zakk: "I don't like to bring so much emotion to every round, [...] emotions bring inconsistency"
We caught up with Rafael 'zakk' Fernandes, Immortals' coach, during his team's preparation for the PGL Krakow Major, to discuss their recent tournaments and hear his thoughts on the team being driven by emotions.
Rafael "zakk" Fernandes has been working with the likes of Henrique "HEN1" Teles and Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles and quite some time now, accompanying the Brazilian squad at a multitude events since he filled the spot left open by Luis "peacemaker" Tadeu's departure.
Let's touch on the Major Qualifier, starting from the GODSENT match, you were down a lot and if you lost that match you would be out of the tournament. Can you tell me about that, the comeback and then the match against HellRaisers on Overpass?
In the match against GODSENT, we already knew that our Cobblestone on CT was very weak. It's something we have to fix really fast. It could've been better, we lost a lot of clutches, twist made a 1v3 that totally destroyed the players morale. I remember that, when we swapped to the T side, I had to talk about their family, and what the Major means and I remember that they played with so much passion and fury in that game, screaming every round, supporting each other with every kill...
I remember, after the game, kNg came to me and said: "Because what you said in the pause, about my family, in the pistol round the only thing I could think about was my mom. Her image was in my head all the time." So that was pretty good. For HellRaisers, we picked their best map, but we were not afraid because we have good results on Overpass in the past, we beat SK, we beat G2 pretty comfortably. So we knew a little bit of their game, we studied only Overpass because it was a comfortable pick for them and it worked out.
Tell me a bit how hen1 and lucas went through that, qualifying for their first Major? You've been with them at a lot of the losses at the Major Qualifiers, how did after that victory against HellRaisers?
It was like a huge weight off your back has been lifted. It feels so much lighter, the pressure with which they were playing before was so high. Because, before the Major Qualifier, we played against some tier 1 teams and we had some good results, so the players felt like it was their obligation to qualify in this Major Qualifier, since the teams here were not so strong as the other Major Qualifiers we played.
Last time we played against FaZe, G2, mousesports, this time we played against good teams, but not tier 1. So they had it in their minds that they had an obligation to qualify, and that made them perform not as they usually do. After we won, they felt so much lighter and I think they are going to perform even better in the Major.
As we saw there, and in general with your team, you seem like a pretty emotional, fiery team. How does that work out for you? Is there sometimes also a struggle with them being too emotional and are you working to maybe balance it out? Or are you happy with how the things are now?
No, I don't like how things are now. I don't like to bring so much emotion in every round. But, at the same time, that is something that makes them strong. I hate it, to be honest, because emotions bring inconsistency. If you are not ice cold, I'm not saying that you don't have to celebrate after you win a round, but you have to keep it down, so your emotions don't get in the way and you start to lose control in the game.
So it's definitely something I want to bring a bit down in the next tournaments. I don't think we will be able to do it right now in the Major, but at DreamHack Masters Malmö, for example, I don't want them to be emotional and shout all the time, I think it's not good.
Tell me a bit about kNg as well. He came into the team, he seems also like one of the fiery guys, but not only that, he seems to have input on how the rounds are played. Tell me about him, his playstyle and what he brings to the team?
kNg was usually the main AWPer, so fitting him into the team was very hard, because we don't want to play every single T side with two AWPs, that's a huge impact on your economy. If you lose a round, you are pretty much broke. So we had to adapt his style to play with and AK. When we invited him to the team he said that he can do whatever, whatever we asked him, and that is what he does.
Also, he is a very dedicated guy, he always wants to do stuff, like when we lose a match he is the first one to say "OK, it's time to do a review, time to study our mistakes". Because I think we had a little bit of a struggle with that at the beginning because some of our players were like "ah, we don't need to watch now", but he is super important and I love him for that. He helps me a lot.
Let's touch a bit on this event. The Major is certainly the most important, but what did you want to achieve here, what were your goals and expectations?
We did not reach our goal, not even close, to be honest. I wanted to reach at least the quarter-finals. We screwed up against Liquid, we had that game in our hands, we lost some stupid clutches, 1v4, 3v5, and our T side was always fast, every single round was fast. That was a pefect example of emotions, they thought that they had to win that game, it was their obligation because we were up so much in the game, so they started to fail, fail, fail... And even the pauses, Liquid was pausing and I paused as well, and I said: "Guys, we have to play slow, we have to play under 30 seconds, 20 seconds, not play fast all the time". But they were so blinded by the emotion that they didn't listen. After the game, they said sorry and stuff like that, but it was too late.
You already mentioned a bit of what you do for the team, can you tell me your role, what the organization expects from you, what the players expect from you, what do you do for the team the most?
So, I'm kind of a 50-in-1 guy, I'm a manager, I search for sponsors, anything they want, personal sponsors for them, I do administrative stuff for the team. I also search for new tactics, new setups, I look at our mistakes, I study the other team, I study the vetos, sometimes I give my opinion but at the end of the day, boltz and the boys, they pick the map. But I always give them anything they want. If they need anything at all, I'll do it. That's it.
So tell me about now coming up to the Major, what's the mentality like and what is in your mind going to Krakow?
The mentality is that everybody needs to be humble and practice even harder. Because if we were practicing 7-8 hours we should practice 12 now, because the Major is the most important thing for us, and we don't want to play another Major Qualifier. We want to reach at least Legends status, and we know it's super hard. We are going to play Astralis in the first match, one of the best teams in the world, but we are not going to give up against anyone. We want to put up a fight and reach Legend status. That is our goal.