Interview with Chief’s CSGO Coach: Michael “wLE” Auricht
After falling short of making the playoffs and finishing fifth place, the young guns from Chiefs showcased an outstanding performance at IEM Sydney as underdogs. Doing far better than everyone’s expectations, the Chiefs claimed two best-of-one wins over their own blood, Renegades and the fifth best team in the world at the time, North from Denmark.
We had the opportunity to speak to the team’s coach Michael “wLE” Auricht, who has a broad experience in the Australian Counter-Strike scene ranging from being a former player himself, to coaching high-level teams in the form of Immunity and Trident, to being an analyst for past events such as Crown’s $55,555 Invitational in late 2015. We dug deep into Michael’s brain, as he gave us his in-depth thoughts on the largest esports event in Australia to date, the local scene and the team’s future ambitions.
Firstly, lets start off with what strategies or knowledge you carried over from your experience with analysing and coaching in the past?
wLE: When I came to this game in 2013, I was already 24, so I took a tactical approach rather than try to be a really strong individual player, because I thought why would anyone pick up a guy who is 24 with no experience when they could pick up a 17 or an 18 year old kid with no experience who would probably have just as good (if not better) aim?
So I really tried to learn everything I could about the game in terms of its tactics and strategy and how situations play out. I would create terminology to help me better explain how and why things work or don’t work. I would listen to analysts and videos made by players like steel and DaZed and continue to build my understanding. This is the approach I’ve carried through until now.
When I was coaching Immunity last year, I learnt that players that have been playing as long as Rickeh (CLG) or emagine (ex-Winterfox), I probably can’t teach them anything new about the game. I took another route and tried to teach them things about philosophy and psychology that I’ve picked up to help improve their relationships within the team and how to improve their mindset and sort of indirectly improve their game. For JAMES (ex-Immunity), I just tried to help share the load of research and counter-strategy he wanted to do for his opponents and help out with his in-game leading in whatever way I could.
I think a coach just has to fill whatever void the team needs, and be malleable in that sense, so that is what I’ve always tried to do and what I continue to do with Chiefs.
Can you explain process of what you did during the Chiefs’ bootcamp, in-game and outside of it?
wLE: My life is pretty crazy right now, so the guys were there for a week before I got there, and they obviously did a week bootcamp before the CGPL Autumn LAN as well. Mostly I helped out with strategy, tactics, watching demos and helping individuals with nades and thought processes in certain situations. I also tried to be an extra eye for Tyler and show him holes or problems when we did certain strategies. We didn’t scrim many teams, instead we spent lots of time in private servers dry running, and repeating certain situations and discussing them. Basically anything I can think of, I’ll just do it.
Before IEM Sydney commenced, did you scrim any of the international teams?
wLE: We scrimmed against SK Gaming. On the day when everyone was practicing, it was us, SK Gaming, Astralis, ViCi Gaming and Renegades there. We were really lucky SK contacted Frank [Chiefs Owner], and asked if wanted to scrim against them, which we did. We played SK only on two maps but it was still really good practice.
Chiefs did extremely well to win the opening pistol rounds against all of the teams you faced. Can you talk me through what went wrong when it came down to losing anti-ecos and in the latter stages of these matches?
wLE: The teams we versed, are incredibly good at adjusting. They saw how we played – and this is what everyone says – if you make the smallest mistakes, they will punish you for it. Against Astralis, Tyler [tucks] would shoulder-peek top-mid on Inferno and dupreeh would one deag him. Astralis play very reactive so if you played slow, Astralis would hold onto their nades and then you’ll run out of time. And if you play fast, they will utilise their nades quickly and efficiently. It’s very tough compared to teams in Australia, as they aren’t good in the same way at punishing those mistakes. They’re usually making their own mistakes which they think are calculated risks, but are actually bad ideas that shouldn’t really work.
What went wrong in those anti-ecos specifically was just those players individually are much better than us, I don’t think we could have done anything differently to prepare for them. They were definitely better than anyone we’ve ever played.
How is tucks’ in-game leading compared to Lightstep’ style and in what ways do you do better?
wLE: While tucks is still learning how to fulfill his role as IGL, I honestly think he could be the best Australia has ever seen. He’s always been a cerebral player when it comes to the game; he’s much more reserved and unlikely to take risks than Mike [Lightstep], as the teams we model ourselves off now are teams like SK and Astralis. They like low-risk and high reward plays at the core of their game and that’s what we like too. I think Lightstep on the other hand likes a bit of a looser style and is more willing to take risks.
Also, everyone on the team respects Tyler [tucks] and looks up to him because they’ve seen him be the star player in the past with both the AWP and rifle. I’m sure they would think he’s helped each of them in some way individually, to make them a better player. This helps everyone on the team think of Tyler as a leader in every sense of the word.
I know people give credit to Lightstep for fostering all of this young talent and making these players what they are, but I think Lightstep just had a really good eye for up and coming talent and was willing to take “risks” (I use that term very loosely) on these players when others wouldn’t. I also have to thank him because he was the first person to approach me about coaching the team, and if he didn’t put the idea in my head, I might never have come back to the scene.
