Astralis star Nicolai ‘dev1ce’ Reedtz is confident that he will once again perform at the highest level, though he warned that it will take time for him to rediscover his form.
After months of speculation, the Danish player finally completed on October 27 a move back to Astralis, the organization where he built so much of his reputation during five eventful and trophy-laden years between 2016 and 2021.
But as much as the move invokes a sense of familiarity, it represents something of a dive into the unknown for dev1ce. Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen, whom he played alongside for nearly a decade, is gone, and so are Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif, his teammate for three years, and his longtime coach Danny ‘zonic’ Sørensen. The team is also in disarray, still trying to process the forced exit of Kristian ‘k0nfig’ Wienecke, a new coach is needed after Martin ‘trace’ Heldt was removed from his post, and Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Højsleth’s future remains a subject of speculation (despite still having three years left on his contract).
It’s a lot to unpack, but dev1ce knows what he is walking into. And if there is a player who can send a jolt of life into this team and return it to the pinnacle of the game, it’s dev1ce, who won four Majors, one Intel Grand Slam, and 14 of his 19 MVP medals in his previous stint in black and red.
“It feels really great to be back in Astralis, a place that definitely feels like home to me,” he told Dexerto. “I know some of the players already and plenty of the staff working here, and everyone has been very welcoming to me.”
dev1ce is expected to take initiative in the game and help spread out some of the load on an Astralis team that has been found lacking in the firepower department. He was a highly reliable and productive AWPer during his time with Astralis — earning the moniker ‘Mr. Consistent’ — and this was never more evident than in his absence. He stood as the measuring stick for those who came after (first dupreeh as a makeshift solution, then Philip ‘Lucky’ Ewald and Asger ‘Farlig’ Jensen as full-time AWPers). They all struggled under the unrealistic weight of expectations that came with filling such big shoes.
“I’ve had multiple conversations with everyone on the team about what they want from me and how I can best add value,” dev1ce said about his role.
“We’ve talked about me being proactive and vocal and being free to make plays, which suits me very well.”
A much-needed break
After almost a year away from competition, dev1ce is itching to return to action. He played his final match for NIP — the team he had left Astralis for in a mega deal reportedly worth $700,000 — on December 5, withdrawing from IEM Winter halfway through the tournament due to health reasons.
By then, personal problems had started taking a toll on his mental well-being. He looked distraught after losses, becoming increasingly frustrated with each setback. After his team’s elimination from the BLAST Premier Fall Final, he was overcome with emotion and had to be comforted by broadcast talent James Banks and NIP COO Jonas Gundersen.
“The process leading up to my sick leave was very tough on me,” he said. “I had had multiple signals of it becoming worse, but I kind of neglected things and kept going. I started having small panic attacks/anxiety and I had to tap out, figure out what was going on and accept that I was not fit to play.
“I started working on myself with a therapist and have been doing that since January to better myself, learn the tools needed to be the best version of myself and be ready to compete again. Being out for this long also means that even though I feel ready to compete, the right thing to do is ease into things at a slower pace to not end up in a similar situation.”
dev1ce left NIP less than 18 months into the three-year contract he signed in April 2021. The length of the deal was a clear sign of his commitment to the project and his role in the organization’s long-term plans, but before the end of the year, it was reported that he was interested in returning to Astralis.
Both dev1ce and NIP immediately quashed such talk, but the Swedish organization’s lack of updates about their star player’s situation became a story in itself in 2022. At the same time, NIP’s other players expressed their desire to move on from dev1ce for the sake of stability.
In parting, dev1ce and NIP handled the situation with professionalism and class. This is a move that fell short of everyone’s expectations, yet neither party is interested in rehashing what went wrong.
“Being at NIP was a good experience, I think that I had a good relationship with everyone there and they were understanding of my decision to take the time I needed,” dev1ce said.
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“We shared some success together and I truly wish them all the best.”
Adding to his legacy and competing with s1mple
“He [dev1ce] is inactive, but he just needs to play scrims and he will get his form back,” NAVI’s Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev recently said.
dev1ce agrees with that assessment. During his break from competition, dev1ce stayed in shape by playing FACEIT games, but this won’t necessarily transfer to a team environment. He cannot give a prediction on how long it will take him to be at 100 percent again — he won’t know what kind of shape he is in until he has started practicing and competing —, but he is confident that his individual level has not dropped.
“Things change over time in CS:GO, but one thing I did throughout my break was staying on top of the meta, playing the game and keeping myself focused on the trajectory back on the server,” he said. “I know that the expectations for me are super high, but I really believe in my ability to still be at an elite level. It might take a little while for me to be fully ready at my peak, but I spent a lot of time during the break focusing on CS and improving stuff that is needed to compete at the highest level, both mentally and physically.
“It is pretty important to take everything day by day after such a long break away from “work”. Dealing with practice and competitions is way different than FACEIT. That being said, I feel like I might be able to take my individual skill to a new level, having been able to focus more on the details of the individual part of the game playing FACEIT.
“I would have a hard time giving a percentage of where I am at right now. I would rather my level on the server be the judge of that.”
s1mple and dev1ce are bound by mutual respect and admiration for one another’s success. s1mple holds dev1ce in such reverence that the Dane is the Major-winning player that the Ukrainian would add to his NAVI lineup, despite the obvious role clash that this would create.
While recuperating, dev1ce saw s1mple overtake him as the leading holder of MVP medals. With only one event left for Astralis this year, Elisa Masters Espoo, dev1ce will not be able to catch up with s1mple’s tally of 21 medals before 2023. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian will have three more chances to add to his medal count this year. (NAVI will attend the IEM Rio Major plus the Fall Final and the World Final of the BLAST Premier circuit.)
2022 will be the first year since 2013 that dev1ce will not be in HLTV.org’s Top 20 player of the year ranking. Between 2015 and 2020, he was never ranked lower than fifth.
“It is truly amazing what s1mple has achieved in CS,” dev1ce said. “I respect him a lot as a competitor and most importantly as a person. I believe in my own ability to get back to the elite, though, but I would rather just perform well on the server and let that do the talking.
“My goals are the same as they have always been, focusing on the team performance rather than the individual accolades since they kind of just come if you have success as a team. So right now I am trying to figure out how I can be the best version of myself and match that with what the team needs. If that means I can challenge s1mple for some of the crazy records once more, that would obviously excite me, too.”
When he joined NIP, dev1ce spoke at length about how he wished to add to his legacy in the game and emulate NBA superstar LeBron James in winning titles with multiple teams. But with only one trophy and one MVP medal obtained during the time he spent with NIP (both from IEM Fall, a rather mundane event), he knows that he did not accomplish what he set out to do when he switched homes. So what is he looking to achieve as his journey comes full circle?
“I would not say my goal has changed,” he said. “Being back at Astralis feels like being home, but it is a completely new team and we cannot just lean on the success we had before. The focus is on creating a winning culture and a team that can challenge for major titles.
“Since I have a very competitive nature, there are plenty of things to achieve. I do not really think of all of the stuff that I have done but mainly I am just focusing on the journey and what we can achieve here as a team. The goals are Major and the other big tournaments hosted throughout the year. Especially IEM Cologne.”