Ivan "Johnta" Shevcov discussed HellRaisers' recent roster changes in depth following his team's first victory at StarSeries i-League Season 4.
HellRaisers played the first two days of the event with a stand-in, losing to Natus Vincere and Heroic while playing with former OpTic player Kevin "HS" Tarn. The Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow-led team secured their first victory on day three, eliminating MVP PK from the tournament with a confident 2-0.
In a long interview, HellRaisers' coach Ivan "Johnta" Shevcov talked about the additions of Özgür "woxic" Eker and Issa "ISSAA" Murad, what they bring to the team and the challenges of having players with little experience on the top level in the roster. The Ukrainian also touched on the re-addition of Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk, who replaced Kristjan "FejtZ" Allsaar.
I'll start with HellRaisers adding back bondik and replacing fejtz. How did it come to happen, what was the thinking then?
At one moment we realized that fejtz is a good player, but we kind of have a player like him already and we couldn't fit him in our playstyle - we needed someone more in the role of an entry player, someone who is going in and getting kills more. And bondik, who was benched before, we had some talks about that and we were kind of planning to try him out later, after the Major would finish because he had to play with TyLoo there. Obviously, when he couldn't go to the Major we decided to try together.
Actually, when we started playing with fejtz I was really impressed by him, he was a really good player with a lot of good skills and he was really confident on LANs, so it was kind of sad that we couldn't fit all of the players that we played with. But I think bondik fits us better in terms of his playing role.
So who do you think fejtz is similar to?
In the roles fejtz could play we use deadfox and ANGE1. Both of them can take second AWP sometimes and they are in the middle of the action, trying to do some micro calls about moves and initiations, but we needed a player that is more of an anchor, or someone going in as an entry, so it's basically bondik.
What is the biggest change from bondik before, when you had to bench him? Have the issues that were in the team before been resolved?
Benching bondik wasn't really about not liking the way he played, we just had to have something fresh, some freshness in the team. Since STYKO left, if we would change only one player back then, and considering ANGE1 had an offer from Na`Vi, I thought it was very important for ANGE1 to feel the roster being fresh, for him to have the motivation, something new completely. If we would just change one player, it doesn't change too much.
Back then, bondik was playing all the same roles for a long time, starting with FlipSide and then continuing in HellRaisers. Now he has new roles, I think it is kind of a new challenge for him, and also the experience he had in TyLoo I think helped him look at CS in a new way. And he improved a lot and showed that he is capable of playing in different roles and different styles, even in different languages all at the same time. That helped him feel CS better and fresher and I hope that he feels better in our team than he felt before. Even though some of the positions on the map are completely new to him, the style of it suits his play style. I think it is a good challenge for him and he is a guy that likes to take challenges and goes for it, he has very good character for it. I guess he is going to feel even better and better with time.
Now you have two CIS players and two EU players, and ISSAA who is from the Asian region. Technically you should be able to pick which Minor you want to play, I'm not sure if this is totally confirmed, but what is your thinking, have you been talking about that at all?
We can't know for sure, but of course if we are able to chose, we will probably chose the CIS Minor because it is less competitive over there. I think the EU Minor is super hard to go through, especially the online qualifiers because we are also a more offline team. Since if woxic is in Turkey he has some issues with internet, also ISSAA doesn't have the best ping, so it's better for us to play on LAN, but we have to get to it.
Definitely the CIS level of play is rising up every month and we can see it by the recent results at the Major, but if we will have a chance, I think we will play the CIS Minor.
You mentioned woxic, he has been playing lights out since he has been added to the team. What do you think of him and has it been hard adding him as someone that doesn't have a lot of team experience on this level?
Yeah, there are some tough things about fitting in players that haven't played competitively on the tier 1-2 level, where we played before. But the guys are doing an incredible job, in some ways they are still learning, they are still trying to build themselves as professionals, not just as guys that are playing the game.
