar occurrence happened with StarCraft II and Overwatch in South Korea. Once these games came out, there were aspiring gamers who played them non-stop until they became so good no one could beat them. They went pro, and soon enough, many of their peers tried following in their footsteps.

That’s the snowball effect in esports, right there. Well, that and the fact that it’s often too cold in Scandinavian countries to go play outside, so kids just stay indoors and play video games.

All these factors contribute to the optimal environment for the development of young esports talents. That said, we can rest assured that both these countries (and their neighbors, such as Finland with ENCE Esports) will remain at the top as long as CS:GO exists on the esports radar.

Diverse Map Pool

There are many things that make a good CS:GO team. Individual skill, game sense, teamwork, and in-game strats are the most obvious ones. However, there’s another very important factor that greatly contributes to the success of a CS:GO team. That said, one of the reasons why Astralis has a near perfect Grand Finals score in the last year or so is simply due to their map pool diversity.

Let’s start off with Nuke, their go-to map in virtually every match. Nuke isn’t as popular as it once was, and it’s mostly due to Astralis’ 100% win-rate on it. Nowadays, Nuke is almost always banned versus Astralis since teams don’t want to go up against the greatest team in the world on their strongest map.

However, even if we take Nuke out of the equation, Astralis’ map pool is still scary. On Inferno, their most-played map (66 games in the last year), they have an 86.4% win-rate. That’s 57 wins and just 9 losses. They’re brilliant on Cache — which is not out of the competitive map pool — and Dust II as well, with an 83.3% win-rate on both maps.

No matter which maps get banned, there is not a single team out there that can “win” the map banning phase against Astralis. That’s not surprising at all considering we’re talking about a team that has roughly 80% wins across the board throughout the last 12 months.

Esports Psychologist’s Influence

Nowadays, teams need not only skill, will, and team play, but also a great deal of psychological power to excel at the main stage. Professional CS:GO players need to have a strong mentality in order to compete at the highest level and stay in the game at all times, no matter what happens.

Truth be told, Astralis players weren’t always the clutch masters they have been for the last year or so. In fact, they were quite the opposite. With a history of semifinals finishes and surprising eliminations by tier B teams, Astralis was considered as the jokers — choke-prone players with no real winning potential.

However, why don’t we point out the two crucial parts that transformed Astralis from choke masters to clutch masters and helped snowball into what we now call Astralis’ dominance over the CS:GO scene?

Meet Mia Stellberg, a Finnish Swede psychologist who was hired by Astralis back in 2016 to help them get that extra mental edge over the opposition — mostly in crucial matches, given the fact they became known for losing those.

It took some time, but the Mia Effect started making waves in the CS:GO competitive scene. First, the team won the ECS S2 Finals, then came the ELEAGUE Major 2017, and finally the IEM XI World Championship. They claimed three huge titles in the span of three months.

Meet Lars Robl, a former member of the Danish Special Operation Forces (20 years of experience), and now an Organizational and Sports Psychologist. He continued building on Mia Stellberg’s success and created a team that won almost everything there was to be won in 2018, plus back-to-back Majors in 2018 and 2019.

Thanks to Lars’ and Mia’s expertise in sports psychology and their specialized approaches to each individual player, Astralis became the team we all know and love today. By installing a unified “dream” for all players to thrive for, pumping them with confidence and working on their in-game tenacity and determination, these professional sports psychologists created an absolute force to be reckoned with in the CS:GO world.

And so the Astralis dominance began.

Team Cohesion

February 2018 marks the month in which this Astralis roster went on the campaign to become the world’s best. That’s when Emil “Magisk” Reif came in as Kjaerbye’s replacement and, unknowingly at the time, became the final piece in Astralis’ puzzle that would get them to the top.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, this 5-man Astralis roster has been playing together for slightly more than a year now, with their 4-man backbone being there from the very start. Needless to say, these players know each other’s moves, rotations, trades, retake executions, and utility timings. Team cohesion is an important matter, and it’s safe to say Astralis has brought it to perfection.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like Astralis’ players just woke up one day and figured out their in-game philosophy and started dominating over the scene. It was a process that lasted throughout several years, and now they’re finally here at the very top, where they rightfully belong!

