Heading into the biggest CS:GO tournament of the year so far, the dominant Danish powerhouse in Astralis is trying something a little bit different.
At IEM Katowice, Astralis will be competing with an additional substitute in Mads "vester" Vestergaard, who plays for the org's academy team, Astralis Talent.
Astralis has been competing with a variety of stand-ins and substitutes during 2020 while various members of the starting lineup took time off. When the starting lineup returned to form in October, the team opted to continue competing with Lucas "Bubzkji" Andersen as a sixth-man. Bubzkji typically joins the starting lineup when the team plays on Nuke.
But vester's appearance in the main Astralis roster is less of a new strategic wrinkle and more of "an indicator of the organization's commitment to developing young talent," according to director Kasper Hvidt.
While the goal for Astralis is to use Katowice as a learning experience for some of its Talent players, it'll sub in vester in the situation where two starting players become unavailable.
The six-man approach is becoming increasingly popular among several of CS:GO's top teams. Natus Vincere has been using one of its own academy players, Valerii "B1T" Vakhovskyi, as a substitute to great success. Team Vitality has also found success with sixth-man Nabil "Nivera" Benrlitom, but he'll be competing in every map at Katowice with Dan "apEX" Madesclaire on the shelf.
Astralis' first series is on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 8:30am CT against one of the advancing play-in teams.