The Astralis Difference: Their Adoption of the Traditional Sports Mindset
“What’s the secret to the routine… what’s the routine?” - Frankie Ward
When asked what the secret to the Astralis version of CS:GO, he stated the secret was: “Eating well, sleeping well, going to the gym. ummm yeah, I think that’s the most important thing is training in CS. I don’t drink alcohol but I’ll probably be there (The Afterparty) sober”- Nicolai “device” Reedzt
The fact that device is willing to give up alcoholic beverages as a whole is a testament to his dedication and love for the game as a lifestyle. He lives, sweats and breathes Counter-Strike. This is something the rest of the Astralis organization realize why they are ahead of the game. This is their competitive advantage or the Danish Difference.
This is also apparent when we look at the entire organizations approach to Counter-Strike. They don’t field a team to simply be present, like the Optic Gaming’s of the world, but do so to build a legacy while earning millions of dollars along the way. These are the ambitions that every team should have, but some teams lack the motivation and chemistry required to do so. When you simply look at their YouTube channel, you see the comradery, bonding and the pure friendships that these five individuals have created. This has a trickle effect on the way in which they play the game. This process is one that is clearly more effective for all organizations in esports, and more specifically the CS:GO scene to adapt.
Firstly, when I reflect on Blast Pro Series São Paulo, there is a clear distinction between Astralis and everyone else. That distinction is the sports mindset - Astralis are treating their jobs as a lifestyle and it is more clear that the apparent relations between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. In Chard “SPUNJ” Burchill’s comments on Astralis’ performance at Blast São Paulo , he would comment on the Astralis difference in response to device’s eye-opening interview. He would state, spunj:
“Discipline is very difficult… I think when you can bring it into every facet of your life it can show real professionals. I think this team they take every facet of their career seriously right, they realise Cs isn’t just about headshots in the server, it's about living this lifestyle which can facilitate you being at your best all over the shop.” - 8:41:26
Prior to Astralis current legacy-defining run with the addition of Emil “magisk” Reif in February of 2018, the team had a history of choking in Major Semi-Finals. To solve this issue, one individual, a sports psychologist, was the “secret weapon” of their 2017 ELEAGUE Atlanta Major run to win the first major for the Danes.
Astralis had attempted to win a Major several times previously and had come short every single time, ultimately developing a choking attitude. This is just one of many stories in Counter-Strike of a traditional sports psychologist pushing a team over the edge to victory.
Astralis is treating their organization like a sports club and it is paying off in ways that anyone ever thought would be possible. If we look at Astralis from a completely objective mindset, it is clear why everyone else is so far behind them. This is less to do with in-game-practice, but more about extrinsic factors such as the level of support that organizations like Astralis provide for their players. This mindset is one that they have adopted in full - but they are not the only ones in the scene to possess and utilize such a mindset. Particularly, teams such as Team Liquid, MIBR and Natus Vincere are all slowly adapting to the fact that this is not just a job . An opportunity to treat it like traditional sports and turn their organization into one that is on the same level of Astralis.
In particular, Liquid has adapted this with the use of a sports psychologist and several other important individuals in the organization. This includes a dietician, a coach and several others. However, throughout all of the stress and in-game trauma they have suffered during the last three years, a sports psychologist has been absolutely necessary to ensure that their mental health remains intact. Albeit, the role of an “esports psychologist” is becoming more and more necessary with the influx of money into the scene. Money from sponsors such as betting companies, energy drink companies along with different internal gaming stakeholders such as Razer or Alienware. With more money being on the line, this means that there is a greater mental challenge for those that are placing every single second into this opportunity. They have food nutritionists, coaches, managers and a multitude of other roles that you would typically have in a team like the Golden State Warriors, Real Madrid, and The Boston Red Socks.
To be clear, Team Liquid, the Renegades, Cloud9 and several others have shown the world that anything is possible given the effort placed into their dedication to the game. However, in a general sense, the Europeans have always been king to the “legacy mindset”. They play for their own personal and team legacy. They die by their eras, and this is abundantly clear when it is considered that the EU has won 10 out of 14 Majors in the history of Global Offensive. It is also clear from the majority of EU teams in 18 out of 28 Grand Finalist teams. Albeit, it must also be addressed that the EU scene was much bigger in 1.6 and Source in all regards, and the rest of the world slowly had to adapt to CS:GO. This is why Asia, Oceania and North American teams have occasionally shown to the world that they can compete at the highest echelons, but have not consistently done so. It took NA 5 years before Cloud9’s Major win, one that was unexpected from the ground up. It took South-America, in their representatives in Brazilians SK/Luminosity Gaming till 2016 to win back-to-back Majors, after a long-departure from success past the 1.6 MIBR days. Will the EU always rule the top? Right now it’s looking extremely likely. However, I do not know the answer or the solution to this. Only time can tell.
Astralis is an esports organization that has taken the traditional sporting approach and is better for it. They avidly gym together to receive optimal gains as a team and will never falter to find new kinks in the game’s shining armor; even almost 7 years after the game’s initial release. If you have a strategy that you think is foolproof, they will sit down, spend hours in theory crafting and come up with 5-10 ways to counteract said strategy. They seemingly barely play FPL and Xyp9x has even been quoted to say that he has allegedly been kicked from the league because of his inactivity. However, this is indicative of his ability and dedication in other avenues. This is the Astralis way; patience and dedication in the improvement of their core lineup and the unwavering practice placed into the game by each and every individual on the roster.
From the outside looking in, it is clear that Astralis is doing everything they possibly can on the surface to push their team to win, yet what many fail to see is the way they treat the game extrinsically.
This factor is something heavily overlooked. This is not just a game for them, it’s a way of life. It’s their legacy and is what people across North-America and Europe strive for. The Danes have conquered the CS:GO scene, but the real question is, who will take them down?
In my opinion, the team that is built to dethrone the current era of the Astralis reign does not exist. There are many questions we must ask ourselves for the future of CS:GO -When will such a team exist? Who will join such a team? Will these teams also adopt the “sports mindset”? This is a question that teams will need to ask themselves if they want even a sliver of a chance against the best of the best.
In my honest opinion, more and more organizations need to take this mindset on board. This is not simply enough to equate to a winning situation. The players also need to dedicate hours and hours of training together to create a constantly evolving dynamic. Astralis even evolved the meta of the game with their extremely nuanced view about the usage of the HE grenade. Something a team has not done for a long, long time unless you think back to the days of Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson’s Tec-9 era.
Right now there is no other team that has that mindset and mentality to dethrone Astralis. However, one day, it will inevitably happen, whether it be from old age or a meta change. I do not have an answer to this question. The real question is when the downfall of Astralis will occur, why it will happen and how it will happen?
Until this day, we are living in the Danish era of Dominance.