I think, as a coach, that the main difference between the guys that are just playing FPL well, that are getting some highlights, that have a stream, compared to guys that play official matches against good teams, is having a level of professionalism, working on your emotion, working on your daily schedule, working on the things you need to work on in CS, things about the game. That is really important and the guys still have a lot to learn and they need to get more experience in that.
But anyway, they brought us a lot of awesome new stuff. And the "eastern guys", like woxic and ISSAA, they have a huge desire to show up, they have a super huge desire to become better and become champions. That also helped ANGE1 to have better motivation, he is a guy that is on a fairly high level for a lot of time. And in previous rosters, the maximum level we reached was top 10, but just for a couple of events. We had a good level, but we weren't stable there. I think that with new guys and their passion, it helps ANGE1 to be more motivated and have more desire to become the best.
You've been in HellRaisers from 2016, working with ANGE1 the whole time, has anything changed in the way you approach the game, something you learned in the past almost two years as a coach?
I'm definitely having more and more experience, firstly I'm working with guys from different nationalities, mentalities and the psychological part of this job... I'm getting a lot of knowledge, but there is so much more that I can still become better at. Because the psychology of different nationalities and mentalities is pretty tough. I think that in that way, I'm improving every week and every day.
About the game stuff, we are always trying to create something new with ANGE1, he is really creative even when I played with him in 1.6, I was the captain of the team and he was a guy that is showing up with a lot of ideas and we were trying to implement it in our game, and it worked pretty well. I think that we are working pretty well together, also I'm trying to teach him some things about how to call better and better and I see that he is evolving more and more. My experience of working with him in that way is also getting better because I'm starting to feel him more, I'm starting to understand why he does some decisions and I think it helps our team game.
Let's focus a bit on this tournament, coming in with a stand-in, you obviously didn't plan to play with a stand-in but it happened in the end. How was the feeling been coming in and starting off the tournament?
We played a completely different game with HS, firstly because it was hard for us to play our rounds and ideas. We had the same kind of experience when we played the previous StarLadder event in China, we played with zero and fejtz and we switched some roles, and all of our old ideas and excutions we tried in game, nothing worked. It was because some small timing, even if one guy would call the go off his feelings, and he is not playing with us usually, everything changes. Only calls on the go were working, individual plays and initiations by the players were working. So we played completely different.
Even though HS is in some ways a similar player to ISSAA, I can just imagine how hard it was for him to step in with all our communication and all the ideas, all the info and similar things. And he was doing pretty well, I was actually impressed by his level of communication, he was catching so much information pretty fast, we even played a couple of practices, but on maps that we didn't play here in the end, because of different vetos against different opponents. We ran through five maps or something and the amount of information he had to go through... I was pretty impressed he got all of it.
But unfortunately, in the game, it's hard to play like kind of a mix in some positions against the team that knows how to do their stuff. Then we played Cobblestone twice, and he was on B platform which is one of the hardest positions to play on both sides. You need to have pretty good teamplay in players that are trying to hold this zone or trying to through as T. Maybe the problem was that we maybe shouldn't have picked it, but we didn't understand that it was that important at that time. However, now, when ISSAA came, I hope that the game that we brought before online is going to come back and we are going to show better CS over here.
Today you played against MVP and yesterday they had a pretty close match agains Virtus.pro. So how did you approach the game that you had against the Koreans today?
Firstly, we tried to approach our situations in a way ANGE1 put forward: "Guys, we have everything on a new page, the tournament is just starting for us, but we have a different format, it's Swiss system hardcore. Everyone can lose twice, but we don't have that. We play every match for elimination, so it's single elimination for us".
About MVP, we tried to respect them, that they played pretty good, but in other ways we tried to not respect them in-game, to be more confident in our game. Overall, the Asian region like the CIS region is growing up, we can see that TyLoo is beating fnatic for example and MVP is playing really well against Virtus.pro. We watched the match and they had the match point, they lost a 4v2 situation, it was a very unlucky timing for them. We knew that they are pretty good so we tried to approach the game in a pretty solid way.