The time to change: Astralis and Team Vitality
The new era.
When Valve announced the rules for the upcoming season in 2021, that the RMR standings were going to get reset and the substitute players would be unable to swap on the server during the events without points deductions, it was specifically aimed at two teams on the very top of the mountain - Astralis and Team Vitality.
The Frenchmen were considered as the most stable and consistent team in 2020, the one which grew despite the departure of “ALEX” and the in-game leading debut for “apEX”, the well oiled machine around the supernova of “ZywOo”. The Danes were not only the trailblazers, but they were the champions. The most feared team of all time, the best squad to ever touch CS:GO, the unit, which could win any event at will, including four Majors, three of which in a row without dropping a single map in the playoffs.
And just like that it was all done. Astralis, dealing with all the organizational mess, could not protect their players from the inevitable burnout, leading to their superstar “device” leaving to join a young and hungry Ninjas in Pyjamas lineup. Team Vitality, plagued by their inability to play “Nivera”, lost a talented youngster to VALORANT, dealt with “RpK” retiring after an uneventful start to the year and had to rebuild with the rookies rising to the top again.
For a moment it looked like all the effort was for nothing. Astralis, even with “Bubzkji” and “Lucky” taking spots in the roster, made consecutive top-4 finishes at the LAN events at IEM Cologne 2021 and IEM Fall Europe 2021, looking on the brink of returning to the daily winning. Team Vitality allowed “Kyojin” to learn, got themselves out of the slump and nearly won ESL Pro League Season 14 before making top-4 at the same IEM Fall Europe 2021.
And then the clock struck midnight.
Astralis were lucky to escape the first round at PGL Major Stockholm 2021, starting with two consecutive losses to Copenhagen Flames and Entropiq. Taking care of GODSENT, paiN Gaming and Team Spirit did its job, but the second round was the end of an era. In the fourth round there Astralis lost to this exact Team Vitality - the team, which barely scraped by to the quarterfinals on their own before losing to the eventual champions from Natus Vincere. Two heavyweights felt like their time was up and there was a need for a change, for a chance to return to the immediate contention.
That is exactly why Astralis went for a blockbuster move of signing both “blameF” and “k0nfig”, boosting their firepower and rebuilding the culture of the team, whilst keeping “Xyp9x” and “gla1ve”. It remains to be seen if “Lucky” himself stays, considering the rumours of “Farlig” joining after the FunPlus Phoenix decision to quit CS:GO, but if there is a change, that is a signal to everybody on the planet.
This is also why Team Vitality feels like they need to make a splash to be competitive right now and not in a year’s time. Letting “Kyojin” go and splitting with “shox” allows them to fit “dupreeh” and “Magisk”, give stability to the unit, allow “zonic” to implement the same system, which gave “device” the chance to become the best on the planet and use it to develop “ZywOo” even further.
If everything works out, both Astralis and Team Vitality are going to be ready to fight against the CIS giants in Natus Vincere, Gambit Esports and Virtus.pro, while defending their thrones from the European hopefuls.
If nothing works out, both will go down as the teams, which tried to change the system, but ultimately failed against it, despite being at the top of the mountain.