We sat down with Spencer "Hiko" Martin before the FACEIT Major Challenger Stage kicks off tomorrow to talk about his team's preparation and expectations for the Major.
Hiko is happy to be in London after a tough period since he left Liquid, and to have the opportunity to be back in a Major cycle at the age of 28 with his Rogue teammates, with whom he qualified after taking second place at the Americas Minor. Rogue will face off against Space Soldiers in their opener tomorrow at 11:00.
In the interview, the North American player talks about the team's bootcamp in Denmark ahead of the Major, not playing enough during the break, and the evolution of the team from a bad showing at the CPH Games main tournament to a second place at DreamHack Austin and qualifying for the FACEIT Major.
This is, of course, your first Major cycle in over a year and a half, so what is it like coming back to this stage?
It means a lot, not only for me as an individual but also for the team, too. The past year and a half has probably been the hardest point of my entire career as a player, even if we go back to when I started playing CS. I'd like to say it has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs but it has pretty much just been downs for the past year. When I first joined Rogue I knew their number one priority for picking me up as a player was to actually make the Major. Unfortunately, the roster I first made the team with was not up to that level, but when we picked up cadiaN and Sick, and now after we got Rickeh, I think this is the best lineup Rogue has ever seen, and it's definitely the best lineup I've been in since Liquid.
It means a lot to me as a player to come through and prove that I still have it. Hopefully, it says something that I'm on this team, still. I'm 28 and I'm still in the Major cycle. On my team there are several players who have been around a long time and haven't had a chance to have their sticker in the game and to be at a Major stage, so yeah, it means a lot to both me and my team.
Over 2018 you've kind of stepped it up. You made it here and before that, right after bringing Rickeh you made second place in Austin, so there's been some improvement. Can you talk to me about this year in particular and getting over CPH Games?
I think CPH Games was just really unfortunate for us. I don't know if it was the first time in Europe for a couple of my teammates, I think they had been to London once, so it was their first time for them outside of London at a tournament that doesn't have perfect standards, with delays, and although the computers were good, the venue itself is not... it just wasn't a good showing of us, or of our skill, and we even had a different lineup there.
Before we had Rickeh we had gMd. I still think very highly of him. He's very talented, very gifted as a player, he just doesn't have the experience to be at the level that we needed, so we got Rickeh and initially just put him in the roles that gMd used to play and told him to deal with it for the short term until we could find the spots for him. With him playing most of gMd's role we made it to the final of DreamHack Austin, and although we didn't play many Tier 1 teams it definitely showed that we have the potential and the skill to upset some teams that don't really expect us to.
Moving on from there we've had two or three bootcamps and a bunch of online qualifiers, but also a month off, so it's kind of hard to judge where we're going to be for at this tournament. It seems like a lot of American teams are dependent on the momentum they gain, so if American teams start 6-0 or 7-0 up they can pretty much steamroll through it. Even Liquid and C9 are the same way.
You had a month off and haven't played anything since the Minor, since you placed second and made it to London. You touched a bit on the preparation saying you had several bootcamps, can you touch on what you did before coming to this tournament?
We bootcamped in Denmark for a week before we came to London, and like you said we had almost over a month off because our Australian and our Euro wanted to hang out with their family, so coming back was pretty rough. We definitely didn't do ourselves enough justice, we didn't play enough hours during the break. I think a lot of people did that, too. If you look at DreamHack Masters it seemed like everybody was kind of off. I think the bootcamp we had in Denmark last week was very important to get us back in the groove of things. Everyone is putting in the hours, we're playing against the best teams, and we're going toe-to-toe with most of them. I'm confident that we won't go 0-3 and I'm half-confident that we can make it past this stage.
So you're not afraid that you're not going to be able to get into it?
I guess both personally and as a team, it felt like the rust was gone after the second or third day of the bootcamp. We've had 6 or 7-hour-days of actual team practice and then people have been deathmatching here and there. I don't think I could say if we do bad it's because of being rusty. We did ourselves justice at this bootcamp to make sure this won't be an issue.
You talked about being half-confident about making it to the next stage. What are the expectations and what will have to go right for you to make it through?
Expectations, as a team... we'd be happy of making it out of this stage and into the group stage. That would be an accomplishment in itself. I know a lot of people are already counting us out, so as far as pressure goes, we don't really have any pressure on us because everyone is already expecting us to be bad, so It would definitely be an accomplishment to say we made it out of this stage.