After 2 major wins for Astralis, on the surface it might look like a dominant year.. but was it?
2019 has been a great year for CS:GO from exceptional debuts to record-breaking performances from iconic names in the game.
One key storyline that has been present throughout the entire year has been the clash between Astralis and Team Liquid.
Neither team could stop mousesports from lifting the trophy at the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals, but one last event will be the final faceoff for 2019’s premier teams: BLAST Pro Series Global Finals.
To The Stars
Astralis came into 2019 as the undeniable dominant force in CS:GO. IEM Katowice was easy for them rather than Finnish challenger ENCE, setting up the year to be another breeze.
However, mixed results at BLAST tournaments in São Paulo, Miami and Madrid were the only LAN outings for Astralis beyond three best-of-threes during the ESL Pro League Season 9 group stage in Leicester.
A lack of BO3s played by the team was widely criticised with the fewest series’ played out of all of the top ten teams at the halfway point in the year.
Heading into the ECS Season 7 Finals in June, the pressure was firmly on Astralis’ shoulders. All of the absence and subsequent banter would only be justified by a big showing.
Unfortunately for Astralis, the London tourney saw FURIA hunt down Astralis in a best-of-one and best-of-three, turning Astralis’ 31-0 win streak playground of Nuke into a personal hunting ground for the Brazilians.
In the end, it was Team Vitality to lift the ECS trophy and Astralis were left in an unfamiliar position.
Flow Like Water
Having been bested by the best on numerous occasions in 2018, Liquid’s opportunity finally came at the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals.
A quarterfinal matchup saw them face their old foes and prove that the iBUYPOWER Masters win in January was not a fluke and that DreamHack Masters Dallas wasn’t won purely due to Astralis’ absence.
The victory that followed against Astralis and over G2 to win the title in Montpellier sat in the middle of an unprecedented streak of form for Liquid.
Liquid’s summer run saw the North Americans overtake Astralis in the rankings and win Season 2 of the Intel Grand Slam in just 63 days with wins at five top tier events in a row.
Despite their Wet Hot American Summer, Liquid were unable to beat Astralis at the StarLadder Berlin Major in yet another quarterfinal matchup between the two.
The Danes made history by winning not only a fourth Major title, but winning three back-to-back after claiming victory in Berlin over AVANGAR.
ESL One New York would be the next time the two would meet, but it wouldn’t be Astralis nor Liquid claiming that trophy.
Crazy and Villainous Challengers
NRG Esports had one of the strongest cores on paper and it took a sale to Evil Geniuses to see them finally claim an S-Tier trophy at ESL One New York as a late contender for the number one position.
Taking the top spot for two weeks, EG’s inconsistency has not seen them fully challenge for the crown again in recent tournaments compared to Liquid.
Fnatic were able to make the final of five tournaments with prize pools of $200,000 or more, equal to Astralis’ total, and sit safely in the top five as an unexpected laterunner.
While not the best teams of the year, these teams will also be the ones to watch in the long wait for the Spring 2020 Major rumoured to be in Brazil.
Full Steam Ahead
Astralis might not have looked as omnipotent as they did in 2018, but their surge in the second half of this year has netted them four trophies - two of which are Majors.
Team Liquid seem to have suffered from their success, with IEM Chicago being their last title and five events passing before they made their next final in Arlington, only to lose to their old foe Astralis.
Heading into the final events of the year, Astralis and Team Liquid will battle in Bahrain at the BLAST Global Finals while EG will look to capitalise in the absence of the other two contenders at EPICENTER 2019 if either stumbles.
The pressure will be on as a poor performance for either team could be the difference between first and third.
2019 will be remembered as a year in which Liquid managed to achieve what the likes of Cloud9 should have achieved following the ELEAGUE Major 2018 in Boston by putting NACS well and truly on the map. Astralis have shown that even when they look defeated, they can always rise up again and look like they were never knocked down.
Both teams were strong contenders and whoever finishes on top will have a tough task keeping it throughout 2020.
As rumours about a shifting CS landscape continue and new organisations branch into the scene looking to acquire competitive lineups, there could well be two new teams that fight for the top spot in a year’s time.
Main Image Credit | ESL