The Major achievement
Just over a year ago, on 29 January 2017, Astralis beat Virtus.Pro to be crowned Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Champions for the first time at the inaugural Eleague Major in Atlanta. They had reached the pinnacle of the sport. Astralis certainly gave a good account of themselves throughout 2017, rarely missing the playoffs of big tournaments, but were not able to add another Major to their trophy cabinet. [caption id="attachment_100305" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Astralis at SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals. Photo courtesy of Starladder[/caption]
This dev1ce is faulty
Throughout 2017 dev1ce was suffering with illness and dealing with debilitating pain while continuing to perform at the highest level. He revealed that he had been suffering a hiatal hernia during the team’s winning run at Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Katowice in early March, which he managed thereafter without resorting to surgery. We didn’t hear much about his condition until IEM Oakland in mid November. It’s unclear whether it was the same condition as afflicted him earlier in the year, but Dev1ce missed the first match of IEM Oakland. He would arrive late to the USA while receiving treatment in Denmark. He was replaced by coach, Danny "Zonic" Sørensen for the opening clash against NIP before playing the remaining group stage games before the team was knocked out. In the wake of the tournament, he announced that he would be stepping down from the active roster to try to recover. One can only presume it became too painful for him to continue fighting through it. Tragically, it seemed he might also be missing the Eleague Major in Boston in January 2018 as well with Zonic the man tapped to be his replacement at the tournament. [caption id="attachment_100308" align="aligncenter" width="600"] dev1ce at SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals. Photo courtesy of Starladder[/caption]
Astralis minus dev1ce
In the meantime, with super sub Dennis “dennis” Edman in tow, the team narrowly lost to SK Gaming in the grand final of BLAST Pro Series in Copenhagen. An incredible placing for a team without their main star. Peter “Dupreeh” Rasmussen took on dev1ce’s role as main AWPer within the team and was able to put on a great performance with the big green gun. The addition of dennis meant the team played with less of the hallmark Astralis structure and discipline, preferring a more unpredictable and free-form style. This seemed to take their opponents off guard and played perfectly to the strengths of hired gun dennis. In the next two tournaments, Astralis relied on the somewhat less explosive Ruben “Rubino” Villarroel to fill in. At ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals in Odense they finished a disappointing ninth/ tenth while trying to incorporate Rubino into their game. They then finished in a commendable third at ECS Season 4 Finals in Cancún a fortnight later.
The Major comeback
On 8 January dev1ce announced in an Instagram post that he would be making his comeback at the Eleague Major, allaying earlier fears that he would be missing the tournament. This would have made Astralis fans very happy indeed, but where would it leave the team that had done so well in his absence? Would they be able to continue their encouraging form and how good would dev1ce be after his time in recovery? [caption id="attachment_100307" align="aligncenter" width="600"] devi1ce with coach Zonic at SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals. Photo courtesy of Starladder.[/caption]
Astralis can succeed at the Major
Astralis has already confirmed that Dupreeh will be retaining the AWP, while dev1ce will be playing the role of lurker. Many had expected dev1ce to reclaim the sniper rifle on his return, so this is a key detail in examining their potential at the Major. Their opponents will not be able to study their play all that much to prepare. In the last two months, necessitated by dev1ce’s absence, a very different version of Astralis to before was playing in tournaments. As Dupreeh is continuing with the AWP, their adversaries have no real data to go on as to how dev1ce will approach the lurker role and how his play might integrate within the rest of the team. Dev1ce is a fantastic rifler, with his natural playstyle tending towards a more defensive approach to the game. That skillset will dovetail well with playing the lurk in my opinion. As long as he gets involved in the game and doesn’t remain too passive. In the AWP role, he predicated it upon studying his opponents and using that information to go to certain spots that he could more or less guarantee successful engagements to gain the advantage for his team. As a lurker this could be particularly effective. If he applies the same level of study to identifying the weaker areas of opponents, he could effectively exploit them as a lone wolf lurker. While he isn’t all that well-known as a clutch player, I feel like his strengths will suit the role very well. While we don’t know if dev1ce is fully recovered, given his skills a half-fit dev1ce is still far more valuable to the squad than coach Zonic. [caption id="attachment_100306" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Coach Danny “Zonic” Sørensen at Starseries Season 3 Finals. Photo courtesy of Starladder[/caption] They will be looking to in-game leader Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander to be dynamic in his calls and show the kind of leadership that propelled the team to top placings immediately after he joined in late 2016. Astralis will also need entry man Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye to show some of the fiery form that made him the MVP of last year’s Eleague Major after a dip in performance during the summer. Of course, the consistent clutch master himself Andreas “Xyp9x" Højsleth will continue metronomically closing out rounds for the Danish outfit. If Astralis continue to play a looser, more unpredictable style, along with the additional variables surrounding how dev1ce and Dupreeh might be utilized, they could very well be a surprise performer at the Major. They could even win it. They will face tough competition in the form of favourites FaZe Clan and world number one team SK Gaming, playing with felps in place of new recruit Boltz. Astralis have historically been a good matchup for SK and FaZe have looked a little shaky in the Major Qualifier. Astralis have a very good chance at this tournament.
A winning machine
After a year marred by illness and playing through pain, dev1ce was still named the fifth best player of the year by HLTV. Such is his consistency and drive to succeed. The man is a machine. Can the dev1ce machine be at the spearhead of a suprise Astralis victory? I think so.