Cloud9 has been going through a rough patch recently, finishing 7-8th at ELEAGUE Premier and 9-12th at ESL One Cologne while searching for a stable five after the departures of Jake "Stewie2K" Yip and Tarik "tarik" Celik.
At the media day for the FACEIT Major, we sat down with one of the current Major title holders, RUSH talking about Cloud9 losing the status of North American elite, failing in the qualifiers for IEM Chicago and the rivalry between them and MIBR.
Let's start by going back and recapping the off-season, what happened before that and how were you feeling about the team at that moment?
Going into the break we were evaluating our roster to see how we wanted to continue. After playing with Golden at ELEAGUE we decided we wanted to pick him up as our full-time leader because we thought he could bring a lot to the team, and that long-term it would be a good choice. As far as Martin [STYKO], we also wanted to give him more chances but it wasn't like we were going to buy him out and have him on the roster yet. He's still on a kind of trial, but we're going to give him more time to prove himself because he showed a lot of improvement and he looked like he was fitting in a lot better since we first got him.
Basically, we wanted to play more with both players going forward. We ended the player break a bit early to start our bootcamp in Los Angeles, where we bootcamped for a week and a half or two. We had a pretty big shocker losing to eUnited in the IEM Chicago qualifier. They played great, but we played really bad and I think everyone was rusty and not in form. Credit to eUnited where it's due, though, they got the spot and they deserve it.
It must have been a hard loss, especially because it's a local tournament for you?
Yeah, for me and Skadoodle. He lives in Iowa and I'm from Wisconsin, so that tournament is literally like an hour drive from my home. I would have had a bunch of friends and family come out, and I'm sure it's the same for Tyler. It's demoralizing when it happens, but you just have to learn from those losses. It was an eyeopener, we just have to play more Counter-Strike than we did. After that, we really told ourselves we have to improve and focus on this Major, so I'm pretty confident that during the tail-end of the Los Angeles bootcamp and during the Copenhagen bootcamp we had after, we improved drastically.
Touching on the fact that you had to qualify, which is tied in to the fact that you're not the top NA dog and you have to go through qualifiers. How does losing that status feel?
I haven't played a qualifier for about two years. The last qualifier I played was for WESG and that's not even a qualifier because everyone has to qualify for that event. So it felt strange, but it's humbling to see how many teams are out there hungry to beat you and win—point proven when eUnited beat us. I think it's going to take time to get back to the point we were at before where we were invited to everything. When we lost Tarik and Stewie we lost a lot of points on the HLTV ranking, which put us pretty far down. I don't think it's an accurate placing, because we haven't been to any tournaments since ELEAGUE. Hopefully, after the Major, our ranking will reflect how we actually are as a team. I think it sucks that we dropped so low, and I don't think it's accurate.
You mentioned that you're happy with the style Golden brought. What is the difference between what FNS brought when you signed him and what Golden brings now? On the surface they seem kind of similar, but what's your take?
I think they're really different. Golden gives you a lot of freedom to do whatever you want as long as you're doing it with a reason. He just wants everyone to be on the same page and work as a team. The difference between him and FNS is that he brings a lot more European vibes and style. He played with fnatic and the best players on that team who taught him a lot, and he probably taught them a lot, too. I can tell he knew what he wanted and he knew the style he wanted to play.
When he first joined he had to fill the holes we had at the time because we were going to ELEAGUE a week later, so it was more him calling with our strats. Now, it's more like a mix of both, or even more towards his style, so he's getting to have his system. It's going to take time for it to come to fruition, although it's been a month of playing pretty hard so I think it's going to show.
You mentioned Tarik and Stewie2K leaving to MIBR. You had bootcamps close to each other, and you're all well acquainted, but next time you meet, is there going to be any rivalry?
Yeah, we lost to them at ELEAGUE. We lost on Cache in overtime, it really sucks and I'm salty about that (laughs), but as you said we're still friends and there's no bad blood between any of us even though the way they left was kind of shitty at the time. I think everyone understands the choices they made, with them not being happy on the team and where they were at, and there not being much improvement... They just wanted to get better and win, and I respect that. I think that going forward I definitely want to beat them. I don't think it'll be a rivalry, necessarily, I just think that for me and Skadoodle and autimatic it will be like a vendetta. On the other hand, STYKO and Golden don't have any reason to have a rivalry or anything.
Is it weird going to the Major as the current champion but, looking at the rankings and people's expectations, as an underdog?
I understand it completely. As I said earlier we lost two players and a lot of points on the ranking. We haven't been to many events and we haven't been playing that well, so it all kind of culminates in everything going into this event not being good for us. We haven't made playoffs at an event for a long time. I think Marseille was the last one, and that's a long time ago, with FNS. It's surprising that it's been so long, we got close to making it out of groups a couple of times... But we've been playing well during the bootcamps, so even if it seems like we're a completely different team, which on paper we are, skillwise we're coming around and we hope to show up here at the Major.
Lastly, you're going to be playing Vega Squadron in your opener, a team that has been discussed about a lot lately and who have a particular style that worked both in the past and now. Give me a short preview of that game.
We only played Vega Squadron once. It was in Atlanta during the Boston Major. We beat them 16-6 to go on and make Legends, which was one of the most important games for us since none of us had made it before. Going forward, this is a different roster with two different players, although they seem like a similar team concerning the style they're playing. As long as we do our homework on the maps we think we'll play, it's going to be a similar result as last time. Well, maybe a bit closer because they seem to be playing better here. I think they'll give us a run for our money, but that we'll come out on top because we're the stronger team.