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Thorin: "The team that beats Astralis is a lineup that doesn’t currently exist"

On the final day of StarSeries i-League Season 6, we had a pleasure to interview one of the most famous CS:GO analysts and well-known esports journalist Duncan "Thorin" Shields.

Thorin CS:GO

Thorin was a member of the talent group
for the last four seasons of StarSeries i-League CS

Shields discussed with us a lot of different topics about CS:GO and its professional scene, sharing his thoughts on teams like Vitality, Astralis, G2 Esport, FaZe Clan, and the others. Also, he told us about his favourite events in 2018 so far, which kind of personalities the analysis desk should have, and whether it’s real to implement the qualification system, that works for the League of Legends’ World Championship, into the CS:GO competitive circuit in the future.

Which events are your favourite from those you’ve worked for so far in 2018? And why are they your favourite?

The two that always bring to mind, because these two are my favourite in the calendar every single year, is ESL One Cologne, which is the best combination of everything: prestige, stage, setup, all the top teams always want to go there. That’s always one of the best. And then, even though this year it didn’t get as epic I feel, ESL One New York is another one. That’s actually kinda underrated venue, I think. The actual stadium is really, really good. The location is very good, it’s a cool place to visit as well. I think people like to go there. Those two, pretty much every year, always deliver. 

[Picking one more for this year], one thing I always say that I’m very biased in how I pick my favourite event. It doesn’t matter how good the stadium is, the setup, the money, and stuff. The actual thing, that will make an event the best, is if the games are really memorable. Like, if the matches are so good, even if you can’t remember what the stadium setup was like, you always remember the match. So I think, it’s the first StarSeries of this year, StarSeries Season 4. It was amazing because it was the one where everyone knew already like s1mple was maybe the best player, but it’s one thing to be the best player, and then your team comes [much lower than you are]. They probably should have won the tournament. I even said, even though they came second, that individual MVP type performance was the best ever in Counter-Strike. Even for people who won the tournament. 

That’s still very, very vivid in my mind. On the one hand, s1mple was amazing. In the final, he was absolutely unreal. But in the exact same time, when he was amazing on Mirage where he had like 40 kills in the regulation, Zeus had like 5 kills and so. That always sticks in my mind. That’s like the best part of Na’Vi, and that’s the worst part of Na’Vi at the same time. It was an epic run. Sure, it wasn’t in a giant stadium. It was actually in the venue here, [Kiev Cybersport Arena]. It wasn’t even what we had in the Palace of Arts [where the Season 5 was held]. But the games were just so amazing, and that run, storyline was very memorable, I think.

These days, TOs hire more and more professional players to their analysis desk. And sometimes, they are not as prepared as they should be, as they don’t see it as a job. Do you think that it’s going in the right direction? Maybe, there should be some kind of balance? Tell me, from your perspective, how it should be overall.

This is something a lot of people don’t seem to actually understand. In my career, I think, I’m the only person who is a full-time analyst, do all the events, etc — in the English broadcast, at least — who never was a pro player. I never, in any context, ever played any esports game as a professional. Even the ones you might think of… You might think of YNk. He technically was a pro, just from a lower level from Serbia. SPUNJ, obviously, wasn’t like a top pro, but he was a pro a couple of years ago. Actually, as a normal requirement for the job, you have to get through this filter, and you have to be a pro. That’s how we start. And then we pick from those people who we think are good.

Now the flaw there, like I said, is then you pick who is good. I will give you an example, actually. He said himself that he didn’t do a great good job. It was the player Daps, who is the ingame leader of NRG. His first event he did as an analyst, because it was just one off-event, was the Major. Obviously, he only did the Major because his team didn’t qualify. He’s not trying to be a full-time analyst, and I had a lot of admiration to him when he did an interview where he said it’s a much harder job than people realize. 

The thing is, what happens with pro players, you often see them calling out analysts when they think that they said something “wrong”. And I’m doing this with quotes as I say that because it’s just an opinion, not a characterization in any way. When you say something about their team they disagree with, they will think like “This guy doesn’t know what he is talking about. If I was on that desk, I would do that”, and so on. You know, you are right. If you were on the team… If you were MSL for example, and you were on the desk talking about North, you’d do an amazing job. Except, you already can see the limitation there. You’d have been on the desk talking about North and everything because if North’s playing. In that scenario, you could never know what you think you know now as a pro player if you are on the desk.

Thorin CS:GO

From Thorin's perspective, the analysis desk should be balanced
with pro knowledge and showmanship 

The problem is, what daps actually said, and [email protected] actually told me the same thing, when you do events as an analyst, all of your pro knowledge is going to get tested. What you very quickly find is you don’t know the team, what’s going on in that team, and you don’t know the players. When people ask your opinion you can’t just say “Oh, I don’t know anything”, and just go to the next guy. That’s terrible television. Nobody wants to watch that. The point is not that you make it up. You come up with your version of it.

