Ashton’s column: Astralis’ disappointment

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This past week was a busy one for esports. Between the quarterfinals of the League of Legends World Championship and the start of the first major in two years for CS:GO, there were plenty of high and low moments for esports fans. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the last week in esports. 

The good: Korean League Teams

There’s not much to say here that hasn’t already been said. The three Korean teams remaining in the tournament went a combined 9-0 in the quarterfinals, losing no games though it is worth noting that all three of T1s wins came over the fourth Korean team at the tournament, Hanwha Life Esports. 

MAD Lions and Cloud9, the two remaining western representatives, were destroyed by DWG and Gen.G, respectively, making this the first semifinal round since 2017 to not have a western team present. On the other hand, all four remaining teams look very strong; the fourth, EdWard Gaming, beat out RNG in a close five-game quarterfinal that saw them advance to their next matchup, a showdown with Gen.G.  

T1 and DWG, meanwhile, face off in what is likely the best best-of-five of the tournament. These have been the two best teams, although DWG has both looked and been literally unstoppable, and it’s really the old guard versus the new. Faker versus the team trying to usurp his team’s legacy. T1 is the most storied team in League history, that’s not a question. If DWG keeps up this rise and wins back to back Worlds with a second place at MSI in the middle, they’ll certainly improve their standing in that conversation.  

The Bad: Astralis 

For anyone who is not a CS:GO watcher, Astralis was the best team in the world for a long time. They won three majors back to back and several other big tournaments in the middle there, and they dominated rival teams like Liquid and Natus Vincere (Navi) at international events.  

Then came COVID-19. Last year, both Majors were cancelled which makes Astralis still the defending champions. But, last year they also lost AWPer and IGL Device. More recently, they swapped out player Bubzkji for Lucky, a change that occurred just a few weeks ago. Astralis is now the eighth ranked team in the world, after a series of truly underwhelming performances this year that included losses at tournaments like IEM Cologne, though they did place third-fourth there. 

Despite this, it’s still Astralis and fans expected something from this team. Four of the five players from their three major wins remain the same in Xyp9x, Dupreeh, Magisk and Gla1ve, and Astralis does have a lot more LAN experience than some of these teams considering many came together more recently and COVID-19 has led to effectively no LANS in the last year and a half. 

But Astralis has not been good in the first two days of this tournament. On day one they lost both their matchups 16-6 to Copenhagen Flames and Entropiq, both relatively unknown teams who are ranked outside the top ten. They’re still one loss away from exiting the tournament, though in an elimination best-of-three on Wednesday they managed to claim a much stronger 2-0 against Godsent that knocked out the Brazilians.  

Despite that win and the fact Astralis is not out of the major yet, it still feels pretty bad for them. The teams they’re facing will only get better and if this is the form that Astralis is showing, we’re going to have a new major champion by the end of the tournament. 

The Ugly: Europe at Worlds 

The Quarterfinals for the World Championship somehow went worse for the west than many predicted. MAD was never supposed to win over DWG, although something closer to their 3-2 loss at MSI would’ve been nice, but at least they hung on for a while in a few games. But Cloud9, they were supposed to be better than what they showed; Gen.G was meant to be worse, which is my personal opinion. I don’t think Cloud9 underperformed so much as Gen.G finally woke up. 

Either way, for the first time in several years now, every European and North American team is out and Europe joins what has become a familiar routine for North American fans; watching the rest of the world fight over your dead bodies. It’s got to be especially disappointing to European fans to see their teams go out like this considering they have a much better history at Worlds than the North American teams do, with maybe the exception of Cloud9 who has had some success. 

To see all six of these teams go out, and for the last two to go out so brutally in 0-3 losses to Korea, is a blow to the two regions which had been making incremental progress. Europe was up there last year with G2, and they were there with Fnatic before them. To go from finals and semifinals to G2 not making worlds, two teams not making quarters and none making the semis is a huge blow to the idea that Europe was above North America with Korea and China. 

With heavy rumors surrounding G2’s roster, maybe they’ll be back next year. Maybe MAD will continue to climb, given how impressive they truly were for such a young team this year despite how it ended. Maybe Upset will be there to help Fnatic show something in a tournament without an asterisk. But for now, there’s nothing these teams can do but go home and think about next year.  

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