Astralis is currently showcasing the highest level of Counter-Strike ever played and although six years have passed since Global Offensive’s release these Danes are setting unparalleled standards of teamplay, calling and execution.
Sounds unlikely doesn’t it, to suggest with all of today’s infrastructure boasting coaches, analysts and managers alongside seasoned players, that Astralis could be so much more refined than every other team, but unlikely as it seems, this is the unfortunate truth for their fellow sides. Having already amassed four titles rumblings of a Danish era are well underway, a feat alone that seemed unattainable when Kjaerbye made his shocking departure. Scepticism and confusion had overcome the community with the announcement of Magisk, unbeknown to the perfect alignment of roles that his addition would bring. Combined with the team’s revamped philosophy from exposure to looser play during device's absence and unfolding before us was the perfect storm that spawned the world’s best.
Widely regarded as CS:GO's greatest lineup, pronax’s fabled Fnatic boasted a similarly imperious map pool, so deep that periods had them playing all seven maps. Although the Swedes had favoured battlegrounds, a great bastion behind fnatic's immense consistency were such advantages claimed before setting foot on the server. Three years down the line and for only the second time in our game’s history, we again have a side capable of elite performances on every map. Across Nuke and Dust2 Astralis are next to untouchable with Overpass and Inferno following closely behind, recognition as the world’s best on four maps would be enough for most dominant sides, but for these Danes cases can be made putting this number towards an unprecedented six maps. Taking no prisoners in abusing the breadth of their pool zonic's squad puts opponents under maximal discomfort with shrewd choices during the veto stage.
Being the team’s IGL gla1ve must be highly credited for Astralis’ dynamic Terrorist style, his ability to alternate on a dime from fast to slow, structured rounds to contact hits, alongside a helping of individual plays to pounce upon openings is sensational. During early 2018 gla1ve acknowledged the advantages throwing in more individual centric and explosive Terrorist rounds: this reflection paying massive dividends when paired with his excellent teamwide decision making. ELEAGUE Premier's final also showcased fantastic Counter-Terrorist calling, the opening map of Inferno had Astralis varying their early round approaches and abusing Liquid's terrorist predictability with superb rotations. Marrying these traits with gla1ve’s impressive individual play and it's hardly a surprise that most herald him as our scene’s number one In Game Leader.
While most top sides frequently wield double AWPs on the Counter-Terrorist side Astralis often deploys device as the sole CT sniper. Finding success in such an approach requires device to be comfortable in an enormous variety of defensive spots, not to mention the difficulty posed for his displaced teammates. Although GuardiaN and kennyS may have better mastered the nuances of standard AWPing positions, the Dane's mobility and versatile supporting cast means neither translates their skill into impact with device's efficiency. Through the Dane Astralis applies sniper pressure across the map, testing all aspects of Terrorist defaults they achieve so without confinement to the reduced flexibility of double AWP setups.
In a pregame interview for the aforementioned ELEAGUE final, gla1ve stated that for all of Astralis' tactics they have a fake and although hyperbole this philosophy is reflected throughout their Terrorist play. Astralis prioritises making rounds appear similar to opponents and for similar reasons the Danes thrive in denying information. For example, Nuke's Terrorist side has Astralis running a variety of rounds about the outside smokes, the threat alone of capturing secret control draws rotations and utility from the defenders resulting in higher likelihoods of inner executes and ramp hits finding success.
The bedrock though of Astralis’ excellence is their mastery of team based fundamentals: their trading and entry pathing is phenomenal and an aptitude for retaining comparable prowess on-the-fly showcases well rooted fundamentals from all the players. Approaching man up and man down situations systematically Astralis is incredible at both closing out favourable scenarios and clawing back an inordinate number of man down situations through great calling and information plays. Rotating on the CT side is again another area in which Astralis has nailed down to a tee, seamlessly moving between setups they rarely give opponents the opportunity to punish their movements. A further positive of Astralis’ coordination is a proficiency for converting anti-eco rounds, rarely do the Danes get caught with their pants down against the pistols.
In a class of their own
It is extremely difficult to fault Astralis’ game, sure there are maps they're yet to flush out to their best standards but it would be beyond unreasonable to expect peak level play across all seven maps. Since these Danes boast monstrous fundamentals, irrespective of map or side their subsequent baseline level grants the team an extreme consistency that is reflected in their record from Marseille onwards. In all aspects of their game Astralis displays a thorough understanding that variation and unpredictability is paramount to success, meaning they are quite the beast to out manoeuvre. Whilst the Danes lean towards structured rounds they harness sufficient talent and crucially the conviction to drop into more individualistic plays, throwing a massive wrench in the works for unsuspecting opponents.
Put succinctly, I am not sure whether a team can get much better than Astralis is right now. Even with all the strengths outlined above we have only scratched the surface of where the Danes excel: preparation, willingness to skip events and a strong team culture are just a few of the intangibles that also keep the machine ticking over. Unfortunately for fellow squads, the facets that make the Danes so extraordinary have no direct counters: there is no predicting their moves into applying the perfect response with any consistency, there are no weak spots in their defensive holds, they have no weak maps. Remember that the entire world has been watching Astralis since they stormed Marseille and nobody has come close to devising a reliable method of taming them.
For those well versed in the subtleties of Counter-Strike these Danes bring a beauty to their play and unlike many formidable teams that have come before, Astralis' brilliance is not nearly as hinged on the talent of individuals. Such players will fluctuate in performance and on their off days a select few squads will capable of taking series off Astralis, but until the rest of the scene raises their game, these Danes will continue to snatch up top fours and titles like it is child's play. Barring any unexpected personnel changes all indications point towards Astralis stamping their place in the history books and should the world not get their act together quickly enough, only the sky's the limit for this lineup’s greatness.
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