You think “Right, I think that’s going on there”. When I watch the game, I speculate maybe this is the way these players interact. The point I’m getting to is, if you have the foundation of being a pro player, that’s probably the best foundation to come from, but an actual skill of being an analyst is a different skill. It’s not just how you talk about the game. It’s how you think about the game. In the modern day, we have a lot of tournaments in Counter-Strike. It’s not just one big league or one big world championship. If people are going to watch every single week, every game can’t be amazing. It can’t be the most epic match, not every game has tactical elements that really need to be broken down. You have to get a bit of entertainment, a bit of showmanship as well. 

The thing with me, I think the balance, as we have it right now, is pretty good. I like that more and more people are coming to the scene because they have the really good foundation to do it. A lot of people coming up are actually from the journalism world, who could do a really good job, actually. I will give you a very quick example. For my podcast, Counter-Points with moses, where the concept is that we pick a few teams or a certain concept, we get a different panel of people in there, and we just talk about this concept. In theory, everyone can say what they want about it. Yeah, sometimes I have some pro players, sometimes I have famous analysts, but I always try, every few episodes, to get someone people never heard of. Like a journalist, who maybe did a few written articles but I read them and I thought they were pretty good. There was a guy recently we did a couple of [episodes] with, called Allan. His alias is Lynxx, and he’s writing for a website called RealSport. The thing is, his articles are pretty good, and I actually thought he held himself very well when he was on the show. It seemed like he was well-thought-out in his opinions. He didn’t try to comment too much on things he didn’t know about, which is quite good if you a beginner. You have to build your skills up and so. People like him can absolutely be on the desk.

And where I’m kinda going with this is, the good balance to me, you want some pros to represent that aspect of the game, and that way of thinking about the game, but you always want the balance in the show. You want some people who can bring some entertainment, some different perspective. One of the good things of being a journalist is you basically training yourself to be outside of the situation. You don’t necessarily know the person, and you’re commenting as an outsider. This is what we see, this is how it appears to the world. I think when you combine all of them, that’s how you get a great desk.

The CS:GO community is growing, but is it going in the right direction? Nowadays, we have crazy fandoms around people like D0cC, Don Haci, and so on. Do these people make a better place out of the community?

I mean, these are very subjective terms. Like “right direction”, “good”, “is it correct thing”, or whatever. I wouldn’t personally say I could judge for everyone. I just go on with my own opinion. 

Obviously, I’m not a fan of those people, and it wouldn’t be my direction, but I also acknowledged that there is probably a certain cross-section of the community where maybe they wouldn’t be as into the game if there weren’t people like that. Maybe, that’s exactly the things they want to hear. All the sorts of discussion they want to see happen, memes, or whatever it might be. 

Personally, the good thing about games is that, generally, they are not specifically about one type of person or one thing. Everyone doesn’t have to be the same to be part of them. I actually think it’s a mistake to think that way. For me, it’s very inclusive. Everyone can be involved, everyone can have fun. Everyone can be serious if they want, so I try to do more serious stuff in general. All people can be lighthearted, like memes, etc. Some of that stuff, I think, occasionally crosses the line. Like some of the things publically, where people put things out there that are private. I don’t think that’s right. If some things being hacked or something, you shouldn’t be spreading it around the community. It’s hard to argue that there is any positive to that. 

But, in terms of people having opinions, or maybe people [pursuing the perspective] I wouldn’t like or some other third person wouldn’t like, I think it’s fine. It’s good for the community, generally. Actually, in this rare instance, that’s sort of slogan which people try to use in mainstream society, like an inclusion that is like a strength. In this particular instance, I think it is, actually. Everyone can be involved. Collectively, it’s a stronger scene. 

If you are an esports journalist, and you want to start working with a new game after missing a few years of its development, what should be done in this case? 

It’s something I’ve done in almost every single instance. I think the only game I ever was involved from the very beginning was Counter-Strike. I played the first beta, I was around all those LAN parties. Every other game I’ve worked with, I had to come in. There was a bit of period, sometimes it was a year. Probably, the best example is when I actually got interested in StarCraft: Brood War because I was watching the Korean scene. And I only started watching it at the end of 2009, so I literally missed nine years of the game. I actually think I sort of came up with my own blueprint as what you do here. 

One thing you do is you have to study the history of the game. You go back, start out with a big picture: what were the biggest championships, who were the most famous champions. And the secret I found out, is because the whole point of how you want to do it, you shouldn’t feel it like a hard work. When it feels like you have to do something, like go to school, learn the history, etc. You are not going to be interested, and you are probably not going to apply yourself.