“But there are teams that have been playing together for the same amount of time, some even longer, yet they achieved close to nothing.”

That’s true. Astralis just benefits more from their cohesion than any other team out there. Yes, there are situations where they rely on their individual brilliance (more on that down below), but most of the time, they’re focused on playing as a team, controlling the map, gathering valuable info, and moving together as a single unit rather than being dispersed all over the map.

Most of the time, this approach works on its own, and Astralis manages to win the round. If, however, they stumble upon difficulties and end up outnumbered, that’s where their individual brilliance kicks in.

Individual Brilliance

At last, we’ve come to the sheer firepower in Astralis’ roster. When everything else goes wrong, when they’re on the brink of losing crucial rounds, their individual brilliance sparks up, and they manage to clutch even the stickiest of situations.

That’s not surprising considering they have a true clutch master on their roster, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth. Tournament in and tournament out, Andreas keeps showing the world why he’s dubbed as the father of clutching in CS:GO.

But we shouldn’t forget about the rest of their roster. Their IGL, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, definitely belongs among the world’s best at the moment. Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen and Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz are unstoppable fraggers with impeccable mechanical and situational skills.

And lastly, they have Emil “Magisk” Reif, the player Astralis turned to after losing Kjaerbye to North back in February 2018. Magisk’s arrival to Astralis is what kicked off their brilliant track record. Sure, they weren’t off to a perfect start, but with the introduction of sports psychologists, map pool perfecting, and in-game strats development, this new Astralis roster managed to break their Grand Finals curse and go on to become the greatest CS:GO team of all time.

Is Astralis the GOAT?

Yes! That is the reality of Astralis. They really are the greatest team to ever grace the CS:GO competitive scene. Whether we like it or not, Astralis managed to accomplish what no other team came close to. And they’re still doing it.

They gave a brilliant performance at the Katowice Major, an exceptional display of power in the first week of ECS S7, and don’t even get me started on BLAST Pro Series Sao Paulo.

With Vertigo as the brand-new map in the competitive map pool, many people are speculating about Astralis’ performance on it. They’re comparing the all-new Vertigo to Nuke, which has become the epitome of Astralis dominance, so it’s only logical to think Astralis will remain at the top of their map pool game.

Astralis on Vertigo | Good or Bad?

Vertigo is unlike any other map we’ve ever had the chance to play in the competitive map pool. Yes, it’s stacked and somewhat similar to Nuke… but I’m afraid that’s where the similarities end.

First, Vertigo has both bomb sites on the upper floor with Nuke’s spots being scattered on both. Second, Nuke is very AWP-friendly due to its outside portion whereas AWPers on Vertigo (at least for the moment) won’t find many plausible spots, especially on the T side.

The problem is, even if Vertigo plays (competitively) much differently than Nuke, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean Astralis won’t be that good on it. We’re talking about the greatest CS:GO team here. Surely they have what it takes to master another map?

Well, that is a question no one has the answer to at the moment. Once Vertigo becomes a soft spot in the CS:GO esports scene, and once Astralis plays a few matches on it, then we’ll be able to assess the matter at hand.

Wrapping Things Up

All that aside, Astralis’ dominance over the competition is something that’ll go down in the history books. We can choose to either cherish the fact that we’ve been able to see the GOATs play or try and diminish their reputation and accomplishments.

The latter seems to be a very popular opinion these days with fans hating The Great Danes just because of what they’ve accomplished last year.

It’s monotonous… hurr…durr…”

If you ask me, I’d say we should all be thankful for being able to watch these guys play. Astralis’ domination might be monotonous, but it’s a direct representation of their brilliance which often translates to magical in-game moments.

Whether we’re talking about clutches, perfect utility synchronization, or individual and mechanical skills, Astralis has brought each of these to perfection. And watching them do what they do best truly is something I can only describe with the word magical.

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