Sep 27 2016 - 12:10 pm

lurppis’ mailbag 5, September 2016

In my fifth mailbag article I answer questions on GODSENT, predicting after breaks, Astralis, game changes, and more.

This is my fifth mailbag article. The plan is to get one out each month here on GAMURS, answering any and all Counter-Strike related questions that you may have. To get your question(s) submitted, send an email to lurppismailbag@gmail.com – I will review all questions prior to next mailbag, so waiting until explicit requests to send questions in is unnecessary. Now, let us get to it.


“Will fnatic continue to have better results than GODSENT?  How long can the SK era last?  Will the French make a roster change, and what would be the best outcome?”

Interestingly enough everyone seems to think fnatic is doing exceptionally well, or at least significantly better than GODSENT – whose results have admittedly been very poor – despite having attended zero offline events. I for one would not give fnatic much credit for their 8-6 record in EPL’s fourth season. With that being said, they do remain winners, because GODSENT’s results have been so poor. But keep an eye out on ESL One New York this weekend, because they may have won the initial battle – almost by default – but the war is on-going, and by no means is the outcome determined yet.

The question on SK is interesting and frankly impossible to answer. I wrote prior to MLG Columbus about how quickly the window of opportunity for championships can fade, and we cannot know whether SK’s have already closed. Their results were poor with SHOOWTiME – though that is 100% meaningless – and they have continued to suffer disappointing losses with fer against the likes of Immortals and OpTic. ESL One NYC is days away, and they do not look – based on online play – to be in tip top shape. But you would be a fool to judge SK, the two-time defending major champions, based on online play. They may not be ready this week, but given their work ethic and drive they have showcased since moving to the U.S. in 2015, I see them returning to the absolute top. As for the era… Well, it may not be their era anymore, already. But no one else has claimed it, either.

EnVyUs as a team baffles me. I tweeted a couple of weeks ago about there being massive dis-synergies in the team – because I cannot imagine the players not being better elsewhere. But they must be one of the best paid teams out there, and hold spots to events such as ELEAGUE, EPL and ECS. The incentives say you stick together, unless you can combine with G2 in a way that leaves both of you with spots in those. On the other hand, it is unclear whether G2 is a true contender, still. They may be, especially with bodyy improving, but I am not fully sold on it. Time will well, but to me it seems the only thing holding these two rosters together is inertia.

 

“What is your approach/method on deciding predictions when there has been a long break since the last big tournament, for example at ESL One New York, for a match-up between two tier-one teams?

Predictions should be based on past results with analysts given the chance to interpret them as they wish – i.e. if you feel a black swan swung the result one way last time, it can make sense to predict last time’s loser to win. Similarly, there can be other factors to consider. The less data you have to process, the more assumptions you have to make. The more assumptions you make, the more there can be that goes wrong, and often trying to parse out complicated theses for teams without having seen them play recently can be no more effective than a pure guess, between two similarly skilled teams.

If I were to predict the result of e.g. Na`Vi versus Liquid – two teams with no history of facing each other with these rosters, and questionable results to base predictions on – this is how I would do it. I would break down their ability in different categories, e.g. individual skill, team work, and tactical approach. I would then weigh the importance of each, with an eye on the map(s) that are likely to be played. For example, each team will lack their coach, neither’s results have been encouraging, and both have undergone a change that makes previous results largely meaningless.

However, to me Na`Vi remains a much more skilled team, albeit so far unable to use that skill. Liquid’s bull case for me is that they get explosive plays out of the likes of EliGE and jdm64, with Hiko holding his own… But there is little else – to me, s1mple was always their most important ingredient at the majors. For Na`Vi though, they will have had better practice now – the Los Angeles bootcamp did nothing but harm them ahead of SL i-League StarLadder Finals – and I simply see the team being better in terms of tactics and skill. At the end of the day it almost comes down to guesswork, but there are things you can break down the prediction into – though it could also lead to a false sense of control.

 

“Changing out cajunb for Kjaerbye only brought short term success for Astralis. You could say that they are slowly following the path of EnVyUs, who had an amazing amount of talent on their roster, but struggled to find results after a while. You yourself said something similar to "Astralis have by all accounts three very good players & a good lurker. If not the leader's, then whose fault is it?" Does this mean that the problems of Astralis can be attributed purely to tactical shortcomings? What viable options do Astralis have to fix their game before the upcoming major?”

First of all, I am not sure convinced that Astralis even got short-term success out of the Kjaerbye addition. Have they had any good results?

I do not think you can attribute Astralis’s failures solely on tactical issues, i.e. on karrigan, but in my eyes it is the leader’s job to figure out what it is that is causing the issues in their performance. Many good in-game leaders make their teams better than the sum of the individual players’ parts – that is how you gauge how good someone is as a leader. But if you look at the personnel in Astralis that karrigan has as the chess pieces on his board, can you honestly say you think he has done a good job of extracting performance out of them?

Granted, the fact Kjaerbye was not allowed to play at ESL One Cologne definitely hurt, because they had adjusted their play for gla1ve to make the playoffs and secure a spot at the next major. But so did the incredibly poor veto choices at e.g. ECS Season 1 Finals, where they decided to play a weak map of theirs as practice against TSM – whose best map cobblestone happened to be. It is a sum of many things gone wrong, but I am not sure anyone but karrigan could possibly fix the issues. It may not be his fault directly, but he is not helping the situation, either.

In sports you sometimes need to change coach because the players have lost their trust in him, and start defying his calls and simply not following the game plan. In my opinion, that is where Astralis seem to be – they severely lack confidence in how they play, and while karrigan obviously helped the Danes leap to a new level of play in 2015 never seen under FeTiSh’s leadership, they have been perennial underperformers ever since. In a situation like this, the fault defaults to the leader – much like a Chief Executive at a company, the responsibility always lies at them, at the very end.

 

“What do you think causes Virtus.pro to be so inconsistent? They can clearly be one of the best teams in the world and yet often we don’t see them live up to that potential.”

Virtus.pro’s best attribute, and their biggest weakness, is the way they play Counter-Strike. In a way, I would say they have a high-risk, high-reward type playing style. They do not seem to have a lot of set plays for maps, and much of their play is seemingly reliant on team play, communication and on-the-fly calls of whoever happens to be leading the team that day. When it works you can reach a level few can match, because you are effectively impossible to read and if you win your aim battles, hard to get anything going against. But it also introduces a level of inconsistency because you do not have your default tactics to rely on. To me, that explains why breaks are often disastrous to Virtus.pro, but how they can, seemingly at will, work themselves into contender shape. In short, in my opinion their playing style simply requires more maintenance than the styles of e.g. SK.

 

If you want to introduce someone to professional CS, then which match would you suggest them to watch?”

I am not sure any match will be particularly great to a new viewer, unless they are familiar enough with the concept that they can pick up the nuances that makes the best matches great. For example, perhaps the most important thing in Counter-Strike – and one of the most interesting sub-plots to serious fans – is the economy and its implications on future rounds. But if you showed a match where key swings in the final rounds of the game swung it around, they may not be able to appreciate all of it. In sports such as soccer or basketball anyone can keep track of the score, but in Counter-Strike there is a finite amount of rounds, i.e. someone will always ‘score’, in sports terms. I would probably go with something like the inferno comeback of fnatic at ESL One Cologne 2015 against Virtus.pro, but if you wanted to get them to buy in, you might want to watch it with them and explain the things that made it such a classic.

 

What do you think about the updated that Valve are starting to make recently?”

I strongly dislike the fact we are seeing updates in the tournament season. While there are millions of casual players who want changes, we should not be making key changes to the game with tournaments every other weekend, or more often. There should perhaps be a larger beta test, open to the public, where the key updates could be tried for a while before being rolled out at optimal times. It is unforgivable that professional players need to make gentleman’s agreements not to use new glitches introduced by updates that no one in Seattle seemingly ever play tested. To not sound too cynical, it is good that certain things keep being changed – as it clearly helps with the player base. But Valve must pay some attention to the professional scene’s needs as well, given that is what will, if anything, keep Counter-Strike popular for years to come.

 

“Do you think GODSENT should change a player? If so, who do they kick, and who do they replace him with?”

I wrote a longer article on GODSENT days ago, so it may be worth checking it out. So far GODSENT have been underwhelming, and it does seem like I was right about the skill being slightly too diluted to compete in a fashion the old fnatic rosters did – with nearly all-brute force. This team needs to face the reality and alter their style, switching to a more tactical approach similar to how GODSENT played in the spring, and something more closely mimicking FalleN’s SK than pronax’s fnatic team of 2014-2015. They simply do not seem to have the personnel to run over their opponents with the style that made fnatic successful in the past years.

If they were to change a player – which I do not see happening, to be clear, unless they keep crashing out in groups for months to come – they would need to bring in someone more aggressive, because currently they only have JW to try to open up sites, and even he generally only does so using an AWP. The ideal player to pick up from Sweden might be f0rest, because he could secondary AWP and be another point-man as terrorists – but there is an estimated 0% chance of him leaving NiP. You could send out KRiMZ in exchange for him, and it would be stupid of NiP to not accept… But would it be enough? So far znajder has been very underwhelming, and he must figure out a way to be both more aggressive, and more effective using rifles.

Still, to me GODSENT simply needs to accept they are not fnatic, and success will not come easy this time around – as it did for pronax when he joined the Black and Orange team in 2013, and for the team after adding olofmeister and KRiMZ in June 2014. Few teams click instantly like those squads did, and this time there will be serious growing pains. Given the contractual situations, I do not see GODSENT making changes until the next major is over – because until then it is, to a point, all fun in games – and they do have a spot at the next $1,000,000 event. But time is ticking, and these guys surely do hate losing.


You can follow me on Twitter at @lurppis_

Photo credits: DreamHack, Gamespot

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