Despite lofty ambitions at the beginning of 2022, Astralis have been struggling. The Danish organization brought Benjamin “blameF” Bremer, Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke and coach Alexander “ave” Holdt onto the roster in the hopes of working back towards their status as the best team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. So far, that progress has been stunted. Astralis is looking to re-write that narrative at the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 2022.
“It will probably take another three to four months before we get everything down,” k0nfig said in an interview at the end of 2021. “We still play to win every game, though. We insist on doing things right, so we might not win everything quite yet.”
Astralis had mixed success near the end of 2021, a strong “honeymoon phase” third-place finish on home soil at the BLAST Premier: Fall Final was followed by less than encouraging results. The opening of 2022 has been decisively more negative. The Danes have played two events: Funspark ULTI Finals and BLAST Spring Groups. They placed fifth-sixth at Funspark and seventh-ninth at the Spring Groups, getting relegated to the BLAST Spring Showdown.
“I think we have some different issues,” Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander said at an IEM Katowice press conference. “Of course, we had some role changes… Also, I think we need to find ourselves individually.”
Hardest part about watching Astralis right now is I don't even know where to begin.
Like.. what part of this project is working well enough that you can even theoretically build a foundation of gameplay around?
— Jason O'Toole (@MosesGG) February 6, 2022
To gla1ve’s point, the biggest warning sign for Astralis is that the individuals are underperforming. Team play and role swaps can take time to sink in, but as of now the team is leaning heavily on blameF for firepower. Over the past three months, blameF is the only player on the team with a positive Kill/Death difference.
“I don’t care too much about what I can achieve as an individual player, I care about what I can achieve with this team,” blameF said. “Obviously we’re trying to make the team great. The best players in the world are ones that play on teams that function.”
Besides blameF, k0nfig has not been his usual fragging self and Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth is the lowest rated player on the team, below rookie Philip “Lucky” Ewald.
“It comes down to how the team is performing and how we, as a team, perform in general,” Xyp9x said. “Yeah sure, I can take the blame on me. I’ll keep grinding and working hard because that’s the only way back to the top. It’s something I’m working on and will keep working on.”
IEM Katowice will be a pivotal step in Astralis’s road to redemption. The team kicks off their run against MIBR at 8:20 a.m. ET on Tuesday. The Danes have to go through the play-ins and the group stage if they want a shot to play in front of the Polish audience in the Spodek arena.
“We want to proceed from the play-in,” gla1ve said. “That’s an important part for us. I think it will be a pretty big loss for us if don’t manage to do that.”
Astralis have won IEM Katowice twice before, in 2017 and 2019. Xyp9x and gla1ve were both on the roster that accomplished those feats — among many others. Xyp9x, for one, is hoping that a LAN is just what he needs to kick his individual performances into gear.
“I’ve been underperforming during this online era,” Xyp9x said. “Being back at LAN is where I thrive. Hopefully I can show that at this tournament.”
A good showing at IEM Katowice can help alleviate some of the flak that is being directed at Astralis. More than that, it will encourage the team as they continue to search for their form throughout the rest of the year. Gla1ve said in the press conference that the team wants to hit their peak in time for the major.
“I feel like this team can be the very best in the world,” blameF said. “But obviously we need more time than we thought.”