Astralis: Making Counter Strike History

by Fabio

Astralis are perhaps the best Counter Strike team to ever exist. Since 2015, the core of these players has remained together and won four Major trophies. Add to that countless high-profile tournament victories and you arguably have the most skilled CSGO roster of all time. But their reign of terror on the international esports scene took a long time to establish. Especially in the early days, the team struggled to perform at offline events.

The TSM Days

At the start of 2015, a bunch of players transferred to Team SoloMid from Team Dignitas. Amongst them were Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth and Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz. They were lead by Finn “karrigan” Andersen and accompanied by René “cajunb” Borg. They immediately grew into playoffs contenders at big events, but the roster struggled to win tournaments. Towards the end of 2015, the players decided to leave TSM and built something for their own.

Team SoloMid in 2015
Team SoloMid in 2015 (via liquipedia.net)

Struggling Under Astralis

The Astralis project was unveiled at the start of 2016. The former TSM players had been riding a wave of success lately. Despite faltering under pressure at some of the bigger events, they still had built up a sizeable trophy collection. Under Astralis, they struggled massively. This culminated in the decision to remove cajunb in favor of Markus “Kyaerbye” Kjærbye.

At their first event together, they had to field a stand-in. Due to transfer rules, Kyaerbye was ineligible to play the 2016 ESL One Cologne CSGO Major with Astralis. To help out, they rolled in Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander. This roster actually performed decently well. Their performance netted them a spot in the playoffs, but then disaster struck. Dupreeh was rushed to a hospital, where they diagnosed an appendicitis. Obviously, he wouldn’t play the quarter finals with the team.

The rosters were locked, no other players were available. So their coach, Danny “zonic” Sorensen, had to join the server and play professional Counter Strike, which he hadn’t done for the better part of a decade. Still, the team, fielding two substitutes, almost pushed Virtus.Pro over the brink. An overtime loss on the last map meant that they were out of the event. But at least they had brought a historic fight to the Lanxess Arena. 

The Beginning of an Era

This event made Astralis reconsider their leadership structure. Most importantly, they were positively surprised by their substitute from Cologne. They opted to replace karrigan, who went on to FaZe Clan, and signed gla1ve in the Fall of 2016.

This was the final push that they needed to become a competitive world-class team. At their first CSGO Major together, they immediately got the trophy. Playing at the ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta 2017, they defeated Virtus.pro in an nailbiter Grand Finals series. Their success continued on, but they weren’t able to win the second Major of the year.

In retrospect, it is obvious that this was due to Kyaerbye not fitting in. After being crowned the Major MVP, the pressure got to him and he didn’t feel comfortable in Astralis anymore. At the start of 2018, he left the team on short notice. Within just a week, Astralis had to find a replacement. 

Fortunately, OpTic Gaming had just dissolved their squad and Emil “Magisk” Reif was a free agent. Many fans criticized the move and argued that the player wasn’t up to par with the rest of Astralis. But they saw potential in him and were rewarded with a top-class player. At the second Major of 2018, they rushed to the Grand Finals and beat Na’Vi for their second Major trophy, all while wiping the floor with the rest of the teams at the other tournaments. In 2019, they won both Major Championships with ease, setting records for the shortest Grand Finals in CSGO history. During that time, they established quite a few notable rivalries. But one of them sticks out as the most competitive and entertaining of all.

Astralis vs Liquid

The Team Liquid vs Astralis rivalry has given us plenty of amazing matches throughout 2018 and 2019. At that time, Liquid were becoming a top international force. Their individual performance took a massive step forward, but they actually became more tactically sound as well. Unfortunately, the team standing in their way was Astralis. For an entire year, the Danes would regularly keep Team Liquid from getting trophies. Those playoffs matches were intense and contributed to an iconic rivalry.

But eventually, Astralis had to be defeated. Finally, at the iBUYPOWER Masters IV in January of 2019, Liquid took them down in three maps. Astralis wound up beating them in every other playoffs match-up that year. However, Liquid finally showed that the beast could be tamed and Astralis were not unstoppable. Still, Astralis had been the dominant force in Counter Strike for two straight years. They have established an era and their reign has held strong for a long time. Even the fnatic roster of 2015 doesn’t compare to the insane momentum and skill that the Danes have displayed until now.

Astralis at ELEAGUE Premier 2018 (via liquipedia.net)

Where Are Astralis Now?

Unfortunately, the glorious days of the Danes seem to have passed. There is a bit of controversy around the management of the team. Journalists have alleged that the higher-ups were denying the players a much-needed break for many months. This contributed to two players, Xyp9x and gla1ve, taking an extended break in 2020. While this took place during the coronavirus pandemic and didn’t really matter in terms of offline appearances, it shows that the team’s success is built on fragile grounds.

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The two substitutes, Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer and Jakob “JuGi” Hansen, have not been able to perform up to par. The former quickly made his way to another organization, while JuGi was actually brought onto the roster to stay. Patrick “es3tag” Hansen has been signed as a permanent player. With this 7-man roster, Astralis hope to be able to bring players in and out of rotation.

So far, this approach hasn’t really worked out. But if there is a team that could make this work, it would be Astralis. These players have won four CSGO Majors and written CSGO history. Is there a limit to what they can do?

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