Both teams were once the undisputed bests in CS:GO, only to completely disintegrate after a single notably poor Major performance. The Fnatic five ended up reuniting after a while to try and rekindle the spark, with little to no success. Could Astralis follow a similar storyline?
Woe to the new CS:GO esports fan who thinks Na’Vi already had an era and that their dominance is unprecedented in the scene. Even before history intervened, Twenty-one LAN event wins, three Major titles and countless other accolades for the Swedish side, four Majors and ruthless dominance for the Danes.
These two rosters serve as the twin apexes of CS:GO’s past, titans with very different personalities and playstyles – the Swedish fire brightening up the night sky and the Danish ice seemingly freezing everything in place around them.
If peak Fnatic were the fire that burned down everything in sight, a single spark able to ignite a comeback out of nowhere, Astralis at their best were pure ice, close to zero Kelvin in temperature, constricting and freezing their opponents in place, denying them from any sort of initiative, let alone a turnaround.
While the Swedes were famed for breaking the rules in every respect – the narrative with their incredible comebacks, the economy with their wonderous force-buys and sometimes even the spirit of the rules with the infamous boost on Overpass –, Astralis were cold and calculating within the confines of the game, choking out their opposition rather than overpowering them.
We’ve learned later that many of Fnatic’s infamous timeouts featured nothing more than a little break, and the tactic was little more than “olof go kill”: you can’t even imagine the same about Astralis and their infinitely deep stratbook.
For some, the Danes’ playstyle was boring: the only thing that bored people about Fnatic in their heyday was the predictability of their unbelievable comebacks. The Swedes were very difficult to finish off: with gla1ve and co., it’s tough enough to get ahead of them at all in CS:GO matches. They both had their set of haters, but the gist of it was the same: you know you’ve achieved total dominance where the best your detractors can do is detract style points as you keep racking up trophies.
Peak Fnatic and peak Astralis were two very different beasts: the unstoppable force and the immovable object. It’s not easy to assign facts to such hypotheticals but if SixteenZero’s skill rating history is anything to go by, the Danes broke the Swede’s long-standing “ELO” ranking record sometime around April 2018, no doubt reaching even higher heights later in their era.
The stylistic differences would have made for a fascinating spectacle. Back then, olofmeister was the undisputed best of the world, a young Han Solo of the CS:GO scene, yelling “never tell me the odds” before charging into battle. No numbers, no system would have been able to contain that. There’s only one thing we can be sure of: like all imaginary heavyweight encounters, it would have been a fantastic game to watch.
Their slow-motion downfall has been a lot less fascinating to follow, but veteran CS:GO viewers will be able to draw parallels between the fates of the two giants, and the way Fnatic originally fell by the wayside holds little hope for the new-look Astralis project. The Swedish quintet split in two as JW, KRIMZ and flusha followed pronax to GODSENT, hoping to lean a bit into the team creation aspect of things while dennis and olof stuck around, creating a new squad with twist, Lekr0 and wenton.
Controversy followed as the two teams then traded Lekr0 and KRiMZ again for the coveted Major invite spot. It was Fnatic who did better at Atlanta (they made it to the semis while GODSENT went out in the groups), but neither project really shined, and the five players reunited soon thereafter under the Fnatic banner.
The date was February 4, 2017. It didn’t mark the beginning of a new era. Not even close. Their first event together again was DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. They went out in the group stage and never won a title again with this lineup. Fnatic fans had to wait until Katowice 2019 to see their idols lift the trophy again: by that time, olofmeister was on the other side of the server, wearing a FaZe jersey, scarcely believing how flusha defied the odds over and over again in the grand final on Train and perhaps knowing all too well how things like these were meant to be.
It only goes to show that once the magic is gone, it’s impossible to recapture. The metagame changes, the strategies evolve, burnout and complacency creeps in, something is broken, never to be mended. Even if device were to return to Astralis, as some rumors suggest he might, there’s no mystical magic to reignite, especially not in such a system-based team. The true heirs of the Astralis formula now wear a Vitality jersey, with zonic’s contributions seeming more important to the fabulous five’s success every passing day.
Player performance-wise, they also seem to have got the best part of the package: Xyp9x, better though he may have been on LAN, presides over a desolate ministry, and gla1ve hasn’t managed to find any balance, let alone alchemy, with his new rosters. His thousand-yard stare at the BLAST Premier Spring Groups after their elimination showed that he knew something was over forever.
If the past is prologue, we can be pretty sure that none of these post-Astralis fragments will return to prominence. Vitality has the best chance, but should they make it, there’s little reason to suspect that their approach will be Astralis-like.
Not that keeping things together past their expiration date helps anyone. You can even consider the precipitous decline of FalleN and his Brazilian core, a project that stuck together for way too long with no results to justify the loyalty. So far, returning to the summit after a fall has proven to be impossible to even the most legendary CS:GO players. The cleaner the break, the better for everyone – fans, perhaps, included.
Photo credit: HLTV