Kjaerbye and Astralis: A Comparison
HLTV.org has taken a look at the rise of Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye following his debut for Astralis as well as examining the recent trajectory of the Danish super team itself.
The news was certainly one of the more unexpected releases this year up until now, taking many aback: Astralis and dignitas, two top-ten teams and both mostly Danish, swapped players.
The swap was a leg-up for Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye, dignitas' previous high powered fragger, as the 18-year-old was moving from the second tier champions that are Dignitas to the berth of Astralis, an elite (read: top five) level team.
We wanted to take a look at two specific trends following these changes: the recent form of Kjaerbye prior to his acquisition by Astralis and also Astralis' prospects in 2016, a year which has mostly spelled disappointment for the five-time event winners of 2015.
Kjaerbye now must prove himself on Astralis
The player swap comes at a fortuitous time for Astralis, as the Danish super team find themselves in danger of falling out of the elite tier with recent finishes including a 9-12th place letdown in Malmö and a 7-8th place bomb-out at the ESL Pro League Season 3 finals.
Brought in like a raging Achilles following his brief abstention from the Trojan war, Kjaerbye will be seen by the Astralis organisation, the players, and the wider scene as a boost of firepower and talent at a crucial time for Denmark's best team.
We now examine whether that view is warranted.
Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye
If you were to ask a casual viewer about Kjaerbye and his playstyle, especially since he rose to greater prominence with the unveiling of the new dignitas team in early 2015 (who had previously been Copenhagen Wolves), they would probably recall three things: his Deagle round at DreamHack Open Leipzig, an on-and-off tendency to succumb to nerves in offline games, and a perhaps related shaky spray when using rifles.
Although 18-years-old now, Kjaerbye got his start in Counter-Strike: Source and slowly climbed the ladder of Danish teams and began to attract attention with his joining (once CS:GO had supplanted the previous game) of Danny "BERRY" Krüger's NO SIR! alongside another youngster in Hemen "xanzir" Nawros.
Although it has time and time again bothered a lot of the entrenched veteran players, CS:GO has proven to be an accelerant for many a young player with crazy aim, and Kjaerbye's rise was no exception.
Three months after joining the middling NO SIR! lineup, Kjaerbye had gathered enough notice to be drafted into Copenhagen Wolves alongside Casper "cadiaN" Møller. One noteworthy performance in particular that solidifed his status was his big-time LAN debut, at ASUS ROG Summer 2014, which NO SIR! (who by then were called myRevenge as they had a sponsor) managed to win.
As far as LAN debuts go, not much could go better than winning a tightly contested European LAN as well as averaging a 1.33 rating across all the maps, giving Kjaerbye a MVP-level performance (teammate Asger "AcilioN" Larsen likewise had a MVP performance). Although myRevenge afterwards lost their sponsor, and the team eventually drifted apart, Kjaerbye continued to propel forward and it was on Isak Gaming that he received his chance to play for Copenhagen Wolves.
Barely six months into wider fame in CS:GO, Kjaerbye played his first Major
And shortly afterwards, he was already attending his first Major, DreamHack Winter 2014, where CPH Wolves finished in 13-16th place.
Soon afterwards came the aforementioned swap to the new dignitas roster and the rest is history as they say. Kjaerbye was with the organisation up until his recent move to Astralis; he was there for their low moments (there were quite a few) and for that one time around February-March 2016 when they were ranked #6-7 and looked to be on the verge of becoming an elite team.
Perhaps there is something that comes with rising too fast that leads to people trying to bring you down (and this fact goes into the wider esports scene and even beyond), but many have doubted the 18-year-old Dane from early on, both in his feasability on a top ten team and in his actual "legitness."
However, there is no use linking to forum threads, where the catcalls of idiots are allowed to roam free, and expecting solid analysis so we now turn to the numbers to examine the past year.
Kjaerbye's form on all maps in CS:GO
If we were to make an analogy to an actual star and plot this form on a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, then Kjaerbye would be like a young supergiant off of the Main Sequence in his early days, burning in an unsustainably bright manner against easy opposition. With mass (read this as wider attention) of course came resistance and the young player moved onto the Main Sequence and cooled off a bit.
However, we now see him rising in form again, perhaps accruing that giant status of more mature stars, rather than sinking into the nothingness of being a White Dwarf star. He could be at a point of coming into his own.
Moving aside from analogies however, there are still a few worrying traits that reinforce the idea of a "LAN nervous" player whose hands literally shake as he tries to mow down opponents. One of these traits is Kjaerbye's terrible form in the two Majors he attended, DHW 2014 and Cluj-Napoca 2015.
