ECS Season 5 Finals Recap: Astralis number 1

The dust from London has settled, and the weekend is over. With it comes an end to a question that has been floating around for a few weeks now, as the world’s best team proved they are indeed the world’s best team, as you would have expected. That may sound a touch mundane, but the action from the SSE at Wembley was anything else as Astralis lifted yet another trophy, defeating Team Liquid 2-0 in a best of three final.

On their way to the win, the two finalists had defeated such luminaries of the game as FaZe Clan (with a sub), and G2 Esports (playing for the first time in a new team with two guys who can’t shoot), so it’s fair to say we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the result. Sure, compared to SK’s win in Portugal it’s a massive deal, but for a team like Astralis this will just be a stop on the roadmap to their eventual goal of world domination, with a reborn, murderous Magisk at the heart of their darkness.

In fairness to FaZe, they were playing with a stand-in again, albeit a more talented one than before, but it was clear Cromen hadn’t had time to fully adapt, and that FaZe need to solve their problem soon. With Olof back out again indefinitely, it’s clear they need to take decisive action, even if their love for their Swedish friend is still strong.

The final itself was a fairly close game for a while, but once Astralis had clawed their way back into map one, which Liquid led for some time, it seemed as though the mental war had already been won by the Danes. For all TACO talks about being the big bad wolf, he no longer has his pack of killers to back him up, and it showed as the Brazilian ended up on the losing side despite putting in a decent personal performance.

Big bad wolf

Liquid’s Brazilian had already caused a slight ruckus with a probably-unintentional reference to JW as a ‘little pig’ after his team had beaten Fnatic, and at times it looked as though he’d learned a lot from his old mate Marcelo. In the final though, he was packless, and Astralis hunted like a well-oiled unit, bringing the efficient pain at every opportunity, with a level of cohesion that suggested some extremely intelligent communication.

As a short aside, it is interesting that Astralis are continuing a long line of top teams that seem to focus on communicating in stressful situations, and excel at it. Even the amazing Swedish sides that seemed to be built on pure ability had some almost-telepathic level of understanding in clutch, 2 v 2 situations, and Denmark’s best have obviously spent a lot of time making sure everyone know how each other wants to play in any given situation.

In some ways, it is reminiscent of the way the German national football team revolutionised international football over the last decade. While both Germany and Astralis have some astonishingly talented players in a Kroos, or Dev1ce, it is not the same focus on star power a South American team like Argentina might have, or FaZe in CS terms.

The logic, presumably, in CS is that even if you are not having the game of your life, you still have solid fundamentals and processes to fall back on in any given situation, which removes a layer of thinking from the overall burden the players carry. A recent podcast on CS discussed, in brief, the value of ‘total’ leadership, where every player is micro-managed around the map, and it looked as though Astralis have taken that to another level, with preparation increased to get the ‘orders’ in pre-game, and players more able to adapt on the fly as a result.

Whatever the process, ECS Season 5 finals showed us it works, and for now Astralis are comfortably the best team in the world, but there comes with that a caveat. At the moment they are doing very well based on their team based play, but to maintain that position without being anti-stratted could become more difficult over time, and is surely a factor in why the team regularly takes time off, to reset, and create new plays that other teams will not know how to counter.

In terms of the event, while the winner was fair, and some of the CS was great, there were worrying signs for FACEIT. Technical issues dogged the weekend, with the opening desk segment silent for a good while, and the weekend was also plagued by overlay issues as the observers struggled to keep up with the play at the same time. If two guys are walking past JW, and he has his knife out in a new corner, it might be worth going to his screen, team.

For now though, Astralis have simply cemented themselves (or maybe they used some other, more eco-friendly building material, being Danish) in the number one position, and the way they dealt with their opposition was impressive. As a last thought, we must also shout out NRG, who made top four again, and played well above their expected level, again. In a fairly predictable world, they are a breath of fresh air, and we look forward to seeing their continued progess.

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