Unfortunately, Lightstep probably can’t change his style even if he wants to. He’s got a kid and works full-time – he doesn’t have the luxury to commit himself to the game in a way that tucks can because Tyler doesn’t have the same level of responsibility in his life right now. So I feel bad for Mike [Lightstep] in a way and players like MoeycQ from Immunity, who’s also in a similar situation. Tyler on the other hand is still growing as an in-game leader and will continue to improve.
There’s no in-game leader in Australia right now that is as well-rounded, respected, committed, mentally strong and individually skilled as tucks. There’s just no one that can do what he can do and I don’t think there’s anyone that can fill his shoes. Even though his statistics weren’t great at IEM, he was making incredible calls against North and knew exactly how to beat them.
During IEM, your opponents allowed you to play your strongest maps. Do you think the teams prepared anything against you beforehand or did they think Chiefs was an easy match-up?
wLE: I honestly don’t know, but I think OpTic did watch our demos of our games at IEM Sydney. Originally, they didn’t see us as much of a problem the first time around on Train, but they respect-banned Nuke because we had just beat North on it, which meant it went to Cobblestone or Train, and I think they thought we’d pick Cobblestone.
I think gla1ve from Astralis did watch a few of our demos because on their T pistol, they brought two HE grenades and double naded INS’s health down to 6 HP because INS and malta play banana aggressively a lot on pistol rounds. It could have been just a gamble from their part but gla1ve probably did watch our demos because they’re sort of the team that doesn’t take risks. They want to play the higher percentage play every time and not come in thinking that we’re bad and walk all over us. When we faced them, it didn’t feel like they were disrespecting us at all, and they were playing exactly how they would play against any other team. They were just better than us including individually and in every aspect as a team.
I don’t know if North did either, I think they just thought they’re a good team and they could play with us on Nuke, which to their credit they did on their T side, we just managed to claw back on our T side.
I don’t think Renegades had time because they were focussing on their first match-up and try to work Nifty and nexa into the line-up, which would be really hard for them. I know they were watching some of our demos before we had to play them because I saw kassad have his laptop out, and nexa was sitting next to him going through demos. Obviously, we smashed them on Train so it didn’t really help.
Since losing to OpTic Gaming in the first encounter, why did the team pick Train twice against them?
wLE: Firstly, every veto in this tournament we knew exactly what map we were going to play and we wanted to play Train against them. We didn’t think OpTic’s train was that good, and honestly its not, its just those players are really talented individually and they play well off each other. Again, this comes down to how hard it is to know exactly what you’re going to be playing against when you jump into the server because we’ve never played OpTic on LAN before. The first time we played them they won the toss, so they could choose between Nuke or Train, we would have been fine with either. If we played Nuke, I think we would have smashed them actually because it would have been really hard for them to play the map with hazed, since it’s a difficult map to play loosely. Compared to Train, you can get away with it especially when NAFFLY was completely destroying us. He’s an alright guy, we don’t hold any grudge against them about that tea-bag (giggles). So the second time we won the toss, we could have played Cobblestone instead, but if we picked it and lost, we would of hated ourselves for not choosing Train again as we’re much more comfortable on Train than Cobblestone. We knew what they did last time on Train and we felt that we were more prepared coming into it the second time around. We also wanted to make a statement that we were the better team and that we weren’t scared of them.
INS was the best performer on the team at the event with a 1.18 rating, where some have highlighted him as the best player in Australia currently. Would you agree?
wLE: I honestly thought INS played insane and put in a lot of work at IEM Sydney but I think that every player on our team is just as important as every other player. So that’s why if Renegades approached INS right now, he wouldn’t leave and I can support that. Haha, I might look stupid if he decides to leave in a week or so and joins Renegades… but I personally don’t think he would as the guys know they’re a team and everyone is equal. As cliche as that might be, it’s true because that’s what we’ve hammered in. They’re all really strong individual players and any of the five players can carry every other game, which makes this roster so great since they can also act as supportive/team players. I think you can almost make the argument that anyone on Chiefs is the best player in Australia. So yeah, INS is the best player in Australia (he laughs).
Do you think this event clearly showed the Australians how far behind we are compared to the international scene?
wLE: For us it did definitely. This was the first time any player on this roster had played against teams of that calibre. You can feel how good OpTic, North, SK and Astralis are, and how if you miss the first 3 or 4 bullets trying to kill them, they will definitely kill you. Or you will get blind and a teammate will trade you. Just everything they do is on a higher level, the area we are closest to them on is raw aim/individual skill. Their teamwork, nade usage, in-game IQ, is several levels higher than the teams in Australia, where as I think we’re not that far away individually. So I would encourage all teams in Australia to work on the other aspects of the game.
