At the ECS Season 3 Finals, Counter-Strike fans might finally see a matchup between Astralis and G2 Esports. This is one of the few superteam matchups yet to be seen, and it could come at an especially fortuitous time. After a few months of disappointment, G2 is starting to display the potential many expected to see when the initial French shuffle happened.
By contrast, Astralis was the best team in the world heading into this year and nearly solidified its era before FaZe Clan stopped the Danes in their tracks. Since then, Astralis has been forced to sit on the sidelines as it did not qualify for the ESL Pro League Finals. Both teams will look to assert their dominance here. Most likely, the key deciding factor will be the battle between the superstar AWPers from each team, Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz and Kenny “KennyS” Schrub.
This is a strange statement to make on the surface. Counter-Strike is a 5-v-5 game, and though AWPers get a disproportionate amount of attention and credit, whoever “wins” the 1-v-1 AWP duel doesn’t necessarily sway the game in their favor. Often the AWPer who comes out on top is the one who downs more players on the enemy team. We saw this in SK Gaming’s battle with G2 at the ESL Pro League Finals. In straight up duels, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo had the upper hand on kennyS, but G2 won the match partly because kennyS picked off key opponents (regardless of role) when it mattered.
Besides that, who would seriously bet against kennyS at this point? By almost any metric he is the best AWPer in the world. No one except FalleN comes close to matching his skillset and form right now. KennyS has the aim, reflexes, and movement to match any top-tier sniper on the pro level. He can play at all ranges — and whatever style is appropriate — while carrying G2 against the best teams in the world. Even on maps that are inherently awkward for AWPers like Nuke, kennyS can put on godlike performances. In my opinion, he was the best individual player at the last three events he attended: DreamHack Austin, DreamHack Tours and the ESL Pro League Finals. If an AWPer’s job is to take down as many enemy players as possible without sacrificing themselves, then kennyS is the best in his position.
Compared to the sizzling performances G2’s star has put on, dev1ce is “merely” a great AWPer. His most praised characteristic is his stability. Dev1ce might not be the flashy playmaker like Jesper “JW” Wecksell or Henrique “HEN1” Teles, but he always hits the shots he’s supposed to hit while being in the optimal areas. He certainly doesn’t have show the wild impossible shots of KennyS or FalleN. In terms of short range duels, I think he’s demonstrably weaker than both. If you need a jaw dropping play, dev1ce ranks lower than many of the great AWPers in the world
But if you asked me who I favored in this particular matchup, I would pick dev1ce. This is a wild conclusion to make considering I would give the edge to kennyS against any other AWPer: Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, FalleN, Aleski “allu” Jalli, Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski — I would pick kennyS over all of them. But dev1ce gives me pause. What is the difference? Why do I think a guy, whom I rank below kennyS in individual talent, will beat him regardless?
My decision is based in the philosophical difference between their play styles. KennyS is the most skilled AWPer in almost any category you’d care to cite. Dev1ce is a great AWPer who knows his limits, plays within them and will give you a guaranteed amount of kills every time. KennyS will win the round by mowing targets down like ducks in a shooting range, whereas dev1ce will kill one person, but it will be the decisive kill to give Astralis the necessary edge to close out the round.
The tension between kennyS and dev1ce is a microcosm between the philosophies of the two teams. G2 run on star power, with kennyS and Richard “shox” Papillon being the primary engines that propel them. Dan “apEX” Madesclaire entry frags while Nathan “NBK” Schmitt and Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro provide most of the utility. By contrast, Astralis’ success is informed by its system and excels by putting talented players in appropriate roles. It is a battle between the incredible skill of G2 and the combination of skill and structure of Astralis. It is the battle of the wildly instinctive and talented kennyS against the thoughtful calculated mind of dev1ce.
kennyS is an inferno of power. He is utterly unstoppable when on form, a player who can destroy everything in his path. But dev1ce is calculated, and I expect him to avoid kennyS when he is hot and get his kills elsewhere. Dev1ce doesn’t have as much variance in his play. He can’t reach the same heights, but he rarely has lows because dev1ce plays within a system where he isn’t the linchpin. He can take a step back and continue to contribute.
When kennyS’ form isn’t at the height of his powers, dev1ce can easily match kennyS, and that is the crux of the matter. KennyS must be on his form to dominate, whereas dev1ce will be able to use his intelligence to consistently get the kills round after round to ensure his team’s victory. In a best-of-three series, I’d bet on the Astralis player to outlast his mirror in a war of attrition. KennyS is the better AWPer, but dev1ce is the best player for his system. He will find what his team needs to win the rounds and eventually the game.
Cover photo courtesy of DreamHack and Turner Sports, illustration by Slingshot