After finishing second in their respective group at IEM Dallas 2023, Astralis’ journey towards lifting the title in North America came to an end after they fell 2-0 to MOUZ in the quarterfinals.
Despite their early exit in the playoffs, for Astralis, who came off of a 17-20th finish in ESL Pro League Season 17 and a 12-14th finish in the Paris Major European RMR, it was a cause for optimism for their development as the return of dev1ce propped them to snatch a win over Cloud9 and have a close tie against MOUZ that featured a 20-22 loss in Inferno.
Following the end of Astralis’ run in IEM Dallas 2023, BLIX talked to Alexander "Altekz" Givskov about his experience competing in North America and what it’s like playing alongside veterans like Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz and Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander. Plus, his adjustment to Tier-1 CS since transitioning to the Astralis main team from its academy roster, and more.
Experience at IEM Dallas 2023
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. Also, commiserations on the series against MOUZ. It didn't go the way that you wanted it to go. I want to start by asking what went wrong for this team against MOUZ during the playoffs following your showing in the group stage.
Alexander “Altekz” Givskov: We didn't bring our A game. I think we played some good individual rounds, but we didn't play that well as a team together. I think we were very slow in our game. When we had to react, we didn't really do it, and I think that was the reason why we lost. I also think that the communication was not that good yesterday. All those things together just made us lose that close game.
BLIX: Even so, the team managed to make playoffs. Although you went out in the quarterfinals, the team still had a pretty good showing considering the recent prior events, it was a win. For you personally, how do you view your general experience being in Dallas and playing with the rest of the team?
Altekz: I think it's really positive. We achieved our goal here, which was to be competitive in every match we played, and I think we did that. Every time we faced someone, they were really scared of losing, and I think we played close [matches] with everyone. We're happy but, of course, it's not nice when you know you could have won, but I think it was still a positive experience for us as a team.
It was my first experience being on a stage like this, and it went alright. It was not the best. Of course, I hoped for a victory, but that's how it is. I think this is a good sign for us that we were competitive in all the matches, and I hope we can show that in the next tournaments as well.
BLIX: What about the negatives? Have you identified any negatives during your experience in Dallas, and if so, what are they in order to right those wrongs?
Altekz: In the matches that we lost against ENCE and MOUZ, we just didn't hype each other up enough. When we did something great, it was nice, but we didn't hype each other enough, so I think that had us not close out when we needed to. We had a lot of clutch situations against MOUZ, at least that we should have closed, but we didn't. I think that was the negative part, but of course, that was also the positive part because then we'll know what to work on.
Fitting in with the rest of Astralis
BLIX: One of the most intriguing parts about this event that concerns you, on top of the fact that you're taking part in this kind of LAN for the first time, is being alongside veteran players like dev1ce and gla1ve. What have been the things that you've learned from those individuals, in particular, throughout your time in this team?
Altekz: I think dev1ce has really helped me with communication in-game. I think he's really good at communicating. Also, when he's dead, he's helping a lot. I try to do that as much as I can and hearing him do it helps me do it more often as well. Maybe he doesn't know it, but I still learned that from him.
Gla1ve, of course, is a really great in-game leader. He's really good at reading the game, so he's helping a lot with reactions, rotations, etc. That's more technical, but that was what he helped me with the most.
BLIX: What about casle? [Peter Ardenskjold] That's because he was also the coach of Astralis Talent, who transitioned to the main team alongside yourself. How have you viewed his transition? Has it been just as seamless as when he was coaching Astralis Talent?
Altekz: Casle has coached me a couple of years back as well in MASONIC. He's always been a great coach. He's always been good in hyping up and helping with the communication whenever he can. There's not been a big difference. Up here, it's a little bit more professional than on the other teams, but he was also a great coach back then, and he's doing the things he did but just better now.
BLIX: What has been the biggest adjustment you had to make when it came to transitioning from the academy level to Tier-1 CS?
Altekz: I mean, everyone in Tier-2 and Tier-3 is really good at aim, so I don't really feel the biggest difference there. I think the biggest difference here is the preparation for the matches and the anti-strats. That's what makes the team win or lose, I think. Sometimes, you feel like none of the things that you're doing are working because the enemy already knows what you're going to do for every round or something like that. That is probably the thing I had to work on, so to speak.
BLIX: In listening you talk about getting hyped, what has to go right in order for the team to find that perfect hype level that you mentioned?
Altekz: I think it's a team thing. I think everybody has to contribute to that in order to make it good at least. I think we showed it in the Cloud9 game. Everyone was hyped up, and everyone was positive. I know that we played great, but everyone was really well there too. We just have to find that even though we lost some crucial rounds, I think we need to work on not getting too stressed about it because there are 16 rounds you need to win, and just because you lose one doesn't mean you lose the game, right? I think that's what we need to work on: not getting too tilted in losing one round or something like that.
Dealing with (or without) pressure
BLIX: In getting called up to the main team, there was going to be a certain amount of buzz around your performance and how you've been fairing in Tier-1 competitions. About that certain buzz, do you feel you've gotten used to all the attention? Or do you still feel pressured about your performance?
Altekz: Of course, there's pressure, but I think we have a good team around us who's helping over that. I don't think it made a big difference. Of course, there's more pressure in the bigger stages, but I think we managed to handle that pretty well. I don't think there's much pressure, actually. I don't feel it.
BLIX: How do you think this experience in Dallas and finally getting these LAN nerves out of the way will help you continue your development for the rest of the year?
Altekz: I think it will help a lot because now that I've been on the stage and played really great teams, we know we can beat basically everyone, and that will help us going forward. We'll get more confidence. Of course, we didn't win this event, but just getting this far and playing great in every match will help us going forward in the next tournaments. The confidence for me and buzz, the other young guy, will help a lot in the way that we know we can beat the best teams in the world.
BLIX: When it comes to comms during games, how do you fit in with the rest of the team? Do they just let you do your thing? Do they allow you to make certain calls? How has that been?
Altekz: In the start, I just kind of took over Xyp9x's role because we had to play tournaments pretty quick, so we couldn't really fit in my own game, but we're starting to get that more and more. Communication-wise, I started on the Talent team talking a lot in the last three months, and I think that helped me play better. I tried to take that up here as well, and I think it's been going alright. Of course, I have something to learn and stuff like that, but it helps me perform better while knowing that I can communicate well up here.
BLIX: On a scale of one to 10, how do you view your performance with this team in this event and in general?
Altekz: I was not that satisfied. Maybe five or six out of 10 or something in [IEM Dallas]. In general, six or seven, so around that. I think I can do a lot better than what I'm doing right now.
BLIX: Was it going to take for you to reach 10?
Altekz: To get more stable on every map. I think I have some good maps that I'm playing well on basically every time, but then I have some maps where I'm really struggling. If I get all maps to a stable level, I will get close to 10 at least.
BLIX: Which maps give you the most issues and why?
Altekz: Nuke because we didn't play it in Talent, so that is a tough one for me. But also, playing Vertigo in certain new spots. I think I have four maps or something in new spots, so I have to get used to them as well. At least Nuke is hard for me right now.