device: "Staehr is one of the best talents we've had in Denmark in five years" (Part 1)
Astralis is a team that was synonymous with Counter-Strike domination. The organization has four Major titles to its name and its previous rosters have sat atop the world ranking for a total of 121 weeks over the years.
It hasn't been so rosy for the Danes in recent times, however. The squad notably missed out on spots at IEM Katowice and the BLAST.tv Paris Major in 2023 alone ahead of their campaign at IEM Dallas.
Astralis put on a better showing once in the United States, recording victories over two teams currently residing in the top 10, Liquid and Cloud9, en route to a top-six finish in Texas. device, in particular, was one to watch, and the Dane put up a stellar 1.42 rating over eight maps in a performance that was akin to his glory days as a five-time top-three player in the world.
HLTV sat down for an extended interview with the Dane, who was also the highest-rated player in Dallas, during a press session shortly after Astralis' elimination in the playoffs. The four-time Major winner spoke at length about returning to the stage, how he's dealing with his previous struggles, and how well Christian "Buzz" Andersen and Alexander "Altekz" Givskov are transitioning to life among tier one.
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Press session after you were eliminated from IEM Dallas. Unfortunate result for you [versus MOUZ], but individually you're still very solid playing up on the big stages. How did that feel?
Individually, it feels good to have had a good stage performance and a good tournament, but, it also feels a bit flat because I think that the MOUZ game, especially the first map, but also the ENCE game, we had control of the game and we kinda let it slip. So, even though there are a lot of positive signs and it was a good tournament for me individually — I think I played some of my best CS ever — it still sucks a little bit. I'm trying to just enjoy it as much as I can, and being on stage here in Dallas and even early on Friday when we played, there was such a big turnout; it was amazing. It was an experience I will remember.
I remember when you first came back and you were on HLTV Confirmed, you were talking about dealing with the pressure and the stress of coming back to the game, something you struggled with. How has that been in the last few months?
It's been good. It's also a lot about the mindset and how you perceive your task in some way. I think that for a lot of the years in Astralis, I was not able to reflect and appreciate the moments we had. It was more of a machine rolling, and it kind of sucked traveling because we did it all the time. Whereas now, I've had a long break from traveling because even when I was playing in NIP, it was in the COVID era so we weren't really traveling, right? For me, it's a lot of new, exciting experiences and I think that this is really helping me enjoy the process and therefore I don't feel stress or pressure because for me, it's quite new in some way and I just love it.
You mentioned in that same HLTV Confirmed episode that you had this toolbox of things that you would go into if you did feel that pressure. So you haven't had to go into that yet?
I mean yeah, I think for me it's just managing... it could be jet lag here, it could be managing caffeine intake, noticing when your body is getting stressed, how do you work out. Do you just do yoga or do you do weights and stuff like that? You kinda have to know your CNS, the central nervous system, and how it reacts. Of course my body is reacting to the stress, but it's not in a severe way where I have to change up too much stuff.
That's just what I know I have worked with down here, and it's not stressing me out at all. It's just, honestly, a good and positive experience and I'm trying to learn as much as I can because I feel way more present and I think that I won't deal with the same kind of issues because I feel like, as I said, I've had a mindset change.
Do you think you've cut off that correlation between stress and playing CS that you talked about?
Yeah definitely. For sure, there's way more of a positive note in it, and also just having another end goal with CS rather than in Astralis. Honestly, it was just symptom-treating and trying to get through the days, even though we were doing so well. For me individually, it was not that enjoyable all of the time.
Whereas now, as I said, I just think I'm older as well and I kinda know what I am really doing. These people are here to watch us play and we're pretty lucky to have a job like this where, of course, we have a lot of pressure but it's also about how you deal with that. The biggest change is honestly just the age and just being present and noticing all of the positive stuff as well.
Turning to the game a little bit, a completely different Astralis roster. Obviously gla1ve is still here, but Xyp9x is gone, dupreeh is gone, Magisk is gone. What's that experience been like for you?
Hmm, I think, it's a way different experience, right? It's not the same team at all. I don't even think we have one of the same strategies from back then, right? It's completely different; for me it's a fun challenge.
Honestly, when I came back, I was also... not skeptical, but I was also looking at how long it takes for me to be in good shape and stuff. I think the project kinda fit my timeline as well. Right now, we have two young people that have to get used to playing in this environment, and that's just how it is. It was the same for me when I was that age. It's a different team but I'm enjoying it, and I also think I can help these young guys with easing off with the pressure, being good to yourself, not being too harsh on yourself, and actually learning stuff instead of just thinking that you're learning.
Sometimes you think you're learning by playing in an arena, but you have to actually learn from 'What did I feel?' and 'What kind of emotions did I have before the game and how did I treat that?' I think I can help a little bit with that and then yeah, I think we have a really high ceiling, but our consistency is not quite there yet.
