Even though Astralis were stopped just shy of Ninjas in Pyjamas' all-time record of consecutive wins, the weight and impact of their 31 triumphs in a row is perhaps even more impactful as the Ninjas’ were. Having been undefeated on Nuke for over a year, gla1ve and co. were a single win away from equaling the all-time greatest CS:GO streak but ran into a shock defeat at the hands of ENCE.
Much like Vertigo right now, the new version of Nuke was treated as the red-headed stepchild by the professional player-base for quite a while upon its arrival, with seemingly no team willing to establish it as their home map or a punish pick. It hardly saw any play around that time in early 2016 – much like Vertigo right now – and if anything, Astralis’ in-depth knowledge of the map felt like a sign of dominance by itself at the start. How can they find the time to figure out the kinks of that map as well?
It’s the insane streak that we like to mention most often, but it’s not like they were slouches on Nuke even before that: the team boasts a 76.5% all-time win-rate (62-19) and a quite frankly absurd 96.4% (26-1) since their seminal win at DreamHack Master Marseille that kickstarted their era. You’ll notice that their streak on the map goes a bit longer, further indicating their overall prowess in the nuclear facility. Most of their wins are also quite one-sided with most opponents failing to even get to double digits – thought it has to be said that Nuke’s design also factors into this somewhat as it’s easy to rack up a massive lead on the CT side.
Perhaps the most impressive element of this win-streak is how many of the games were played against top-tier opposition: not many lower-tier sides had the capability to include Nuke in their pool, and even if they did, Astralis certainly weren’t the ones they wanted to test their mettle against on it. This meant that around two-thirds of their Nuke wins came over elite opposition over this period of time, though it’s interesting to see that they haven’t faced a top team on the map in 2019 until ENCE’s upset win (mowing down compLexity, Renegades, LDLC, ex-3DMAX and Giants in the intervening period).
Tactically speaking, it’s their near-perfect coordination and map awareness that gives Astralis an edge over their rivals on Nuke (a map whose vertical nature makes it extra difficult to make use of sound cues). This mostly manifests itself on the CT side, something Xyp9x earmarked as the “secret” of their domination last summer. There’s also the ever-growing psychological edge to consider: sometimes, teams would try to anti-strat Astralis so hard that they ended up messing up their own game more than they did so with their opponents, moving way too far away from their foundational play. In a way, it makes sense that it took another tactics-based team with strong fundamentals to end the Danes’ run, and the fact that they were just one away from NiP’s streak made for fascinating storylines.
For many, it was Astralis’ Nuke streak that symbolised their dominance over the field, but their incredible record on Inferno – a much more commonly played map – was perhaps even more representative, having won 21 games in a row on it between the November 24, 2018 and April 24, 2019. Both streaks are gone and only time will tell whether these chinks in their armour will be exploited further: many questions swirl around their tournament attendance choices and potential ring rust. Make no mistake, if they falter from now on, this defeat to ENCE will be the symbolic coda to everything that came before during their era.