By Taras Bortnik
Special to VPEsports
This is part two of a three part interview with Duncan “Thorin” Shields. You can read the first part here.
VPEsports caught up with Duncan “Thorin” Shields for an extensive interview during the StarLadder Major in Berlin.
In the second section of the three part interview, the CS:GO analyst and esports historian talked about the NRG’s performance, AVANGAR, the CIS region as a whole, and his thoughts on the StarLadder Major.
VPEsports: So we’ve talked about a few teams in the playoffs, but now let’s talk about NRG. Was it just experienced that saw them fall to Astralis or was there more?
Thorin: I’d say experience is the biggest factor. What’s funny is, because the first parts of those two maps was just Astralis smashing them constantly, it feels like Astralis won easily but when you watch the latter parts of those maps NRG’s winning a lot of rounds and even when they’re losing rounds they’re getting early kills and getting into good situations.
The difference is when Astralis has 10 seconds left and they have to make the perfect move to get the bomb – they do it. The other team, they make a mistake, they flash a teammate, someone goes in at the wrong time, someone let’s themself gets smoked off the bomb like when Ethan was there.
I think that’s where you saw the inexperience. Problem is it was a mixture of two. If they’re playing AVANGAR, another inexperienced team, okay you can get away with some of that. They’re playing the most experienced team – remember the core of dev1ce, dupreeh, and Xyp9x have been in like every Major for ever basically and they’ve been in the playoffs all the time.
When you play against a team like that, they don’t even have to win the aim duel with you, they know they can use the map and the time against you, your teammate against you.
That’s one of my theories as to why when some of the great teams fall off like NiP, Virtus.pro, etc – they don’t go straight to the bottom. They can still hang around and win off teams that in theory should be able to beat them because in Counter-Strike the game doesn’t change drastically like League of Legends of Dota. You can build up years of experience and use that against your enemy.
VPEsports: NRG seemed very confident in their map pick but looking at it now, it doesn’t seem like it was the right choice.
Thorin: I actually think picking train was the right pick. You even saw once they got over the really really bad start, about the worst start you can have on the T-side of Train – after that they were doing really well. Like I said, against anytime but Astralis and they would’ve won a lot of these clutches.
Sean Gares said even though he picked Astralis, NRG is probably the best Train team in the world. I actually don’t take too much away from NRG on that one, I say wow to Astralis like how did you do it. Remember in their era, they didn’t even play Train, they played it half a dozen times when people made them.
I would say more props to Astralis for being able to do that. NRG gave themselves the best chance but they’re not as good.
VPEsports: Now we’re heading into Astralis vs. AVANGAR in the grand final. Many expect it to be a rather easy 2-0. What are your thoughts?
Thorin: The big problem with that is, I thought AVANGAR would lose every playoff series. So with what they’ve done so far, they’ve been way better than I expected. So at this point in time does it all go away in the next? Probably not.
I think some of that probably stays, I think qikert can do a lot, opens up the T-side a lot. I’m very interested in seeing the battle of dev1ce and Jame because obviously they’re two totally different styles of AWPer but they’re both also quite conservative AWPers and so key to their teams. Obviously one is an in-game leader and one isn’t. dev1ce was so pivotal in both the series today, but if Jame does what he did to gratisfaction all the sudden you’ve got a chance on some of these maps.
I also think in terms of the map pool I’m definitely interested to see like will Astralis dare to do a Vertigo pick or something.
VPEsports: It’s not over yet, but overall what are your thoughts about the StarLadder Major?
Thorin: I always say, the unfair thing about Majors is, we do judge tournaments based on the memories we have of the matches so basically if the matches are great you could do everything else wrong and everyone will say wow what an amazing Major. But if the matches are terrible like the FACEIT Major, it wouldn’t matter if the rest of it was great, if the stadium was great.
The problem is, because VALVE has a lot of say-so over the format, it’s kind of just luck whether you get good games. Like I said at the beginning of the interview, I don’t think we had many true classic games, I don’t think there’s many series in the playoffs that people are going to go back years from now and watch. It was more just cool in the moment.
I know before the Major they had problems like did they hire the right talent, the whole Twitch streaming, etc. but if you just looked at the stadium, this is one of the best setups I’ve ever seen for a CS:GO event. That stage was like The International. The big booths and augmented reality, there’s a lot of people in the crowd, I think it was a pretty cool city and venue to pick.
In terms of the stuff you’d have needed to attend the event to see, I think they succeeded a lot actually. The only downside to me, I always hoped that if someone like StarLadder got the Major, we’d actually have it in the CIS region because if people don’t remember StarLadder was one of the few companies at the very beginning of CS:GO that supported the game, always had tournaments, etc.
Obviously the CIS region was contributed a lot to the game over the history of Counter-Strike so I hope if they ever get another Major we can have it in Saint Petersburg or Kiev or somewhere like that.
Obviously I understand politically why it’s tough at the moment, because it’s a global game now – it’s not just about Europe and North America.
VPEsports: With the success of the CIS region at this Major, do you think it could or should impact the space given to the CIS region for Minors for instance?
Thorin: The problem with that whole angle and it’s something that apparently CIS fans will never understand. Their own logic doesn’t make sense.
Valve kind of changed it, they made the play-in for the the third spot where all of the regions play each other. Now you don’t have to complain about how the third team from Europe would have beaten the third team from Asia because actually they play directly in the play-in. So Valve kind of solved it.
In the past before we had that, the problem is the European Minor is always stacked, maybe even in the group stage that if you put in the Major they might do well, might cause upsets.
Meanwhile there’s always a team, Syman gaming is an example, they come out of the CIS Minor but no one thinks that teams gonna do any damage though.
VPEsports: Back then it was like a price to pay for developing the region.
Thorin: Sure, but this is the problem; if the CIS fans argument is “look our team did well, like AVANGAR so it proves we need a Minor.” No, it proves the opposite. That proves that if you were in the European Minor, you’d make it out of the Minor so what’s the problem, right?
It would make more sense if they were all bad and need it to develop. That’s what Asia can always say, because MVP would never make it to a Major in another scenario so they need a rubbish Minor.
I think that whole thing’s not that big of a deal because as you say, now we’ve gotten to the point where almost each Major now you expect the teams that come out of the CIS Minor to do something. At least have a chance at an upset. So I think it has developed to some degree.
Also – I don’t care about Asia, Asia doesn’t play Counter-Strike. I’ve been to China, I lived in Korea, they don’t care about Counter-Strike. It doesn’t matter how many teams you think they have, most fans there are playing League of Legends, and Dota, and Overwatch once upon a time.
So CIS to me was the most underdeveloped region, because I followed this game from the beginning and for people who don’t know, from the beginning of Counter-Strike CIS had a lot of talent. They didn’t always have the organizations so they couldn’t go to all the tournaments. Stylistically so they didn’t always have the most tactics so maybe they didn’t win as many. But if you want to just look at AWPers or riflers, they always had a lot of players.
It was kind of sad in CS:GO that you only had HellRaisers, and then Gambit, and Na’Vi obviously was great. You only had the two teams and I always thought, two teams? Look at North America now, sometimes North America has four or five that go to big tournaments.
The team I actually think is most overlooked is Team Spirit. As a squad they’re not very good, but as individual players some of those should be the stars in the future. I hope some of those come to an AVANGAR or Na’Vi in the future and it’s not just cycling the old names.
It’s cool bring someone like AdreN into the team, but I’d like to see one of these players get a chance to be the star of a team.