steel: "I was kind of shocked [that Na`Vi decided to play Dust2]"
After the match, we got a hold of the team's in-game leader, steel, to quiz him about Ghost's decision to add Kevin "kRYSTAL" Amend as a stand-in and their first tournament together at ZOTAC Cup Masters last week, as well as about the match against Natus Vincere in Stockholm and their opponents' surprising decision to play Dust2 instead of Inferno.
Tell me about what led you to the addition of kRYSTAL as a stand-in and how that has been working out so far.
We originally replaced Pollo after trying to have things work with him, but things weren't working out in the end, so as we were looking for replacements, we were thinking about what type of role we're looking for from a player and how we're going to incorporate them into the team on top of what we already have.
One of the things that I was thinking I needed help with was that Subroza and Wardell are less experienced players - these tournaments here are their first big actual events against top teams, so they don't have a lot of repetitions against tier one teams. The difference between a tier one team versus a tier two team is that your mid-game decision making is vastly different, so especially with the fundamentals with communicating, knowing when you're supposed to push and get info versus when you should sit down and just do nothing.
I thought I needed help with that, so when we were trialing different players around the North American region, I remembered that kRYSTAL had been recently benched from Imperial, so I messaged him on Twitter and asked him whether it would be a possibility. He said that he was interested and, as an experiment, he might want to do it. Obviously, long-term, there are different implications in regards to moving, relocating, visas, etc., so we saw if we could work it out between Ghost and Imperial and get him on at least as a trial for these events and continue on and play it by ear, essentially. He had a lot of ideas and a lot of experience, so I was hoping that he could bring that to the team and help alleviate some of that responsibility from me.
So is it down to mid-round calls where he brings his input?
I think it's less about mid-round calls. The biggest impact would probably be that we split each other up on the CT side, so if I'm playing at one position on Inferno, I can't really coordinate things happening on the other side.
Doing it like that would probably be the biggest thing just because it helps stimulate conversations and setups and playing dynamically, which is something that I think, of all the things that an in-game leader can do in a game, that would be the hardest thing because you're trying to coordinate things with no information. Or you're at the mercy of whatever information is trickling down from whatever people say. That would be the biggest impact.
You managed to beat OpTic at your first tournament with kRYSTAL, the ZOTAC Cup Masters, before losing to Kinguin in the semi-finals, how would you evaluate that tournament and your debut with kRYSTAL?
I think we played really well, especially against OpTic, and I think the biggest part of it was that we were all playing really well, we were all energetic, we were in a good mood, high spirits, and I think that really kept us going the entire game.
Even if my call was suboptimal, I think we were able to win in certain situations just because we were able to play with the fundamentals in mind. Against OpTic, we played a couple of our better maps and I think maybe they underestimated us, in part, because when we played them it almost felt easy.
Speaking of underestimating, how do you feel about Na`Vi letting your first match here in Stockholm go to Dust2, a map that doesn't look good for either team?
I was kind of shocked. We were doing the vetoes and it came down to Train, Inferno, and Dust2, and it was my decision, so what I was thinking was that they've played Dust2 with their full lineup in five official games and they've lost every single time. Every single time it was picked against them, if memory serves correctly, so why would a number two team in the world gamble on playing Dust2 when one of their most played maps is Inferno, so I was kind of taken aback that they did decide to play Dust2 as opposed to Inferno.
After that, we just sat down and said 'why would they do that, that's kind of dumb, I'm not even worried about them, they don't have a strong Dust2, it's going to come down to just playing fundamentally sound and keeping our spirits up and hitting shots.' It's Dust2, it's a map that has been in the game for two decades, everyone knows how to play it. It's kind of silly that they would let that go in and take that gamble, a number two team in the world versus some randoms from NA (smirks) and you're just letting it go to Dust2.
So tell me about the match itself, how did you manage to win it in the end?
I think one of Na`Vi's big downfalls of their playstyle is that they're very susceptible to multiple AWPs. Just the way that they play and kind of use s1mple, electronic, and flamie as a crutch and they build their plays around those players. s1mple will always be in a position to trade off of Zeus or Edward, for example, and then flamie is the same way, so just using them as a crutch isn't a good long-term gameplay solution, it's more of a band-aid.
So when they have that and then they have other things that are also Achilles' heels or weaknesses, let's just get multiple AWPs and pick them. They take a lot of gambly reads, so I was trying to incorporate a few fakes and try to do the same thing against them, so we were heavily grouped in a lot of our rounds, but there was no real linear thinking towards my calls, it was almost random. Let's just do one guy long A, two guys cat, one guy mid, one guy B, just a random thing like that. And then after we made plays we just repositioned and did something else equally as random.
It sounds like you didn't have that much to fall back on on Dust2.
When it comes down to it, Dust2 is a map where, if you know how to play the game, you can do anything and it'll work. You could literally play four A at the start of the round and if the enemy doesn't rush B, you can make the round work, now you have full cat and long control. Or you could stack four guys towards B and do like a B tunnel crunch. You can literally do anything, you can walk upper B as a CT with an AWP and two rifles and clear it out, and you can still win the round if you have an AWP on A site and a rifle on cat or something. Literally, you can do anything and it'll probably work.
You have to win one more match to go through to playoffs, with NRG and NiP also in your group, how do you feel about your chances now that you've passed the first test here?
Our work is still cut out for us. Obviously, we haven't progressed from the group stage yet, so it's quite possible that we would face off against Na`Vi again. We still have to play the winner of NRG and NiP, so to get ahead of ourselves would be the last thing we want to do.
We just want to stay focused and understand that yes, we played really well, but there this equal task for the rest of the week. And if we start getting ahead of ourselves and start letting down our guard, or letting down our focus, or straying from what did actually work here and what worked against OpTic last week, then that's the only way we're going to have problems if we stray from this goal and vision.