Astralis silenced their critics in style by roaring to victory at the $1 million Berlin Starladder Major this month. The Danes swept aside world number one Team Liquid in the quarter-finals and then rattled off consecutive victories over NRG Esports and AVANGAR to seize the trophy.
In doing so, they became the most successful franchise in CS:GO history. Their haul now stands at four majors and that sees them eclipse Fnatic as the most decorated team of all time.
Dev1ce, depreeh, Xyp9x, gla1ve and Magisk have now won the last three majors in a row and they are by far and away the highest-earning CS:GO players of all time. And to think, this is supposed to be a team in crisis.
The rise and fall and rise again of Astralis
The Danes established themselves as the most dominant team in CS:GO history in 2018. They won 15 events, including the FACEIT London Major in September, and earned a $1 million bonus for clinching the Intel Grand Slam. The year ended with seven consecutive tournament wins, and all five members averaged at least 1.14 throughout 2018.
That devastating form continued into 2019, and they moved level with Fnatic in the all time stakes by soaring to victory at the IEM Katowice Major. Then it all quickly fell apart for Astralis.
They went home empty handed at four consecutive tournaments. They suffered humiliating back-to-back losses against Brazilian upstarts FURIA. They were knocked off the top of the HLTV world rankings for the first time in 14 months, dethroned by a resurgent Team Liquid.
They were lambasted by the community for skipping a bunch of prestigious tournaments, playing only in the BLAST Pro Series – a collection of events owned by Astralis’ parent company, RFRSH Entertainment. Fans were gleefully sticking the knife in.
They went into the Berlin Starladder Major as distinct second favourites in the Unikrn.com betting odds and they were widely expected to flop once again. Yet Astralis clearly did not read the script, as they returned to their brilliant best with a sensational display of tactical proficiency and wiped the floor with their rivals.
Team Liquid emerge as serious contenders
Astralis went 0-2 against Team Liquid during their fall from grace this year. It finished 2-1 to TL when they met at the BLAST Pro Series in Sao Paolo back in March, and then Liquid picked up another 2-1 win over Astralis when they met in the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals in June.
That helped fuel talk of a changing of the guard within the professional CS:GO scene. Obituaries for Astralis abounded and TL were supposedly the new dominant force within Counter-Strike. Nitr0, EliGE, Twistzz, NAF and the irrepressible Stewie2K have been in sensational form this year, and they won six tournaments in a row before the Berlin Major, becoming the second team to clinch the $1 million Intel Grand Slam.
Wins at IEM Sydney and ESL One Cologne were huge highlights for the team as they rose to the top of the rankings, laying down the gauntlet for their Danish counterparts. They are the greatest team that North America has ever produced and they deservedly still sit top of the HLTV rankings, despite their defeat to Astralis.
Dazzling display from dev1ce
They looked invincible heading into the event, but ultimately they were no match for the Danes when the pressure ramped up in Berlin. Device was on fire in that quarter-final showdown, dazzling with a number of sensational clutch plays.
Astralis came from behind to dominate Liquid on Vertigo, as they took a 16-8 victory, and then the battled hard to earn a gruelling 16-13 win on Overpass to complete a 2-0 clean sweep. A 1v3 clutch from dev1ce with an SG553 was just one of many highlights in a tense, thrilling showdown.
The Danes trailed 9-6 at the halfway stage on Overpass, but Magisk delivered 27 kills and Astralis left TL stunned. “We were confident and we knew we would surprise them,” said dupreeh after the match. “We had some struggles in the past couple of months, but we were able to figure out why we were playing worse [and correct it]. We feel at home in a major.”
A path leading back to the top
Whoever won that quarter-final showdown between Astralis and TL was always going to be the overwhelming favourite to win the tournament, and so it proved. Astralis steamrolled NRG in the semis and then hammered AVANGAR 16-6 on Inferno and 16-5 on Dust 2 to clinch a 2-0 win in the grand final.
“We want to keep winning, we are doing everything we can to stay at the top,” said gla1ve said after the match. “We will climb our way back, we will take that number spot again and it will happen soon.”
That is fighting talk from the Astralis captain, but his confidence is a result of the results the team has secured over the past 18 months. They are now up to second in the world rankings, well ahead of NRG, and they have Liquid firmly in their sights.
However, TL will not take this defeat lying down. They have lost 40 of their 57 meetings against Astralis over the years, but they have been steadily over the past year. Since Stewie2K joined, they have been the world’s best team and it will be exciting to see how they respond.
Next steps for Astralis and Team Liquid
The next Major does not take place until May 2020, so there is plenty of time for them to prepare. In the meantime, doubts will remain over their ability to turn it on at a Major, but they can quash those fears by resuming the superb form they have displayed all year.
Meanwhile, Astralis will be emboldened as they plot their route back to the summit of CS:GO. The scene was at risk of growing dull during Astralis’ unprecedented period of dominance in 2018 and early 2019, but there are now two sensational teams vying for supremacy and that is really healthy for this flourishing esport.
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