What you do is you pick out from these great players. One or two players, something about them that speaks to you. Like the way they play is amazing, or they have the best matches when you watch them, and they are the most exciting. And basically, just start following this guy’s career. Go back, watch the great games he was playing, follow his career now. And in doing so, you learn his career story. And if he is one of the great players, the secret is his career story is going to be part of the story of the game itself. And then, kind of knockout effect people wouldn’t expect from that, by following this person’s career you will see all the people who were his rivals. The people he had to beat or who beat him in a certain story. And so by learning about him, you are going to learn who those people are. You branch out that way.

Thorin CS:GO

Thorin thinks that you won't succeed in studying an esport
if you are dragging yourself into it

And in doing so, gradually — because the great champions won so many other championships, and they are in the top for so long — very quickly, without having to sit down at the beginning of a year, and study every match and every game, and go on to the next one, you’ve got like a “skeleton” of the history of the game. And from there on, if you want to go more in depth, and you want to be a historian, you could study every aspect. But I wouldn’t say you need to once you got big picture threads. You can start to do interviews because you know some of the things to ask, some of the things to talk about. 

One of the secrets is if you are a journalist, the best part of it you can go and ask some of the pros. Like, whenever I do an interview with a player, I don’t have to worry about if I don’t know exactly this detail because he does. My job is just to ask him, see if he can tell me. And if he informs the viewer, the viewer is going to get the same experience anyway. So, you have to find something that interests you in the game. Generally, that’s the secret to life anyway, as you provoke your curiosity. The secret is your curiosity will push you forward because you want to know more. Whereas instead, when you are dragging yourself cause you think you should do this, you probably won’t be dedicated to what you do. 

We talk a lot about the formats in esports. And I want to ask you: would the same qualification system, the one we have in the League of Legends World Championship, work for CS:GO in the future?

I actually do think it’s an option. One of the things I like about the League of Legends’ approach, they started with the worst possible qualification system. There was just one tournament at the end of the year, the end of the Summer Split, and whoever was top-3 qualified for the World Championship. That was it. It didn’t matter if you were amazing every day up until the Playoffs began. If you did badly in the Summer Playoffs, you wouldn’t go to the World Championship. You could be the best team all year, and you just wouldn’t be there. There was a lot of flaws in that system. 

But what’s good there, they adapted their system to fit the format of their circuit, which is you have the Splits and you have the international tournaments. They had it where there were three ways to qualify: you either win the Summer Split, you come top in circuit points, or you go through the qualifier. 

What I like about that, is multiple ways to qualify. One thing I would like of that element is if we had some of the components in our World Championship, which is the Major. For example, if Valve was to go out there, look at the calendar and see the biggest tournaments. For example, I think it would be very hard to find anyone in CS:GO who thinks that ESL One Cologne isn’t one of the best tournaments of the year. Most people consider it like top-5 tournament. You’ve got to try to win this if you are really a great team. So, how about that: whoever wins ESL One Cologne gets an invite to the Major. Pretty good system, especially if it’s close. That’s similar to winning the Summer Split because it’s a very important Split, and it’s the most important one in League of Legends.

Thorin CS:GO

Duncan believes that the League of Legends' approach
could work out in CS

Then, if you want a circuit point analogy, I think circuit point is a great system. Sure, you need to figure out which tournaments would count in it. It’s more obvious in League of Legends, it’s just the Splits. That’s a bit tricky, but we can solve these problems. The point is, if you solve that very small problem, you get the benefit of this approach. Then, for example, you’d never have to have FaZe Clan, or the best example is Astralis, to go through the first week of the Major, even though they were the #1 team in the world. That’s because at the last Major they fell out of the top-16. With that approach, I think you should have teams like that. From circuit points, teams should automatically be in. Astralis obviously would be at the top of the circuit points by a long math. They automatically would be qualified. 

Then, I would still have a Minor System. That would be my qualifier. The whole point, the reason you want the third option. The first two are to get the best teams of the year, so we make sure we get the best teams. The third option is a meritocracy. It means... A team, who is like the 9th best team or something, so they wouldn’t get enough circuit points or win a tournament. I think they are the 9th best team from what I’ve seen, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in a tournament, a team I’ve never seen, maybe some squad from Slovakia, could come from the online qualifier, go to the Minor, beat this 9th best team and go to the Major. In that case, it’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. They deserve to go in that setting. This way, we’ve got everyone, and there are so many ways to qualify. With all those ways, same as in the League of Legends system, if you didn’t qualify, you can’t really complain. It’s three different chances at that point of time as opposed to the one.

I wanted to talk about the French CS:GO scene in particular. What do you think would happen if the third iteration of G2 Esports, the French Super Team, would have never split up? How would it work out at the end?

