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Vanity: "The skill gap in Counter-Strike is probably the lowest it’s ever been"


Anthony “vanity” Malaspina created chaos last week at ESL One Cologne 2020 North America, helping bring Chaos to a 3-4th place finish with some big wins over Furia and 100 Thieves. These wins saw Chaos jump to their highest ever #19 in the world ranking. During their run, vanity was kind enough to talk with us about one of the benefits of online Counter-Strike, Chaos’ recent success, and the state of competitive CS:GO.


How important do you think the player break was for your team, with all the distractions that have come in wake of your match versus MiBR, how important was it for your team to take the break and just distance yourself from everything and refocus?


"I don’t think it had a super big impact, the MiBR thing only affected us for like a week at most mentally."


So it was just something that was probably overhyped a little bit?


"I mean people are always gonna make things out worse than they are right. Obviously at first, it’s their first time ever dealing with any kind of scrutiny, leaf and Xeppa, so they’d be more affected. But after like, it was less than a week, they were both back to normal."


With the transition to Counter-Strike back into online CS, like we saw like in 2015 almost, where it’s just the two regions kinda locked apart from each other. It’s given your team at lot more opportunities at the bigger tournaments like Cologne, and BLAST, and DreamHack Masters, and given you guys more competition against top teams. How much has that helped you guys grow as a team?


"I think that’s probably one of the bigger benefits of the whole online thing, is it gives the lower tier teams an opportunity to compete, in matches, against the top tier teams. Which is something that really wasn’t a thing prior to this. I was on eUnited last year, we were probably a top 4 or 5 team in America for the entire year, but we had no matches against these teams. Then we would go to LANs and play them and then obviously it’s just like, it’s a completely different game in scrims and matches. We were bad on LAN, but I feel a lot of it came down to we just had no match experience against these players."


Do you think that’s a big reason why we’re starting to see these upsets from your team?


"I wouldn’t even call it upsets. I think if the teams played as frequently as we’re playing now, that the same amount of teams would beat each other. The skill gap in Counter-Strike is probably the lowest it’s ever been because everyone is so good at this point. They haven’t changed the map pool in forever, the economy system is really, really bad and it just creates a lot of inconsistencies in the game and makes the skill gap a lot smaller than it was prior."


And by saying the economy is bad, I’m guessing you’re referencing the fact that there’s just so many rifle rounds and there’s never really any full ecos anymore?


"You can’t break peoples money, if you have a good start to a half, you’re pretty much screwed for the rest of the half. It’s just a really bad system, it makes zero sense."


As far as map pool goes, a lot of people have been pushing for Mirage to be removed from the map pool. Is that something you and your team generally agree with, that Mirage is the most stale map at this point?


"Yeah, Mirage needs to go, it’s the worst map in the pool."


Obviously Xeppa has played at Fragadelphia, but I don’t think leaf has ever played any LANs, and you guys just recently qualified for Funspark ULTI. Do you guys think you’ll have any trouble trying to get back to a LAN environment later this year, assuming it doesn’t get cancelled or postponed?


"Personally, I’ve always performed a lot better on LAN, so no I don’t think it would be an issue. These players don’t really, it’s really weird they’re so young and inexperienced but they really don’t get nervous, I don’t think it will be an issue, no."


With your guys success at Cologne, you’re saying a lot of it’s having a lot of match experience against these teams, but did you do anything else different to prepare differently for Cologne, or is it more that you guys are peaking as a lineup right now and have a lot of confidence?


"I wouldn’t even necessarily say peaking because we can still get a lot better. We started playing like a week prior to other teams, so we had more hours going into it. But, just playing against these teams so much, so consistently, you’re going to beat them sometimes, it’s just going to happen. The skill gap is really non-existent in this game at this point. The map pool is really stale, like every team can play every map at a relatively competent level because of how long it’s gone without seeing a change. Rotating in one map a year, at most, is way too little, it doesn’t promote anything competitive. And there’s been a map that’s been in the pool for like six years at this point, and it’s barely changed, they’ve added a bench and they removed the skybox. Everyone knows how to play every map, everyone can react to every situation completely proper. The game’s in a bad state competitively."


Do you anticipate Valve actually acting on these changes at all?


"I would assume the map pool was supposed to change after the Major, and then the Major got cancelled, and I’m assuming the next major is also gonna get cancelled, so I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen. Because, I’m fairly confident that Mirage was supposed to get removed after the spring major, but seeing as it got postponed, and seeing as that it’s not realistic for there to be this major either, regardless of what people think. Unless they do some studio environment, which I’m not sure will happen because I don’t know if Americans will be able to get there, or the other countries honestly, not even just Americans. Valve has to act before the major, because that’s been their timeline previously, it’s just after the major they’ll make a change right. Typically after the major they’ll change a map, but because of the weird COVID situation and no LANs, you can’t really have majors, it’s kind of awkward for them I would assume. Obviously, Valve isn’t working in their offices at all, so they’re gonna be even more disconnected than they usually are."


With ESEA and FaceIt hosting cash cups every month for NA, leagues like Mythic League Invite, and WINNERS League, growing, do you anticipate a lot more sponsors coming over to North America so that we see teams [like Swole Patrol] not be sponsorless in the future?


"I feel like the biggest reason that teams aren’t finding sponsors is the players are asking for absurd amounts of money. I mean, obviously, the lack of events has been an issue in the past, but there has been very few situations where they’re not asking for unreasonable things. They have nothing and they’re trying to make the same salary they had when they were in Pro League, it’s just absurd. No one wants to work for anything, they just want it to be handed to them."


Cover Photo Credit: DreamHack