Hiko: "I've never played this much"
Our first interview from DreamHack Masters Las Vegas features Spencer "Hiko" Martin, who talked about his transition to OpTic alongside Luis "peacemaker" Tadeu, being on trial, and choosing to play Inferno against North.
Hiko didn't expect to get cut from Liquid
We caught up with Spencer "Hiko" Martin to talk about his departure from Liquid and the position he is in within the team, being on trial. We also asked him about the new Inferno and why OpTic chose to play it against the Danes:
The first thing we have to talk about is the whole transition from Liquid to OpTic. Before this you were always in charge of your own fate as it were, you left Cloud9 to do your own thing, then came into Liquid, but now you were the one on the chopping block, forced to look into other options…
I think it was not private knowledge anymore that after the Major things were going to change, be it the roster, the org, whatever, the roster itself was not happy with a bunch of things. And we already knew that almost regardless of our results, there had to be some kind of a change. I definitely didn't see that being me because as you said, I was always like the leader of the team, I always had the power to do what I thought was best. It definitely came as a surprise to me when after the Major, I got a call like "hey, we're not gonna play with you anymore".
I guess to summarize it all, yeah, I left Cloud9, joined Nihilum, left Nihilum and joined Liquid, and now I was cut from Liquid and joined OpTic. Fortunately for me, the move actually bettered my chances of winning and actually improved my career, as crazy as that sounds. If you get cut from the team, that usually means you're kind of out there, you have to put together a team. When I left Cloud9 I had to be a streamer for eight months and I was afraid I might have to do that again. Fortunately, OpTic needed a fifth because stan left to join Liquid, so I actually am in a better place now than I was in Liquid. I have no hard feelings against the guys, they made the decision they needed to make, more power to them, but I'm happier now than I was back then.
What does OpTic have that Liquid maybe didn't, is it mostly the in-game leader situation? What is the difference between the two teams?
Unfortunately for me, and for my career, I took a lot of heat and flak for being the in-game leader of Liquid, my individual level dropped significantly, even the way I thought about the game changed. I actually think that helped me develop more as a player, but like the raw stats, playing the support role, having the flashes out every round, not lurking, not having any aggression in my style of play, no matter what happens, it's gonna hurt your individual level. Stats-wise, teamplay-wise, it definitely hurt me a lot, I'm very happy that on OpTic I don't have to lead, NAF is here, we have peacemaker now, I'm like the right hand man to NAF, so I still give my ideas, but I'm able to focus more on my style of play, on my lurking, I can free up myself that I don't have to think about everything that's going on in the middle of the round.
Also, just the communication level between the two teams is like night and day, these guys almost sometimes talk too much, I think that's great, you kind of wish that happens in a team. Unfortunately with Liquid, I think our comms took a big blow towards the end when people were unhappy with the environment. So, I think in general the environment here is a lot better than it was in Liquid.
You mentioned peacemaker, you've already worked with him in the past in Liquid but that didn't really work out, how does he work with NAF?
Luis has a style of calling that's very different to a lot of other callers. We have a lot of strats that we ran even at the Cologne Major when we placed second, a lot of that stuff is being recycled and re-used in different ways to match better with the players we have on this team. mixwell is a much more aggressive AWPer than jdm was, in general this team is more aggressive than Liquid was, so we're trying to tweak some of the old strats, implement some new stuff.
I think initially though, for this event and for Katowice, me and Luis are trying to bring new ideas, but not change the style at all. Might as well try to see if NAF can call how stanislaw used to call, fit me into the system as best as we can, have me just pick up stan's spots, let me focus on just getting kills and trading and stuff. It's been going great online, we're 4-0 in Pro League and our practice has been going really well even outside of that. I'm pretty confident with this lineup moving forward, and I think Luis is only helping.
I didn't think we were going to see Inferno this soon into the tournament, I thought perhaps we could see it in playoffs where teams can only veto one map before picks and that's maybe when it had a solid chance of making it through. But you decided to play it against North off the bat, why did you opt to go for the new map?
I feel like most of the teams who have solid rosters probably chose not to play Inferno, at least that's seems like the most logical scenario. You literally had two weeks, so why would you risk playing a team that is either better on it or you're not comfortable on it, there's no point to play it.
I think every team played it a little bit, I'd be surprised if we didn't see it more in this tournament, but it was definitely a surprise that North wanted to play it against us. I guess we're both new rosters, new players, so it's not that much of a surprise, but I'd be surprised if like Astralis played it, or any of the teams that actually have the same roster. It just doesn't make sense to me. Inferno, new map, played it for two weeks… we might be good on it, we might be bad on it, who knows?
What are your thoughts on Inferno overall, especially with how in the old one it was really hard to work around CT nades and get into sites, is the new Inferno more forgiving in that sense?
Fortunately for this team, for OpTic, they were really good on Inferno before, but they were bad on Dust2, they didn't play Dust2. Fortunately for this team, it's gonna be good, because moving forward, if I am going to continue playing with them of course, Inferno will probably be one of our strongest maps. I personally like it, back when I was in Cloud9, Inferno was one of our better maps. We played it a lot, we didn't win it a lot, but it was still one of the maps we played…
I feel good on the map individually, I make a lot of plays through smokes and I'm confident in my lurking style on that map, so I think that Inferno will be one of our strongest maps in the future, at whatever point that is. It's unfortunate that Dust2 got removed, I think in the future it will be some other map permanently, but Dust2 was also one of my better maps.
You hinted at the situation you're in, being the tryout or whatever you want to call it, I'm sure this is a new feeling as you haven't been in that position in a long time. Do you feel any pressure because of it?
It honestly just motivates me to play better. I definitely had a motivation/dedication problem towards the end with Liquid, I was very unhappy with the roles, even some of the inter-personal stuff we had in the team, it just wasn't a very conducive environment to a team that's considered one of the best in NA if not the world at one time.
It's definitely a kick in the butt, a fire under my butt to keep playing, I've deathmatched so much for this event, I've played so much, I don't think I've ever played this much coming into an event ever in my life. I'm very confident that you'll see me at hopefully my highest level in a long time. I've really just focused on playing my own game, getting my kills I need to get, deathmatching a lot, trade killing, playing smarter in situations, so I'm hoping that's what they [OpTic] see out of me, they see that fire that maybe rekindles whatever their fire is.
I know you like your shoutouts, this is your chance.
I give a shoutout to all of the fans of OpTic and myself, thank you for supporting me and my transition from Liquid to OpTic, I've gotten a lot of good stuff, gotten some bad stuff, but give me a chance, the GreenWall, I love you, they've kind of welcomed me with open arms at this point, they're probably the best fans in the entire world, I'm very appreciative to be supported by them. Of course, shoutout to my fans, my family, my friends… and of course, to top it all off, the cherry on top, shoutout to my mom, I love you mom.