First Dignitas, then TSM, and now Astralis. This core of Danish players has toyed with fans emotions for three years in a fashion that makes one think that maybe we all exist in some sort of Matrix-like environment where the collective pain of Astralis fans fuels a chthonian machine overlord.
Probably not. But my over-dramatization can be directly tied to an empathy with the abusively dark relationship fans have had with this team throughout history. These checkered peaks and valleys of Astralis fandom are largely caused by their short-comings at Majors. Even in spite of this infamous pattern of failing to secure wins or Grand Final finishes on CS:GO’s biggest stage, the die is seemingly cast for Astralis success at the ELEAGUE Major. The odds are stacked in their favour as ‘favourites’, and one would be inclined to believe them.
So without any quivering thoughts of ‘what if’, and with no right to ask this of any of you… will you support Astralis with me? One. Last. Time.
I know, I know, it is a tough call to answer. Astralis are – in the present – considered by many to be the best team in the world. This, to the long-time followers of the CS:GO scene means nothing though. Before Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca 2015, they were favourites and tied with EnVyUs as the most in-form team in the world; the thought of the Danes finally winning a Major was in-focus, and the prospect of a Grand-Final finish was almost assured.
But as we now know, almost is a perennial guarantee never afforded to Astralis. They were knocked out in the round-of-eight by a slumping Ninjas in Pyjamas suddenly revitalised by a one-off performance from friberg that hasn’t again manifested itself.
MLG Columbus saw the same resulting post-Major heartbreak but achieved through different means. This time around, headed into the Major, Astralis were by no means a favourite having been beaten-up by Na`Vi, Fnatic, EnVyUs, and Luminosity in the months prior. Despite this, they managed to absolutely dismantle the hottest team on the planet – Fnatic – in a clean best of three with Dupreeh having the series of his life. Their semi-final match against Na`Vi shortly after would be a tight one but covered with the shimmer of optimism and hope for their first ever Grand Finals appearance.
Again though, in the now typical fashion of Astralis, this hope never incarnated itself into hard results. The once indomitable dupreeh now occupied the bottom of the scoreboard and device – who had only five months ago been on the shortlist for best player in the world struggled to make even the tiniest of impacts.
The ever expansive asterisks of ESL One: Cologne 2016 make it impossible to comment on, but if you were to ever believe that the Astralis core line-up was cursed, not being able to play with two key players on the biggest possible stage, due to circumstances outside of your control could make an evangelist out of anyone.
If Astralis had to submit a resume and then go through an interview in order for you to become their supporter for the ELEAGUE Major, their long history of pulling up short would make it a tough sell to say the least. But, this expanded scope which extends as far back as when Cajunb was on the roster should not be the driving force behind how we evaluate Astralis’s success.
These historical voids that have seen the tenacity of even the most hardcore fans waver, only serve as narrative tools to better appreciate their potential startling peaks of success in the present and boy, do they have the potential to hit a peak?
In their current form, Astralis can be permitted to boast the title of the best team in the world. The switch from Finn “karrigan” Andersen to Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander has bolstered the individual skill-set of each player whilst also adding a clean, simple strategic outlook that works with devastating efficiency. Yet on a typical day for Astralis, they can be matched man-for-man by the majority of the other top 6 teams in the world. Furthermore, on a strategic level they can be outclassed as well by teams like Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas or Team Dignitas.
Their uniform approach to integrating both of these key elements into one cohesive force with the star power of Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz and Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye, the occasional will-imposing flair of Peter “dupreeh” Rothmann and the all-encompassing cold-blooded consistency of Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth to follow has made them the most dangerous team on the planet.
As a team, they are the favourites to win the Major – a bold thought to play with. Their competition is, whilst very wide in terms of quantity, relatively shallow in quality – a recipe for upsets that could derail the Astralis hype train, but also an environment that could result in Astralis domination.
‘Favourite’ is a term that affords few slip-ups, and Astralis know this better than any team. Anything less than a Grand Final finish makes it near impossible to give the Danes another round of hype for upcoming Majors. The best team in the world will deliver a performance that defines their organisation’s history – for better, or for worse.
We live in an era of uncertainty, but the Astralis curse has always existed in times of concrete absolutes. The time is nigh for either the veil of pain to be lifted from the fans faces, and those that have had their preconceptions to rally behind the Danish prodigal sons, or for the patterns of history to once again wash over us all.
So, will you support Astralis with me? One. Last. Time.