If there was a CS:GO team that faced all hardships to come out on top at the end of 2020, Astralis is the only name that comes to mind, and rightly so. After conquering the competitive circuit in 2018 and a good part of 2019, the Danish team went through a tragic phase last year due to some unavoidable circumstances.
But even amidst the multiple roster shuffles and disappointments that saw Astralis plunge to its lowest point ever, there was a silver lining as the original five came back together in the last quarter of the year to reclaim their throne. Here is how the ‘Kings of Counter-Strike’ took it on the chin, fell, got back up, and showed everyone once again why they are the best team in the world.
Beginning Of The Downfall
2020 like every other year, started with all the CS:GO teams coming in fresh and rejuvenated to make it their year. The Danes were under the spotlight right from the first BLAST tournament of the year, BLAST Premier: Spring 2020 Regular Season.
But things went sideways for Astralis real fast as they lost back-to-back matches to Complexity and Na’Vi, sharing last place with MIBR and 100 Thieves. This tournament was a wake-up call for the Danish side, who did not seem to be in their element just yet. It took some time for Astralis to get into the groove of things. After two consecutive 3rd place finishes at IEM Katowice 2020 and ESL Pro League S11: Europe, the Danes finally stepped up their game when it mattered the most.
With the competitive circuit having transitioned to an online phase due to the global health situation, Astralis adjusted rather quickly to win the first RMR tournament of 2020 - ESL One: Road to Rio - Europe. A flawless run through the playoffs marked the return of Astralis, who seemed to be at the peak of their performance. This was also when they decided to expand to a seven-man roster, adding Jakob "JUGi" Hansen to their lineup.
A Shuffle Mania Begins
Unfortunately, this signing of an additional seventh player, which Astralis backed as an excellent decision for the team and the future of Counter-Strike, sparked off a set of events that witnessed them drop out of the ‘Top 10 CS:GO Team Rankings’ for the first time since November 2016.
A lot of roster shuffles were made by Astralis in 2020, which was one of the primary reasons why the team witnessed such a massive slump in their performance. Some roster changes were forced, as veterans like Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander and Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth stepped down from the team due to prolonged fatigue and burnout.
While JUGi came in for gla1ve, which seemed to have been a planned move by the organization, Xyp9x’s sudden temporary departure is what put Astralis in a fix. The Danes quickly brought in Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer on loan for about a month.
The six-man roster, which was supposed to solve many problems and act as a safeguard for the team, had ironically resulted in absolutely no improvement. Astralis lost both BLAST Premier: Spring 2020 European Showdown and DreamHack Masters Spring 2020: Europe with this new inexperienced lineup.
Soon after JUGi was replaced with Lucas “Bubzkji” Andersen while Snappi was replaced by Patrick "es3tag" Hansen, a controversial signing that is a whole other topic of discussion. This marked the end of a CS:GO player signing spree for the main roster, and Astralis slowly stabilized to kick start an uphill battle, their former players returning to the side, fresh and motivated.
Road To Recovery
Gla1ve was the first to join the roster, and almost immediately, Astralis won the ESL Pro League S12: Europe. A thrilling grand final against Na’Vi witnessed the Danish lineup pour in every last bit of their energy to come back from a ‘2-0’ deficit and win the epic faceoff that went down to a decider.
Soon after, even Xyp9x came back to join Astralis. During this transition, we witnessed Cloud9 sign es3tag for 3 years in a deal worth $2.1 million USD. Astralis were more than happy to part ways with the talented rifler while still effectively maintaining their six-man roster.
The three-time Major winning Astralis lineup was once again back together after a doggy five months, but the results were not immediate as the team placed 5th-8th at IEM Beijing 2020: Europe. No matter how tough the road, the gritty Astralis lineup managed to find their rhythm towards the end of 2020, winning two of their last three tournaments - DreamHack Masters Winter 2020: Europe and IEM Global Challenge 2020.
Astralis once again became the best CS:GO team in the world on 21st December 2020, ending the year similar to how they started it. 2020 turned out to be the most challenging year for the Danish organization so far, they tried new things, failed miserably, and dropped to their lowest point in years, but at the end of the day, they got back up to reclaim their throne.
Once again, the team kicks off another CS:GO competitive season as the team to beat. With the spotlight shining on them, Astralis will certainly be under a considerable amount of pressure as they start the season with the currently ongoing BLAST Premier: Global Final 2020.