After more than 400 days atop the HLTV world rankings, Astralis have finally been dethroned as the world’s best CSGO team, and nobody can work out who did it. Some will say Team Liquid killed the king and broke their own second place curse, while others will blame snake-tongued owners and the lure of filthy lucre for the decline of the team dubbed the greatest in the history of CSGO. While their capitulation is far from complete, it is certainly a big moment in the game after over a year of the Danes dominating all comers.
Much of the reason Astralis have lost their top spot is an absence from major events over recent months, and forthcoming tournaments will see them enter back into the competitive fray as they wind up for a crack at the Major in Berlin. That decision to take time off in the first half of the year opened the door for both Team Liquid and ENCE to overtake them at DreamHack Dallas, depending on results, and in the end it was the North American mix that won out and claimed both crowns.
Sadly for Liquid, this has been as much credited to Astralis’s decision, or maybe the decision taken for them, to miss out on a number of tournaments. Some believe those ducks were to ensure Astralis could play in the Blast Pro Series, although Dallas was not a direct clash with any Blast event, and Liquid have also been involved in RFRSH-run Blast events, which have created many arguments since its inception, and are apparently taking a toll on the team RFRSH are also major investors in now.
This is speculated to be because RFRSH are asking Astralis to attend Blast events over tournaments that pay out more ranking points, but that is yet unproven. Who exactly you blame for the Danish taking their leave from events like IEM Sydney and DreamHack Dallas depends on which sources of information you find it easiest to trust, but this is more a case of Astralis being usurped in their absence than outright defeated and dethroned.
The crown of ‘team of the year’ is still up for grabs, as there has only been one truly premier event in the first six months of 2019, which Astralis won. That was the Major, and the fact the Danes were able to take it without dropping a playoff map means nobody sensible should assume this is the end for them, especially when you consider there has been much personal upheaval in the team, and they are also the first CSGO side to genuinely manage their calendar and skip events with the bigger picture in mind.
Credit must also go to Team Liquid, who have defied lazy stereotyping to become a world class side, and arguably the most talented team in the game right now. They are also the first North American side to reach this spot in the world rankings, which is a sign of continued regional progress after Cloud 9 became the first org from that part of the world to win a Major in Boston last year. The run to Berlin will come to define the year, but a win at ESL One Cologne (where Astralis will be) would set them up for a first Major title, and the fear of the Danes will have been much abated by the series of tournament wins achieved in their absence.
For now though, we have two new contenders for the crown as ENCE cannot be ignored either, not least as they were the first team to defeat Astralis on Nuke, and look utterly unphased by playing against the Danes. Liquid are yet to prove themselves against Astralis themselves, but have demonstrated a strength against the rest of the field that is not just impressive, but is frankly awesome to watch, and leaves us perfectly poised to enjoy a thrilling second half of 2019.
Image credit: Team Liquid