Everyone got what they wanted out of the ECS Season 8 grand finals as Astralis and Team Liquid showcased fantastic Counter-Strike every round. The grand final between the two teams kicked off the first of three high-profile tournaments in a matchup that might be hard to top.
The veto started predictably as both teams removed their permabans of TL’s Train and Astralis’ Mirage. Liquid surprised many with a defiant Vertigo pick despite an 0-2 record against Astralis on the map.
Liquid removed Overpass, leaving Astralis to pick between Dust 2 and Inferno for the decider. Astralis chose Dust 2, revealing an uncharacteristic hesitancy from Astralis to play the North Americans on Inferno. Fans should keep that in mind as the December tournament season progresses.
Vertigo was on a razor's edge right from the start. Liquid took their CT-side pistol round and dominated the first half. The North Americans only lost four rounds on defense off the back of Keith "NAF" Markovic’s inspired performance. Plays like the one below allowed NAF to amass a 117.7 ADR and a +16 kill differential and push TL to a 11-4 halftime lead.
Astralis answered back with their own stalwart defense. The Danes spread the kills around on the CT side, with every Astralis player putting up similar stats. Just like Liquid, though, Astralis had plays of their own to make. Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth made the reel with his own quadruple kill, which would be the highlight of the half.
This match proved that Valve's recent changes to Vertigo favor the CT side, especially at the highest levels of play. Despite getting the bomb down on match point, TL couldn’t defend the post-plant and gave Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen a double kill to send the map to overtime.
Despite how regulation played out, TL was on fire in overtime. Team Liquid dominated Astralis, taking four overtime rounds in a row with 20 kills. Astralis’ strong CT-side faltered, grabbing only eight kills in those four rounds. TL took Vertigo 19-15.
Astralis’ map pick started off in Team Liquid’s favor as the North American’s CT side began with a Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella pistol round clutch. Liquid laid a good foundation for their CT side by keeping almost all of their players alive for the first three rounds. After that, it was a different story.
Astralis put their foot down on their home map, creating serious trouble for Liquid’s economy over several traded rounds. With the game tied 6-6, Jake “Stewie2k” Yip made up for yesterday's poor performance against Fnatic with a one-on-one eco clutch.
The play gave Liquid a chance to break the Astralis economy, but the teams would trade the next two rounds and end the half 8-7 in Liquid's favor. Despite leading by a round, Nuke's CT-side lean meant the second half would be an uphill battle for Team Liquid.
Team Liquid's T-side pistol crunched the A-site, forcing Astralis to retake through heaven to little effect. Liquid cleaned up the next two rounds to advance the score to 10-7.
Astralis' first gun round saw Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz nail two opening AWP shots, leading to an eight-round run where Liquid had few answers for Astralis. Even with the element of surprise, Team Liquid couldn't break Astralis' upper holds and refused to touch Ramp.
At 15-11, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander threw caution to the wind with an outside push to force a third map with a 16-11 win.
Liquid boasted a 61% T-side win percentage on Dust 2 compared to Astralis' 51.6%. While Astralis has some of the best players in the world, their real strength is in their teamwork. It seems backwards, but TL is theoretically better on Dust 2 because they rely on individual plays slightly more than Astralis.
This Dust 2 showed fans that stats aren't everything.
Astralis won the T-side pistol round with a slow Long push that saw both teams hesitant to make a mistake. The slow pace wouldn't last long as Astralis upped the pace after losing the first gun round. The Danes' speed and blatant confidence meant that Liquid couldn't do much of anything on defense.
The North Americans didn't grab a second round until they were already down 9-1. It took a rare vintage Stewie2K play to give it to them.
Astralis led 12-3 at halftime. Liquid was in serious trouble, with Stewie2K as the only player for Liquid with a positive K/D or an ADR over 65.
Despite an A-site plant, Astralis scored three kills in four seconds to manufacture the retake and steal the second pistol round. Down 13-3, Liquid won the last-chance force buy and put Astralis on a budget. In a flash, the score closed to 13-7.
The huge Astralis lead proved to be too much, though.
Down 15-8, nitr0 was the last thing that stood between Team Liquid and an ECS Season 8 Finals loss. But with only three kills to his name, he didn't have it in him. Dupreeh put down nitr0 and Team Liquid with an AWP shot to the back and gave Astralis the ECS Season 8 Championship win.
The win marks Astralis' fourth ECS championship and sets the team up fantastically for the upcoming ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals in Odense. Both of these teams will attend the same events over the next three weeks, making this ECS grand final a solid indicator of what fans can expect from both of them during ESL's Pro League Finals and the BLAST Global Finals.