Interview with Chaos.steel during ESL One Cologne 2020
August 28, 2020

Chaos.steel: “So eventually I will have to go to VALORANT.”

In our second part of the Interview Josh “steel” Nissan shares his opinion on the current North American scene, the impact of VALORANT and his own personal future in esports.

In the first part he talked about Chaos’ recent rise and the mibr incident in depth. You can find it linked below:
Chaos.steel: “One of the biggest things to consider when looking at younger players is maturity.”

If you prefer to listen to the interview, we have provided the raw unedited audio for you below:

Note: This interview was conducted on August 25 and has been edited for clarity.

Let us talk about North America’s CS:GO scene. Earlier we talked to tarik from EG and he told us that the NA scene is really suffering right now. What would be your verdict on the scene right now?

I think the NA scene in the tier 2 and 3 has been kind of struggling for a little bit. There are a few reasons why. One of the reasons is that VALORANT came out and a lot of the tier 2 players moved from Counter-Strike to VALORANT. Because in CS there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity. If you were not already at the top, it was very hard to break out into the top.

VALORANT was like a fresh start with new opportunities. A lot of people that did not have any chances or used to have chances but haven’t done anything in a while went there and got their fresh start. They got on a sponsored team and got some salary. That was one big thing. Another big issue is that there are not a lot of things that help the younger and newer tier 2 teams with growing.

More Interviews from ESL One Cologne:

More recently we have seen things like mythic cups, but previously we would see LAN events like Fragadelphia or Nerd Street Gamers. These were really good for tier 2 teams to go and win competitions. Albeit it was just $5,000 to $20,000 together with MDL they helped to find financial stability. You don’t really have salaries coming in for these smaller tier 2 or 3 teams that are at the top of MDL. Maybe they are getting $200 or $500 but at most $1000 a month, which is not really liveable as a full-time wage.

So if you are not a high school kid or in the age range 17 to 19 it is not really something that you can do long term and that hinders the growth of the scene. Because after all the playing and grinding your first big break in a lot of cases is making Pro League or Flashpoint. What used to help was open qualifiers for everything. All the DreamHack Open or DreamHack Masters events or open qualifiers for ESL were super important to allow newer teams to break into the scene. Because if you don’t have these opportunities for teams or players to break out into the scene you are just going to keep the teams that are at the top already.

They will just keep getting that feedbackloop of getting reinvited to events even though they have fallen off. And that is the biggest issue with NA’s tier 2 scene, they are locked out of progression to the top tier.

Do you think the transition to online play in the wake of the pandemic has made the situation worse?

I don’t think the transition made it worse actually. In a way it made it better. Especially for us. If this pandemic did not happen I don’t think we would be rank 22 within the top 30 right now. It would not have happened this quickly.

We were able to keep our form points up, because we played things like the Mythic Cup when the player break was coming to an end. We got an invite to the DreamHack Open event because spots freed up after other North American teams went to Europe. Same with ESL One Cologne. We are in the semifinals right now and that is a big reason why we were able to ascend the ranks so quickly and drastically.

We beat FURIA, who are rank 6 and 100 Thieves, who are Top 15 or 20 and we beat them in the groupstage to take the top seed in the group to make semifinals of an event with top teams competing. Liquid and EG are also in it, Gen.G is here, same with Cloud 9, so there are six teams of the Top 20 to 25 present. We made the semifinals against this competition and the only reason we got a spoit is because of ESL Cologne splitting into regional play. Now there are eight NA teams and we happen to be Top 8. If Cologne happened as it was planned to we would not have even be remotely considered for participation. It would be all the best EU teams, teams from the CIS region and only the top of NA. We simply would not have this opportunity. Because the pandemic is here and turned tournaments regional we have the chance to slide in as the eighth team because mibr went to Europe. We got lucky and seized the opportunity. We were gifted this opportunity and then we played really well so now we are in there. In the future it is going to be easier for us to stay there as we did the hardest part already.

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Earlier you talked about how VALORANT hurt the tier 2 scene in NA because it offered a fresh start to a lot of players in the CS scene. Have you personally considered transitioning to VALORANT?

Sure, I consider the switch to VALORANT frequently. Because at the end of the day long term my status in CS is always going to be the fact that I am banned from Valve events. Changes in the ecosystem due to the open circuit also led to me being unable to participate in events, which were possible before. With the Regional Major Rankings (RMR) introduced, the upcoming IEM New York is off the tables. Although I was able to compete at every summit event in the past, this year’s change to a RMR event meant that I could not play at cs_summit. I would love to go to these events but I can’t because I am not allowed to.

Down the line one of a few things are going to happen. Either players from Chaos are going to be poached by another team and we have to rebuild with someone, who has less experience. Or maybe there will be an issue in the team that results in a falling out between players and we will have to rebuild. The third scenario would see us get to a point, where we are good enough to qualify for the majors and all the big events but because I am banned we are going to have to sit out some of the biggest events of the year just because I can’t play. This might result in some built-up tension or resentment because they want to do it and we are good enough for it, but I am there holding us back.

At the end of the day it is going to be up to me to either eventually make the switch to VALORANT in a year or two down the lane or it will lead to constant rebuilding within Counter-Strike. Rebuilding is difficult as you always have to bring in someone new, who is not as experienced and you have to teach them and take a few steps back. Because we can’t just replace someone, who is able to play at Major level. It is just not going to happen. So eventually I think I will have to go to VALORANT. It’s a matter of timing.

Thank you very much for the detailed answers to our interview. Do you have any final shoutouts?

Thanks to all the fans. We will be back stronger.

What do you think of steel’s situation? Is his switch to VALORANT inevitable? Join the discussion on social media or our Discord!

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Image Credit: Alex Maxwell/DreamHack
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