Following a difficult first half of 2023 in which they notably missed out on the BLAST.tv Paris Major and failed to reach the playoffs of all but one LAN event they attended, Astralis reinvigorated their lineup by removing Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and Alexander “Altekz” Givskov and replacing them with Victor “Staehr” Staehr and Johannes “b0RUP” Borup.
A move that yielded instant results, the team qualified for the BLAST Premier Fall Final despite a slow start at BLAST Premier Fall Groups, and followed that up with a top-four finish at IEM Cologne 2023 - their best LAN placing since they achieved a top-four finish at the same event a year before.
However, following disappointing losses to minnows 00NATION in an online Pinnacle Cup and being dumped out of ESL Pro League Season 18 by Turkish squad Eternal Fire, harumi now reports that the team is ‘going to remove two players’ and has ‘already contacted another organization about potential changes.’
With the team seemingly on the up following their recent peak of fifth on the HLTV ranking, why are they looking to make these moves, who will be leaving, and who will be in the best position to replace them?
Changing so soon
The reports of changes may come as a surprise to many, given the recent result at IEM Cologne, although they can potentially be explained by a move made further up the ladder earlier in the year.
When Vitality won IEM Rio and the BLAST.tv Paris Major, they looked unbeatable as the best team in the world. In the second of those tournaments, they surged to victory by becoming the second team to win a Major without even dropping a map, and across the two events, every player on the team was playing their best Counter-Strike since the arrival of Lotan “Spinx” Giladi In August of last year.
Their dominance was short-lived, however, and at the very next event, BLAST Premier Spring Final, Vitality fell to Heroic to finish in second place in Washington, D.C.
In the off-season that followed, Vitality looked to return to tournament-winning ways and secure their future as they replaced five-time Major winning Entry Fragger Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen with Israeli prodigy Shahar “flameZ” Shushan from OG.
It was a move that confused many fans at the time; experts saw it differently, and the reasons why have already become clear.
Since the addition of flameZ, Vitality have maintained their strong form, and have already won an event following their victory at Gamers8. It’s a move that secured their future and raised their overall ceiling, and given the ambition it shows, we’ve always been big fans of it.
At the time of the aforementioned harum1 tweet, we had no idea who Astralis may have been after. There were rumors that Rene “TeSeS” Madsen may have been losing his spot on Heroic, and Casper “cadiaN” Moller’s interview with Dexerto only seemed to further those rumors, but things haven’t quite panned out that way.
Instead, in classic Astralis fashion, and somewhat through an absolute shitshow from their Danish rivals, it’s Martin “stavn” Lund and Jakob “jabbi” Nygaard that seem to be in Astralis’ sights. But that leaves us with one big question: are they even the right fit for the team?
Poaching the villains
Thanks to an excellent piece of PR by Heroic, just as with Staehr before them, stavn and jabbi joining Astralis now seems destined, and despite Heroic saying that their “ambition is to bring stavn and jabbi back,” who could blame the duo if their ambition is to create a Danish superteam alongside Benjamin “blameF” Bremer and Nicolai “device” Reedtz?
Of course, creating a superteam doesn’t mean you will find success with said superteam. Cloud9 recently formed a so-called Russian superteam with the signings of Denis “electroNic” Sharipov and Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy, but they are yet to find success, while FaZe formed the original superteam years earlier and they too were eventually regarded as a failure as they failed to deliver the organization a Major trophy.
Big names don’t equal big results, and stavn and jabbi being added to the Astralis squad would be no different, but that’s because the most important thing is balance, and balance is something severely lacking from this prospective squad.
First, let’s talk about stavn and blameF, the most obvious of potential role classes. Two players who both like to be the baiter rather than the bait, they both like to act as the second man within an entry pack, capitalizing off the space created for them by the teammate ahead. Both players are excellent at doing so, too, although stats suggest that blameF is by far superior. This is problem one.
Problem two is that only one of these players, blameF, is likely to be anywhere near as effective in a lurking role, but that role would be one best suited to the second potential signing, jabbi.
jabbi is an incredible player, who, for all of cadiaN’s highlights and stavn being presented as the main rifle star, went under the radar as Heroic’s true x-factor since his signing just before IEM Cologne 2022. The only Heroic player truly in contention for the MVP award when Heroic finished as runners-up at IEM Katowice 2023 and winner of the award when they won BLAST Premier Spring Final 2023, his ability to end rounds in a moment proved invaluable to cadiaN’s controlled chaos.
So that begs the question: who gets to play that active role? jabbi, the man who has been key to so many deep tournament runs? Or blameF, the IGL, who will need to hold a key role in order to truly have impact and control over the game?
There’s also Christian “Buzz” Andersen to factor in, too. Buzz has been reinvigorated as a player since the new roster was formed, and he was a huge factor in Astralis making it as far as they did in Cologne. Often operating in that lurking role now, where does he lie in this new lineup? Is it in the pack? Or in the more passive lurking role currently occupied by b0RUP?
We’ve seen Buzz in the pack role before, and it wasn’t overly successful. Given device’s faith in the young talent, it feels unlikely we’ll see him put in a role where he’ll struggle again, so does that mean that jabbi falls into that pack role and becomes a new TeSeS for stavn? It might be an individual upgrade, but it takes more than raw aim to be successful in such a selfless role.
All these question marks aren’t to say this proposed lineup can’t work, but it does show that there are obstacles that would need to be overcome in order for the lineup to be successful, and in a game where confidence and momentum are often paramount, could attempting to overcome these obstacles prove too much to handle from the get-go?
The better idea
There is one thing that isn’t a question in our minds, and that’s the fact that if Denmark hopes to return to the top, a team will need to be formed using the best pieces of Astralis and Heroic. A team that has a balance that doesn’t force players to operate in ways they aren’t comfortable doing, but which players can make up that team?
For starters, given how Staehr has so far failed to make the step up to tier one, TeSeS should be the first port of call. A selfless player used to being used as bait for a trading star, TeSeS would be the perfect accompaniment to blameF, and his tier-one experience proves that he can handle the weight of playing under a banner such as Astralis’.
Next, we require an actual upgrade on b0RUP, a question where there is only one answer. Rasmus “sjuush” Beck is an incredible anchor player, he is comfortable entrying bombsites, and is equally comfortable passive lurking, his profile is similar to b0RUP’s, but he has the elite talents that saw him signed by Heroic in b0RUP’s place back in 2021. His inclusion in this team is a no-brainer.
So, who takes the fifth and final spot in our Danish superteam? Buzz is the easy option, he has the faith of device and already has chemistry with two of the members of this team, but is he enough to take Astralis back to the top?
stavn would be the blockbuster answer. Once touted as Denmark’s next big thing, given where he and Heroic have sat in the HLTV rankings in the past two years, he’s lived up to that billing, but it hasn’t been without its drawbacks.
As shown by HLTV, no player struggles more than stavn in big arena games. This a stat that is especially egregious considering the roles he holds, if he didn’t experience such drastic drop-offs in performances, then Heroic may have won more, and considering his inclusion in the team would require blameF to shift his roles around, it hardly seems worth sacrificing the leader’s great performances in order to fit stavn in.
Instead, jabbi is the perfect fit to complete the team. Capable of lurking to an elite level, jabbi is also capable of entrying when needs be, and is used to playing key roles on CT that he would still be able to occupy should he remain on a team with TeSeS and sjuush.
In a world of teams with superteams, Denmark must create their own to stay relevant, or risk going the way of Sweden. Neither Heroic nor Astralis have what it takes to be on top by themselves, but should this team be created, a fifth Major win for a Danish team isn’t out of the question.