Astralis were in peak form when they took home the trophy at DreamHack Masters Marseille, something we haven't seen from the squad since they won the ELEAGUE Atlanta major over a year ago. At Marseille, they plowed through Liquid, Space Soldiers, FaZe, Fnatic, and Na'vi; only dropped one map; and Device, Xyp9x, Magisk, and gla1ve all posted ratings over 1.29 for the event.
One aspect of Astralis's game at Marseille that may have gone unnoticed, though, is how they dynamically used HE grenades to give them an edge over their opponents. Let's take a look at some of these setups and how they helped Astralis find their first tournament win in over a year.
In the first map of the first round of the playoffs, Astralis met up with FaZe on Mirage. The pistol round saw Astralis get a plant on B site, but fail to hold FaZe's retake. That plants gives Astralis just enough money to buy some nades in Round 2 and still get AKs round 3. Gla1ve kicks off the 2nd round by smoking top mid while everyone on Astralis except for dupreeh buys a HE Grenade.
Using the cover of the smoke, Astralis puts four grenades into mid window, taking out both Xizt and GuardiaN, while only losing Xyp9x to the initial spam through smoke. While Astralis ultimately loses the round, they did manage to get 3 rifles out of FaZe's hands, severely damaging the CT economy. In terms of pure economics, Astralis spent only $2100 to deny $11000 of the $21350 FaZe invested in the round. This means FaZe won't not have enough money for full utility in the next round, something they desperately need to defend against Astralis forced up AKs.
Astralis go on to win both rounds 3 and 4 before we see the next nade setup. In Round 5, FaZe is on a eco round. The CTs stack A site with 4 players while NiKo sits at mid window looking for info. Astralis are taking mid and B apartments control, playing slowly as not to get caught off guard by FaZe's pistols. Astralis are playing so safe, they opt to keep Xyp9x in spawn, watching for the CTs to push through A site. While Xyp holds the flank, Device and gla1ve set up by chair and toss 2 nades into mid window, finding a free frag onto NiKo. While this may not be a super impressive tactical play like in Round 2, it does highlight how Astralis is actively using the low investment in HE grenades to eek out advantages wherever possible. In Round 2 the nades damaged FaZe's economy leading to the wins in round 3 and 4. In Round 5, the nades deny information and help Astralis win the round cleanly, allowing their economy to snowball further into the half.
Astralis didn't just use these grenade plays against FaZe. In Round 9 in their match vs Liquid on Overpass, we saw a clever grenade setup that, while it didn't yield any results, was a clever plan that could be integrated into your own pugs pretty easily. The round starts with Astralis taking control of Construction and Connector. Unfortunately Device gets caught in playground looking for a peek on Long A. The 4 remaining Astralis players stack up in construction just outside of connector. Magisk and Dupreeh bounce 2 nades off of the pillar in the middle of the site, while Xyp and gla1ve nade short b. Unfortunately these nades do next to nothing in terms of damage, however it does show that Astralis has a clear idea in mind when they buy HE grenades. Had liquid been in slightly different positions, Astralis's execute could have been a 4 on 1.
While we've seen Astralis utilize HE Grenades in their T side setups, let's take a look at how they use them while in on the defense. In Round 20 of the finals vs Na'Vi on Inferno, we see Astralis use another basic yet effective nade setup. Na'vi just used a timeout, presumably to regroup and establish a clear plan for the round. In an effort to shutdown any plan Na'vi has before it can get started, Gla1ve, Xyp, and Magisk all move towards banana at the start of the round and get aggressive. Xyp mollys off lower Banana forcing S1mple to hug the left wall. Magisk smokes off the bottom of Banana and pushes in through a molly to catching S1mple who's pinned by the flames. With full banana control established, Magisk and Xyp toss HE nades deep into T ramp doing significant damage to electronic and Zeus. The real interesting part of this setup is how Dev1ce coordinates his peek from top mid just as the nades hit, allowing him to find an easy pick onto Edward. With a 2 man advantage Astralis easily takes the round, ruining Na'vi's economy and making the path to the trophy that much easier.
There's no denying that Astralis were playing out of their minds in Marseille. Everything from their individual skill, down to their grenade tactics were on point. Given the turbulence of the post major roster shuffles, maybe we're heading into an era of Astralis dominance.