This is what’s unfortunate about the French scene. Unlike a lot of others, from outside you can’t really judge what they should do, etc, because they will never do it that way. They operate on their own. Personal feelings about other players, how they think something is possible. It’s all about emotion, and about the personal relationship. This is very, very complicated, actually. 

The big problem I have with that team is I think maybe it should have been broken even a bit earlier. It was already obvious that shox needed to be more of a star player, they didn’t actually have enough firepower by the end. As an ingame leader, it didn’t really work very well, the approach he was trying to take. You saw that the best player was kennyS, and even he had started to drop down. And he is, for me, always like a barometer for the French scene. The reason I give this example is because his motivation is going down, that’s when his playstyle starts to go down. He’s one of the only players I’ve ever seen when it’s true. Literally, the more motivated he is, the more he plays, the better he gets. The less he plays, the more he gets down. 

A lot of people use this as an excuse if they went bad. “Oh, I wasn’t playing that much”. You were, you are just not very good anymore. So in his case, the only reason he is not going to be motivated, it is he doesn’t feel like he can win. He doesn’t feel like the team will actually win the tournament. If you are not going to win the tournament… You know you are going to go there, try and probably come like 4th. In certain cases, if you are not really dedicated person, why would you practice? You go out there, you’ve got a good team, and then you improvise. As soon as I saw that, that was like the warning sign for me. I knew that this lineup is done, it has to change.

So, the only way you could make that team better, basically, is you would have needed somehow to restructure it entirely. And that’s actually where I think that wasn’t really an answer. That’s why I understand why they broke up. NBK thought he had a solution, which is him being an ingame leader. You saw they didn’t want that. They had like a civil war inside, and they broke the team apart. And that’s because NBK has tried this a few times, and he’s never proven he is going to stick with that. So to the others, they were like “He is a smart player, but if this is just a two-month solution, and he’s going to stop doing it in three months, we are not getting anywhere. We are just delaying the fact we have to make a different choice”.

apEX wanted to try some ingame leading, but his role in the game I don’t think allows him to do that. And more importantly, with his mentality he doesn’t have, like, the part of being a leader. In my opinion, it’s what I call a “captain spirit”. You’ve got to be someone where you don’t have to ask a person if he will do what you say. They know you have the authority to do this. The problem with him, he is a bit of a whiner, so it’s not really ideal to have a captain in that sense, what will turn people off following your plan.

kennyS CS:GO

"For me, [kennyS] was always like a barometer for the French scene.
Because his motivation is going down, that’s when his playstyle starts to go down".

So you look at the team, there is no one else there. bodyy is a very young player, not a very vocal player. kennyS is the AWPer, and he is not going to be an ingame leader as well. There was literally no one else on the team. Regardless, some kind of roster move had to come. You could certainly make the case they could have changed one player. Maybe, it might have fixed everything we could have had — all the great aspects, which is kinda depressing thing currently because we have two different squads who have their own charms and qualities, but neither of them is a complete team. And neither of them is going to be the best team in the world. 

I understand why people always focus on the French scene because, no matter how low they seem to have fallen, they should have one of the best teams in the world. They should have a team that could win the Major. For whatever reason, we can’t find the right combination at the moment. But luckily, by making mistakes, that’s how you learn. So hopefully, by these mistakes, the next lesson we learn is going to make an amazing French team.

What about the prospect of shox going to the international scene? He’s already had such chances. As DeKay reported it earlier, FaZe Clan asked him if he could join them after the ELEAGUE Boston Major. 

The problem is, unless I’m mistaken, I think when that offer came, it actually came in the content he would still be an ingame leader because, at the time, he was an ingame leader of G2. 

This is one of the things people wouldn’t realize. When FaZe had these problems… And now again, they have a very special type of problem. Like make the semifinal and not win the tournament. That’s a good result for most teams, but for FaZe Clan that’s a failure. You’re supposed to win the tournament. When they’ve gotten to the level where they would make every final, every semifinal, but they stopped winning, like at the Major, for example, that’s when they wanted already to look at the people they could replace karrigan with. 

At the time, this is something people don’t know, you look where the scene was, so two of the top teams in the world were G2 and Astralis, but those two teams were not winning championships. Actually, there were rumors that maybe they were trying to get gla1ve to join them as their ingame leader. Maybe, they were trying to get shox. Those would be two different approaches, obviously. You took gla1ve, you would become more tactical. If you took shox, I think the logic they had was “We still want to have a very loose system. He is a star player, like us anyway, so maybe he will understand our mentality”. There was kinda logic to it.

