Astralis finish 2018 with a million-dollar bang

The ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals was the last premier event of the CSGO year, give or take, and it ended in a fitting fashion. After all the speculation about the return of MIBR, the possibility s1mple would go off once more in 2018 and that maybe Liquid had learned how to win in Malta, it turned out the best team in the world were the best team in Odense. Astralis, winners of the FACEIT Major, and widely hailed as the best CSGO team to date, took the title, and $1,250,000 dollars to go with it, after defeating Team Liquid again and completing the Intel Grand Slam.

This was the fifth final of 2018 alone that the Danes and Team Liquid shared and, as on the four previous occasions, this match went in favour of the European side. That level of consistency against what is very obviously the second-best team in the world is a sign of just how good Astralis are, rather than any sort of indication that Team Liquid have an issue against the Danes specifically and comes down to how the two sides play.

Now, it’s worth first saying that Sunday night was the closest Liquid have come in a while in these sort of games, but they were still overthrown in the end after taking a 1-0 lead in the series, eventually losing 3-1. The main reason they have struggled to beat the Danes, where the likes of MIBR, FaZe and Na’Vi seem to come closer, or actually manage it, comes down to the way the sides all chose to play CSGO.

Because Liquid are attempting to fit their insanely talented players into a robust tactical system, the matchup against the world number ones requires them to all play their best to have a chance. The random odds of FaZe or Na’Vi, with their insane firepower but less tactically complex system, getting a win over Astralis is actually a bit higher, as there is no real way to plan for the insanity those teams can bring, while Liquid are essentially trying to play in a similar, if not identical way to the team they have chased all year.

'The best we've ever seen'

In the end, though, the manner of the defeat is irrelevant, as the money and acclaim goes to the team with their name on the cup. There have been few better years in CSGO history, and names in the scene were falling over themselves to proclaim this Astralis the best team we’ve ever seen, which to some extent forgets where we started the year in Boston, but is still possible.

If they take the title in Katowice early in 2019, then it would be much harder to argue in favour of NiP, fnatic or the other great sides in the history of the game. Comparing like for like is a waste of time due to the evolution of the game and to some extent advancing meta but, even in terms of pure numbers, this core is getting up there, with two majors to their name, albeit one with Kjaerbye in the side.

There can be no doubt that this is the team of 2018, of course, as they have turned most of the post-Magisk year into a procession, and the FACEIT Major into a foregone conclusion. In the end, it was a fitting close to what has been a fascinating year of CSGO, to have the two best teams in the game face off with a massive pile of cash on the line, and we were rewarded with a fitting winner, too. Over the course of the year, Astralis have advanced themselves, and CSGO as a whole, to new heights, and they fully deserve the money and fame they have earned by doing so. Bring on Katowice!

Image: ESL