To the stars!
The story of Astralis – Part 1
Astralis is surely one of the best CS:GO teams in the world. They hold the most Major championship titles and were the first squad to ever win Grand Slam. This is the story about team Astralis and their road to the first Major championship title.
Per Aspera ad Astra: Through hardship to the stars
Have you ever wondered how Astralis won 4 Major titles, the first Intel Grand Slam and became the most dominant team on the CS:GO professional scene?
The answer is simple – hard work and consistency. Truth to be told, Astralis struggled more than any other CS:GO organization. They had all kinds of problems but they managed to overcome them all and still become the best team in the world so far.
Early beginnings: Copenhagen Wolves
With the release of CS:GO in 2012, almost every famous Counter-Strike organization formed a CS:GO team with old stars from Counter-Strike: Source. On January 18, 2013, Danish organization Copenhagen Wolves chose a slightly different approach to the new game.
Instead, they did completely the opposite. Instead of bringing old CS Source stars to the new team, they brought five young players. This was later confirmed to be a great move. The team that was created that day consisted of Nikolai “device” Reedtz, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen and Andreas “xyp9x” Højsleth which is still the main core of Astralis team today.
The Astralis curse
The first four years were rough for Astralis, especially on Major championships. They always performed well but it seemed like they were cursed and the semi-finals were the maximum they could reach, no matter what they did.
As famous CS:GO analytic and coach Janko “YNk” Paunović once said:
“They are their own worst enemy. They tend to choke, they tend to break under pressure, they lose the big advantage and fall out in the top four, never seem to make it in the finals of the major event, even though all the ingredients are there.“
It was completely true for this team, they always performed well but never managed to win a Major or even get to the Grand Finals.
DreamHack 2013 was the first Major this team played. Despite their great form and amazing performance on that tournament, they were knocked out in the quarterfinals match with the final result 2-1 against VeryGames.
On December 8, 2013, Copenhagen wolves released their CS:GO team and that team became “über G33KZ”. They were on the scene for only 1 month but one major roster change was made. With the beginning of 2014, Nikolaj “Nico” Jensen left the team and René “cajunb” Borg joined. In addition to that, the rest of the team went to play for another team called Dignitas.
Astralis under the Dignitas banner
On February 16, 2014, Team Dignitas signed the whole roster of über G33KZ and the team started playing for Dignitas.
The first Major under the Dignitas banner was ESL One Katowice 2014. There, Dignitas lost in the semifinals against NiP. The next Major was ESL One Cologne and they lost against Fnatic, once again in the semi-finals.
The year 2014 had 3 Majors and the third one was the most critical tournament and the turning point for the team. That was the event where they lost in the quarterfinals and they had to ask themselves how it was possible for a team with that much raw power to always lose in late stages of important tournaments.
Clearly, something had to change. First came a roster in-game leader change. Henrik “FeTiSh” Christensen was replaced with Finn “karrigan” Andersen who took the IGL role and brought a completely new playstyle into the team. The changes were immediately seen in Astralis’ first LAN tournament where they won against Fnatic and finished third.
Astralis under the Team SoloMid banner
On January 29, 2015, Team SoloMid picked up the former Dignitas players.
After losing in the quarterfinals of the Major against NiP again, the management of Team SoloMid was not satisfied and the team was disbanded. But that seemed to be a good thing for once because it signaled the beginning of team Astralis.
Finally, on January 18, 2016, Astralis was formed. Their very first move was to invite legendary Danish Counter-Strike player Danny “zonic” Sørensen to be their coach. He was once the best Counter-Strike player in Denmark and they thought an old experienced player can teach them a thing or two.
And they were right – Inviting zonic was the best move this team has ever made. However, the results still weren’t there. The same issues plagued them on both Majors in 2016 and Astralis were knocked out in the quarterfinals. The curse held.
Another roster change had to be made and cajunb was replaced with Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye. On top of that, karrigan also left to play for FaZe and thus, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander joined them as a fifth player.
From previous experience, Astralis knew that roster changes weren’t enough to break the curse. They also knew they were good enough to win a Major and the problem was only in their head. That’s why they hired a new psychologist from Finland, Mia Stellberg. She helped boost the team spirit and made real athletes out of them.
Junk food was strictly forbidden, the whole team had to go to the gym and start working on themselves. This made them feel like real athletes, changed their mindset and placing a winning mentality there. Esports is more than just playing video games and this is what had to be done. Believe it or not, that change led them to their first Major title.
First Major Championship Title
The 2017 Major in Atlanta was surely the best tournament for this team. Astralis managed to defeat everyone who had stopped them in the past during the Major playoffs. Quarterfinals were against Na`Vi, semifinals against fnatic and the Grand Finals were played against Virtus.pro who had lost only one map in the tournament. The Grand Finals were one of the most dramatic matches in the history of the CS:GO pro scene.
Virtus.pro won the first map without any major problem. Somehow, Astralis managed to win the second map with 16-14. The final map and the decider was Train. Virtus.pro were the best team on Train in that year. In addition to that, the Russians also had a 7-0 lead on T-side which was already more than enough rounds to secure the match and victory.
However, this is the match where xyp9x became the clutch master as he is today. After multiple clutches, Astralis won that map with 16-14 and with that – their first Major Championship title.
The first Major is there but the story of Astralis isn’t over yet. There are many more obstacles for this team to overcome in order to get to the top. Stay tuned for the second part of this story and find out how this team became the best in the world.