It just ultimately, I think, what actually happened, this is one of the rare aspects of the French scene which are good. What happened for shox has been the right move. He should bring in Ex6TenZ, he should bring in some of the people who make him comfortable because he has to get back to being one of the best players in the world. That’s what his career needs to be. He’s not [doomed] to be an ingame leader. You are never going to go ten years from now and go, “Remember when shox used to be a star player? Years ago, of course, he’s an ingame leader now”. That won’t make sense. So, for him personally, I don’t think it would have been the right move. 

shox CS:GO

Thorin believes that shox has to get back
to being one of the best players in the world

If you could have seen a world in which they remove someone else, like maybe olofmeister did leave, and they brought in shox to do that role, now maybe that can be a very interesting prospect. But, I absolutely do think that’s the case that most of the French scene — actually, this is one thing again they are very close-minded about — they don’t need to all stay in the French scene. Except for a rare few of them, they have pretty good English. Also, they have a much better relationship with people outside of the French scene. NBK, apEX, kioShiMa, ScreaM, Happy, all these guys can go and play for other teams. They can go to North America, they can play in Germany, whatever country they want in FaZe Clan, in mousesports. That maybe is also, referring to the earlier question, one of the solutions for the French scene in the future. If they can’t get along and figure out what roles they should do, maybe you just send the talent out. And that’s how they get to the top. We have mousesports, and they can get to the #1 if they’ve got NBK and kennyS or something. It could be a good approach, I think.

As we discussed FaZe Clan in here, it’s worth mentioning that karrigan is not ingame leading anymore in this team, and it seems like his teammates lost their faith in him. From your perspective, in which direction are they going? What is going to eventually happen in this team?

That’s a perfect example, in my opinion, when someone comes to the right answer but by the wrong route. Basically, as you said, FaZe Clan lost confidence in karrigan. They don’t want him to be the ingame leader. They don’t think that’s the way to win championships anymore. Now, the funny thing is, I agree with them. I actually think that lineup had run its course. I think, if you kept karrigan, you would have needed to change maybe even two players to reformulate the squad, make a different type of a team, and then you could be very good again. If they are planning to keep most of that team, I think they are right. Removing karrigan was the right approach. 

The reason they took the wrong route to get there is that the reason they think it didn’t work isn’t because of, as I have, team balance: was their style fitting what the current style is, and some of the flaws they had, as I think, they lacked supportive elements of the team. They thought it was because they all are star players, so it can’t be their fault. It must be this guy’s fault, who was the ingame leader. That’s unfortunately not a very good attitude, and maybe [it will show] some of the problems that will exist within FaZe Clan when karrigan isn’t on the team anymore, which seems like it’s a clear future, maybe 3-6 months are down the line.

I think we’ve already got obvious [example] for this, and it was what happened in Fnatic. In Fnatic, they didn’t just kick Golden out immediately. What they did was, they said “We are going to recruit Xizt. Don’t worry, we are going to keep Golden, but his job now is an entry-fragger”, which obviously isn’t the role he would be able to play and be very good at. It was almost like they set him up politically for failure. So then, a few months later, you could say “We are going to remove this bad entry-fragger we have”. And, at that point of time, who could disagree, right? He is not a good entry-fragger. It’s a logical way to make it seem very good that you are kicking the guy out of the team. Even though, if look back now, and you are like “Wait a minute. Why are we replacing Xizt with Golden?”. If you do it that way, it doesn’t make sense. For me, this is what they are doing in this team. They are not doing it [similarly] as I think Fnatic did, but I think they are doing it unconsciously thinking this is the approach.

karrigan CS:GO

In Thorin's opinion, the solution to FaZe's problem is about getting a new IGL

I think, they actually believe for real that it will work with karrigan as a support player and NiKo as an ingame leader, but it won't because both aspects of it make no sense. It makes no sense to have karrigan as their support player. There is not really the certain role that will suit him, as he is so good at what he does as an ingame leader. Meanwhile, NiKo is not going to be as good as a star player if he is an ingame leader, and he is not like a great ingame leader. For me, all you’ve done is you had one problem, you’ve created two problems, and now you are waiting to solve both problems. And the solution to both problems is what the solution to the original problem was, which is to remove the ingame leader and get the new ingame leader. What I think will almost certainly happen — I don’t know for how long like I said, maybe in three months, maybe in six months — they will clearly have to get a new ingame leader. And in doing so, I think the obvious move is they will kick karrigan out, get a new ingame leader, and NiKo will go back to being a star player. I think, at the moment, it’s like an old sail. They are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Speaking about Fnatic, they don’t have a complete roster right now. Who you would like to see as their fifth in the future?

That’s a tough one, actually, because in their team it’s the same problem that both NiP and Fnatic have. There is a whole bunch of good players in the Swedish scene, and it’s like they are all the same player. They are like semi-aggressive, follow-up entry players who’ve got really good rifles. You could name about seven players that are like the same guy. NiP’s got three or four of them in one team. But the flaw is, where are all the other roles? 

