Why es3tag left a Major-winning team to join the Cloud9 CS:GO rebuild
Leaving one of the best teams of all time in Astralis might seem like a strange move, but as the star CS:GO player tells us, the new-look Cloud9 team was just too exciting to pass up.
The chance to join one of the best teams in the world comes up rarely in the world of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. But earlier this year Patrick ‘es3tag’ Hansen had just that opportunity when Astralis decided to sign him to their expanded roster.
The reigning Major champions were looking to build a six or seven player lineup, with some of the starters needing to take time off, and the Dane was the first name they wanted for the expanded roster.
Then something pretty surprising happened; despite only being with Astralis for a matter of months, Cloud9 revealed they were interested in bringing es3tag to the organisation’s new CS:GO lineup, which was midway through a total rebuild being led by Henry ‘HenryG’ Greer. In the space of just a few months, es3tag had the opportunity to join not just one, but two Major-winning organisations, and he had a life-changing decision to make.
“I won my first big tournament with [Astralis], and had a great period overall with them,” es3tag tells us.
“A huge combination of them being amazing players and team-mates, and now really great friends to me. Which is also why I confronted them when Cloud9 approached me. I asked zonic and dev1ce, ‘What I should do?’ and there were many aspects to be considered.
It feels like it’s a tremendous achievement for me
“While I really wanted to play in the legendary Astralis and be part of a new era, I didn't want to do it as a sixth player. My initial idea in joining Astralis was to take a spot from one of the main five, and I feel like it never changed. But with the team and contract offer Cloud9 came with, I was forced to take a stance, and they also thought I should take it, which I'm super grateful to them for.”
Ultimately the opportunity to be a key player, and not just a substitute fighting for a starting spot, on what looked to be an incredibly strong roster as part of a major organisation was too good to turn down. es3tag was announced as the fifth member of the new look Cloud9 roster in a mammoth deal worth US$2.1 million, which he tells us was the biggest offer he had on the table, despite other top teams also being interested.
Leaving Astralis is a move a lot of players wouldn't have made. Being a sub for arguably the best team in the world is certainly not a bad position to be in, and it would most likely have added some big event trophies to his career record. But not being actively involved in the main roster and having to unseat the best players in the world to get to the position he wanted, meant that joining Cloud9 was too alluring, and es3tag is sure this is the right move for him.
“It feels like it’s a tremendous achievement for me, to join a legendary organisation such as Cloud9 alongside some truly amazing players,” said es3tag. “I have lots of experience in various roles as well as a very tactical aspect to the game, that for sure will benefit us in Cloud9. In terms of what I bring to make us win a Major, I just came from Astralis, so you know, I have all the secrets!”
While the new-look Cloud9 didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a 2-0 loss to heavyweights Virtus.Pro in Flashpoint Season 2 this past week, es3tag is already impressed with his new team-mates. Rebuilding will always take some time, especially considering this is an entirely new group of players that haven't played together before. That means they have to go back to basics to start with – and es3tag thinks they're already making good progress on that front.
“I think they're all individually really strong, and ALEX [recent British Cloud9 signing Alex McMeekin] has been doing a great job working on our map pool,” he says. “I'm feeling more and more confident as time goes by. We initially had a bootcamp where I got to talk with them and get to know them, which has helped the entire process. Now we just need to get to a point where our map pool is super solid, and then it's time to win it all!”
As the tournaments and matches start to come thick and fast for Cloud9 you can be sure they will improve quickly, especially given the talent on this roster. The European scene is going to be a tough one to crack in this pandemic-restricted world, but on paper at least, this roster really does have the potential to be one of the best. While that is obviously the eventual goal, es3tag is setting his initial sights a little lower than being world number one, instead focusing first on making it to a Major, and seeing what the team can do when they get there.
“My goal is, and has always been, to attend a Major,” says es3tag. “While that might seem low, I think it's a good place to start. I, of course, would want to win it as well, but I think it's nice to make small achievable goals as we go along, and I have no doubt that we could be serious contenders for the future.”
With the lineup complete and finally competing in some big tournaments, the Cloud9 rebuild enters its final stage. Now it’s down to the players to perform to the high standards expected of them, and while success may not come instantly, you would be a fool to bet against them becoming a top 10 team – or much, much better – over the next season. Watch this space.