Astralis are world number one, and you should be happy about it

Astralis: The leaders we need

Astralis might not win ESL One Cologne, this much we can say, but if you were just to stack their attributes against the other contenders without the random nature of competition, that would not be possible. Outside of the scope of ‘choking’, the fallibility that comes with being human, this is comfortably the best team in the world, and possibly the best best team we’ve had for a while.

That sentence is not grammatically perfect, that much is for sure, but what we mean is simple. For a while now, the world number one has been contested, with at least a couple of teams challenging for that right, but as we enter the week of ESL One Cologne things have changed, and the gap is bigger. With SK gaming gone to Brazil and mid-pack obscurity, there is a real power vacuum at the top, and it’s helping the Danes stay cool.

Last year, SK captain FalleN openly discussed the fact that FaZe Clan had given him the motivation he needed to stay at the top after a few months of seeming like the best team, and that brief period is the best analogy we have for today’s top four. With the Clan a man down, SK gone to Brazil, and off the boil, and Na’Vi more boosted than a Russian Olympic athlete there is no real contender for the number one spot, and until FaZe make a permanent move, either to replace Olof or bring him back, they won’t be able to contend.


The tools to compete

That would appear to leave MiBR, who used to be SK and are sort-of Immortals, and Na’Vi as the main competition, unless a Mous gorges on Snax to grow into a giant, or Liquid learn how to turn their undoubted potential into a solid level of performance. The Brazilian team looks like they have the tools to compete, with their history of tactical play and extreme team synergy, but since adding Stewie2K they’ve struggled to look like a coherent unit, and proved talent definitely doesn’t substitute in well for tactical nous.

Then there is Na’Vi, who faced match point against the new G2 and saw it turn into a 0-1 record for them on day one of ESL Cologne. They may be in possession of the ultimate Trump card, but the s1mple solution doesn’t work against top level five man units unless some of his mates turn up as well, something that doesn’t happen often enough versus the likes of FaZe, Astralis and so on. But there is a silver lining.

What makes up for all this lack of competition is the potential for competition. Astralis are comfortably world number one through team play, good planning and cohesive thought, something that can be learned from, and eventually achieved by many other teams in the scene. You can spend a decade in deathmatch, and you’ll never be s1mple, but when the answers are not just pure talent there is hope for the rest, and that’s exactly what we should be seeing now.

Sure, there are obstacles to overcome for the contenders, and it may be that eventually Stewie has to leave Brazil so both they and he can realise their full potential, but what we aren’t seeing is a Federer, or Gretzky, or Messi, a level borne of God-given gifts. We are seeing a team of world-class players push the esport forward in a way that will last long beyond their own dominance and ability to rip faces off, and that’s the best kind of progress you can hope for in a competitive environment.

Images: Astralis