Okay, you want a supportive player. We’ve got KRIMZ. We know he is really good, but that’s it. You’ve only got him. Where are the ingame leaders? At the moment, I don’t think there are any ingame leaders that are good in the Swedish scene. I don’t know where you go for that because it’s one of the hardest roles to replace. All the great ingame leaders in the scene are really old-school players. They are not brand new players. Gla1ve, gob b, karrigan, Zeus, MSL, none of these players started like a year ago. None of them started being an ingame leader most recently.

I have to guess, if you are going to go forward for Fnatic, you’ve got to solve the ingame leader issue. In my opinion, you’ve got to take a chance on someone young, or they could actually… That is another thing people haven’t stopped thinking about. All Swedish players I know have pretty good English. They are very good at communication skills. Why not get someone international? For example, say karrigan gets kicked out of FaZe. Why you not get karrigan into your team? Yeah, you’re not going to speak Swedish, though karrigan could learn the basics for sure. Speak English! I bet that Fnatic with karrigan speaking English would be better than Fnatic with Xizt speaking Swedish.

Thorin CS:GO

"I bet that Fnatic with karrigan speaking English would be better than Fnatic with Xizt speaking Swedish".

To me, it depends on how you want to solve the problem. If you want to remain a Swedish team, you create a more difficult problem there. I don’t know if this is the solution. If you just want to be a top team, we can fix that. There are players out there in the scene that you can add.

Share me your general thoughts on the new Vitality lineup. Do they have what it takes to be the #1 team in the world? A title contender, for the very least.

I don’t think they do for either aspect, actually, because first and foremost, the main thing that team has a problem with… I can give you a great example. Let’s draw an analogy. The Vitality team for me is like the Fnatic team at the moment. The Fnatic team has some really good players in it. They have some players you definitely could keep. Let’s say out of the five, you have to pick two or three to keep, you could make the #1 team in the world from that team. But, if you have all of them, there are too many players who should do each other’s role, and there is not enough space for an ingame leader in that particular case. 

The same thing for that Vitality squad. Pick two or three players, and whether it’s from the French or World scene, we could make one of the best teams in the world. But who’s the ingame leader? At the moment, it’s NBK. I have my skepticism about whether it will continue. Happy is there, but he’s been unable to be a good ingame leader for the last few years. And there are not really many IGLs in the French scene quite frankly unless you go old-school and get someone, like HaRts or MAJ3R from Space Soldiers. There are not really a lot of options there. So I don’t blame them, but I think they are going to, first of all, suffer from not having a good ingame leader. 

The good thing about the IGL, he is the guy who has a long-term vision as well as the vision for today. You set up the tactics now, but you also know what we are trying to improve towards, what type of team should we be in three months. And crucially, I think the great ingame leaders know how to tell a player what role he should do. The player has his own ideas. He wants to do this particular role, he thinks he’s good at another quality, but an ingame leader might say “You are good at these things, but I need you to do something a little bit different”. And if you do, it will make the overall team stronger. That’s where I think their problem is. 

Vitality CS:GO

Thorin is skeptical about NBK being the ingame leader of Team Vitality

On paper, you look at each name by itself, and there is a lot of good reasons why that would be a good player, why it could a player on a really top-level team. But, as an actual unit of all five players together, I don’t think they will figure out the right way to play in terms of style. I don’t think they have the right balance of personalities and players. And crucially, without that ingame leader, unless they are just in some incredible, top-top form, I don’t think they are going to be a top team. I would personally say, if things go well, they will be like the 7th best team in the world. Things go badly, they will be like the 12th best team in the world.

Closing out this topic on the French scene, what’s better for kioShiMa? Should he return to the French scene? Would it be better for him to stick to the international scene, like he did in FaZe? Share your thoughts.

If it was up to me, I would have had him come back to the French scene. Like, I would have loved to see him go and join the G2 lineup, for example. I think he could offer so much to that team. The big problem is… Like I can’t speak to what he’s currently like, I can’t claim to know what he’s currently thinking about the game, or where his head is. But I know, the last two big teams he was a part of, he was kicked out of due to not having the same dedication as the other players, not having the same motivation level as the other players. If someone has a track record of that… It’s like if I come to do an interview to join your company. You look at my resume, and you keep seeing that “Oh, there is always a period where you have like a year off after each job. Why do you leave these companies, and why do you spend a year out?”. If you then find out, like go and talk to the references I put on my resume, the old companies I’ve worked for, they would say “Yeah, he was a really good employee, but the problem was, after about nine months, he wouldn’t come in on time, he wasn’t doing as much work”. Then, you are going to be really skeptical to pick me up, even if I’m good at what I do. Like on paper, if it looks like I have the skills. 

