In the post-Major roster shuffle, Denmark was by far the most active region. The top three danish teams, Astralis, North and Heroic, all made changes with significant implications. North added Daniel "mertz " Mertz and Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye, Astralis replaced the latter with Emil "Magisk" Reif, and Heroic signed one of the top free agents, Ruben "RUBINO" Villaroel.
Each roster has now participated in at least one tournament with promising results. Yet, if they want to build on their decent placings, each Danish team will have to do some damage at IEM Katowice this week.
North participated in its first LAN at cs_summit 2. It defeated Vega Squadron, lost a narrow series to SK Gaming, and bowed out of the tournament with a loss to fellow Danes, Heroic. It was a promising start and a disappointing end for the new team. But a series loss to its countrymen did not dampen the player's expectations of the roster.
"Our main goal is proving that this lineup is amongst the worlds best, and I truly believe we can show that at Katowice," mertz said.
While there are question marks about the integration of two new players on North, there are none about the team's motivation. When asked about the most exciting feature of this new team, Kjaerbye said it was the player's "hunger to win." Teammate mertz echoes this sentiment, citing their biggest strength that every player has "a burning heart for Counter-Strike."
Beyond results, North will look to find consistency. The goal will be to stay competitive in every game it plays, especially against the world's best.
While North had their first event a few weeks ago, Heroic played with RUBINO for the first time at StarSeries i-League Season 4, only a few days before IEM Katowice. For in-game leader Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer, the goal for Katowice will be to solidify the fundamentals. When asked what Heroic were looking to improve on, he noted the team was sloppy at trading frags.
"We also need to be better at taking initiative, like throwing grenades for teammates," Snappi said. "If we can improve at both these things, we will be dangerous at Katowice."
There is reason to agree with Snappi. At Star-Series, individual players excelled despite these two faults, particularly prospects Jakob "JUGi" Hansen and Nikolaj "Niko" Kristensen. Heroic will try to take advantage of its young players form to take a step towards the goal of becoming a stable top 10 team.
While these two teams thrive for consistent performances, Astralis have higher expectations. Four of these players were part of the Astralis that won the ELEAGUE Major in 2017 and maintained its status as one of the best teams in the world throughout the year.
Choosing Magisk to replace Kjaerbye has important implications for the legendary squad. In-game leader Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander believes that Magisk's playstyle will unlock a new dimension for Astralis.
"Emil does not take Kjaerbyes spot. He will actually take [Peter "Dupreeh" Rothmann's] role and Dupreeh will take over for Kjaerbye. It has been an issue that Kjaerbye and Dupreeh both wanted to have the same role, and as such the team roles are now much more well defined. This will help us in the long run, and I think we'll see a very strong Astralis over the coming months."
However, gla1ve has tempered expectations; he acknowledged that there will be fluctuations in performance as Astralis' map pool is tested. Nevertheless, as its second tournament, the team will look to improve on its quarter finals placing at StarSeries. The greatest test will be for the new player Magisk as he tries to return to form after a disappointing year in 2017.
Hopes are high for the young player, gla1ve said. "He is a smart player who has already shown he can be amongst the best in the world in the right context, and he brings new firepower to the team."
As the second LAN for all three Danish squads, each team is looking for something different. North wants to prove that they are a contender. Heroic wants to lock itself in as a top 10 team by working on the team's fundamentals. Astralis want to take advantage of its new firepower and show highlights of what's to come. With each having more time to work together, IEM Katowice will be the first true test of each team's strength.