They are still sweeping the confetti up off the floor at IEM Chicago, as Astralis adds another trophy to their cabinet. We caught up with coach Danny “zonic” Sørensen for a quick interview about his thoughts on the tournament, their win against Team Liquid, and the future for Astralis.
— Astralis Counter-Strike (@AstralisCS) November 12, 2018
Astralis has had one of the best years in Counter-Strike history. In 2018 alone, they would win nine events out of the 17 major events, including the ELEAGUE Premier, ECS Season Six, the London Major, and more recently, IEM Chicago. Also, amongst those 17 events, they would only finish out of the top three in two of them: the 2018 Boston Major and StarSeries i-League Season Four. Of course, the man steering the Danish juggernaut would be Zonic, known as one of more vocal coaches when on-stage.
Daily Esports: To kick things off, this is part of several finishes you’ve had that have come out this way against Team Liquid, but never so dominatingly, so convincingly. Do you feel like there was any major difference between the past meetups you’ve had with Team Liquid and what occurred at IEM Chicago today?
Zonic: When I looked at Liquid yesterday after our game against Fnatic and saw how they played, they actually mixed up a bit. I saw that Twistzz was sometimes having the AWP on Mirage, and it was not always Nitro who’s using it. They were treating the roles a bit more loose than compared to last time we faced them. I actually thought they were looking pretty good and hard for us to read. I think everyone was just clicking for us today like we made the comeback on Mirage.
We haven’t looked good on Mirage lately, and I know it’s one of our stronger maps, actually. The same goes for Inferno, so them picking Mirage and Inferno were good maps for us, even though we might have not shown it in the past couple of results. With Nuke, obviously, it’s our best map so I think the score could have gone otherwise if we would have played the other maps. We have a pretty good map pool against Liquid, and I think that was shown today.
DES: Is there any particular team that you didn’t meet on the way to the Finals here at IEM Chicago that you feel like you would have liked to match Astralis against that just didn’t make it here?
Zonic: There’s no question about it, we just went to BLAST Pro Series in Copenhagen. That is our home city in Denmark and it was played in front of 12,000 Danish fans who I think, 99 percent of them were Astralis fans. So to have Na’Vi take that away from us, that was difficult. Unfortunately for them, they went out in the first two matches here in Chicago, so I would have loved to have met them during the tournament. I also feel like meeting Team Liquid in the Grand Finals in front of an American crowd is also really nice and give something extra to the game as well.
DES: At this point, with how many strong finishes Astralis has had lately, the conversation will come up if this is the best team in the world. How do you keep the team from becoming complacent? How do you keep them hungry for the next one?
Zonic: I think we have some really good sessions where we talk about stuff and we constantly talk about goals, long-term and short-term. We don’t win every tournament, so every time that we lose one, we get hungry again. Not that we go to the tournaments we lose with complacency or anything like that, I think that we have a good mixture of people on the team that know that these things come rarely, and eventually you will lose some matches, and eventually you will lose some tournaments. They are really mature in that sense, and they know we have a special team and that it won’t last forever so might as well get the best of it. Everyone is motivated and dedicated all the time, so I’m really blessed as a coach to have these guys under me.
DES: Yesterday, you were in a very tight match against Fnatic, down to the very last rounds. What were the changes between Fnatic and Liquid today? Did you guys make any changes or did you just go into it with as much confidence as you could bring?
Zonic: We took a time-out in the middle of the CT side on Inferno against Fnatic, on the third map and I think that sparked something in us. I could see that some of the guys, like when they were dying, they weren’t giving proper information to their teammates, there was no energy in the team and we were just losing rounds. We took the time-out, and I was pretty much shouting at them and being angry because I couldn’t feel that motivation, that hunger, that energy that we thrive so much under when we have it.
It helped us on the T side, and then we took that momentum that we got from the Fnatic game and took it into the Liquid game. I think that it hit Liquid really hard when they lost Mirage because they believed that they had that map. I think they knew that they had to win that map in order for them to have a fair chance at winning the Finals or at least a good chance. I also think they lost a lot of momentum during that map, and that continued towards Nuke and at last, Inferno.
DES: And in that first match, Astralis did fall behind for a bit, it was very close. Then they began to find their footing, find their stride and finish strong. Is there anything you can zero in on, to keep from falling behind like that and what would you improve on for future tournaments?
Zonic: To be straight honest with this format, obviously, we played yesterday and then we had to wait a couple of hours before we knowing that we had to play Liquid. Then my shift started in the sense that even though we’d be playing against Fnatic, I had to start preparing for maps against Liquid. I could only start at like 10 PM yesterday, and then we also had to get here early in the morning and there were a lot of things to do. I think the big reason was that we were just not feeling it individually.
We hadn’t warmed up properly because we were so focused on reading our opponent and watching their last couple of games, because I know they had changed a lot since the Major. In hindsight, I think we spent a little too much time on the preparation, rather than maybe setting an hour of deathmatch in the hotel room before going over here. So we had to play warm, going in the Final. I think that’s the proper answer to that, so maybe we can take something away from that in the future.
DES: Fair enough, now, coming off of this win at IEM Chicago, how ready do you guys think you are for Katowice in February?
Zonic: Ah, Counter-Strike is changing on such a fast pace, so who knows what will happen at Katowice? I think that it’s important that we remain calm, that we don’t think that, even though we have these close games, and we don’t win BLAST Pro Series last week, that we don’t get scared about it. We still believe in our philosophy and the players still believe in the way that I coach, and the way that Glaive calls as in-game leader. I think it’s really important that we don’t get stressed about it, and that we keep believing in the way we want to play Counter-Strike. If we do that, I’m pretty sure that the way that we play Counter-Strike will still work in Katowice.
What are your thoughts on Zonic, and Astralis’ performance at IEM Chicago? Let us know what you think in the comments below! If you want more Counter-Strike content, check us out here!