Perhaps the biggest and most surprising roster change in Counter-Strike this year was the transfer of Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye from Team Dignitas to Astralis and Rene “cajunb” Borg going in the other direction. At the time, both sides were struggling and seemed to be in need of some kind of change, but few people expected such a move from Astralis, especially with cajunb a founding member and co-owner of the team.
Just over a month later, Astralis is starting to look like a formidable team once again. The roster change seems to have revitalized the all star lineup, and while Astralis hasn’t exactly had the best results at events, it’s started to really challenge the top teams and is once again on the rise.
“This trio of Kjaerbye, dev1ce and dupreeh in three months will be the best trio in CS:GO,” Astralis team leader Finn “karrigan” Andersen said at the ECS LAN Finals in London. “In my opinion, Kjaerbye can take over the game just as easily as dupreeh or dev1ce can, so that’s something that is working for us.”
Karrigan is certainly confident in his new team, that much is clear from the way he speaks about his teammates, but the question that many people had coming into ESL One Cologne was if this change would actually give Astralis better results in the long run, or if keeping cajunb, someone who proved himself on multiple occasions, would eventually have led to bigger and better things.
“I think it was the right change,” karrigan said. “It’s a big change. People think it’s only one player, but the whole role system with me calling definitely changed on all maps, because I have a completely different role now. As an in-game leader, I am used to having the same role for four or five years, so it messes with the routine, and it adds some performance issues with me right now that I have to fix. So that is something I am working on personally, but on a team level I think we have such high skilled and impact players, that we will be at the top again soon.”
It isn’t just karrigan who has had to get used to a lot of new changes since the transfer; arguably the biggest adjustment has been for Kjaerbye, who walked into a team that had played together for years, after coming from a team that was unstable to say the least.
“From my perspective, I have settled in well,” Kjaerbye said. “I already knew the guys from the social side of the game, but there is of course all different things when you start to play and practice with them five times a week and traveling with them 100 days a year, but overall it’s been pretty decent. We have played well so far and of course there is still things we need to improve. Being new to the team, I have to get to know the play style more, but so far I think me and the team are pretty happy.”
There has, of course, been a longstanding rivalry between the two Danish teams. While Astralis has always been considered the stronger of the two, Dignitas was certainly getting to the stage where it could be considered equally as strong, if not slightly better. So it’s not unreasonable to think that there was a slight ulterior motive to the transfer. Not only would Astralis gain a great player, it would also take away the brightest star from its rival. Karrigan, however, says that wasn’t the case.
“The trade I think was good for both teams, but we really wanted Kjaerbye to evolve and develop our play style,” karrigan said. “I don’t think it was to destroy another team. It wouldn’t make sense, as we always had easy games against Dignitas. I think we won 12 of 13 games, and famously lost the Malmo match against them and then crashed out to NiP. I think it was just that the timing was perfect for us, and Dignitas also had some issues from what I heard, they had some bad performance and they weren’t at the major. So I think it was the right time for both teams to get this refreshment of a new player and I am very happy that it worked out.”
Obviously the question that everyone now wants to know, is which team will come out on top? At ESL One Cologne, the Danish clubs were in Group A together and opened the tournament in a match Astralis won 16-12. Astralis beat Dignitas again later to advance from the group, a match it played without dupreeh, who had a health emergency.
Kjaerbye didn’t play (he had to sit out because he qualified with Dignitas for the major before being traded), so the real test is yet to come. Still, the man who has played for both definitely seemed to think he moved to the better club.
“I think so, yeah,” mentioned Kjaerbye confidently. “If you just look at the results over the years to my old team you’ll see. There was obviously a lot of potential in Dignitas, but we sort of stayed on the same level and we were not going to win a major anytime soon. It was pretty obvious to take this opportunity when it was right in front of me. I definitely think it’s a good change for me.”
But just how much better is this new Astralis line up? While Kjaerbye said Dignitas were far from winning a major, many in the scene thought the same of Astralis prior to the trade. Neither is expected to do especially well in Cologne, but can this new Astralis roster win a major any time soon?
“I think we can win a major with this team. We are confident,” said Kjaerbye. “Obviously that’s why I changed team and they wanted me. They weren’t satisfied ending below top four in tournaments. They like cajunb and I like my old team but this for the benefit of everyone. We want to win, and we won’t be satisfied until we start winning.”
Photos by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com.