Big Event winning runs - Were Liquid better than Astralis?
With a BLAST Pro Series São Paulo victory this March Astralis became the first team to win six "Big Events" in a row — ever since the concept was introduced on HLTV.org in 2015 to highlight the most prestigious and competitive tournaments and separate them from the rest —, beating the record of fnatic, who had gone on a streak of four in a row in late 2015-early 2016.
Liquid matched that streak before the last season came to a close, starting with their first such triumph at IEM Sydney before going on to win five more, and are looking to break the record themselves with a seventh title from the ongoing StarLadder Major, where the North American giants are about to face their Danish rivals in the quarter-finals.
Before we find out if Liquid have what it takes, however, let's take a look at which of the two runs was the more impressive based on a few criteria in numbers.
A quick glance at the two lists tells you that both teams clinched an Intel Grand Slam during their run, with Astralis finishing off the first season with IEM Chicago 2018 and the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals as part of their streak, while Liquid's list features their entire season 2 run of four wins.
However, one important difference is that the Danes won a Major in that four-month span at IEM Katowice, which gives them a significant edge in terms of the prestige attached to their run despite it featuring two BLAST Pro Series stops, the least distinguished Big Events due to their BO1-heavy format and because they only feature six teams compared to the 16 that make up most other tournaments deserving of the Big-Event tag at the moment.
On the other hand, looking at some of the raw numbers from the two periods, although Astralis have a better round win rate (59.7% vs. 58.8%), there is an argument to be made for Liquid's run being slightly more dominant thanks to a better record in maps (60-11 vs. 52-11) and matches (32-1 vs. 32-2), with the North American team suffering their single loss in a best-of-one affair against North while Astralis lost two series, to FaZe and MIBR. That also shows that Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander's team played (and won) more best-of-ones, which once again comes down to the fact that they played an extra BLAST Pro Series stop compared to their rivals.
Another — and perhaps the most crucial — difference becomes apparent when you look more in-depth into the competition present at the tournaments in question and the average level of teams Astralis and Liquid beat en route to the six titles. You can already see which way the competition argument is leaning when you learn that in the six tournaments Astralis won, 44 out of the possible 50 top-ten teams from HLTV.org's ranking at the time of the event were in attendance, and it continues along similar lines for the top-five (25/30) and top-three (15/18) sides. When it comes to the teams the Danish heavyweights actually defeated en route to the titles, 26 of their 32 match wins came against top-ten, 12 against top-five, and seven against top-three opponents.
The same numbers are much less impressive in Liquid's tournaments. Only 35 out of the possible 54 top-ten, 17 out of 30 top-five, and 11 out of 18 top-three teams attended them, while from their 32 match wins, less than half were top-ten matchups (15), of which six were top-five and only four top-three teams. Although that is obviously no fault of Nick "nitr0" Cannella & co., the diminished level of competition speaks to the stability and consistency of the scene at the time of their dominance and plays a big factor in determining which of the two runs has more credibility.
You could also consider the time passed between the start of the runs to the finish, in which there is a sizable difference as it is a span of 137 days in Astralis' case and 82 days in Liquid's, but the question is whether you see it as more difficult to stay ahead when the scene has time to prepare well or when there is little time for anyone to prepare, including yourself. In the former scenario, there is a lot more focus on the dominant team in the breaks between tournaments, but the winning side also has the chance to innovate, while in the latter there is little room for improvement for the teams attending the same tournaments, but does that mean it is easier to snowball from the position of the best team?
No matter which you decide is the bigger feat, the competition argument and the presence of a Major title clearly makes Astralis' streak look like the more impressive of the two. However, Liquid now have the chance to extend theirs to a record-breaking seven Big Event titles in a row and add a Major win of their own as they are heading into the playoffs in Berlin, with the Danes ready to defend their record up against the current No. 1 team as they chase their fourth Major crown, their third in a row.