Astralis made history on Sunday when the Danish team came out victorious at the StarLadder Berlin Major, breaking the record for most major championships won by a team and becoming the first ever to win three in a row. It’s a special achievement and one that likely won’t be replicated in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive any time soon.
How did Astralis manage to pull it off? What drove them through the event? And what did they make of their opponents along the way?
WIN.gg sat down with Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen following the event to discuss his journey through the event and how Astralis found their form at the event.
While Astralis was back in peak form for the playoffs, they didn’t look nearly as hot beforehand.
The team entered the Berlin Major in some disarray, coming off a skid that saw them post underwhelming finishes at a variety of events and slip from the top spot of most CSGO rankings. Coupled with this was the fact that a vocal section of the game’s fan base suddenly loathed them.
“We had some mixed performances going into this new season and a lot of people started doubting us, like ‘Were we doing the right thing skipping some events?’” Dupreeh said. “We just have to admit that doing what we’ve done has been the right thing for us. We got some more time off, we got some more time to spend with family, and that actually charged my batteries a lot more.”
Fans were annoyed when Astralis sat out a number of prominent events following the IEM Katowice Major. Astralis was still active competing in BLAST Pro Series tournaments organized by Astralis’ own parent company, but the perceived rejection of established events on the competitive calendar in favor of an upstart circuit whose ownership also controlled Astralis didn’t sit well with many fans.
That only got amplified when the team decided to take a break from competition ahead of the major. Astralis was far from alone in taking this approach, as other prominent organizations such as Natus Vincere and Ninjas in Pyjamas did the same, but naysayers pointed to it as confirmation that the team was on its way out.
Of course, the results at the major speak for themselves.
“Having the opportunity and time to figure out what was wrong with the team, what we have to change, and looking back at what we did really well in 2018,” dupreeh said. “We’ve made the right decision no matter what people say. And obviously standing here as champion is also going to prove it.”
Though Astralis’ run in the playoffs was perfect as they took 2-0 wins over every opponent, their group stage performance was not.
During the Legends Stage, Astralis came out on the wrong end of two of the longest games in CSGO major history and lost a series to NRG Esports. That shook Astralis fans a bit, and it shook the players too.
“I wouldn’t say it was scary, but it gave us a bit of hesitation…When we left for the major we had a lot of really good time in practice and it felt like we were going to perform really well,” dupreeh said. “Then obviously if you go into the game, and start playing better teams, and start losing a lot of stupid rounds, and we lost overtimes to both CR4ZY and NRG, you start getting a little hesitant.”
When Astralis reached the Berlin Major playoffs, something changed within them. The team never looked outright bad during its decline, but it wasn’t the overwhelming force that trucked through the IEM Katowice Major or ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals.
A surprising opportunity presented itself to Astralis in the playoffs when Team Liquid, Astralis’ archrival in 2019 and the favorite to win the Berlin Major, had an ugly group stage performance that resulted in the two sides meeting in the quarterfinals. That gave Astralis the chance to advance forward while also sending a message to anyone that had their faith shaken.
“Something just happened to us when we went into the playoffs,” Dupreeh said. “We are a really solid playoff team and when we knew we already had Team Liquid beat in the quarterfinals, I think everyone on the team just felt like if we want to win this major and deny anything going forward, this is the moment. I think that’s what changed everything.
Astralis beat Liquid to start their run in the Champions Stage, winning the series 2-0. From there, they had little trouble as they eliminated NRG Esports and dominated Avangar in the grand finals.
Avangar will ultimately be remembered at this event as but the final hurdle that Astralis cleared before capturing its fourth major title, but may not be fair. The Kazakhstani team posted a strong showing at the tournament, picking up steam in the middle of the Challengers Stage pack and lasting until the very end.
Unfortunately, their Cinderella story didn’t have an especially happy ending. Astralis brutalized them in the final, taking a 2-0 victory in swift fashion as Avangar struggled to even muster up a resistance. That rough ending to their run at the Berlin Major had many wondering if Avangar was a legitimate contender in the first place, or if they just happened to meet the right opponents at the right time.
dupreeh pushed back against that assumption and suggested that big things could be on the horizon for the Kazakhstani team.
“They have a lot of inexperienced players, they had never really been in a grand final like this, but they should be really proud of what they’ve achieved,” dupreeh said. “I think they have a really solid team, they have so many good players on their team…I think they can go really far. As their coach said on the stage, it was really tough for them to lose but they get a lot of experience out of it. It’s just how it is when you’re becoming a better player, you need to get those experiences to play in finals.”