Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander is taking a break.
Today Lukas "gla1ve' Rossander announced that he was taking a break from CS:GO. In his twitlonger, he wrote that he was getting burned out. Due to that, he and his doctor decided he needed to take a three-month break from CS:GO. This is impactful news as gla1ve is the greatest in-game leader in CS:GO. As that's the case, I'll look into how the transition from LAN to online play could have exacerbated the burnout, why the timing is good, and what the break means for Astralis during this Major cycle.
How Online play could have exacerbated burnout
Burnout has been a growing issue throughout the last 5-6 years in CS:GO. The game and scene has continued to grow as tournament organizers started to take up more of the calendar and started to overlap their events. This naturally increased the level of burnout on players as it increased travel, increased the competitions they played in, and made it harder to de-stress. What's more, leagues tried to also fit in online qualifiers and games at the same time.
Eventually, the scene started to alleviate some of these problems as TOs tried not to step on each other's toes and started to transition to more LAN play (which meant less overall games). The players themselves set up two-player breaks in the year to help this along as well. While those improvements were good, they could never help players like an actual off-season that sports like basketball or football have.
In Astralis' particular case, they had a unique way of dealing with burnout. Unlike other teams, they started to pick and choose which events they attended. This decreased their burnout, but it also should have hurt their chances of being the best team in the world. Instead, they became the greatest team of all-time. A large part of the reason why Astralis could get away with this was gla1ve. Each time Astralis skipped out on a tournament, they used their time off to come up with new ideas: tactics, anti-strats, strategies, role-swaps, or map pool changes. As the in-game leader, gla1ve was likely a large part of this process and this meant that each time Astralis showed up to a tournament, they were always one or two steps ahead of all their opponents.
This is crucial in understanding why the transition from LAN to online play could have exacerbated burnout. Gla1ve and Astralis continued to put in a lot of time in anti-stratting, scouting and coming up with new ideas. In their most recent run at the Road to Rio for instance, they swapped Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen and Emil "Magisk" Reif's roles on Dust2. On Vertigo, they had a perfect read on where to push and transition to beat G2's aggressive T-side. On their own T-side, Astralis have had Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz play a more aggressive lurker-entry style as well.
Astralis' continued improvements are why they are the most consistent team in the world despite online play being notoriously volatile. That has come with a cost though as there is now less time than ever to take a break, scout, and recharge between games or LANs. For instance, on LAN, the playoffs are usually a single-elimination bracket with a day dedicated to each part of the bracket. At EPL EU 11, Stage 2 (which is the equivalent of the 6-8 team playoffs) had the teams play a round-robin format. The Road to Rio then started 10 days later. Two days after the Road to Rio ended, the DreamHack Masters started. Unlike the LAN environment, Astralis can't skip out on tournaments as there are far fewer to play in. The change in format has also made it harder for Astralis to do their preparation style, which in turn could have increased the burnout on gla1ve.
Best Timing Possible
For gla1ve and Astralis, this was the best time possible for gla1ve to take a break. Astralis have already been preparing for this break as they've recruited bench players (first Patrick "es3tag" Hansen and now Jakob "JUGi" Hansen). As everything is online, coaches are allowed to talk during matches so Astralis will take less of a hit as Danny "zonic" Sorensen can help the team. The online tournaments take a longer period of time and have less prestige associated with them, so it's not as big of a deal if Astralis don't do as well in those events. Finally, they did this break after securing first place in the Road to Rio. This puts them at 2400 points and gives them some leeway to work with in the Regional Major Rankings.
What gla1ve's break means for Astralis in the Road to Rio
As I mentioned earlier, gla1ve is the greatest in-game leader in CS:GO. Because of that, his break should hurt Astralis' chances of getting good results in the next three months. However, this won't hurt Astralis as much as it would at any other time due to the online nature of CS:GO and recent changes in the game.
Due to the format and nature of online CS, a looser more individualistic style seems to be better in the long-term as it requires less energy to execute on a day-by-day basis. So Magisk taking over as the in-game leader could be enough to hold Astralis over during gla1ve's break. What's more the change in roles, style, and positions means that Astralis should have some surprise factor going into the first few weeks of play. Finally, we've already seen the Kreig nerf boost the individual performances of Dupreeh and dev1ce. If the double-D combo comes into effect, Astralis could still be a threat to even the best teams in EU without gla1ve.
Finally, none of the top teams outside of Astralis can consistently place. Fnatic and Mouz got to the finals of EPL EU 11, but both got knocked out in the group stages in the Road to Rio. With this increased volatility, Astralis can sit on their lead and so long as things don't go disastrously, they should be in a good position.
Images via ESL & Blast