Astralis: The Danish Conundrum

Astralis and Dignitas had a marquee trade in May that should have benefitted both sides. Markus Kjaerbye was the young star of Dignitas and had proven himself on LAN with great performances and showed to be great under pressure. René “cajunb” Borg was Astralis’ third star player after Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz and Peter “dupreeh” Rothmann, and by moving him, Dignitas would gain a great AWP player the team was missing.

The plan was to raise Astralis back into the top tier of elite Counter-Strike teams amid a recent slump. At the same time, Dignitas could go up the ladder among Tier 2 teams. It worked only for Dignitas. Astralis met struggles and has yet to achieve the desired results. In the last seven LANs Astralis attended, its best finishes were one semifinal at DreamHack Summer and a quarterfinal finish at the Major. And the Major finish was done with coach Danny “zonic” Sørensen standing in.

Conversely, Astralis dropped out of groups in last at Esports Championship Series, lost in the quarterfinals to Mousesports at ELEAGUE, lost to Heroic at PowerLan in the semis 2-1, and this weekend finished seventh at ESL One New York, with its only win coming against G2 which finished last.

The only bright spot was a quarterfinal finish at StarLadder in which Astralis beat Natus Vincere in a best-of-one, TyLoo in a best-of-three and lost to the eventual champion Ninjas in Pyjamas 2-1. These are fine results for a Tier 2 or 3 team. The problem is if you look at the players in isolation, they are all talented enough to be better than that.

Something about this lineup isn’t working, and responsibility for that might ultimately lie with the leader, Finn “karrigan” Andersen. He is a good enough fragger for a leader, but he needs to contribute more with the tactics, calls, leadership and team cohesion. This team has been together for five months, and though they had a strange time practicing for the Major, something should have improved enough for the team to get a better result than one quarterfinal appearance.

It is a bigger conundrum as Karrigan himself has proved to be a capable leader for the team in the past and a skilled tactician. He has made great calls in his career and even forced Fnatic to switch leaders when playing his teams because of his calling prowess. But those days are in the past, and the problems of the present are looming.

And the problems must come to a head at some point. Many experts have pointed out the extreme fragility of Danish rosters once they hit a roadblock, and this team has stuck together because they were the best Danish team in the region.

But that is no longer the case. Dignitas and Heroic have risen in the rankings. After some initial mishaps, Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen was able to get his team working after the addition of Emil “Magiskb0Y” Reif, and they look to be at the top of Tier 2 and able to challenge Tier 1 teams. Heroic has Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer as leader and their other player; Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander proved himself to be a good leader in the past.

If things don’t turn around, I could see a world in which Astralis tries to buy out one of them to try to fix their problems. Or if that doesn’t work, I could also see a world in which dev1ce leaves, as he is the best on the team and the best player in Denmark. He could easily join any Danish team or he could do something unorthodox and join a top team in dire need of an AWPer, like Fnatic.

Astralis has a problem, and the deadline to solve it is the next Major in January. At the moment, neither Dignitas or Heroic players should be looking to leave, as they are having a lot of success. At the same time, Karrigan still has the pedigree and history with the majority of his players, so they will likely give him more time to solve this.

But the Major is the great pressure cooker. A failure at the Major is often the catalyst to exploding teams that aren’t performing up to standard. So Karrigan has four months, probably. Four months to solve the Astralis conundrum and get this team back into the elite tier of competition.

Cover photo courtesy of DreamHack.

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