By Pavo Jurkic
August 17, 2019
Today, we are going to talk about one thing and one thing only!
Can Astralis win StarLadder Major?
Can the former world’s best team win their third consecutive CS:GO Major Championship and take back the flattering title of the world’s best or will they succumb to the pressure and continue sinking further down the pecking order?
With roughly a week separating us from the start of the next installment, can Astralis win StarLadder Major is the question on everyone’s mind. Well, let’s try and answer it once and for all!
Astralis is tied with Fnatic with three CS:GO Majors titles. For those of you not in the know, Astralis took the last two Majors (FACEIT Major London and IEM Katowice), as well as ELEAGUE Major Atlanta back in 2017. Fnatic, on the other hand, peaked much earlier. The greatest Swedish team of all time won the first Major, DreamHack Winter 2013 alongside two ESL One events in Cologne and Katowice in 2015.
It’s no secret Astralis 2018/2019 roster and Fnatic 2015 roster are considered the greatest CS:GO rosters of all time and these Major titles are the biggest reason. With that in mind, if we want to answer the burning question, can Astralis win StarLadder Major, analyzing their past Major successes might be the ideal start!
Let’s start off with Astralis’ latest Major triumph, IEM Katowice Major. Earlier this year, in March to be more precise, Astralis lifted their second consecutive, third overall, Major trophy. And they’ve done so with style, really. They looked almighty throughout the competition and their excellent track record was crowned with an effortless win against ENCE in the grand finals.
But, looking back at Astralis’ matches in Poland, I have to say their opponents weren’t really that tough. In fact, their semifinals opponent, MIBR; was by far the strongest name on the opposing ends. The likes of NiP, Cloud9, Renegades, and Complexity don’t really have that ring to them. Sure, they’re decent teams, but none of them were direct contestants for the title. The same can be said for Astralis’ grand finals opponent, ENCE. A surprising underdog story awaiting a sensation. As you all know, it didn’t happen. Dupreeh, gla1ve and the rest of the Danish boys triumphed over the Finns and celebrated their second consecutive Major title well into the night.
Astralis’ road to FACEIT Major glory was a much tougher one. They had to go through the New Challengers Stage where they squared off against Complexity, Rogue, NiP, and Team Spirit. As many of you know, NiP defeated Astralis with whopping 28-26 on the scoreboard, after a truly exhilarating experience from start to finish. Luckily, Astralis came back to sweep Team Spirit and secure their place in the Legends Stage.
The Legends Stage deployed Astralis straight into the fire. NaVi, Vega Squadron, Team Liquid, and MIBR. NaVi was a tough nut to crack and it took everything to beat them on Inferno. Magisk and device were te front runners once again, securing crucial rounds and ensuring their team gets the much-needed win right off the bat. Vega Squadron was a proper mismatch and dupreeh and the company took care of them effortlessly.
Next up, Team Liquid, a disheartening overtime defeat that infuriated the Great Danes. They had to go through MIBR, that was the only way. In came an almost perfect match by the greatest Danish CS:GO side, sixteen-oing the Brazilians and sending a clear message to their future opponents. Fun fact, that MIBR sweep was actually a 16-0 match in which device snatched 24 kills and had over 125 average damage per round.
FaZe Clan, Team Liquid and Natus Vincere were Astralis’ opponents in the playoffs. All three teams with proper trophy ambitions, unlike those lucky contestants and underdog sensations in Poland. Overcoming all three of these in-form teams without a single lost map across just three days was more than worthy of winning the title. So, for all of you wondering “can Astralis win StarLadder Major”, if they can repeat their London performance, they’ll definitely stand a chance!
ELEAGUE Major Atlanta was held in January 2017, more than two and a half years ago. The professional CS:GO scene looked much different back then with the likes of NiP, SK, Virtus.pro, and Dignitas ruling the stage. Astralis was also among them, but their inconsistency and playoffs curse made them an outsider as far as title conversations were concerned.
However, this is the tournament that kickstarted Astralis’ era. This is the tournament that paved the way for one of the most successful teams in CS:GO history.
With the format being completely different from what we’re used to seeing in the latest iterations, Astralis had to play against the likes of GODSENT, OpTic, G2, SK, and Team Liquid. Their group stage was a rollercoaster, losing to GODSENT And SK Gaming and winning against OpTic and G2. Their deciding opponent was Team Liquid. The NA team was no match for device with 29 and Kjaerbye with 24 kills. Kjaerbye eventually took the MPV title after leading his team through the playoffs with clutch kills and impeccable decision-making.
NaVi, Fnatic and finally, Virtus.pro, were the playoffs obstacles. Even though there was a fair share of close encounters, Astralis managed to finish out on top and win their first-ever Major. Even though the tournament MVP, Kjaerbye, left the team a year later, it’s still safe to say this is the event that put Astralis into the spotlight…
As you can see, Astralis’ CS:GO history is as rich as that of, let’s say, Fnatic. In fact, we are talking about the team that had the flattering best CS:GO team title for more than a year straight. However, just a few months ago, Team Liquid snatched that title and things have been looking bleak for the Great Danes ever since.
Their recent performances are nowhere near their typical standards. Sure, there was a lot of drama surrounding their organization’s ethics as well as lots of hate towards their parent organization, RFRSH Entertainment. But those sorts of things should not phase a top-level team such as Astralis. At least not to this degree.
