cynic: "Everybody on the roster has made it really clear they're in it for the long run"
The 21-year-old spoke to HLTV.org about his move to Party Astronauts and what it's been like only competing in North America.
Party Astronauts ended their Fragadelphia 15 campaign this past weekend as the runner-ups to Bad News Bears, falling just short of completing a comeback from an 0-2 deficit in the best-of-five grand final. However, the result still earned them a spot in Fragadelphia Fall, North America's regional qualifier for the BLAST Premier Fall Showdown, where they are currently rematching Bad News Bears in the Group B decider match in hopes of making the playoffs.
Party Astronauts are one of the few contending North American rosters left playing in the region, alongside the likes of Bad News Bears and RBG, but have struggled to reach the same heights and notoriety of some of their countrymen from Extra Salt, especially in recent months.
After the loss of Wesley "viz" Harris in August, Party Astronauts are looking to bounce back with the addition of David "cynic" Polster from Triumph — a player who had risen in the ranks of North America over the past year, and had taken up leadership duties on the team after Alan "Shakezullah" Hardeman left for Bad News Bears.
HLTV.org spoke to cynic to get some insight on his move to Party Astronauts, and how his role is shaping up on the team. The 21-year-old also shared his thoughts on the return of local LANs with Fragadelphia, and implored tournament organizers to cooperate with event scheduling, given the already reduced number of opportunities to compete in North America.
You play these teams, those who are at Fragadelphia and ones in Premier, a lot. Practice in NA isn't really the best right now in terms of the number of quality teams you can play against, how has that affected the ability for you to grow faster as a team?
My personal opinion is that the best way to get better as a player and as a team is obviously play better teams, and if you go to Europe you get first-hand experience. Bad News Bears at least had the opportunity to go to Europe, and even though they didn't play I'm sure to their expectations, they got to play against that level of competition and that's obviously going to make you have to think smarter, aim better.
We have to be creative in the way that we improve in NA, because you're playing against a lot of teams of the same skill level, and you have to figure out a good way to use what you have to improve, find a good system that works, be efficient with your practice. You're playing the same teams a lot of the time, so if these guys know exactly how you're going to default, we know exactly how they're going to default, then you have to use it to identify the problems that you have and fix them in practice.
You leaving Triumph was a bit of a sudden move. What made you jump to Party Astronauts specifically, and how did that move come about?
My move was probably a week after we beat Extra Salt in the Cash Cup. Triumph is definitely a promising roster with individual talent, but I just thought about my long-term future playing the game, and playing on Triumph for that amount of time, especially with the problems regarding the org and the question mark around us getting paid or getting support as players, put me in a position where I was under a lot of stress and I felt like I had to actively keep the team together. It's kind of hard playing in a position where if one guy leaves from your team because he got a VALORANT offer, he gets some offer to a better team, that everything could fall apart — it felt like playing on a sinking ship.
You were the IGL on Triumph, and now obviously it's ben1337 on Party Astronauts. What's the transition been like for you, and what's your role on the team now? How much are you still contributing to calling?
I'm playing a similar role to the one I played on the original Triumph roster, the one with Cooper, Shake, viz. I'm given a lot of freedom, these guys saw something in me and they saw that obviously if I'm calling and that I can play at the level that I do, I have to have some sort of self-sufficiency. I'm sort of just given responsibility over my part of the map, and if there's some important mid-round call, I'm expected to make the call, direct people, because that's something that's expected from an IGL skillset.
What's the division between how much you call and how much Ben calls right now?
I don't know if I can give an actual percentage, it kind of depends on the game itself because you have certain games where you want to default heavy against a team or play slow, or you have some games where you want to play fast. Obviously if we're playing fast then Ben is going to call almost everything, but if we're defaulting there's going to be much more delegation of calling because he's not going to be able to call every single play, people have to make those reads and figure out what to do. I would say Ben does the majority of the calling, so at least over 50% of the total calling, I don't know what my own share is of what's left.
You've played in a few offline tournaments, including the last Fragadelphia. With the return of Frag and there not being many other offline tournaments, what is it like having LAN back, and what is the impact of having this sort of tournament in the circuit at this level?
I think Frag has always been sort of a casual tournament, almost a stand-alone. The fact that it's been incorporated almost into the scene where it's a qualifier for the BLAST qualifier — we're actually staying after the event to play in that for three or four days — that's a really big thing for a lot of teams and a lot of players.
Coming back to LAN, it kind of makes you realize that there's so many people that play the game, just seeing 200 guys that are willing to show up and play and compete. LAN is what this game is all about, I feel like if you're going to play CS, you come into the game expecting to play at those tournaments, it's what you play for basically.
To speak more on that BLAST qualifier point, there's a pretty decent pool of teams there, Extra Salt, paiN, GODSENT all playing online. How does the team feel going into that tournament considering there's only one spot at BLAST on offer?
We look at the upside of it. Obviously, we know it's going to be a harder tournament, and again, we scrim against all these teams regularly, so it's obvious that we know what they do and it just comes down to form. The spot is pretty important to us because it gives us the opportunity to go and play in Europe versus some of the other events we could've played at. I think there was a DreamHack closed qualifier and we chose to play this because if we get that spot, it means so much for us being able to improve as a team, being able to go to Europe, get better practice, so it's just a bigger upside, but maybe more risk. We have confidence that we're going to be able to beat those teams.
Even while you were on Triumph, you weren't getting paid by the org. Now you're on Party Astronauts still looking for an org. What's the pressure been like as one of the teams in North America that has been struggling to get signed for so long?
I think ESEA has done a really good job of adding a lot of prize money into team CS, and that definitely helps a lot. Between FPL, team CS, and tournaments, I feel like one way you could make it is by being a successful team. We know that if we do get to a certain level in this game, if we make EPL, we win tournaments, then we're going to find somebody that is going to sponsor us.
There is enough money to sustain us, and we've been looking into other ways to make other income, where we do community stuff, or we do merch or anything like that, kinda like Bad News Bears. Everybody on the roster has made it really clear they're in it for the long run, and a lot of these guys have been together for a long time, so it feels like there's a lot less pressure to be able to get an org versus on Triumph. Again, Triumph was a situation where if we didn't get that org by the end of the season, then things would've gone south.
There's this Premier season happening, but no other real NA tournaments happening outside of IEM Fall and the upcoming DreamHack event for the rest of the year. Without those larger events to play in, how does that affect you as a team that wants more opportunities to play against those top teams?
It's definitely tough when there's big breaks. Obviously there's discussion, there's a lot of Premier teams that are unhappy about how the events were scheduled. I definitely think the events could have been scheduled in a better way where people were able to play in every single one of them, because right now we're in a situation where we have to pick and choose and we're not able to play in everything.
Almost a message to the TOs — a lot of the players that play depend on the money, especially in NA, to be able to keep playing as a team, and if the events overlap then it makes it really tough. There is a lot of pressure on us to be able to compete and win money.