Chad “SPUNJ” Burchill sat down with us prior to his showmatch appearance at the FACEIT Major in London. SPUNJ talked Astralis vs. Liquid, analysis, coaching, and Na’Vi vs. Astralis.
VPesports: So everyone was talking about what a great matchup that Astralis and Liquid game would be and it didn’t exactly play out that way. Can you give us your thoughts on that?
SPUNJ: I think maybe Liquid blew their load a little too early in the tournament in the sense of they were super prepared on Inferno. But that was their one trump card was being prepared. So I think Nuke set the pace where Astralis came out playing very loose and it definitely would have been a game plan for the guys from Liquid to counter strat to the best of their ability. But as soon as that happens and you get shaken, and you’re like well they’re not doing what they normally do, the younger guy it’ll get in their head. That’s one of the big problems with trying to counter strat, is that if it doesn’t go the way you were planning and you don’t have a plan b, c, or d in place you get pretty rattled.
I also think Astralis throughout this tournament have made sacrifices in the veto to hide certain things or stay away from playing maps that they wanted to bring out in the crunch games. You could see some of the stuff they were doing on Nuke yesterday, just little bits and geeky pieces of certain molotovs and timings of smokes that they’ve been holding onto and you can’t react to that in the game, Liquid couldn’t adapt to what was going on. The individuals the best that they could, but from a team perspective they weren’t any where prepared as they were on Inferno. Going forward, this mental edge now that Astralis has over Liquid is going to be super difficult for them to overcome, but I think there is a chance if they’re able to play at a high level with their own game plan and not play into Astralis’ game plan.
VPesports: Everyone always compares them on paper, “they’re so similar,” but then it’s like if they’re better at that game plan should you find a new game plan?
SPUNJ: I never really buy into the whole mini-Astralis thing. I think Liquid are their own beast, they have three riflers who are super dynamic, and that’s not saying Astralis doesn’t, I just don’t think the roles match up the same way. You can rely on dev1ce a lot if you’re Astralis to be your point man and to set different bits and pieces up, but when you’re the likes of Liquid you don’t have that. You really require strategy and the riflers to make sure that they’re fragging. But even if dev1ce isn’t playing well you have dupreeh and magisk, so. I think the depth and ability to change for Astralis is a lot deeper than that of Liquid at the moment.
VPesports: I mentioned this to MACHINE yesterday, but I saw some joking tweets out there about saving you from the desk and getting you into a coaching role. Is that anything you’re interested in?
SPUNJ: I think the whole move that Janko has done is amazing and he’s had a lot of progressio in his career. But from my standpoint, I think the level of investment of coaching, to dedicate yourself to a team it would have to be the right offer of a team to go to it because I like what I do now. I think analysis in Counter-Strike, and in every game still has a long way to go. I think that I really like being involved in it from maybe even a production standpoint where I get to offer advice or the run of show and talk about those things. It’s something that I’m working on with tournament organizers that I have a closer relationship with, to build a better way to tell the story of Counter-Strike. I think right now as an ex-player, we’re not doing them a service. We’re not showing all the details, obviously we can’t, we don’t have the time to do so – but we need to build the tools to make sure we’re giving the viewers and players the credit that everybody deserves to really appreciate all the layers of the games. Because when I watch a fantastic game of Counter-Strike, for me, that’s the highlight and I wish I could just share even half of that with the viewers out there.
Before I stop being an analyst, I would like to have helped evolve the wheel of what we get to show as a product. So for right now I’m very content with what I’m doing I’m just hoping I can spread of the process of that.
VPesports: It seems like the desks are migrating towards more ex-players as of late and not so many of the older analysts. Do you think that’s the best move?
SPUNJ: I don’t think you have to be an ex-player to be an analyst of Counter-Strike. You look at andi that is the coach of Na’Vi and then Gambit for a period of time and he didn’t really have a Counter-Strike background at all. To understand how teams function or the mentalities of competition or even the strategies of Counter-Strike – it’s not saying necessarily that you’ve had to play in, but there’s so many parts of the game that they may not understand.
Then also there’s a balance on the desk of being extremely analytical and entertaining and that’s something that not everybody is able to do. It’s not as simple as putting an ex-player up there and having them talk. Sure they can break down a game better than anybody, but unless they can do it in a way that is engaging for the viewer, it loses itself in that regard as well. I think that it’s fantastic to have all these ex-players and coaches because everyone has their own experiences, but you need to make sure that there’s a balance between the entertainment value for the viewer and obviously the hardcare analysis for the hardcore fan. And that’s a trade off which is very difficult to make because at the end of the day, this is an entertainment product.
If we had more time and more supplementary content – proper shows built around these events where we could spend two to three hours breaking down the biggest match of the tournament and we could just really geek out and show everybody all the details. I think that’s where you could really see the depth of someone who is a current in-game leader telling you all about the meta. Right now I think we have a pretty good balance of people who can be entertaining and do analysis. It’s just a weird trade off that I think people need to understand, at the end of the day, like I said, it’s an entertainment product.
VPesports: It seems that MACHINE does a good job of knowing how to direct the right questions to the right people and how to keep the analysis and entertainment.
SPUNJ: I think Alex is definitely one of the best in the world at directing converation. Having somebody like that who is extremely personal, likeable, and then knowledgeable about the subject matter and able to have the tells within a conversation that we’re doing ad-lib. That’s something I think most people don’t realize is, we go up there with a very loose plan – whatever comes out of my mouth, maybe I’ve thought about a concept, but the words are just coming out. It’s the same for Alex and everyone up there. It’s not as it looks.
VPesports: Lastly, we have to get into this finals match. Astralis looks insanely good in these matches, yesterday they looked unstoppable, but Na’Vi has also seen players like flamie and Edward stepping up. When you think about more players helping out the s1mple and electronic duo it seems really scary.
SPUNJ: I said yesterday on the desk, when I predicted Liquid to win, that I don’t think I’ve predicted against Astralis so many times in one tournament. That’s not because I don’t have faith in Astralis being the best team in the world, I thought that the time had come for everybody else to step up to that plate and show the same level of Counter-Strike. But it didn’t happen in the way that I thought it would. I think there’s no denying the preparation and just the pure and utter ability of that team to be the best in the world.
If anyone is going to do it and anyones going to beat them it is Na’Vi in this current form. Because sure s1mple is playing fantastically and electronic and flamie have stepped up to the plate, but not only that, the type of Counter-Strike they’ve brought isn’t just about winning the economy game which for the last couple tournaments is all they’ve been doing. Their level of preparation and strategy and its the finer details like their spacing on the map – it’s at such a point where I don’t think I’ve ever seen Na’Vi play like this before and that excites me in a very big way. The problem is, I’ve doubted Astralis so many times. What they’ve done to lead up to this, the last 6-8 months of this year has been fantastic for Counter-Strike. It’s changed the way we look at the game and brought strategy back to the forefront.
For me to make a prediction, I would be leaning towards Astralis. But it’s like picking between your children because I love watching s1mple play, without a doubt I think he’s the best player in Counter-Strike. You add electronic and that’s the best duo in Counter-Strike, but Astralis is the best team. So when you have those two going head to head, it’s so difficult to predict what’s going to happen because if s1mple and electronic don’t show up then the team work is going to win, but if people make too many mistakes on the Astralis side, that’s when s1mple and electronic do their best work. It’s a coin toss in a way but if I had to make a prediction it would have to be with Astralis.
(Photo courtesy of FACEIT)