In that case, could you share some words that you had with Buzz and Altekz after the game yesterday, after you were eliminated?
We didn't talk and unpack too much yet. I think it's also just asking some questions for them to reflect over how it was, and not just 'It was fine, I didn't think too much about it.' But just think a little about how the whole process was and were there any situations where you felt uncomfortable, and how do you act in pressured situations when you feel uncomfortable.
I think it's really important and it's something we talked about after the game, like when you have to have initiative and make space for your team on the server. That's obviously harder when you're not feeling too comfortable on the server. But, it's also in those moments when you really need it, right? When it's 15-12, we're leading, and we don't get to the bombsites quick enough, or we don't clear it fast enough, or we do an A execute where we throw a smoke line, and we then smoke Small Pit, and after that's it's like 36 seconds but we've still not cleared the site, right? Stuff like that are rookie mistakes we do as a team, but it's also stuff that you learn from because you can do it in practice and you know how to clear the stuff.
It's a little bit about the mindset when you're sitting there in those situations. It's also the same for me, honestly, even though I played great, there were a lot of moments. I had a torzsi 1vs1 where if I had hidden, I would have won it. I try to learn and I try to make them think about if there is any reason why I'm not doing the same thing and if so, what am I going to do differently and what positive stuff can I take with me as a player.
You played a lot with Buzz before coming back, you were seen playing a lot of FACEIT games with him. What has his translation into professional play been like from your perspective?
I think he has a lot to give on LAN. I think we've seen the best of him online, and it's something that I talk to him about sometimes because it's hard for him to know why. The opposition is a bit different, you get anti-stratted way more on LAN in big, important games, right? Especially as a youngster, you get singled out. He has a lot to give and I think he's doing as good as he should.
You can't expect him to become better quicker, and those roles he has are really hard anchor and lurk roles, where I think that it's something you grow into and you have to know when to take space and stuff. Overall, I'm a happy big brother when I see him, I think he's doing as good as he should, but I know he's never satisfied and that's also how I am as a player and that's how it should be.
And then, can you give me some insight into Altekz as well? He's pretty new but I didn't hear too much from gla1ve about it so I'm a little curious.
Altekz for me is really skilled. It was pretty easy for us to see from day one of practicing with him that he has good intuition and he has good aim. I haven't played with him for too long but also, he is one of the best youngsters I've played with. I think intuition-wise, he is really good and I don't know, like I said, it's just a process with these young players, you are in different parts of the process to become a complete player. I think both of our youngsters have the potential to be complete, tier-one players. Yeah, I am happy with both of them, and Altekz is no [exception].
Speaking of youngsters, there is a recent report about Staehr potentially joining Astralis as of the start of 2024, potentially earlier. Can you share your thoughts on him as a player if you've seen anything from him?
I mean I play with Staehr a lot on FACEIT as well. I think he is one of the best talents we've had in Denmark in five years. For me, he has really good intuition and he has really sharp... like good communication. Obviously, I understand if Astralis are after him. We don't know too much as players so I don't really know.
Obviously, it kinda sucks for us with a rumor that comes out right before our first playoff game in a long time. I think that was a shame, but I think he's really good and I said before, I think he has the potential to be a top-five player in the world, in my opinion. And it's rarely I've seen that on a young gun. I've played with a lot of youngsters in FACEIT and I think he is the one that I can safely say has the potential to be the best.
Did that rumor coming out before the playoff game get in your heads at all?
It's hard because... it's hard to say because we're openly talking about stuff like that because, obviously, other than that it's just an elephant in the room. But, it's also hard because even though you talk about it, the thought might still be there if you're playing a bad game or something like that. A lot of negative thoughts can come up in your head if you're having a bad tournament or bad game, and it's hard to say,
I think we lost on indecisiveness in the end and not scaling too fast on map control or when we are taking sites. I don't think it played too big of a role in that regard, but it always hurts a team, and team chemistry and atmosphere when stuff like this breaks and none of the parties comment officially on it — that's always what I look at.
In the second part of the interview, which will be released on June 6, the conversation continues on to explore device's feelings about missing the BLAST.tv Paris Major and what drove him to return to professional play outside of just winning championships. We also discuss and compare Astralis' old, utility-heavy style to the meta now, and touch upon his thoughts on Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen use of the coaching bug.
You can find an extract from part two below:
For now, I think that especially the IGLs' roles matter less. Of course, you need to have good calls, good defaults, and have a good playstyle, but there are so many micro-decisions that you have to do as a player mid-round, that even though an IGL has a poor performance, you can still win because it's the micro-decisions that manipulate the round and stuff.