Everyone knows that Tucks has a VAC Ban, and IEM Sydney is the first event to allow a player like him to compete at this level. What’s your stance on VAC bans and cheating in general?
wLE: I think Valve has too much power and especially when they take such a back-seat approach and don’t communicate. I think there should be an appeal process or rehabilitation of some kind, where you can have a conversation with Valve about these matters including match-fixing bans, then try come to an agreement. I think people blow VAC bans out of proportion and equate all VAC bans as equal which is a little ridiculous. I mean when Tyler got his VAC ban, Vox Eminor was still struggling to go overseas; he had no idea what would happen to the game and where he would be now, and nobody did. It’s been over 3 years I think since he got banned – it’s a completely different game now. I know tucks would do nearly anything to play in a minor qualifier. I guarantee you that we would have advanced to the Major qualifier for sure, if tucks was unbanned.
Are you all salaried? If yes, do you prefer the method of competing at home in Australia while being paid or compete abroad like Renegades and Winterfox currently
wLE: Yeah, the players are salaried but I’m not at the moment. This is a tough one. If we can keep on having events here in Australia and at least one big tournament every year like IEM Sydney (to bring down international teams to Australia and keep us relevant) I absolutely think we could. My dream for Australian Counter-Strike is to eventually build our own scene from here up.
I don’t blame Renegades or Winterfox at all for going overseas because in their mind, it was their only option because the talent and competition at home (including the current Chiefs roster) took ages to rise to their level. So it’s totally reasonable for them to think that they are the exception in Australia and they had to go overseas to have a shot.
But the biggest problem I think those teams made was that they basically put the best five best players they could into a line-up and didn’t fully think through or they maybe didn’t have the foresight to see how it would play out when they travelled to United States and where the weaknesses would be. In their defense, I probably would have still made every move that they did, like I said, this is a tough one.
I think Chiefs have a more well-rounded lineup than those two line-ups (its hard again because Renegades had so many different rosters) in terms of us having more versatile players and players that require less resources to hit their peak. Maybe not as skilled individually, because it’s very hard for me to say AZR, jks or USTILO is less skilled than anyone on our team and the same for the ex-Winterfox team.
I don’t blame them at all for what they did, but in a way it hasn’t worked out well for them and hasn’t helped the Australian scene at all. That is why my dream is to have a grass-root effort in Australia and build up the scene locally and try bring every team together in a similar way to what SK Gaming’s FalleN did in Brazil.
There was another problem with those teams as they sort of had an “us versus them” mentality when it came to the rest of the Australia. For example, everyone in Vox Eminor versus the rest of Australia. Not saying it’s a bad thing, because it probably helped them become the good players they are, but that just can’t be good for anyone but them. I think that’s why we see the Winterfox and Renegades experiments fail to a certain extent and they’re still struggling to find their feet. At the same time, I’m not saying I’m correct because if they stayed here in Australia, it could have been just as bad. They might have never been salaried and eventually quit the game entirely.
A hot topic in the Australian scene is whether teams should live in a gaming house or have a bootcamp instead, to prepare for tournaments. Which method is the better out of the two?
wLE: For us I can imagine scenarios where either would work, but I think it really depends on the individuals in the team. I think another big reason Renegades/Winterfox didn’t reach their potential is they were so far away from home. I know some of those players can be pretty family orientated, as yam I think said for part of his reason for leaving. You really need all players to be on board and capable of living in that environment, and not everyone is like that. It’s also really hard to think of the place as a place of work and your home also. That’s not usual for our culture. Most people have a home and a place they go to work. The two are rarely one and the same. So when the place you relax is also the place you work it gets confusing and makes it harder to be focused and work hard when it’s time to practice and also harder to relax when it’s time to relax. I think this is why bootcamps can work so much better, because there is a time limit on it, everyone knows why they are there, and most importantly, you know when it’s going to end, so you can cope.
Chiefs have been automatically invited to next season of CGPL, following their win at the Autumn split. All the top local teams in Australia will be a part of it, with the majority affected by the infamous roster shuffle. Do you think you can stay dominant and maintain that No.1 status like the old Athletico in late 2016?
wLE: I think we can absolutely stay dominant, but then all of this online CS is very different to LAN and that is one thing I hate about Australian CS: online results matter way too much.
I think if you go back and look at all our losses since we got pecks against the likes of Dark Sided (ZEN), Team Immunity (ZEN/Minor Qual), Athletico (ESEA), AVANT GARDE (CG) and Tainted Minds (ZEN. These losses was either due to teething issues or we had to play with a stand-in. So for the near future we shouldn’t have any of those issues. It will be more about whether or not the other teams can step up.
Teams like Immunity, Tainted Minds, Dark Sided, Athletico and Legacy have the potential to be way better than they are. Even outside of those teams, there is talent and probably a lot I’m not even aware of, that could come through and surprise. So it won’t exactly be easy, but I think we can stay dominant.
What’s next for the Chiefs roster?
wLE: Alongside CGPL Winter, we have ESEA-Premier. We’re hoping that we can get an invite/opportunity to play at another big tournament but we’ll have to wait and see.
Lastly, any shoutouts or last words before we wrap-up?
Shoutout to all the Chiefs fans out there and all the people I met at IEM Sydney. It was truly a great experience and thank you for being so nice. Thanks to you Flam3z for this interview!