In our next interview from the ELEAGUE studios in Atlanta, Denis "denis" Howell talked about joining up with his former teammate kRYSTAL and issues the team faced at the beginning, as well as about Sprout's first match against Space Soldiers and their chances of making it through to the next stage.
After their opening win, we sat down with Denis "denis" Howell and quizzed him about all of the above and his experience as a new leader.
Let's start with how you and Spiidi ended up in Sprout, how did that come together when you two left mousesports?
I got cut from mousesports in July and, for me, it was clear already, because I was playing with Spiidi for like two years, that I want to play with him again. Basically because mousesports bought suNny and HS went to OpTic, we just approached kRYSTAL and offered him the idea that maybe we can make the old team again that we had back in PENTA in 2015. He talked with innocent and zehN, we played some games and we thought it was a good idea to do that.
Like you said, you have some history, at least with kRYSTAL. How quickly were you able to start meshing together in the fairly short time that you've been together?
Well, honestly I thought it would be easier, but in the beginning kRYSTAL was calling and we changed to me as the in-game leader. Also, in-game-wise, because we played two years with mousesports and we had a different style, we played more of a loose style on individual skills because we had really good players.
Now it was something different for me because kRYSTAL called a heavily tactical style, but I still thought that because Spiidi and me played like this for a long time at a high level and because kRYSTAL and the other people have enough skill, we just play kind of a mixed style, some set rounds and some loose rounds where we just play default and I just make the mid-round calls.
Can you elaborate on the in-game leadership, how have you been able to adjust to it? Do your teammates have a lot of input?
As I said, in the beginning it was kRYSTAL but we changed to me. I have the advantage that I played with leaders like gob b for example for a really long time, I also learned a lot from lmbt and even when NiKo was an in-game leader, or when chrisJ was the in-game leader. I learned a lot from them and because I played at a higher level, I just kind of know what to do mid-round most of the time.
It took a long time, but also our coach tow b helps a lot in that, he analyzes opponents and he fixed every role for us, he fixed a lot of tactics. He was searching the whole day through demos to see what kind of style fits us and what we should play, so we definitely put in a lot of work to find the right style and the right roles for the players.
Speaking about putting in the work, tell me about your preparation specifically for the Major.
We did a bootcamp at the end of November and the start of December, then we went home and played two or three days during Christmas to maintain the shape, and then we started from January 2nd until the 7th and played about 10 hours a day. We just practiced with two little breaks per day. It was, like I said, finding new styles for us and seeing what works, and then just practice, practice, practice.
What were your expectations going into the match with Space Soldiers and how did it go in the end?
We thought it would be Cobble and, in my opinion, we had an advantage against them that we have players like Spiidi and me, we played like seven or eight Majors or something like that, it's their first Major now and maybe they're a bit nervous, they're not so used to that. So I think in terms of experience we had the upper hand, maybe in terms of individual skill they have a bit more firepower.
As CT we had a slow start into the game, we made some mistakes because they played a contact-heavy style, but in the end as T I think the experience and that we stayed calm in crucial situations helped us outplay them.
You had a little bit of a rough patch in the online matches you played, were you at all worried that you wouldn't be able to show up in form here?
Well, of course I had it in my head sometimes, because I was coming from mousesports where we played Pro League and now I was playing MDL and losing against lower teams so to say, but nowadays we cannot underestimate anyone. Everyone in MDL is playing really well and like I said, we just had some problems in finding the right roles and the right playstyle, we had a really slow start online.
We didn't play so good lately, but I knew that when we come to LAN especially kRYSTAL is much better on LAN than he is online, so I wasn't worried at all and I still think we will qualify for the Major.
Are there any teams in particular that you'd like to avoid, or that you would like to play in the next rounds?
Obviously I wouldn't prefer to play FaZe. Actually, I'd prefer to play mousesports, we also pracc against them. I just want my revenge on them... [laughs] no, they're just good friends of me, I just want to play against them, I think it just has some extra fire in there if I play against mousesports and it would definitely be fun. But if you look at opponents, I obviously wish we get the lower opponents to go further.
What do you think it is going to take for you to qualify and get to the next stage?
I think we just have to stay calm and we have to play our tactics, we just have to play like we have been in practice online and just do everything that we've gained, use the experience we gained over the last months, and I think we'll be just fine.