The mighty Astralis asserted their superiority over Natus Vincere in clinical fashion when they met at BLAST Pro Series Miami on Friday night. Astralis have sat atop the world rankings for the past 70 weeks and they have enjoyed a total stranglehold on the pro CS:GO scene. They have won back-to-back Majors, ESL Pro League titles and ECS season finals and nobody has come close to threatening their dominance. But Na’Vi are now up to second in the HLTV rankings and an impressive victory at StarSeries i-league season 7 in Shanghai suggested they might cause the Danes problems in Miami.

However, Astralis brushed aside any such notions in utterly contemptuous fashion, romping to a 16-7 victory. They found themselves 4-1 down after some industrious work from s1mple and flamie, but then they took complete control of the contest. A magnificent 1v2 clutch from Xyp9X put the Danes ahead and they raced into a 9-4 lead. Xyp9x then took down three to enable the double for gla1ve. Na’Vi found themselves 14-4 down before they finally responded with a sensational quad kill hold from flamie, but Astralis then cruised to victory on a force buy.

It left Astralis 2-0 in the group stage, following a 16-10 win over Cloud9 earlier that day, and it highlighted the sheer gulf in class between them and the chasing pack. Na’Vi may be second in HLTV’s world rankings, but Astralis have almost twice as many points as their closest rivals. They showed just why with another composed performance to swat Na’Vi aside, and the Ukrainian team have a lot to work on before they can think of toppling the dominant Danes.

Best Player of 2018

HLTV named s1mple the best player in the world for 2018, ahead of Astralis’ device in second, but the Danish team also had dupreeh at number five, Magisk at number seven, gla1ve at number eight and Xyp9x at 13th place, and it is their collective brilliance that has left their rivals trailing in their wake. Former pro Chad ‘SPUNJ’ Burchill summed it up nicely when he said: “It really feels like the level of most teams is on the way up right now. Obviously the bar has been set so ridiculously high by Astralis, so you need to take them out of the equation, but for the first time in a long time the top 15 feels super competitive.”

The rest of the teams are simply competing to be named the second best in the world. The Danes are such heavy favourites in every tournament they play in that many fans avoid the straight up win markets (such as those seen here) and instead bet on the spread for a more tempting set of odds.

ESL One Cologne 2016 - The Legends

CS:GO needs someone to step up and challenge Astralis in order to reignite interest among fans, as many are becoming frustrated by their dominance. Even if they skip a tournament, victory feels hollow for whoever lifts the trophy, as everyone assumes Astralis would have seized glory if they had of participated.

Their dominance is unparalleled in any other esport, and a lack of competition could derail CS:GO’s momentum. New titles are being released all the time and everyone wants to seize market share within the burgeoning esports sector, so CS:GO needs to remain exciting and dynamic to hold onto its position as one of the world’s most popular competitive games, and it is hard to do that when one team looms so large over the scene. You could argue that Team Liquid are best placed to close the gap on Astralis, or perhaps ENCE, but Na’Vi have the talents of s1mple at their disposal, they are ranked second in the world and they are full of ambition.

s1mple has long been waxing lyrical about Na’Vi’s ambitions of breaking Astralis’ stranglehold on the CS:GO scene and creating a new era of domination. They have enjoyed some modest successes in this department, but the balance of power firmly sits with the Danes. Na’Vi have now turned to former Gambit coach B1ad3 in a bid to close the gap on the world’s top ranked team. He has been tasked with overhauling their training sessions, completing transfers to bolster their overall quality and preparing them for stern challenges ahead. The Ukrainians are trying to mimic Astralis by becoming more professional, working with dieticians and psychologists in order to turn the team into a fine-tuned machine.

B1ad3 has to inject a more scientific approach to Na’Vi’s training sessions and devise a better strategy for the team if they are to improve. Astralis outsmart every team they play and they get their tactics spot on, because they study the demos of all their rivals to the nth degree. Na’Vi must copy this. Astralis also boast a rock-solid system, in which every player has a clearly defined role. Their decision-making is precise and devastatingly effective, underpinned by gla1ve’s exemplary in-game leadership and the phenomenal chemistry in the team.

Picture credits: HLTV.org

Astralis cannot hope to contain s1mple, but they typically overwhelm Na’Vi via superb teamwork, discipline, patience, consistency and tactical nous. B1ad3 must work with his troops to create a more effective system and fix the numerous small mistakes Na’Vi make. They can only hope to topple Astralis if they cut out these errors. They can also learn a lot from the Danes’ grenade use, which is a major contributing factor behind their success.

s1mple says he is sick of simply being named the world’s best player and winning MVP awards while his team cannot enjoy collective glory. Yet there is so much resting on his shoulders due to the weaknesses of some of his teammates. There is a case to be made for axing Edward and Zeus and bringing in a couple of new stars to play alongside s1mple, electronic and flamie. If the overall quality was better, s1mple could become a more effective team player. All five members of Astralis can frag and they have a great spread of skills across their positions. You cannot say that about Na’Vi, so the line-up is in need of surgery before they can hope to challenge for the title of the world’s best team.

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