Short answer – Astralis.
Long answer – Astralis. Now here’s why.
On Saturday evening, we saw the Danes take on Made In Brazil, the team of five major winners coached by former desk analyst Janko ‘YNK’ Paunovic, and it was a good thing the game was broadcast as the last of the day. Frankly, that level of violent disrespect would not, and should not be allowed in normal working hours, and when the dust had settled there were only Danes left standing, with the rubble of MIBR reduced to a fine American dust.
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For those who didn’t watch the end of Saturday’s action at the FACEIT Major, the final game of the day was a 2-1 clash between the Astralis and MIBR, that ended 16-0 in Danish favour. The map was Dust 2, the time was late in the day, and the statistics after the match spoke of the sort of contest a boxing referee would have deemed unfair to start, let alone one-sided enough to stop.
Some highlights include: there was not a single round in which a MIBR player survived to the end; only one MIBR player (Stewie) made it to double digits for kills; dev1ce went 24/5/9 in terms of K/A/D, with a 2.19 rating; FalleN had a .37 rating, with fer at .38 and coldzera on .40. In contrast, Magisk was the worst-rated on Astralis, at 7/5/5, and that was largely because every time he got to a fight the enemy were already dead.
Just one result
Some might ask, what can we really learn from just one result, eh? If this best-of-one defeat of MIBR is so impactful, why is it just a few days ago that you were saying the two losses to North in best-of threes meant nothing? How is that consistent, and when will you learn that this form of question-writing is extremely annoying for the reader?
Well, as we covered in this article, the losses to North had a number of mitigating factors, ranging from Dreamhack’s weird coaching rules to the timing of the event, just after a player break, and just before a major. It was our theory that Astralis were just using Stockholm to hone their gun skill, and saving their tactical innovations for London, and the biggest event of the year.
If anything, Saturday night's win just shows that we may be right, as the team faced their first real challenge and overcame it in style. Preparing to beat North in Stockholm is a waste of their time, gla1ve and co know they have the match of MSL every day and twice on Sundays, but they would have worked on a plan for MIBR, and it came together perfectly. Even in the loss to Team Liquid, a game Astralis lost, you could see the sheer indomitable will, and their spirit was clearly not dampened.
Still, they did lose to Liquid, and there is an argument to say that result shows Astralis don’t have all the answers. Whether they went into that game with the win as their top priority is debatable, but one thing is clear - Liquid went all out, and showed their entire hand in an attempt to win that mind game.
The mental battle
Many pundits speculated that, had Liquid lost the game, they would have been so mentally broken that a Major win would be essentially impossible at that point. They didn’t lose, of course, but as we said they did throw everything at the wall in their attempt to win, giving Astralis a great look at what the other favourite for the title might do later on.
Equally, while Liquid will feel great about the win, they will know in the back of their minds how close they came to throwing it away, and that won’t go away. On the other hand, Astralis bounced back quickly and emphatically, taking apart a team of major winners without breaking a sweat, and booking a place in the final round of the event.
We cannot be sure, but there is even a feeling that Astralis maybe didn’t commit as much to getting that win. The effort involved in making their comeback was real, but the planning is clearly for week three, rather than week two, and the Danes now know everything that Liquid have to throw at them. With FaZe very clearly not in the conversation at this point, that means that competition is limited, save for one black and yellow spanner.
The true final boss
For this writer, the last remaining barrier in front of Astralis is not the superteam of FaZe, or the resurgent Liquid, or even the patriotically fuelled BIG Clan, but Natus Vincere, and their star man s1mple. The hybrid sniper is head and shoulders above anyone else in world CSGO right now, and his team are one of the few that fear nobody, even Astralis.
That might sound like a strange statement about a side that has shown as much flakiness and temper on stage as Na’Vi has, but they have all been forged in fire, and fear nothing. S1mple, electronic and flamie all know their own ability, with the former among the five best in the world, and for all the flak they get, Edward and Zeus fear nothing and nobody.
This is largely because they have spent the last year being abused for their inability to frag, and even winning a major wasn’t enough for Zeus’s detractors to stop, but unlike some others it seems to have a galvanising effect on the CIS legends. Edward already has the cold eyes of a killer, and it’s obvious he is happy to listen to pundits slate him, confident they don’t understand the game like he does, and hopeful they are one day left in a room alone ...
Either way, Na’Vi are the only team that look to have the ability and mental strength to face off against Astralis and win, but that’s still a long shot. From MIBR, to the loss to Liquid, and everything else we’ve seen since Magisk arrived, the signs are all facing due Astralis, and this is their major to lose. Now where have we heard that before?