Leading up to the start of the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier playoffs, we caught up with last season's MVP, Will "RUSH" Wierzba, and talked about Cloud9 and the role he took on within this squad.
Cloud9, who assembled their current roster less than two months ago, booked a spot in the playoffs of ELEAGUE Premier with a dominant showing in group C, securing convincing wins over EnVyUs and NiP to make it through. Tougher opposition awaits in bracket play, however, with G2 being their quarter-final opponent and Astralis, FaZe and North at the tournament as well.
To get a feel for how the roster is developing and what we can expect from the American squad in Atlanta this week, we talked to Will "RUSH" Wierzba.
At your most recent LAN outing, in the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier group stage, you dropped only eight rounds in a group with NiP, Virtus.pro and EnVyUs. Were you, in a way, surprised by how smoothly securing a playoff spot went?
Even though some of those teams might be in slumps, and aren't considered 'top10', I think it was still a tough group for us. Cloud9 historically has had a lot of trouble beating VP in the past so having them in the group, despite them being in a rough patch, was going to be hard for us. NiP is also a really strong team with the REZ/draken additions, and they just need time. We definitely had expectations to make it out of groups considering it was the easiest of the EL groups, but we were indeed surprised at how one-sided the games were for us, and I'm sure the fans watching were as well. I also thought it was fairly impressive that NV beat NiP and VP in BO3's.
Before ELEAGUE, you attended ESL One New York and DreamHack Montreal, finishing 3-4th at both events. What were the takeaways from those two tournaments, was making it out of the groups enough for you to be satisfied early into the team's life cycle?
We were definitely a little disappointed at the finish we had a DH Montreal because it's a tier 2 tournament and North was the only top top team (besides Immortals) at the LAN. We got a bad draw and faced the strongest team in the semi-finals (North) but that's no excuse. They played really well and we didn't have much of a chance. Saying we got 3/4th place or 'making it out of groups' sounds good, but when you consider the fact we made it out by only beating complexity and Luminosity, that's not exactly something you can brag about.
In terms of ESL NY, I think performance wise we actually did well by beating Na`Vi twice (in a BO1 and BO3). Even though we got utterly de_stroyed by FaZe, they were on point that whole tournament. I think we were more disappointed that we played so awful in front of the home-crowd because ESL NY is one of the only tournaments during the year that has an NA crowd of that size. Overall as the weeks go by I see us improving at a rate I am satisfied with.
In New York, FaZe took you out in the semi-final and went on to win the whole tournament in quite convincing fashion, making them "the team to beat" currently. What are your impressions of FaZe, what is the toughest thing about playing them?
I think they were/are in a sort of honeymoon phase, especially at NY. They swept everybody and the only team that got close was Liquid on 1 map in the finals. It was pretty insane to experience it first hand, but when you have 4 superstars and a tier 1 caller I guess that's what you get. They will definitely remain top three for the foreseeable future, but I do not think they can maintain demolishing everyone they play.
Many players struggle with individual slumps and you had a particularly rough time this year after the ELEAGUE Major. What are your thoughts on breaking out of that trend, at what point did you feel you were getting back in form? Your upswing somewhat coincided with playing under tarik's leadership, starting at ESL One Cologne with OpTic and continuing later on in Cloud9. Did that have a significant impact or were there other factors at play?
I attribute playing really well at the end of last year to how well OpTic was playing as a whole. Literally everyone was at the top of their game, game-wise and confidence wise. When everyone is playing well, I think it's pretty hard to not play well. If you think about it logically when the team overall is playing poorly, it's tough for any individual player to go off. I guess you could call the players that do play well under those circumstances star players.
I also believe I played well because we had a lot of structure under stanislaw's leadership, and I knew what I was doing on every map to a tee. When we lost him and tried a plethora of different IGLs, I was probably the most uncomfortable I've ever been in CS. Going from a system that is fully fleshed out to complete chaos for 8 months is not something I wish on any team. I feel a lot more at ease and comfortable under Tarik's leadership at the end of OpTic and now in C9. He knows how I and others on the team want to play.
Previously, you played at a high level in the entry fragging role, winning the MVP in your team's memorable ELEAGUE Season 2 victory. Now in Cloud9, you mostly play the passive lurking positions on the T sides. It seems like the change didn't affect you that much—what were the key things that allowed you to adapt to the role so quickly?
Everyone always pinned me as that insane high-sens entry-fragger for the longest time, but I truly believe I am more of a support player. I can do most roles (besides AWPing) and I simply do what's needed in the team. On OpTic, we had three more passive players in stan, NAF, and mixwell. Tarik and I HAD to be the entry fraggers for the system to work. Now that I am in C9 we have Stewie and Tarik, arguably 2 of NA's best entry fraggers. It was a no-brainer for me to become a more passive/support player on T side.
A main AWPer was something you never had in OpTic, with the big green gun being shuffled between every player on the squad except you. How does it feel now on Cloud9, playing with Skadoodle who you know will always pick up the AWP when needed?
As much as mixwell said he didn't like AWPing I believe he enjoyed it. He knew he had a lot of impact doing it and he was getting better with it. Despite that, I'm sure he's happy he doesn't has to worry about it anymore with allu on the new OpTic.
It has been a long time since I have had a dedicated AWPer though, so it feels great. In my opinion [Skadoodle] is probably the best AWPer in NA when he's at his peak. Even if he has a bad game, he still does his job very well. So to answer your question, I am grateful to have him on my team.
This Cloud9 roster has been quite active in terms of LAN events, attending four since the end of August. How did that impact your practice and preparation, especially as a new team? Do you feel that you need some time without tournaments to iron things out, or are you happy with how things have been going so far?
In my opinion we shouldn't have gone to DH Malmö, simply because we had ~3-4 days to prepare a brand new team. Tarik also started calling at this point, so the whole system under C9 was different. We didn't learn much.
The other tournaments were more beneficial for us because we had ample time to practice before and during the tournament (in the practice area). The way we've been playing at the tournaments we've been attending is an upward trend for sure. From not making it out of groups at Malmö to making it out of every group at the other events so far. Tournaments having 24/7 practice areas is also a huge help.
Looking at the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier playoffs, you will start off against G2, with Astralis and fnatic also on your side of the bracket. How do you feel going into the tournament? Does the underdog run you had with OpTic last season, as well as the MVP title, instill some extra confidence in you heading into Atlanta?
I think if we beat G2 we have a good shot to make the final. G2 will be tough because they have a similar style to FaZe, which is hard for us to play against. They are really high on the individual skill spectrum and as we're growing as a team, these types of teams give us trouble. If we face Astralis or fnatic I think it will be easier than G2, just because a team like Astralis is more structured and honest in their play.
Having won the last EL season and getting the MVP has no bearing on what happens this time, just because everything is different. I have a new team, I'm a new player, and we're also facing new teams. We have to just focus on playing our game.
With OpTic now practically a European team and CLG dropping off a bit, the battle for the title of the best North American team has come down to Cloud9 and Liquid, with both teams having some good results lately that got them into the top10 of our ranking. What are your thoughts on Liquid at the moment and is there a rivalry there, in terms of proving which team is NA's best?
I would say there's an unspoken rivalry between us and Liquid because one of us would love the "top NA" title of course. At the end of the day though, I hope we both do well and become consistent world contenders. I'm sure you will see some great games between us when we inevitably face each other on LAN.