Following their lukewarm performance at ESL New York, Astralis, one of the more special CS:GO teams in the world, made some roster changes, hoping to play better going forward. Why is Astralis special? Because it’s one of the rare player-owned organisations. Who got benched? One of the stars of Astralis, Finn “karrigan” Andersen. Who is going to replace him? Anton “notaN” Pedersen. Anton who? Yeah, exactly.
Having done some research, we found that notaN is a Danish 16 year old, one of the better non-pro players in his country with a lot of potential. Potential isn’t really enough for a team of Astralis’ caliber. On a team like that, you need to bring trophies or get out. With that in mind, replacing karrigan with notaN is simply mind-boggling, because there’s no way that the teenager can match the former Captain of Astralis in game. This is where the story gets very interesting.
Astralis was always a team with a lot of ambition, making it no secret that they wouldn’t mind being counted among the very top teams in the world. At the moment, their performance does not suggest that they’re moving in that direction, so some changes need to be made.
On hltv.org, there’s a great article about the implications of notaN replacing karrigan and what the team’s managers and coach could be planning in the future, with several ESL Pro League Season 4 matches left to play and the ELEAGUE-hosted Major slowly approaching.
To summarize, hltv thought of 4 different scenarios. The first one is eventually replacing karrigan with Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, who actually played with the team at ESL One Cologne. The problem is that the player is signed with Heroic. He would have to be snapped up before starting the process of qualifying for the Major with his current team. The deadline is November 4th. In this scenario, notaN is a very temporary stand in, used to give him a taste of playing at pro level, while also helping Astralis to still be able to participate in ESL Pro League with karrigan benched. You can’t use most of the well-known players, because they are more than likely already playing in the League, making them ineligible to represent Astralis.
Second, Astralis could be gearing to use an extremely smart workaround of the Major eligibility rules to basically have any player they want play for them in the Major. How does it work? Let’s dream for a second that Astralis gets Nikola “NiKo” Kovač to agree to play for them. Now, they register their coach, zonic, as a player and get NiKo registered as the coach of the team. Sounds retarded, right? Not so. Remember when zonic had to save his team’s hide in Cologne by actually playing when one of the players got sick? NiKo could do the same, replacing zonic legally. That’s a way to get around roster rules at the Majors. While it could be called “clever use of… roster mechanics,” it’s perfectly legal. HLTV checked, Valve said that it’s acceptable under current roster rules.
The third possible scenario is much more often seen in traditional sports, when a coach benches a player to let him know that he’s not putting enough effort or performing badly. If the players learns his lesson, he can come back to the team and all is well. It might be that zonic aren’t happy with the Astralis’ system, which was thought up by karrigan. It might be that the team trusts him to figure out a new one. Stuff like this takes a lot of time. It could be that zonic benched karrigan and replaced him with a stand in to give him more time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what should be done. That is probably my favorite scenario, to be honest. In the video announcing karrigan’s benching, the player looked entirely too happy to discount this possibility.
Finally, Astralis could be intending to start from the bottom, finding a great fit for their roster and then going through the whole Major Qualification grind. That plan might actually provide the best outcome if it’s successful, but the risk is equal to the rewards in case of success. If they fail on the way, Astralis could lose everything.
Whatever option Astralis chooses, we should wait and see what happens. They look to be smart people. Unless they start spouting stuff about building walls on their border with Germany, the Danish CS:GO superstars should be given the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the case may be, don’t bash notaN. He’s a 16 year old kid, who is trying to punch way above his weight. It might very well be possible that someday, he will be a superstar on a team of Astralis’ caliber, however, that time hasn’t come yet. To use a basketball reference, he’s a high-school sophomore player, taken out of there and asked to play in the NBA. How would you do in his position?