Astralis are back, but can their success really last?
After more than thirty days of intense competition, ESL Pro League EU Season 12 has finally reached its conclusion. Astralis have taken home the trophy, which came as a huge surprise, considering that they had struggled quite a bit in the Lower Bracket. Natus Vincere, on the other hand, comfortably made it to the Grand Finals via the Upper Bracket and received a map advantage for their efforts. They led 2-0 in the Grand Finals and sat on a 12-6 scoreline on Nuke. But in the end, Astralis mounted the perfect reverse sweep to upset Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and his team.
ESL Pro League has been an important step in the developmental process of a lot of teams. After struggling for most of the year, mousesports had benched Özgür “woxic” Eker in favour of Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras. While Bymas might be the weaker player on paper, his addition has worked wonders for mousesports. The roster immediately clicked and, unlike in FaZe Clan, Bymas showed great individual form. He has finished the event on a positive rating, but Robin “ropz” Kool was the absolute star of the show. After so many Best-of-Three matches and so many close encounters for mouz, he boasts a ridiculous 1.22 rating, only second to s1mple.
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Benjamin “blameF” Bremer comes in third. It takes quite a bit of talent for an in-game-leader to secure a 1.21 rating with competition this fierce. His team exited the playoffs in fifth-sixth place and had to work with a stand-in, which makes this achievement even more outstanding. We have already highlighted his individual prowess, and under Complexity, the young Dane continues to develop and improve. We haven’t seen the best of him yet and, provided that Complexity find a competent fifth player, we will likely see this team climb further in the international rankings.
THE ASTRALIS REDEMPTION STORY
There's something magical about the way they approach Counter-Strike. All of these players are stars in their own rights, but a lot of credit has to go to Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander. During the few months in which he was out of the active roster, the team tanked and wasn't nearly as competitive. With his return, they instantly got back on their feet. Patrick "es3tag" Hansen has proven himself worthy of his spot in the lineup. Generally, all five players have put up a solid display all throughout the tournament, making them the single most consistent roster in EPL. Once more, one might be tempted to call them the best team in Europe.
But there are quite a few arguments against this. For one, they haven't exactly been dominating their games. Granted, the reverse sweep in the Grand Finals was impressive, but the match could have ended just as well with s1mple winning the clutch over Nicolai "device" Reedtz at the end of Nuke. They could have exited the event even earlier in their encounter with mousesports, had they just lost one more round during the second half of the last map. Also, losing to Heroic doesn't exactly scream "super-team". Maybe online games are just too unpredictable, but they'll have to complete more matches against the world's best in order to get their crown back.
More importantly, what will they do with regards to their 7-man roster? Now that es3tag has proven so useful, will they still swap him out for Lucas "Bubzkji" Andersen? What about Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth? He's been out of commission for three months now, and there seems to be no window for him to get back onto the roster, unless Astralis want to rebuild the original five - because who could they possibly remove from this active lineup? For now, they appear to be sticking to their winning formula, as the roster registered for DreamHack Open Fall features the same players who appeared in ESL Pro League. They might opt to replace gla1ve for minor tournaments, considering that their in-game-leader had just taken a lengthy break due to extreme fatigue. When that happens, they might fall behind once more.
So much discussion revolves around Astralis and their incredible Grand Finals victory. Still, Natus Vincere have performed great all throughout the tournament and were the ones who comfortably walked through the Upper Bracket. But too much of this is courtesy of s1mple and Denis “electronic” Sharipov. There is a huge disparity in rating between the NaVi players and especially in the later stages of this league, the aforementioned two were the only ones who kept them in the race. This doesn’t bode well for NaVi at all. In the Grand Finals, we saw what happens when s1mple only plays an “average” game. As he recorded an okay 19-20 KD, the team lost the map on a 16-11 scoreline.
Nonetheless, Natus Vincere, Astralis, and mousesports are slowly and steadily growing into the top contenders of the European region. During ESL Pro League, these three teams have definitely set themselves apart from the rest, but unfortunately, it will take quite some time until we can see them compete against North American teams again. Until then, they will have plenty of opportunities to sharpen their skills against one another.
Images via ESL | BLAST