But when we factor in DreamHack Masters Malmö, a $250,000 event that was not a Major which Kjaerbye recently attended and where dignitas scored a 5-8th place finish (higher than Astralis), we are suddenly comforted with the statistical pattern of a player who is getting comfortable on the big stage.
Kjaerbye's Rating across all eight $250,000 maps he has played shows an upward trend
Perhaps the biggest indicator justifying his acquisition by Astralis however is a 2016-wide trend of a better rating across all spectrums, both online and offline, compared to 2015 although Kjaerbye did have a slightly higher LAN form in 2014, mostly thanks to that monstrous 1.33 rating at ASUS ROG Summer 2014.
Unless the next step upwards leads to a almost nationally-characteristic Danish breakdown for Kjaerbye and a return to the nerves of yore, I can see nothing amiss from grabbing up such a rising talent ahead of ELEAGUE (Astralis will of course have to make do without Kjaerbye at the Major).
And as a final note we should also remember the story of Philip "aizy" Aistrup, a former teammate of Kjaerbye's who was also added to the Copenhagen Wolves team in 2014 and also labelled as a rising talent but who has since not lived up to expectations.
One consolation this time however is that Kjaerbye will be entering into the fold and tutorship of Danish godfather IGL Finn "karrigan" Andersen (and by extension the coaching of veteran Danny "zonic" Sørensen) and the young player should be moulded into his full potential in a more efficient manner. And on the subject of karrigan, we turn to his team Astralis, who must now learn to mesh and play with Kjaerbye.
Astralis previously held the number one spot in the world in the HLTV ranking, mainly due to their several event wins in 2015, with the latest being PGL Season 1. Many looked to them as an exemplar tactical team that last year: well-drilled, precisely lethal, and able to take down the world's hottest team of fnatic with an ease other teams simply could not pull off.
However, for various reasons the team metamorphosed (both in in name and in in-game form) into a more quiet competitor who would often finish in 3-4th place or 2nd place, but who could go no further and grasp the gold medals as they were wont to do in the previous year.
At their two latest tournaments, both of which were $250,000+ events, Astralis seemed even worse off than usual by finishing 7-8th and 9-12th place. And thus the soul-searching began to solve why a team who were often fighting for first place were suddenly ranked fifth and in danger of falling out of the elite.
cajunb could not step up at times for Astralis
Statistically, René "cajunb" Borg, the player on his way out of Astralis, held up his form even in his final offline games for the team, and although it would be hard to say that he carried matches or was a decisive factor in their wins, there is no downward trend in his form in 2016 overall.
However, it is curious to note that the 26-year-old player did struggle in a few games which may have been particularly devastating to Astralis' morale and thus may have been a deciding factor in his ousting, such as against Natus Vincere in the Major semifinals and against NiP in the team's Malmö decider.
Following a dip in late 2015/early 2016, cajunb recovered in his overall form
One way to make sense of the swap is through analysing what sort of player Astralis may have felt that they were recently lacking. The duo of Nicolai "device" Reedtz and Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen are the clear engine for the team, propelling it to victory when things get going and thus integral parts. Meanwhile, Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth remains the dedicated hardcore support player and karrigan is of course the tactician underpinning the entire venture.
This sort of logic leaves cajunb as the odd man out, a mix between fragger and support and rare hard carry who underperformed in a few emotionally decisive games.
When we then compare the forms of cajunb and new addition Kjaerbye, we can also see that while both players have played well lately, the 18-year-old is clearly hitting higher peaks and with more frequency.
A comparison of Kjaerbye and cajunb's form across all maps
For a team looking to be more than "stable," but rather champions on top of the CS:GO pyramid, then the addition of an 18-year-old talent who can only continue climbing upwards in his form and in his skill makes clear sense.
Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel that when we consider the fate of his old teammate aizy and when we think about the various consistency issues surrounding Danish teams, Kjaerbye nevertheless is a gamble in some sense for Astralis.
Kjaerbye may have been known as a player likely to succumb to nerves during his dignitas days, but now the onus will be on him to perform like never before, and in fact to only play above and beyond his dignitas efforts.
If the team's online match against FaZe yesterday (which was going on as this article was being written) is any indication in terms of his performance, then the young player has so far managed to adapt well with his newfound teammates.
The real test however, will be decided in an offline setting and particularly at a $250,000+ event and it just so happens that Astralis' next event is ELEAGUE Season 1, a marquee tournament with over $1 million on offer. The stakes could not be higher.
stich writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter