moses plans to take the majority of October off
Joe "tolkienfanatic" Cardali had the chance to catch up with Jason "moses" O'Toole during the media day before the New Champions stage, where the caster discussed the uprise of North American teams, semi-pro CS, and his fellow analyst Janko "YNk" Paunovic's recent transition to coaching MIBR.
Two weeks down, one more to a go, here's a question that probably not enough people ask you, but how are you holding up?
*laughs* Its not bad, its fine, actually. We've had a couple days off here and there, and obviously we are used to the grind, so two weeks in one place is nice. You know, we've kind of headed into this topic a number of times over the past years, as commentators, the grind of the travel.
Its weird, I don't know how this happened, but this year I seem to have handled it much better than I did last year. I think I've traveled way more this year than last year, like way way more, and for some whatever reason, mentally, I'm handling it much better than last year. This is like my last stretch here, I'm going to take most of October off, I'm just excited to have that window of break.
Obviously, a big storyline of this Major is the success of these North American teams. What are your thoughts on these runs that Liquid and compLexity are having right now?
The Liquid one I expected, Liquid — it's all relative, right — I don't think think they've had a successful Major yet. I think they need to have a competitive semifinal at the very least. Obviously for them it is going to be the final. But once you get to the semifinals of a Major, all four of those teams are going to have a chance at winning it. I still have them winning, but they have a bit further to go for success.
For compLexity, they've definitely been successful, and everything after this is kinda gravy. That's really cool, cause you wanna see the next tier of teams start rising up, and especially you want to see the players on that team showing off what they can do. You never know when yay or ANDROID in the future, maybe a year, maybe 2 years from now, might be the next guy in line for a spot in Cloud9 or Liquid or one of the bigger organizations in that sense.
I think Rogue had success, showing that they can be competitive, that they can challenge. They had that game against North that they probably should have won, where they got eliminated, but that's a success in and of itself. Even if you go to Ghost at DreamHack Stockholm, those guys showed some really cool things as well, and that's success to a certain degree. A lot of these teams below the Cloud9s and the Liquids and the NRGs are showing that they can have success and be competitive, and that's great in its own right.
Can you quantify what it means to you to see an organization like compLexity, who have been around literally forever and gone through some really rough years of late, emerge back at the top? What does that mean for North American CS?
I don't think it means a whole lot for North America, it's a nice nostalgic trip. I don't want to make it too big of a symbol or anything, but I'm just happy for Jason Lake. I was playing and I was competing, listening live to the radio interview that Jason Lake did, I think it was back in 2004, when he was just some brash, arrogant guy who came out of nowhere and said he was going to create a brand called compLexity that was going to take over the Counter-Strike world.
He did a great job with it, he put together a phenomenal team back then, won some championships, won some trophies. The first team outside of Team3D from North America that was able to actually be competitive with the Europeans. I know personally his struggle with keeping the compLexity brand alive over the years, he's had some struggles financially and had to find ways to make it work. The whole CGS fiasco that actually took the brand rights away from him and he had to battle to get it back.
I just think it's a great victory for him to have this organization back on the biggest stage, to have found a way to get a backing by the Dallas Cowboys. I hate the word deserved, in esports especially it gets thrown around way too much and I don't think people fully understand what it means all the time, but if anyone was to deserve the success they've found recently in Counter-Strike, I feel like it would be Jason Lake.
He's been an incredible ambassador for this game over the years, and he's had some really rough patches. I'm just happy to see him, and not only him but Rambo, Warden, guys that go a long way back with competing. I know this means the world to them, to be on a stage of this capacity, cause I know it was a dream come true for me to even be commentating these stages and for those guys it's the same thing.
Going back to your comment on the upcoming teams in North America, I think in the last month or two months we've had 5 or 6 different North American teams qualify for LANs. We have Swole Patrol going to Russia, we have eUnited upsetting Cloud9 to get to Chicago, NRG are looking, despite missing the Major, pretty good, Ghost Gaming... is this the strongest field of teams we've seen in North America in some time?
Oh, absolutely. Probably through the whole history of CS:GO. You could make the argument — if people looked at it realistically, which for the most part they never do — we hold Danish Counter-Strike up to this standard, but I think there's been a small amount of weakening in European Counter-Strike to the point where you can look at the North American region and say it's even stronger than Europe. Maybe the US and Canada are probably the strongest countries for Counter-Strike at the moment, probably right below the Danish scene. There's a lot of strength and a lot of talent in this Counter-Strike scene in North America, and we're starting to realize it.