That said, let’s go through their recent campaigns and see what exactly went wrong! Perhaps then, the question can Astralis win StarLadder Major won’t seem that complicated anymore.
Esports Championship Series and ESL Pro League Season Finals were held in June in a two-week span. Looking back at the end results, it’s pretty clear Astralis didn’t show up for either of them. On ECS, they got eliminated straight from the group stage after suffering two tough losses against FURIA. Yep, Astralis lost twice to FURIA, one Bo1, and one Bo3. The young Brazilians clutched Nuke two times and took Mirage in their Bo3 series.
And that seems to be the biggest problem Astralis players have right now. They’re unable to win crucial matches on Nuke. Need I remind you, Nuke was their go-to map, their safe haven, an indestructible fortress they held for 32 matches on LAN events. But now, even though their win rate on Nuke is still pretty good, they seem to lack that sense of safety they had before.
Don’t get me wrong, Astralis players are not doing a terrible job on Nuke. This poor series of results on Nuke is mostly due to other teams countering their strats. Astralis seems to be sticking to similar tactics and it was about time other teams realize what they’re doing in and start effectively counter it.
Furthermore, During ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, Astralis lost on Inferno, Vertigo, Train, and Dust II against two North American teams. NRG and Team Liquid were the culprits and they portrayed excellent Bo3 series and dealing big blows to Astralis’ aspirations. On the bright side, dupreeh and the boys had a solid match on Nuke which brings forth promise ahead of their Berlin Legends Stage matches.
Cologne, Germany, is always an excellent host city for all sorts of esports events, capable of providing mesmerizing atmosphere no matter the genre. This year’s ESL One Cologne CS:GO event was not different! Plenty of electric fans came to see some of the world’s best teams compete at one of the last notable pre-Major events.
All in all, Astralis actually had a solid run here. They conquered the group stage with fine performances by Magisk and device. BIG, Fnatic and Nip were Astralis’ group stage opponents, and none of them managed to snatch a single round against the Danish Gods. Astralis went through to the semifinals where they waited for the better of NRG vs Vitality.
With decisive group stage wins, many people though Astralis was going to make a comeback and finally win a proper event. When Vitality snatched the semifinals tickets from NRG, the Lanxess Arena was set for a proper spectacle.
And the semifinals match sure was exactly that! Unfortunately, Astralis and everyone who though the Great Danes will have a walk in the park against Vitality, forgot to take one key factor into account. ZYWOO!
The 18-year-old French fragger, often dubbed as the best CS:GO fragger these days, had a proper blast in Cologne. 75 kills across three maps and close to 82 average damage per round. Not only that, but he was also the main driving force behind several crucial rounds, lifting his teammates’ morale up and leading them to the grand finals… Xyp9x did his best, but the new hope of European CS:GO was just too hot to handle.
Despite the disheartening loss, there were plenty of positive sides to Astralis’ performance on ESL One Cologne. For starters, they finally got out of the group stage without a single defeat. Sure, they were stopped again in the first playoffs match, although against an in-form team with snowballing superstar… but that’s hopefully something they’ll learn from ahead of the spectacle in Berlin.
Here comes the final part, the part in which we actually give you something that resembles a proper answer.
Can Astralis Win StarLadder Major?
Well, here are some factors that need to be on point if Astralis players are to stand a chance of lifting their third consecutive CS:GO Major Championship trophy:
The thing Astralis players need the most is to come into this tournament well-rested, free from all the RFRSH Entertainment drama and well-prepared to push themselves to the top of the food chain once again. All this is of crucial importance for their performances in Berlin and I expect their coach, zonic, to be well-aware of this.
All eyes will be pointed at Astralis during their first Legends Stage match. It’s just how things go, and if you’re Astralis, you’re already used to all the extra attention. However, that extra bit of attention sometimes has a negative connotation. Take the recent BPS plus RFRSH Entertainment drama as the perfect example. If these negative thoughts are in players’ heads while they’re playing important matches on LAN events, it’s only logical that they won’t be able to perform at their maximum.
And, quite frankly, all that drama could’ve easily been the reason for the unimpressive performances they’ve been displaying in recent months. The bad atmosphere can plague even the best of teams, and RFRSH Entertainment definitely created exactly that just a few months ago. It’s no wonder they’re now trying their best to cut all ties to Astralis…
In addition to coming back fresh, well-rested and free from all drama, Astralis players also need to come into this tournament with a ton practice behind them. Nuke should be their focal point with teams finally getting the b*lls to challenge them on it in virtually every tournament they attend. Astralis needs to capitalize from these ballsy moves and show the pro scene once and for all who the real kings of Nuke are.
Obviously, a single map won’t do them an awfully lot of good in the grand scheme of things. Even though they don’t play that often on Vertigo and Mirage, these low percentage maps are something they’ll have to work on. Especially during their Bo1 encounters which are known to have huge upset potentials.
If Astralis can figure all of these things out, there’s no doubt in my mind they’ll be worthy Major contestants. In fact, most esports bookies favor them over the likes of Vitality and NaVi, with just Team Liquid being in front. For the beauty of the game, let’s hope we’ll finally get to see Liquid play against Astralis the grand finals of the StarLadder Berlin Major 2019!