Danish Counter-Strike: Global Offensive organization Astralis officially announced Jakob “JUGi” Hansen's signing in a press release, calling it a "second increase" and leaving room for the addition of even more players beyond its new seven-man roster. The move continues Astralis' pursuit of what it describes as "the most competitive and healthy environment for the players." Rumors have swirled for weeks that Astralis didn't plan to stop adding players to its expanding roster. Now, Astralis is now seven players strong with the addition of JUGi and following its earlier acquisition of Patrick "es3tag" Hansen from Heroic in a surprise deal.
WIN.gg spoke with Astralis Group director of sports Kasper Hvidt about the organization's ongoing plans to expand the Astralis roster, whether Valve's Major rule changes affected the team's plans, and what fans can expect from Astralis and its player-focused approach going forward.
WIN.gg: Astralis isn't the first team to try a larger roster. It normally ends with lackluster results. What is Astralis going to do differently?
Kasper Hvidt: I think most of the former six-player rosters from the past were a result of players being benched and not a result of strategic thinking. I believe that is the biggest difference, and I believe that the Astralis' performance team, the physical setup, and the way the whole organization works is very different from what was the case with the other teams [who tried it].
Valve updated the rules for ESL One Rio's Regional Major tournaments, now stating that player swaps will cost teams 20% of their Regional Major Ranking points, per player, up to two players. Additionally, they can only be swapped at that cost prior to each Regional Major tournament. Did these changes have any effect on the addition of es3tag or JUGi?
For us, the idea of a seven-man roster, or even a larger roster long term, started almost three years ago. Our main concern is and has always been the health of our players. And our focus for each individual is for them to be as close to 100% as possible during a tournament. Physically and mentally. Having seven players on the roster will allow some players to step back to rest and recharge the batteries at certain times. It will ultimately extend their careers.
Once all of our players are fully integrated into the new setup, we believe that we can and will create a better and more consistent level of performance. There are changes in the new rules, but we weren't thinking about the Regional Major tournaments when we planned our roster this season. It is about competition, and how we can maintain a high level of performance throughout the season. Some tournament organizers are already allowing player swaps on a more frequent basis, and honestly, I don't see how the industry can't start to move towards healthier conditions for its players.
Valve hasn't released the dates for the remaining Regional tournaments. How does that affect preparations for the upcoming qualifiers?
We'll prepare for the competitions as we always do. We strongly believe that, right now, we have a really strong, five-man roster. And we believe that we'll have a really strong seven-man roster after [they arrive]. If we perform well enough [at the Regional tournaments], then the 20% penalty to swap a player will have no effect on if we get the Rio Major. If a player is actually in a position that he can't play, a 20% penalty is far better than the alternative.
We know that Astralis head coach Danny "zonic" Sørensen has an eye for players, especially judging by his consideration of Emil "Magisk" Reif. How long had Astralis thought about making these latest moves, and how long did it take the team to find the right players?
As mentioned, we have been thinking about the multiple-player roster for many years. The difficult part of all this is finding the perfect fit. We are constantly monitoring a range of players and profiles, and through our player analyses, we know what kind of personality we are looking for to have the optimal fit with the rest of the players on the roster. When adding a player, there are a number of other factors in play. In-game wise, we were looking for agile players who were able to play multiple positions. es3tag and JUGi fulfill all of these criteria.
Is this something that Astralis is just testing out, or has the organization committed to this plan for the long term?
Experiments can be fun, especially in high school physics classes, but that is not how we operate on any level in the Astralis Group. When we make a move like this, it is never a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. We always focus on building and strengthening the foundation for the long term. So the answer would be no, this is not an experiment. There are no guarantees in this world, but if you prepare and do your homework, you minimize chance and luck. That's what we're always aiming to do, and we believe that having healthy players with a physical and mental balance is the right focus.
In essence, for every role on Astralis, we want two players who can fill it.
If you want to read more about how Zonic decided Astralis should sign Magisk over Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and Dennis "dennis" Edman, click here.