Kasper Straube

Credit: Astralis

Astralis Sports Director after disaster RMR: We have all failed in and around the sporting setup

Role clashing, the absence of a head coach, and inadequacies on a technical and tactical level played a key part in Astralis’ downfall at the European RMR tournament last month.

It’s a new Day 1 for Astralis. Another one. Kasper Straube, Astralis’ Sport Director since last summer, joins us on a Google Meet call the first day of work for the new iteration of the Astralis CS2 team. Alexander "br0" Bro and Casper "ruggah" Due are the two new faces on the team sheet for the Danish Organization that has struggled to find back to the winning formula that ignited the organization into stardom at the tail end of the 2010s. 

While 2024 started great for the Danes by securing a ticket to the BLAST Spring Finals in London, the situation quickly became dire with a bad showing at IEM Katowice and then the failed qualification for the Major in Copenhagen on home turf. A bitter pill to swallow for both Astralis and the Danish fans who had looked forward to seeing the new “superteam” defending the Danish colors at the Royal Arena.

But what went wrong at the European RMR tournament? We asked the Director of Sports at Astralis, Kasper Straube, who pointed out right away, that the team had taken a hit in Katowice with the early exit, but that the mental side of the game was not the only area, where Astralis was having problems.

- Counter-Strike-wise, the team has faced challenges due to inadequacies on a technical and tactical level. We have lacked the necessary solutions and tools to handle the situations properly. I truly acknowledge the mental side of it as well, but to me, it is more a question of the CS foundation we had built being too narrow.

- With the quality we have on the team, we should have succeeded at the RMR nonetheless. We have all failed in and around the sporting setup. We have failed on various levels. For me, it is a collective responsibility, Kasper Straube, Sports Director of Astralis, states.

The exit interview

A few minutes after it had become a fact, that Astralis were not going to participate in the first Danish Major in history, Victor "Staehr" Staehr appeared on PGL’s livestream to do an interview about the failed qualification. Nobody remembers what the youngest member of the Astralis roster really said, but the fact that it was him, and not the most experienced player on the team Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz or the in-game leader Benjamin "blameF" Bremer that stood up for the team in the perhaps darkest hour of Astralis’ history was shocking to the CS Community.

Was it a lack of leadership to not realize the importance of doing the first interview after the disastrous match against 9Pandas?

- In an ideal world I would have liked the interview to be done by one of the older or more experienced players such as device or blameF. But when there is a guy coming into the room with a microphone asking to do an interview, and a young guy like Staehr steps up to the plate and says “I will do that”, I can only respect that, and I know he has earned a lot of respect from everyone in Astralis for doing that, Kasper Straube says.

- The speculations about if they one after another declined to do the interview, and it ended up being Staehr because he was the last one, is not how I have been told everything came down. It was a very young man who took a very, very big responsibility in a spontaneous act, at least that is what I have been told. I think it says an awful lot about Victor "Staehr" Staehr, and nothing about the others.

- It's important to me that I know that when it's at another time when it's not so fun, I know someone else will step up for Staehr, Kasper Straube adds.

You can see a part of the interview with Staehr here.

"ruggah could have made a difference"

The decision to terminate the contract of head coach Peter "casle" Ardenskjold shortly before the end of 2023 and not have a replacement immediately lined up to be able to guide the team through the European RMR tournament seemed somewhat off of what we usually expect from Astralis. The 23-year-old Assistant Coach, Mathias "R0nic" Pinholt, was tasked with the job of trying to support the roster as much as he could on the server, while the sporting setup around the team also chipped in to try and prepare the team as much as possible.

Without going into details about the potential candidates for the vacant job as head coach for Astralis, Kasper Straube revealed that it was a calculated risk they took, when they decided to let Peter "casle" Ardenskjold go.

- The expectation was certainly that we would have a coach in place for the RMR. But the calculation was also made at the time that there was also a scenario where we did not have a coach in place. It all came down to the fact, that we thought in any case that it was the best solution for the team to say goodbye to “casle”.

Directly asked if it would have made a difference to have an experienced coach like Casper "ruggah" Due with the team at the RMR, Straube answered.

- Having "ruggah" with us in Romania could have made a difference to the RMR, if this was not the case there is no chance, we would have signed him. Nobody would hire a coach who would not make a difference at tournaments.

Casper "ruggah" Due did take part in the RMR but as a coach for OG

The question remains why it was so urgent for Astralis to replace Peter "casle" Ardenskjold right before one of the most important couple of months for the organization, who desperately wanted to represent their country on its home turf at the Major.

- It has nothing to do with whether “casle” is a good or bad coach, but an expression of the fact that we needed something else around the team and that we had an expectation that we could get a coach in much earlier than we now have done, Straube explains before pointing out the key areas, where he expects Casper "ruggah" Due to have more impact on the team as a coach.

- It's more about setting some overall framework for how we want to play, making sure to implement the inputs that the players bring, and then of course making it fit together. It is one of the things I have seen as a strength in Casper "ruggah" Due, that he manages to set some structure and take the responsibility to ask the right questions and follow up on things in everyday life. It’s definitely something we have been missing both in 2024 but also before.

Role clashing

When speaking with Kasper Straube it becomes very clear, that one of the problems on Astralis has been the roles on the team. Directly asked if the economy played a part in the benching of Benjamin "blameF" Bremer, Straube unequivocally denied that the decision was made due to lack of finances but more about the roles on the team.

- You are absolutely correct that missing the Majors is a significant setback. For us, it marks the third occurrence, emphasizing the challenging nature of the situation. The decision to part ways with Benjamin "blameF" Bremer or bring in Alexander "br0" Bro is not driven by financial incentives or constraints. Rather, it is solely based on our desire for roles to align and a unified philosophy in our approach. Straube shared these insights during a call from the Astralis office in Copenhagen where a couple of the many trophies that Astralis won in their glory days pops up in the background. Trophies that will remind the new team that assembled for the first time this very day, what Astralis’ legacy in CS:GO was, and where Astralis wants them to go in CS2.

First up though they will have to watch the Copenhagen Major from the sideline.

Tomorrow, in the second part of our interview with Kasper Straube, you can hear much more about the reasons why Benjamin "blameF" Bremer was benched, Alexander "br0" Bro’s role on the team, and why Astralis did not chose to go with the classic type of the self-sacrificing in-game leader, as we see on several of the highest-ranked teams in the world at the moment.

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