I think he is somewhere where, until either that changes or it’s already changed, [he should] change the perception, so people don’t think of him that way anymore. [If it doesn’t change], I think he’s going to be stuck on the outside. And, in that point of time, if he’s on the outside and the French scene doesn’t want him, certainly there are plenty of international teams that could use him. 

I actually think he is the player that mousesports should have considered. I think this move to go back to getting STYKO is like they’ve learned — funny enough, they’ve done the opposite of what I’ve said about FaZe Clan — the correct lesson, but they’ve come to the wrong conclusion. The lesson was you need to have people who can do supportive elements, and who aren’t just star players. They’ve learned that, but then STYKO might not have been the player to do it anymore, currently for mousesports. 

kioShiMa CS:GO

"I would have loved to see [kioShiMa] go and join the G2 lineup, for example.
I think he could offer so much to that team".

I think there is plenty of teams he could join. He could obviously go to North America if he wanted to. He’s better than a lot of those players. But, just like Happy, for the last year you didn’t see him. He just stuck in EnVyUs, and there was never a single rumor ever behind the scenes that Happy would be in G2. Although, Happy would be in a top French team again. That’s because Happy’s perception or reputation in the community was he’s a leader who is very stubborn, he’s not going to change his mind, and he is not very motivated. kioShiMa has to overcome the same problem, or he’s also going to be stuck on the outside, hoping to get a chance.

Who’s going to overthrow Astralis? And will it happen before the end of this year?

That’s a tough one because I have to say… I keep promising to do this video or this article where I will explain two concepts. I will explain the concept of how long your window is to win. Like when you get to the top, how much longer you get to win before you have to change players. Let’s say it’s six months or nine months, whatever the figure is. That’s a concept I had for a long time, and it’s really helped me to analyze the scene. And then, the other aspect is how teams counter what the best team is doing. 

Without having done the whole article, whole series, I will give you a very quick conclusion which is, I think, your window to win is usually six months. I think, beyond that point of time, the teams that did win more are literally the very best teams to ever play Counter-Strike. And usually, even their wins weren’t them in top form, it was like the Fnatic team in the end. They would win, and you would be like “How did they even do that? They shouldn’t have won that tournament”, but they just won with very close margins. They weren’t clear #1 anymore.

And then, the second part is, like I said about how you counter the top team, the reason why no one else has come to this conclusion or made the observation I have from history — cause they look that up as well — is because everyone in the scene wants to believe in what you see in, like, profile videos that they do at the Majors. It’s like all about the person, how they are driven to improve and work on their game. Everyone wants to think it’s a Disney movie. 

What’s going to happen is the team, that will beat Astralis, will be just working really hard. They will all believe in each other. And then, as a result, they will get better. And it’s like in a movie when they do a training montage, and, at the end of the movie, it ends with them beating Astralis. They did it, it was the power of teamwork and friendship, etc. I actually think that has no bearing in the history of any esports game in terms of team games. 

Once you’ve been in a team for like six months, that is who you are. You won’t improve much more. You could maybe go up 5% or 10%. You will never get 30% better or become the #1 team. So I have to say, the long-awaited answer is the team that beats Astralis is a lineup that doesn’t currently exist. It’s probably a team that needs one roster move. 

Astralis CS:GO

Duncan thinks that right now we don't have a team that could overthrow Astralis
from being the #1 team in the world

FaZe Clan would be a very obvious example because they’ve got such amazing players. If you made the right roster move, they could immediately become the #1. Team Liquid is another great example. Their problem seems to mainly be psychological. That’s another way you can fix psychological problems: take one player out and add a player who has the right mentality. We heard these rumors of maybe coldzera would join their team. I could only see it being an amazing addition. If karrigan gets kicked out, maybe you bring karrigan to Team Liquid. The good thing is we’ve got the whole bunch of the teams who are not at Astralis’ level, but they are just below, and each has the pieces to be amazing. 

I think the same thing with Na’Vi. Na’Vi is clearly a very, very good team, but they are never going to be #1 because the way they play the game is kinda like a bit dirty. It’s like they never play clean, they never win like 16-10 or 16-6 in every game. Like it wasn’t so clear that they were going to win that game, it’s always like a really hard battle. They have to get everything out of their best players, and the worst players after not making many mistakes, and then they win a close game. If you took Na’Vi and you put, say, AdreN in Edward’s position or you put HObbit in that position, or you took in ANGE1 or something. There is a lot of different ways. 

Again, it’s only one player move I’m talking about. I could see it being the slight move that would make you 20% better. Literally, it counts for 20% of the team. I think that’s the way that will beat the Astralis’ team. And luckily, that’s not to say like “Oh, watch the rest of the tournaments and you’re going to be bored because Astralis is going to win”. These moves are going to come. Like all these teams right now, every single one of the teams below Astralis, are thinking about player moves. They are trying to figure out what I’ve just explained here. That’s about one player they get that makes them #1.

