We caught up with Xyp9x – aka Andreas Højsleth – of CS:GO team Astralis, ahead of this weekend’s IEM Sydney, to see what shape the team is in ahead of the tournament. 

Astralis are one of the world’s biggest CS:GO teams. Fresh off a win at Dreamhack in Marseille, the team are holding nothing back for this weekend’s Intel Extreme Masters in Sydney. We spoke to Andreas during the team’s media day to see just what Astralis have in store for us this coming weekend.

How did you get into pro gaming in the first place?

I got into pro gaming by watching my big brother game. When I got home from school I used to play, and when he got home he’d throw me off the computer because we only had one in the house. He got older and got more commitments, like football and other things, and I got more time to play, which made me realise I had the talent. After some time I got my own computer, I started playing more and more and focusing a lot on Counter-Strike. At the time it was just a hobby – I wasn’t living off it or anything like that. Professionals back then weren’t making very much either – maybe $400 a month or something. I wasn’t playing with the aim of getting into the pro scene, it was just a hobby, I liked playing with my friends. As time went by, a lot more money came into the space, and I was lucky that I was a good enough player, and that’s basically how I got into pro gaming and CS:GO.

“At the time it was just a hobby – I wasn’t living off it or anything like that.”

The pro gaming scene must have changed a fair bit since you first started out?

It was very different. Nowadays we have coaches, and sport psychologists, and we’re travelling to tournaments all around the world. The standards at the tournaments are way nicer now – both the people and how we get around. Usually before we’d stay in hostels or 2 or 3 star hotels, not it’s 5 stars, sometimes even with business class flights. It’s really an upgrade in many sense. You can even see it on the team side; a lot more money is being put into the performance side, with things like sport psychologists and different stuff like that.

What was the team’s main takeaway from Dreamhack?

I think what we did very well at Dreamhack was our preparation. Usually we are on the road all the time and we don’t really have that much time to prepare for the next tournament. But, with this tournament I think we had one month, and we had the chance to do a lot of new tactics and a lot of new stuff that helped us to improve our game. Also we are in a really good time where everything is just clicking for the team, even with our new player everything feels really natural. We have great chemistry and everything is on point right now, it’s all going well in every aspect.

“We wanted to prepare as much ass possible for Marseille so we could just come here and rely on everything we put into practise there.”

How have you prepared for IEM this weekend?

We actually used Marseille as a kind of test for Sydney. We want to peak at this tournament because we think it’s a great tournament, and it’s also one of the biggest. We wanted to prepare as much ass possible for Marseille so we could just come here and rely on everything we put into practise there. We aren’t really doing any new strats. Also, the other teams haven’t really had time to plan and prepare as well, so it’s really just about going into Sydney and finding the confidence we had in Marseille.

What’s it like being able to interact with the fans?

An event like Sydney is always great, because it has such a huge stadium – as with Marseille and the rest of the events around the world. I think it’s cool to be able to experience fan cultures around the world, because they’re not the same, and some are more crazy than others. I like the atmosphere when you play in the stadiums – you can almost feel the crowd as if they’re right in front of you and cheering for you. It’s just an amazing feeling, and being appreciated for what you do every day is very nice. It’s quite different to sitting at home in front of your compter and having people watch you stream. When you go to these arenas you feel like you’re actually with them.

“There was an amazing crowd last year.”

What is Astralis most looking forward to at IEM Sydney?

To be honest, I’m looking forward to watching the crowds in the arena again. There was an amazing crowd last year. I’m also looking forward to seeing if we can continue our streak from Marseille. Our practise between then and now has been good. But yeah, I’m just looking forward to the tournament and hoping we can secure a win here too.

Finally, who do you think your biggest competition will be this weekend?

Since we played against Na’Vi in Marseille and they’ve just announced they aren’t coming, I think our biggest competition will probably be mousesports. They are a different team to us in many ways. They’re very skilled individually, and not really tactically high-levelled, and we don’t like playing against that style. I think they’re our biggest opponents. With our form right now we should be able to beat anyone, and I’m not scared of any of the other teams, but mousesports would be our biggest challengers.

There’s still time – get your tickets to IEM Sydney 2018 now

Interview conducted with thanks to Turtle Beach – check out the Turtle Beach Elite Pro headset at JB Hi-Fi