I think a lot of that has been that we've had experienced players at top teams for such a long time that when they kinda start losing a step and they drop down to the next tier, then I think they're able to pass on some knowledge, pass on some theory, things they've learned in competition. We're seeing a lot of the younger players get better because of that, we're starting to see more in-game leaders in the younger teams. steel, stanislaw having to drop down, teaching these lineups how to play the game, I think all of this is good.
And then at the very top you have the shining examples of Liquid, of Cloud9, and even the Brazilians who've been living here for a while now. We have all the examples and we have all the pieces now starting to form, and this scene, North America, is gonna start blowing up to where it's going to be here to stay in these competitions.
Despite the relative success that we're enjoying now, there still is a real lack of support below the pro level, at the MDL level. What do you think it's going to take to see that rectify itself?
This is actually something I'm super interested in, because it is necessary. If we're gonna keep Counter-Strike as an esport around for a long time, you have to have a very healthy and a thriving semi-pro environment, which would be your MDLs, or your FPLs, or your Rank Ss, whatever it might be. There's different routes to get up there.
I don't know, I think there needs to be increased interest in it. I think the first obstacle would be to fix the schedule of the pro scene and calm it the fuck down, I think we need to chill on that. In order to get the money and in order to get the backing and the funding and the attention on the semi-pro scene, we can't be having a professional tournament every weekend, or every other weekend. There needs to be some break where there's no professional tournaments, maybe people watch the semi-pros, maybe viewership rises because people still want to watch Counter-Strike, and you can see who's playing next, you can give more attention and more time to the semi-pro tournaments. That's where you can start building.
I had a dream with ESEA of having a whole content plan based around MDL, being able to actually hype up an individual player, a team, have content built around that. If you look at FPL and Rank S, why is no one creating content around that? I know FACEIT is very big into their FPL, but why is there not, you know, a feature on the player of the month and why he did so good, and actual clips of what he's very good at and highlighting him for potential teams?
There's so many things we can do for the semi-pro scene, but I think the biggest thing it comes down to is the time that we have to devote to building that kind of attention around it, and also the money that all goes to the professional scene. If we have a more structured professional circuit then you can allocate money and resources more to the semi-pro circuit, but there's no doubts from me that having a thriving and healthy semi-pro division is massively important to Counter-Strike in the future.
Just going back to your comments on the Brazilians, what are your thoughts about this MIBR experiment?
I feel like it would have happened faster. I think a worrying sign is the fact that we still haven't seen fer kind of bounce back. We've seen FalleN at this event, glimpses of the old FalleN. I know one of Janko's primary goals was to get those guys back into shape and back into the shape they were originally, and especially FalleN, which he's done a good job with. I don't think he's had time to do anything tactically, but I think it looks worse than it is.
Obviously they're not quite there yet, but I think a lot of people, because of how quiet Stewie and tarik have seemingly been in terms of their sheer numbers that they were putting up on Cloud9 versus now, I think a lot of people are still pretty negative about it. I think they're very close though. The map pool, once that gets figured out I think they're going to shoot up a little bit, but once you get Stewie and tarik more comfortable, and as they said it's only going to take time, we'll see them shoot up a little bit. If fer comes back, we're gonna see them shoot up a little bit. It's just small things, and it just seems all individual base to me at the moment still.
I know they've reignited that passion and that work ethic since Janko joined, it's been a breath of fresh air for them and how hard they've been training. Once those guys put their minds to it, you know they fell off that horse for a while and I think that's the decline, but now that they're back into it I think by the end of the year we're going to see that old kind of team form up together and be dangerous again.
You had a close relationship with Janko for a couple of years now, he hadn't done the coach thing in a while since doing it locally. How do you see his analysis work and desk work and his acumen for that translating to the coach, is that a natural role?
Yeah, that as well is gonna be a progression. It's kind of a boring answer, but a lot of it also depends on how much FalleN is gonna be willing to let him have input strategically. That kind of relationship between the coach and the in-game leader, kind of like in the NFL between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator or the head coach, whatever it might be, that's the important relationship — how much can he have strategically? We know he's intelligent, we know he knows the answers, and we know he can articulate them and pass them along.
The question becomes, can you find a way to make his answers fit in with how different players want to play situations? On top of that, we've all seen his work on camera, on analyst desks, in interviews that he's done, and in the content that he's created, we know what he's capable of in that sense. But it's kind of to my benefit that I've been able to see over the years his work ethic and how disciplined he is when it comes to something he wants to improve in his own life.
