trace: "There's not going to be any changes"
The Astralis coach says the team will keep the same lineup for now as they focus on long-term goals for the remainder of the year.
After a string of lacklustre tournament placements since the start of the year, Astralis finally had a breakthrough event at IEM Cologne, managing to make it to the playoffs by beating Complexity and BIG in the Play-In and FURIA and Cloud9 in the main group stage.
The Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander-led side added another win to that tally when they took the stage in the LANXESS Arena, beating MOUZ in the quarter-finals before falling 0-2 to Natus Vincere, losing the Nuke opener and dropping a 12-3 lead on Mirage to be sent packing in 3-4th place.
After Astralis' elimination, Zvonimir "Professeur" Burazin spoke to the team's head coach Martin "trace" Heldt to find out what went wrong in the series, as well as get some insight into the IGL swap between gla1ve and Benjamin "blameF" Bremer on Mirage.
The 32-year-old Dane also shared some of his immediate takeaways from Astralis' showing in Germany, and was firm in stating that the team would not be making changes as they move into the off-season.
This is a pretty good top four finish when you look at it, the best result of Astralis this year. You end up losing to NAVI, you're out, but what is the takeaway from the tournament?
Our takeaway is it's really good, it's a good tournament for us. We also made it far, it's like every match we played people basically didn't believe in us. Versus BIG we were underdogs perhaps, versus FURIA as well, Cloud9 as well, and we won all the matches, so we're extremely happy about that obviously.
We didn't expect to make the playoffs, only six teams going through, it's a really tough tournament so obviously we are satisfied. We also feel like we put up a fight against NAVI even though we lost 2-0, so we're going on vacation in a good mood even though of course, throwing that Mirage and feeling like we should have won it, it always gets to the players, but it is what it is and we lost the game. In the end we will go happy on vacation.
The Mirage game, especially the second half, is very interesting. blameF after the game made a comment saying that you didn't play the way you kind of agreed going into it, and maybe there is a bit of fear in the players. How did you see that T side falling apart?
It's a tough question. I'm standing behind them and when we lose the game and the players also comment and feel like the game, it feels like we're maybe more scared than we are. We'll have a better grasp on the game when we watch it, when we're not emotional as well, then we can really see what happened. But of course the scenery [arena] and them doing the comeback, of course it gets to the players because of the feeling that the players maybe were a bit scared, there was a bit of nerves, we didn't take the chances we're used to taking.
I guess that's natural, we also crushed them on our CT side, but T is just so rough sometimes, it was also rough for them. But I didn't feel that it was that bad, honestly, I didn't. Of course when you sit in the game and it's rough for you as a player, and it gets in your head like you're on the stage and you're losing, it's NAVI and you feel like you're throwing the match also because you're so far ahead, it gets in the players' heads as well that we're scared and we're not doing the same thing we're used to.
Do you think from a tactical point of view that it was played well?
I think... as far as I remember, I'm not sure because it's all a blur and we haven't watched the game, but it felt like we did the things we used to but we were just too slow, in the mid-rounds people were maybe not taking the space they usually take on the T side, afraid to take their duels, maybe a little bit or a lot too slow in doing that, and then you're just not winning rounds obviously, so in that regard, yes.
blameF started calling on Mirage, which is kind of interesting. On one hand there's gla1ve, who doesn't really like the map, didn't play the map that much, and on the hand it is still gla1ve, one of the greatest in-game leaders of all time giving away some of the control of the team, it's kind of an interesting dynamic. How did you decide to do that and as a coach, what is your opinion on it?
It's an interesting talking point, but there are more factors to it. First of all, it's very mentally challenging to be an in-game leader on all the maps for the first time, it's really hard. Especially when Mirage is blameF's favorite map and he's been calling previously, so it's both to take the pressure off gla1ve so he can relax more, and also blameF has a lot of confidence on Mirage, he knows exactly what he wants to do and it's benefiting the team in that regard. It's both blameF likes calling, he's really good on Mirage, and also giving gla1ve some space to relax and just play his own game on that map, and that's why we chose to change.
Another big talking point about you this tournament has been Farlig. Looking at the stats for the groups and the playoffs, 0.87 rating, obviously not great. How do you look at his performance, what is holding him back essentially in this team?
That's a good question. Right now we are finding ways to have Farlig have more impact in the games. Maybe the riflers are being set up more than the AWP right now cause we have blameF and k0nfig, they are doing stuff and maybe they get more frags, so we're trying to find a way for Farlig to take more initiative, get more in the game, and that's a slower process we're trying to figure out.
Farlig is very good individually, he's also showing that with pistols and rifles as well, so we're in the midst of finding out how we can utilize Farlig even more because we know he can do it, he also had some good games as well even though the stats are not looking great. We know he can do it and we are figuring out how we can have more impact as an AWP, and we have to figure that out as a team.
As you said, it's a good tournament, it's a good result, you beat some good teams. Kind of a bitter end to it and there's still some problems, some difficulties to figure out. Do you feel like this tournament gave more answers or questions for you moving forward?
I think it gave answers. It shows that even though we feel like in the games we played, we can play much better than that and we still make a lot of mistakes, in that regard it is positive that we still make it to the semi-finals and we got some clean wins, 2-0's even though we feel like okay, we could actually do a lot better and there's still stuff to work on. I think that's really positive and of course, when we fix those mistakes we're making and we get even further in a couple of months, I think it's going to look promising.
So then, what is the plan moving forward? Obviously the player break, but what are you working on as Astralis for the next season, and should we expect any more changes?
No, we're just going to keep working. It's always a long-term project, we're not playing to win the next tournament, we're playing to win, let's say in six months or whatever. It's always a process, even though it's the same story, it takes time to play all the maps perfectly with new players and dynamic. New players of course is not an excuse, but it's just the way it is, and it will take time and we know that. We're hopeful our preparation and practice will show in the next couple of months because that's our goal, and it showed kind of now, so we're working in the right direction.
To finish it off, Astralis as an organization is always tied to that legendary run, winning four Majors, winning trophies in general. When can the Astralis fans expect Astralis to again be contending for titles, or lifting a title?
[laughs] That's a good question. I have to be careful what I say now right, that is a tough one. Our goal is of course to be able to contend for a title, and this one we could have made it, we could have beat NAVI I think. We didn't do it but we could have, it was not a total blowout, so with some luck right now we could have beat NAVI, so that's a positive sign.
We could, if we're lucky and we improve in the next months we could take a trophy and of course that's our goal, but let's say we hope that in three months, more than that, we should have a strong team and we'll fix all the things we want to fix. The game is also changing all the time right now with new things, so you have to keep up a lot in the meta, teams are fucking good right now, lot of strong teams, strong players. But no, there's not going to be any changes, no.