Astralis have made Counter-Strike: Global Offensive history.
The Danish squad won the StarLadder Berlin Major with a 2-0 victory. The team becomes the first to ever to win three consecutive major titles, following their wins at the FACEIT Major: London and the IEM Katwoice Major. It also gives the team their fourth major title, breaking the record of three that they previously held with Fnatic.
They accomplished this by defeating Avangar in the Berlin Major grand finals.
The map picks and bans went largely according to plan, with Avangar avoiding some of Astralis’ best maps of the event while Astralis steered things into some of their most successful maps. Avangar first banned Nuke, Astralis’ signature map, and picked Dust 2, where AWPer Dzhami “Jame” Ali could shine. Astralis countered by banning Mirage and choosing Inferno for the first game, which has been their most successful map of late.
Avangar then banned Vertigo, the newest map in the pool, which Astralis used to upset Team Liquid in the quarterfinals. This allowed Astralis to set up the third game on Overpass, a map they have looked unstoppable on throughout the Berlin Major.
Astralis opened the pistol round with two quick frags and leveraged that advantage to victory on the T side. They converted despite an Avangar force buy, but Avangar managed to recover the weapons to stay in the game economically. Maintaining a decent economy is a separate matter from actually winning rounds, however.
Astralis is incredibly skilled when it comes to pushing to the B-side bomb site, and in this match it wasn’t any different. Avangar played a very strong defense, but Astralis’ clean entries allowed them to clear out the site, plant the bomb, and stall retakes time and again. That success translated to the A site not long after, which allowed Astralis to advance to an 8-0 lead.
Avangar finally got on the board by taking more aggressive positions. A big hold from Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev allowed them to finally get on the board and an aggressive play from Timur “buster” Tulepov gave them a hint of momentum. That got shut down hard when a rush down mid by Astralis with just Desert Eagles turned into a rally-crushing win.
Astralis kept executing every push, which set them up with a dominant 12-3 first half.
Avangar took the second pistol round and converted into three straight. When Astralis got back on the board, it broke Avangar’s back. A crafty play from Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth where he sacrificed a teammate to deny a bomb plant and clear the site put Astralis on map point, and they locked things up 16-6 the next round.
Astralis immediately set the tone for Dust 2. In the opening seconds of the first pistol round, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander fired his USP from the mid door and landed a head shot on Jame, which took Avangar’s star player out of the equation immediately. That gave Astralis the win, which they quickly converted on.
Avangar got on the board earlier this time. They mustered up a full buy in round three and took the win but Astralis answered with a crafty play on the A bomb site where Xyp9x once again sacrificed his teammate while hiding in smoke to set up a multi-kill and retake. That put Avangar into a free fall as Astralis pushed their lead further to 7-1.
Avangar showed some signs of life as halftime approached. Assertive rotations and solid gunslinging from Sanjar “SANJI” Kuliev turned into some round victories and bomb plants, but Astralis barely gave an inch. Astralis closed out the first half 11-4.
SANJI stepped up hard for Avangar in the second pistol round but once again, momentum proved to be hard to hold. Astralis force bought in the second round, baited out the utility, and overwhelmed Avangar to gut their economy. Avangar were on pistols as Astralis approached match point.
From there, Astralis wasted no time closing things down. An early frag allowed Astralis to overwhelm Avangar and close out the game 16-5.
The Berlin Major was a huge statement for Astralis.
The team entered the event as one of the favorites on paper, but were not really treated like one. Team Liquid was firmly entrenched as the consensus best team in CSGO and favorite to win heading into the event, while ENCE Esports and Team Vitality were trendier alternatives.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad call as Astralis had undeniably slipped in recent months. The team went from winning almost every event they participated in to looking good, but not necessarily great.
When Astralis took a decisive 2-0 win over Liquid in the quarterfinals of the major, the mood of the tournament immediately changed. The Astralis of 2018 was a force of nature in CSGO and that victory marked their return. This was driven home the next day when Astralis ran through NRG Esports, a team that had beaten them 2-0 just days earlier in the Legends Stage.
Avangar looked the part of a real threat, but Astralis once again proved to be on another level from everyone else in CSGO.
Despite taking this lopsided loss, Avangar’s run in the StarLadder Berlin Major has been a sight to behold. The team was left off many players’ Pick’Ems, even for the Challengers Stage, due to a generally underwhelming summer that saw them go from first place at DreamHack Open Rio de Janeiro to the middle of the pack in various regional events.
Securing Returning Challenger status for the next major was regarded as a win. Then making top eight to ensure Legend status was an absolute coup. At each step of the Berlin Major, Avangar was graded on a curve in anticipation of their luck finally running out, but that stumble just never came.
They kicked off the Legends Stage with an upset win over Team Vitality, one of the teams that was regarded as a strong contender to win the event. The 2-1 series saw Jame look the part of one of the best AWPers in the game and Buster step up in every sort of situation.
The victory was brushed off by many as more of a poor showing by Vitality rather than an impressive one by Avangar, but there was no questioning their performance against Renegades. Playing the Australians in the semifinals, Avangar showed brilliant teamwork alongside their strong individual skills. This allowed them to out-last them in a back-and-forth game one and steamroll them in game two.
While many will brush off the CIS squad as a team that was the beneficiary of a weak lineup of opponents, they proved that they can do great things under the right circumstances.
There is a long wait until the next CSGO major and a lot of work to be done for both teams until then, but both should be up to the task.