That work ethic and discipline that he brings over to the team is going to be a massive benefit, no one else has been able to see that, that he's an incredibly hard worker and he is incredibly disciplined in what he wants to achieve. He sets very high goals and he is fully focused on achieving them, so for me, I can't see him ever being a failure in that sense. He's one of those guys that makes you just feel like he's going to be able to succeed in whatever he puts his mind to, and right now, just from seeing him at this event, I know his mind is fully focused on improving this team and getting them back to winning championships.
Where do Cloud9 go from here, how they get back, maybe not to winning another Major, but back to being the force they were in that era?
That's a really good question. It's always hard to say, because they are kind of royalty in North America to a certain degree, but I'll just say it harshly, and I guess I've said it before in the past — I think its time, its time to make some sweeping changes. I'm fine with Golden being in there, I don't know if STYKO works or not, that's a question they will have to answer for themselves. I think we've seen too little of him to really have an outside view of what may or may not work.
But I think its time for Skadoodle to get replaced, and its nothing personal against him, obviously, but they are going to need someone who you don't have the question of "Are they motivated", at this point, the fact that there are still questions about his ability to communicate — where is the Skadoodle from Boston? That can't be a Skadoodle that we only get once a year. That needs to be consistent day in and day out.
Those issues have persisted throughout his career, so I don't see it changing. There are too many talented young players that can step in and fill that role, and probably do it more efficiently, and probably even better than he is. No one doubts the fact that Skadoodle's peak is better than 90% of the AWPers out there in the pro scene, but we don't see that peak often enough.
I think that is the question for Cloud9, are they going to be aiming for their peak, are they going to be aiming to be the best that they can be, or are they looking to just have some bright spots throughout the year. For me, I want to see them be at a high peak throughout the year. RUSH and autimatic, obviously, phenomenal players. RUSH is like a Greek tragedy, the poor guy just can't be on a team that maintains success, I feel so bad for him. Keep those two guys, keep Golden as an in-game leader, you can at least see where he is going to take you, he is experienced, he has lifted a trophy with Fnatic.
I think you try and you go after someone, Wardell has shown amazing things — I don't know if you could pull him away, I don't know if you could pull away someone like CeRq, but there are options out there. I think you at least have to explore those for Skadoodle, and STYKO as well, maybe look at some other fifths if you want. They have to do some intense soul-searching, they have to, they are going to have to make some hard decisions if they want to get back to the top.
Only eight teams left, the playoffs are upon us, what is moses' Pick 'Em?
MIBR/compLexity is the first one... I'm going to take MIBR for that one, but I think there is — not a decent upset chance, but I'd say there is a solid upset chance, because MIBR haven't looked super solid, and you never know with compLexity at the moment.
The next one is BIG/Na'Vi, I'm taking BIG for that one, which is the one upset I'm going to go for in this quarterfinal stage. I actually really like the way BIG plays, and I think Na'Vi have been boosted and kind of carried a little bit by s1mple and electronic throughout this event. flamie has done well as well, but I think there is some weakness in that Na'Vi team BIG can exploit. That being said, we've seen two BIGs at this event — the shitty one in the Challenger stage that almost got knocked out, and the good one in the Legends stage. As long as we get the Legends stage one, that can easily be a big upset. *laughs*
The next one is Liquid/HellRaisers, I think that is going to be Liquid, and will be a pretty strong statement win for them. Shoutout to ISSA and w0xic though, they've been a lot of fun to watch at this tournament.
Then it is Astralis/FaZe, I think that is going to be Astralis, I think that is going to be, maybe not a blowout, but pretty comfortable, I'm kind of worried by what I've seen out of FaZe at this event. I think the style of play they've brought out a number of times during these qualifying stages is just going to get eaten up by Astralis.
So I'm expecting to see Astralis and Liquid in the semifinals, Liquid obviously wins that one. And that it will be BIG/MIBR, that's a tough one, let's just go with MIBR for my boy Janko, and then you know, Liquid win the finals. And TACO remains the three-time Brazilian champion!
The New Champions stage of the Major, also known as the playoffs, is set to kick off on Thursday at 10:15 AM EDT with Na`Vi facing off against BIG. Shortly after the CIS and German sides face off, compLexity and MIBR are set to take the stage as they take aim for a slot in the semifinals.