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EZ4Astralis: The rest of the world is playing catch-up

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Expert
5th March, 2019
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IEM Katowice was almost the major at which all our memes ceased being dreams, but ENCE couldn’t quite make it past the final hurdle.

When that hurdle is Astralis, though, it’s no surprise that the grand final wasn’t as easy for ENCE as the internet might have hoped.

After losing a competitive first map, the Finns floundered on Inferno and went down 16-4. The score-line didn’t flatter the Danes, who looked streets ahead of their opposition on that second map.

Astralis cemented their status as the best team in the world with this win, in case there was anyone out there who doubted it.

What is interesting, though, is that the final itself wasn’t really where they cemented it. Almost everybody wanted ENCE to win, myself included, but expected Astralis to prevail. The fact that Astralis defeated ENCE doesn’t really prove anything we didn’t already know.

Indeed, it would have been amusingly appropriate for ENCE, having already upset the world number two and world number three on their way to the final, to take down the world number one once there.

It wasn’t to be. Astralis are clearly made of sterner stuff than both Liquid and Na’Vi, dropping zero maps in the knockout stages of the tournament. 2-0 over NiP, 2-0 over MIBR, 2-0 over ENCE: it doesn’t get much more convincing than that.

The fact that Astralis made it to the final without choking, easily, is what sets them apart from the competition.

Astralis are so good, in fact, that there has been some grumbling about Counter-Strike getting boring. The same teams always wins, they complain, as if it’s some WWE-like nonsense where the script is getting stale. Maybe Allu should have brought a steel chair to the final or challenged Device to a hell in a cell match.

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I mock, but I can’t help but agree in a way. The grand final match – especially map two – was difficult to get excited about, being as one-sided as it was. Not a single ENCE player made it to a positive kill-death ratio on either map and, well, 16-4 on Inferno speaks for itself.

One dreads to think what Nuke might have looked like.

But what are Astralis supposed to do? Deliberately play worse? When I used to play on teams back in 1.6, if we were winning comfortably we would play a game where only one person was allowed to leave spawn at a time. Maybe that might make things more competitive. On the other hand, Xyp9x might still win a few rounds by himself anyway.

The blame for this lack of diversity falls squarely at the feet of the competition. It’s up to the likes of Na’Vi and Liquid to catch-up.

With all due respect to ENCE, they were never supposed to face Astralis. It’s great that they did, and made for a fantastic story, but they were evidently out of their depth at the final stage.

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Maybe, hopefully, they will come back and have a similar performance next time out, but if Liquid and Na’Vi had played up to expectations, we might have had a different final.

We might not, of course, but at least those two teams have finals experience and have even beaten Astralis in the past.

Again, I mean no disrespect to ENCE, but it takes two teams to make an upset. ENCE played their underdog role to a tee, but both Liquid and Na’Vi played a part in their own respective downfalls. In other words, yes, ENCE played out of their skins, but their opponents in the quarters and semis were not at their best.

For Team Liquid, their biggest issue is also, problematically, Astralis’ biggest strength. They just don’t seem to have the mental game needed to maintain the consistency required to be the best. It must have been heart-breaking for Liquid fans to come into this event off the back of their first ever finals victory over Astralis (albeit at a pretty minor tournament) only to crash out at the quarter-final stage at the major without ever having a chance to topple the favourites.

I even called that quarter-final match a done deal, excepting ENCE’s fairy tale to come to an early end.

The team showed signs of the form we expected before the ENCE game, but talent has never been their problem. It doesn’t matter how many times you change the roster if you can’t instil it with a winning mentality to match.

As for Na’Vi, what can you say that hasn’t been said before? S1mple is a prisoner in a team that perpetually holds him back. He was the second highest HLTV-rated player in Katowice and he even dragged his team to second place on the team rating (amusingly, ENCE only finished seventh by the same metric).

Time and time again, Na’Vi fall short of the mark but the reason is much more tangible than Liquid’s: the squad just isn’t good enough. Even a cursory glance at the stats from the deciding map of the semi-final shows this. S1mple put up absurd numbers: 32 kills and almost 100ADR, but to no avail.

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Of the other four, only Edward managed to keep his head above water with a +1 K-D ratio on the most important map of the team’s tournament.

For my money, S1mple is the best player in the world, but even he can’t do it alone. CS is a team game. Both ENCE and Astralis showed this over and over during IEM Katowice and it is high time S1mple got the teammates he deserves.

With the inevitable post-major shuffle due to start any minute now, maybe he finally will.