No, the Astralis era isn’t over
Sometimes, metaphors require objects that would not be realistic in real life, but that’s OK. In this case, it’s a cake big enough to feed more than 800,000 people, that cannot be both eaten and had at the same time, by the users of the most popular CSGO subreddit, r/GlobalOffensive. The choice for the users is simple - either Blast Pro Series is a meaningful event, and we have a challenger to Astralis, or it’s just a glorified exhibition that means nothing in the wider context.
Following ENCE’s best-of-three victory over the Danes in the final of Blast Pro Madrid, the more reactionary pundits were quick to push the narrative that Astralis might be showing signs of weakness, or their era could be at an end. As is often the way, the majority of the Reddit users were quick to agree, and declare this the "end of an era" for CSGO based on this bo3 loss and ‘other results’.
Era -a long and distinct period of history
The problem with this theory is that it isn’t really supported if you look at the calendar, the recent results, or the history of the game. Eras don’t really peter out unless a team falls off dramatically, and the end of one requires a team to lose enough that they are no longer ‘the best’, something that clearly hasn’t happened to the Danes. In fact, they lost several far more meaningful games in 2018, including North beating them in a bo3 final at a more prestigious event, and nobody batted an eye because Astralis came back to take more major titles.
That is actually the most glaring problem with the entire point of view, that Blast Pro is simultaneously a small ‘joke of a tournament run by a company that is killing CSGO’, but also matters enough to use one result as proof of the end of an era. That is the first, and most important way that people are seeking to have their cake and eat it, by only using Blast results as meaningful if they fit the argument being made.
The other main reason we can’t be at the end of the Astralis era is that there is no such thing as a ‘nothing’ era, and no team has risen or proven themselves the successor to the Danes so far, making it impossible to say we’re in the EZ4ENCE, or post-choke Liquid times. A loss to ENCE or Team Liquid at a decidedly tier-two event means very little in isolation, and it seems like we won’t see all the big teams in the same room very often before the Berlin Major, making it hard to believe anyone is going to knock them off and create a new era.
Nothing changes until Berlin
If the pundits are honest, they will admit that 2019 is simply open at best for now, but still the Danes’ year to lose. If Astralis win ESL One Cologne, even without Liquid attending, and finish the year with two major titles, then nobody will care one jot that they missed IEM Sydney or lost the final of Blast Pro Madrid. In fact, they have the chance to extend what is already one of the great Major record this year, and further stretch the gap between themselves and the rest when it matters most.
At the last two Majors, Astralis went through the last week and playoffs without dropping a map, something that is truly incredible, and should honestly have got more coverage than was the case. If they do that in Berlin, we will have witnessed the greatest era in CSGO, and in fact the first to feature real, long-term planning beyond just "get the best players in a server and click on faces".
What we will have seen is a team that understands they can dominate for years in a game where six months, or six events can be considered an era by historians. They will have done this by sacrificing some of the smaller events and a few paycheques to not burn out or fade away too fast, extending their longevity and securing their place as the greatest of all time. Does anyone believe Astralis are giving it their all at the Blast or care about IEM Sydney, when they are just a couple of tournaments away from back-to-back-to-back Majors? We don’t.
Pictures: Blast Pro