We spoke with Damian 'daps' Steele of OpTic about his team's acquisition of Tarik 'tarik' Celik and about OpTic's future going into the latter half of 2016.
After OpTic added Spaniard Óscar "mixwell" Cañellas in April, the North American team began to notice an uptick in results and managed to qualify for the ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals (5-6th place), won the MLG Americas Minor over Tempo Storm, and finally qualified for a CS:GO Major at the Cologne Major qualifier.
Things took a downward turn afterwards however as OpTic were quickly eliminated at ESL One Cologne 2016 in 13-16th place (losing to FlipSid3 and NiP) and also were unable to find success during ELEAGUE Season 1 and bowed out in the group stages.
Clearly unsatisfied with their form, OpTic took part in the August season of roster shuffles and parted ways with longtime member Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz and brought in Tarik "tarik" Celik, with the latter player having left CLG and declared he would stream until his contract was up.
We sent some questions over to 23-year-old Damian "daps" Steele, who is the team's IGL and who is often frank about the goals his team have set for themselves.
When and why did you guys decide to let go of stanislaw? Did his performance lead you to make this change or was it caused by tarik's free agency status?
I can't really recall a specific time but talks between players on the team had started roughly two weeks before Pro League started. There were a lot of reasons that lead to the change, some were reasons out of game but the main reasons were mainly about in-game conflicts. Even though stanislaw had his inconsistencies in performance I wouldn't say that was a huge factor in the decision.
The main reasons were role conflict between himself and NAF both wanting to lurk and the other reason was the team felt we needed another aggressive player as we had a lot of passive playstyles on the team. With tarik being on the market it definitely nudged players minds over to the side of wanting to make the change rather than wait.
You guys played a really close third map against NiP in the ELEAGUE Group B semifinal. Would things be different today if you had won that series and also done better at the Major, such as losing in the group decider match for example? Or was it obvious that a change was needed long before those results?
Even though we almost beat NiP and even if we did a little better at the major I still feel like the team would have wanted to make the change anyways. I wouldn't say it was obvious a change was needed before those results but the team did feel we lacked some firepower in certain matchups.
stanislaw said in his statement that the players from OpTic didn't notify him before the season started, resulting in a tough situation for him after most teams made changes. Could you explain what the reason for this was?
Well when the conversation began that picking up tarik was a possibility we were never really sure that it was actually going to happen until right before the season started. Our intention was never to put stanislaw in a tough situation by any means and it's unfortunate that it had to play out the way it did.
Clearly this parting was on much better terms than the roster change that saw you guys bring mixwell in, do you feel like you learned from last time?
Roster changes are never easy for teams and the players being removed but everyone handles these situations differently. Some people will be as professional as possible and try to keep a professional relationship with the people they once played with and other people will let their emotions take control which can lead to a more dramatic process. In some ways we did learn from last time.
Did any other names come up when you guys were deliberating on a roster change or were you guys gunning for tarik the second it was announced he was leaving CLG's active roster?
I wouldn't say we were gunning for tarik the second it was announced he was leaving CLG but it came up eventually after the Major as I said. There were no players from NA we wanted other than tarik, we had looked at one or two EU players but we really wanted someone from NA.
Have you figured out the role breakdown of the squad yet or are you still working on it? How much time has the team had to practice considering the vacation period very quickly transitioned into the ESL Pro League?
One of the main reasons we wanted tarik was to create a better role identity in our team so yes we do have a role breakdown now. RUSH and tarik are our entry fraggers, mixwell is the AWPer (but this can also be NAF/tarik), I am the IGL/support player, and NAF is the lurker. The big strength though that we were pushing for with this roster change is how dynamic we can now be since NAF, tarik, and mixwell can all do every role effectively.
Will all of you live in the team house that was recently revealed? What are the positive and negative things about a gaming house?
The goal is to eventually move every player to the team house when a proper break in our schedule presents itself to where we won't be at risk missing any online matches or events. I feel the main positive would be increased productivity with practice as it is easier to explain stuff in person. Some negatives that could present themselves would be becoming sidetracked with the pool/hockey rink as well as potential content getting in the way but I really don't think that will be an issue.
Do you realistically think you're going to get much time in on that hockey rink?
I'm sure during the winter it will get a lot of use during free time as I'm the only one with a car and there isn't much else to do outside during the winter :)
What is your team's goal in the fourth season of ESL Pro League? Your team has had a strong record of qualifying for the Pro League finals (ever since the Conquest days) but do you guys still feel like you're viewed as underdogs during the online portion?
Our goal as always is to get top 4 and qualify for the Pro League finals like we have in the past. I don't feel like we are viewed as underdogs in the region anymore as we generally do have a decent track record of qualifying for the finals.
How do you feel about your record in the league so far, was it to be expected with the roster change and limited practice time?
We knew that making the change would have its consequences early on as we didn't get to play with tarik at all before we played Liquid and Cloud9, but both of them also had roster changes as well right before the season. Once everyone's lineups get some time together we will see a better representation from all sides of how strong teams truly are (including ours).
What is your opinion on Valve's decision to restrict coaching? How much will this impact your team in particular and how much say does Devilwalk currently have?
I don't agree with Valve allowing coaching for a year or so and making it a part of the game and then one day they decide to restrict it as much as they did. I feel they should allow coaches to talk in freezetime of every round as a compromise.
This won't impact our team as Devilwalk will not be coaching us, he had a potential other opportunity that would have been better for him so we wanted him to pursue it and after the ruling from Valve came down on coaching we kind of took a step back and decided that we will reassess our coaching position in 2017.
Could this negatively impact your own play since you might have to take the "leader" part in IGL much more actively while playing a match?
Nothing will change as we will continue on without a coach as we have the whole year.
Any reason for choosing desi as a stand-in for tarik when you guys go compete at Northern Arena in early September?
desi isn't actively on a team and we know him well so the choice was a rather easy one.
Any other specific goals for OpTic in the upcoming months?
One of our main goals is to build the chemistry we had before and have certain players take over some of the things stanislaw did well that others didn't before. Aside from that, just making the Pro League finals in Brazil.
Any last words?
Would just like to say thank you to everyone that supports us and we will try our hardest to become better than we were before! #GreenWall
stich writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter