“This is the best lineup I’ve ever played in.” – dev1ce from an HLTV interview
In this past weekend, Astralis won the ELeague Premier 2018. This will be their fourth tournament victory in 2018: DreamHack Marseille, ESL Proleague Season 7 Finals, ECS Season 5 Finals, and ELeague. From April 22nd to now, Astralis have solidified their position as the most dominant team of the era. Astralis are a paragon of excellence, a mix between the science and art of CS:GO. The more you examine them, their roster, their map pool, their structure, and tactics, the more you realize the incredible depths of meaning and beauty that is possible in CS:GO.
This incredible form started at the beginning of the year when Astralis made an involuntary roster shuffle. Markus ‘Kjaerbye’ Kjaerbye left the squad and this forced the Astralis team to scramble for a fifth. They eventually landed on Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif. So after the shuffle the roster included: Nicolai ‘dev1ce’ Reedtz, Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rothmann, Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Hojsleth, Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander, and Magisk.
At the time, it was thought to be a lateral move. Both Kjaerbye and Magisk had struggles towards the end of 2017. Kjaerbye was no longer a star level player on the world stage and his best performances came from makeshift rosters when dev1ce was out because of his injuries. Magisk was removed from North and lived in exile under OpTic in their mixed European team.
However Magisk turned out to be the missing element. The final piece of the puzzle that perfectly slotted into place. With Kjaerbye leaving, this opened up room for both Dupreeh and gla1ve. Dupreeh got to play the roles and style he wanted on the T-side. Where Dupreeh took on the aggressive roles, Magisk took on the more passive lurk roles. In addition to that, none of his CT-side positions had overlaps with any of the preferred spots of the established core players. This situated players like gla1ve to have better games going into the new lineup. As for Magisk himself, he added additional skill. This translated into far more won pistol rounds and incredible spray control which made him a great anchor player for maps like Inferno. His firing technique and ability to consistently position himself to get favorable angles and timings solidified both the T-side and CT-side for the team.
While the Astralis lineup doesn’t have a “superstar” mix of players, they have great skill across their lineup. More than anything I’d call them specialists. Players that when you examine them through the role they play are among the best at their individual roles. Dev1ce is a superstar AWPer who can consistently find picks for the team. When not on the AWP, he is a versatile rifler that plugs into whatever the system requires of him, lurker, entry player, or positional player. Dupreeh and gla1ve are the aggressive map control players. They can either work together or independently depending on the map with gla1ve generally taking more dangerous areas. With their aim and intelligence, they can read the formations, the smokes, the positions and either make a play themselves, call information, or in gla1ves case call a tactic. Magisk is the reliable lurker player who can also be part used as part of the entry pack to explode into a bombsite. Xyp9x is the ultimate utility/support player. Someone who enables the others, fill in the gaps when needed, and clutch impossible situations.
Each specialized role gives us the purified aspect of each player at their best. It is a potent mix of individualism and group effort. Where you cannot fathom where one ends and the other begins. Each player has a specialized role and within those roles they have some level of independence. At the same time, this seems to enhance and amplify the team play and tactics of the squad. The natural team play that has been built between the core trio of dev1ce, Dupreeh, and Xyp9x. In turn that practiced team play seems to have perfect synergy with Magisk and gla1ve. That team play in turn makes their tactics all the better as they understand the same core principles of CS:GO. What does each nade mean in terms of player rotation, how does each position on the map affect the other, where does each player go to maximize the chances of victory. When you watch them play, it is like listening to a mix between classical music and jazz. The grand structured symphonies of Beethoven with the imaginative improvisations of Art Tatum.
“On our side, we have a good mix of playing really structured and letting people do whatever they want in certain situations.” – Dupreeh from an HLTV interview
For every team that is out there wishes to disrupt the grand plans and tactics of Astralis. Each time they try to disrupt the grand concert of Astralis and almost every time they are stopped. For every individual player understands the beats and tune of CS and so each player can make a move that is both true to themselves and the system. It is a harmony the likes of which I’ve never seen.