The last question is about Cloud9. Right now, this team is like a mess. Skadoodle isn’t primarily AWPing anymore, and it feels like they pick up players right after they enter the free agency. In which direction are they going? Maybe, it’s going to end with disbanding? [the question was asked before Skadoodle announced that he is stepping down from the competitive scene]

The joke I would make is Skadoodle hasn’t been primarily AWPing for a long time. They just didn’t know, and he didn’t know. He was always a support or secondary AWPer. If they’ve done it within the team, it would make sense, actually. Their problem is they even have now to come to the next logical conclusion, which is like the Golden move or the karrigan move, which is like “Okay, now it’s also time to just remove him from the team”. Skadoodle is a perfect example, I’d give, of where you can actually know, without having seen the results yet, that it’s the wrong move to keep a player. 

This is the principle I apply. Say, I will buy your company tomorrow. I bought Cloud9 and came in saying like “Skadoodle. Listen, mate, I’m the owner now. And I’m not like those other guys, get the f**k out. You are fired”. If I fire him tomorrow, which top teams go and pick Skadoodle up? Probably none. And more importantly, he probably retires. He will probably just retire from the game. That shows that he didn’t have the drive and motivation to be the best. He wasn’t going to put lots more years, he wasn’t going to improve much as a player. He is just going to be who he is going to be. To me, removing Skadoodle, whether it’s now or 3-4 months, it’s the obvious move to do. Maybe he just retires and takes care of the problem for them. Some people in the past, like Fifflaren, kinda took care of the problem for the team.

Where they go with the team is very interesting because I agree that they are a mess right now. That’s because, what you call in English, we would say like they are much of nothing. They’ve got all these different components, and they can go in all of these directions. At the moment, come together and it means nothing. You are not going in any direction because you’ve got American players, which is like “Okay, are we building an American squad? No”. In that case, why even keep the American players? Why not just kick these players out? Why not kick out RUSH and bring in — you could have [done it] but can’t do it anymore — apEX and NBK to this squad, making a European team? Then, we could be a top team. Sure, European and not North American, but it’s a top team. If you want to be a top team, that’s a possibility.

Cloud9 CS:GO

According to Thorin, Cloud9 might try the direction of being a Swedish team in the future

Now, if you want to go back, eventually, one day to being a top North American team, it also doesn’t make sense to keep recruiting all the European players. You can have one or two, but they look, at the moment, like they stuck between the two positions. On the one hand, at any moment, as long as autimatic, RUSH, and Skadoodle are there, they could get a player… Let’s say, for example, things go badly in NRG and Team Liquid in three months. They might say to one of those players to come and join them. And now, they are going back to being a North American team. The other option is very obvious. If Golden does a good job, they’ve got flusha on the team, and he gets some sort of form back; now, when Fnatic and NiP have a problem, they can go to one of those players: “Hey, dennis. Come and join Cloud9!”. Now, you become a European team, a Swedish team.

My point would be this — why wait? Why not just figure out which one of the directions you want and skip six months of being average, coming 9-12th, getting one good map win, and everyone goes like “Oh, I hope it’s going to improve”. Just skip that and get to the way you are going to be anyway in six months.

Honestly, I’ve told many teams to do this. What you do is… At the moment, players decide who joins their teams, but in all sports, the player has no [rights to do it]. Ibrahimović doesn’t say: “We are going to recruit this defender next season”. It’s not even his job. You could give a suggestion to the guy who is a general manager or a coach. It’s a coach’s job. And if the coach succeeds, all get fired based on what he needs in these terms. I tell all the team managers to let their team play now but always be thinking where you are going to be in six months. If in six months you’ve got a player on your team, and you’re like “Okay, his level hasn’t been good, but I’m not going to kick him now. I’m going to give him a chance”. Let’s say, it works out. If it works out, any plans you made were not problems. It’s a good situation to be in. You made plans but it worked, so there is no problem. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve got a plan. 

My plan I always tell them is to pick the players who might be a problem. Make what you call a shortlist, make like five names who could replace this guy. At the moment, some of them you couldn’t recruit right today anyway. They are on a team, they’ve got buyouts. But what you do, by having a shortlist, first of all, you can go to those players — there are no approaching rules in Counter-Strike — and ask them when does their contract end. Six months from now? Okay. You write down six months for this name, three months for this name, seven months for this name… When you need to make a player change in three or four months, you go back to your list, and you see that this guy is available, that one if you wait three months is available, so you go and get the exact player you want. It’s like sports!

The interview was given to StarLadder's @EllanarkJesus