This year saw an Astralis squad dominate Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in a way quite like no other as they proceeded to win 10 titles in one year, including one Major, and punctuated it by winning the Intel Grand Slam award.
Collectively, the all-time Danish squad earned 3.5 million in prize money this 2018 alone. This is higher than the lifetime earnings of all but two teams, SK Gaming and Fnatic. All in all, Astralis now sit on top of the CS:GO world, with nearly $5.8 million in lifetime earnings — more than $1 million higher than the second highest earning squad Fnatic at 4.4 million.
Here is their story of the year.
Kajerbye Out, Magisk In
Astralis are a team that have stayed mostly together since the inception of the team back in 2016. Composed of players of the former Danish Team SoloMid/Questionmark lineups, Astralis did not take long to assert themselves as one of the must-watch teams in CS:GO. However, from when they first formed up until the early months of 2018, Astralis would often take a backseat to the likes of SK Gaming, Virtus.Pro, Fnatic, and even FaZe Clan. Not to mention, in early 2018, Astralis would end up posting one of their worst performances to date at the ELEAGUE Major in Boston, where they fell victim to the eventual champions, Cloud9, during the New Legends stage, and failed to secure a berth in the playoffs.
Soon after, one of Astralis’ best and longest-tenured players, Markus ‘Kjaerbye‘ Kjærbye, would leave the team for another Danish organization, North, and for a while, it seemed like Astralis were doomed to fail.
Unfortunately for the naysers, Kjaerbye’s departure ended up being a blessing in disguise. Bringing in the then-19-year-old Emil ‘Magisk‘ Reif was just the spark that Astralis needed to start their current run. Following relatively low placements at the Starladder & i-League StarSeries Season 4 and IEM World Championship in February and March respectively, Astralis would win their first LAN in more than a year at the DreamHack Masters Marseille 2018.
The Start of a New Era
After winning DreamHack Masters Marseille 2018, Astralis would put themselves up on the board for the Intel Grand Slam award. But, by then, most eyes were still not on the Danes, and instead, on SK Gaming (now MIBR),and FaZe Clan, the latter of which denied Astralis a second win while gaining theirs in the process at IEM Sydney back in May.
This minor setback, however, only served to light a fire under Astralis as they went on to win two straight titles at the LAN finals of EPL Season 7 and ECS Season 5. The latter gave Astralis half the wins they needed for the Intel Grand Slam award.
A minor setback at ESL One Cologne 2018, where they finished in the Top 4, prevented Astralis from winning their third straight LAN and third win for the Intel Grand Slam. However, less than a month later, Astralis would rebound big by taking home $500,000 at the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premiere 2018, followed by yet another half-million dollar win at the FACEIT Major in London just less than two months later.
In between, Astralis would yet once again be denied their third win for the Intel Grand Slam. This time, the culprit was one of their former members, Kjaerbye, who had been playing with North since his departure.
Establishing a Dynasty
While the Intel Grand Slam win was nowhere near their grasp yet, no one could deny Astralis’ claim as one of the best CS:GO teams ever at this point. Having won 5 LANs out of 10 tries, Astralis were well on their way to establishing themselves as a dynasty. But, to many, Astralis needed to be consistent for a bit longer first before they could stake a legitimate claim, and so that they did.
Following their win in London, Astralis would go on an amazing run of wins.
All in all, Astralis would fail to win only a single LAN tournament after winning the Major, which was at the BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen 2018 where they failed to make it out of the Group Stage after taking a much-needed vacation in the middle of the season. But, even then, they did not look bad, and afterwards, Astralis would redeem themselves by taking all opposition and doing away with them, whether it was Team Liquid or MIBR.
Their string of wins included two tournaments that were part of the Intel Grand Slam, IEM Chicago 2018 and the LAN finals of the recently-concluded ESL Pro League Season 8, which, fittingly enough, was played right in front of Astralis’ homecrowd at the Sparekassen Fyn Arena in Odense.
The Best of all F*cking Time
Matthew ‘Sadokist‘ Trivett said it best as Astralis walked away from the Grand Finals of EPL Season Season 8 with the trophy and the Intel Grand Slam award in the bag — Astralis are indeed the best of all f*cking time.
Accomplishing what Astralis just did is not easy. To take home the Intel Grand Slam award, a team has to win four ESL/DreamHack tournaments with a $200,000+ prize pool in ten tries. That Astralis did it in nine is a testament to their greatness. This also meant that even if they had lost to Team Liquid in Odense, Astralis would still have had a shot at the IEM Katowice Major in February of next year.
As a frame of reference, the team closest to pulling the win off before Astralis were FaZe Clan with three. Unfortunately, they failed to make history themselves by losing falling short of a win at ESL One Cologne 2018 and DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018. Furthermore, prior to Astralis and FaZe Clan, no other team had won three Intel Grand Slam tournaments. In fact, the only other team to have multiple wins are Astralis, FaZe Clan, and MIBR (formerly known as SK Gaming). Also, of all the teams who have won an Intel Grand Slam tournament so far, only Natus Vincere and Astralis have yet to change up their roster.
If there was ever any doubt that Astralis are now the best CS:GO team of all time, let their win at the LAN Finals of Season 8 of the ESL Pro League be the one to erase that. They may not have won back-to-back Majors just yet, but with the way this current Astralis line-up are playing, there’s no reason for that not to happen.
As of now, ESL has yet to announce further details for Season 2 of the Intel Grand Slam. However, judging by the schedule, it’s expected to start at IEM Katowice in February, making it the first Major to be part of the Intel Grand Slam.
Having said that, Astralis will have a chance to further cement their legacy with a second straight Major win and an early point for Season 2 of the Intel Grand Slam, all just in time for the first anniversary of their current lineup.