This incredible depth is also exhibited in their map pool as Valve took out cobblestone and replaced it with Dust 2. This created a seven map pool for the team as they are the only team in CS:GO history to legitimately be able to play all seven. If we count from the beginning of their era at DreamHack Marseille to now, these are the total win-loss records they have on every map:
Dust 2: 4-0
The only “blemish” on their record is Train where they have only played it twice. Given the scene right now however, there are no Train specialists anymore. On top of that, the one less came from a miraculous FaZe at IEM Sydney. In fact, in the last six tournaments Astralis have only been stopped twice. Both losses could be considered near miracles. FaZe at IEM Sydney and Na`Vi at ESL One Cologne. In the IEM Sydney Finals, FaZe won 3-0, but every map went the distance. Overtime on Cache, Double overtime on Overpass, all 30 rounds on Train. It took everything that FaZe had to take that victory and if they were even a little bit less incredible than what they were, we could have seen a 3-0 in Astralis’ favor.
As for Na`Vi, they also had a close series against Astralis where they won 2-1 with a 16-13 and 16-13 score on Overpass and Inferno. Even then, that took pushed Na`Vi to its very limits. Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev had to play his typical godlike self, Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov had to be a top 5 player in the world, and Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko had to 30 bomb on the third map to push them over the line. It was a great victory as Na`Vi have proven themselves to be the closest competitors to Astralis, but it was one that took everything.
The best way to show the depth of what Astralis have is when you look at their playbook and setups. It is impossible to write out the whole thing, so instead we will focus on what they did against Liquid in the final map of ELeague Premier 2018.
The map was Nuke. On the T-side of that map, the main opening gambit was denial of information. To secure that they used the standard wall of smokes in yard and had gla1ve molly secret to push anyone away from getting information on what Astralis were doing. From that point on they could either:
Hit ramp room and do a 4-1 split into the B site
Split the A site with players coming from mini
Explode onto the A site with an execute
Move 4 players to secret and split the B site with a 4-1
This didn’t even include other variations of the opening gambit they’ve used in previous matches. With one opening gambit, Astralis create four differing branches of what is possible after. This doesn’t even include the various deviations they can shift the man power of their hits. As every site on Nuke has multiple entrances so where you place the members changes the flavor and style of the hit. In an A split Astralis have shown they can have one, two, or three players come from mini and change up the amount of players that come from door or hut. Each of these derivations could be considered a branch all of their own as they require a different CT-setup on the site or sometimes a completely different position or rotation.
Then there is the individual aspect that comes into play. The best example of this was in the sixth round where Astralis were on some armor and pistols. They went for a fast paced swarming tactic where Magisk rushed vents and dev1ce rushed yard. Both got killed, but they created space and chaos for the remaining three players. Gla1ve was able to sneak into yard undetected while Xyp9x broke open ramp room. The outside player would naturally assume that yard was clear as he had already killed dev1ce there and this created a “dead zone” in the players mind. Gla1ve took advantage of that and the fact that Xyp9x opening ramp would force a rotation and this created a 3v3 scenario for the Astralis players. This all happens in the first 30 seconds of the round and that shows how in tune the comms, individuals, and team play is on the roster. It’s not a tactic, but rather an intrinsic understanding of rotations, CS, and communications.
That is just one half of one map and there is already so much incredible thought we can see from the outside looking in. We haven’t even gone to their CT-side is even more incredible in terms of how many setups they have and the counter-variations of those setups they have for whatever the opposing team has in store. From map to map, from side-to-side, from player-to-player, there is an incredible abundance of information to absorb and analyze.
The skill, the tactics, the team play, the innovation, the adaptations, everything you watch from this team makes you appreciate the amount of effort and thought that is crafted into every round. When I watch Astralis, I get the same sense of awe I get from watching the night star or looking at the expanse of the ocean.
It is a staggering view of limitless potential. A vision of greatness and mystery. How high are the stars above us? How deep does the ocean run? These are the types of questions I have for Astralis when I watch them in the server. What heights can this team reach? What depths of sublime Counter-Strike can they create?
Astralis are the best team in the world. They have established an era with their name. Both are incredible monumental achievements in competitive history. The amount of teams that have done so in CS:GO can be counted on at most two hands. And yet what amazes me the most is their play. This incredible synthesis of skill, team play, and tactics. This combination of Classical and Jazz music. This amalgamation of science and art. This awe inspiring performance that shows you the splendor and mystery of the stars, the beauty of Counter-Strike.