Danish Counter-Strike is one hell of a drug and Astralis certainly delivered on feeding our addictions during the ELeague Major final. After a year of domination from the Brazilian powerhouse; SK gaming, Europe, or rather Denmark, has retaken the throne, for now at least. The ELEAGUE major was full to the brim with fantastic games and the final between Virtus.Pro and Astralis was a prime example of that.
With SK Gaming knocked out in the semifinals, the final of the ELeague major in Atlanta saw Astralis face off against Virtus Pro. Though the Danish squad had been the favourites to win well before the tournament kicked off, stopping the Virtus Plough looked to be a tall order. Considering Virtus.Pro have defied the usual conventions of CS:GO eSports by sticking with their current roster for over three years – when other (even top tier) teams tend to have multiple roster swaps per year – toppling them was going to be a tall order.
The Astralis roster (formerly under the Team SoloMid banner) are a team who many have considered to be top-tier, yet are also cursed with a long standing history of choking. The Danish team have rarely ever had trouble in the group stages of the majors, but have struggled to make it to the finals on a number of occasions.
This has become such a norm for many in the community, that when the team were knocked out of the quarter-finals of the Dreamhack Open: Cluj-Napoca major in October of 2015; Half-Life TV went so far as to produce an article titled “TSM Choke Again” (though it was later retracted after backlash).
However, much has changed since the major in Cluj; naturally, a number of roster changes have dramatically altered the competitive landscape. Most notably, the former Astralis in-game leader, Finn “karrigan” Andersen departed the team to join the international team FaZe Clan. Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander took his place and it would seem that his style of leadership has paid off, as the once chronically-choking Danish squad managed finally figured out how to properly digest the pressure of major knockout rounds.
Their path to winning the tournament was certainly no white-wash. Virtus Pro put the Danes to the test, but fell just short of claiming the title for themselves. This doesn’t take away from Astralis’ victory though; it strengthens it. The talented roster were made to work for it despite in the face of fierce opposition.
Astralis’ victory has spelt a fairytale ending and the finals themselves were some of the best in the majors since NiP vs. Fnatic at ESL One Katowice 2015. Having shaken off their poor reputation regarding their performance in the play-offs at the majors, it will be interesting to see what is in store for them next. 2017 has only just begun and it will definitely get even better for Astralis from here on out.