After securing Legends status at the FACEIT London Major last month, HellRaisers hit a poor run of form, losing some important online games as well as being eliminated in the group stage of StarSeries i-League S6.
In our sit-down with Johnta, we learned that the team struggled to recover their team play after a short break, as well as that the team lacked the mentality to put in the maximum effort after achieving a big feat at the Major.
At the Major you made top eight, but after that tournament finished, what was the atmosphere in the team like and what did you do as a squad?
After the Major we felt like we got tired of each other in some way, because we had online practice, then one week of bootcamp, then we had the event in Stockholm, with a stand-in also—and it was an event with practice rooms, so we practiced after woxic came to us—, and then the Major for three weeks or something, because we started in the first stage and finished in the last one. It wasn't like we needed a vacation, but we needed a break from each other, to spend five-six days just playing CS, watching demos and taking some rest. After it, we started to practice and we lost the qualifiers to EPICENTER, right after that we started with EPL matches, and then StarLadder.
At one point we hit a slump because we didn't play together for some time, some team-play details which were on point when we played all the time went missing. Because players keep in their head some moments when we play a lot, but after the week we didn't play together we started to play a little bit more individually oriented. A part of it was that players thought that we already stepped up to a new level and that, in some way, they shouldn't try to play every situation 100%. That is why it was more individual play, after plants were bad in some ways, we played more alone. It ruined some games, which we lost, and after it, we had some talks to explain what happened and how to get a positive experience out of it. And now we are coming back to the better shape.
You touched on the fact that you were playing together for so long that you had to take a break for the long term to work out, to reset. But at the same time, then you lose maybe a bit of individual game, a bit of team play, and with the schedule as it is, it probably means that you will have some worse results in the short term. What is your take on all of that? Is there anything you could've done better in this case, or in any other case, because it will happen down the road again?
I think it is about the experience of the players, because, mostly, the problem was in understanding that we should play 100% on all officials. Because, ok, sometimes, when you have a break you can't play the practice matches 100%, we can play a bit more free style, all the teams do that, for the players to reach better shape individually.
But we didn't have a vacation on a real break, so the issue was mostly in understanding the game and understanding the moment, that "we are Legends now, we can go and outaim these guys" - it doesn't work. It is all about team play. So it is mostly about player experience.
And I'm sure that next time, if we are going to have the same situation, first of all, we are going to plan our practice time a bit differently, we will have a break but not that much, maybe just have a lighter approach to practice. Not practicing 7-8 hours or more like we usually, just 2-3 hours, to not lose the teamplay aspect.
As you mentioned, the Major being in the heads of the players, it is a part of the mentality, not just with your team, I think a lot of teams, even the teams that win the Major, that have pretty good players, often fall off after they manage a good result. Was getting people to have that drive again also an issue in the team, having them all fully focused, putting in the hours?
I think it is an issue for people in sports, especially in esports, we deal with young guys who are not athletes in terms of understanding professionalism, they are not going through sports school, then next stage, then next stage until you get into the club. They are not going through this whole process, so their mental and psychological part is a bit different.
Then when you work a lot for some result, and you achieve it, no matter if it is top eight at the Major, winning the tournament, or getting something, in some ways, your understanding of the game and your place in the scene changes a bit. Only experience will bring you to the conclusion that you shouldn't stop after this achievement. That you can do more and you shouldn't relax, you should be at 100%, because by playing 100% you get the results. Not "now I can play at 80%", the scene is super competitive and a lot of teams can punish you easily for that.
All of what we touched on now culminated at StarSeries where you went out in the group stage, but in short, what went wrong for you guys?
Before StarSeries we lost the online game to Imperial, on Friday, then we played them on Saturday on LAN, and we lost both games. First of all, the Imperial guys are a great team I think... yeah, they had a roster change, but anyway, they have good players and at StarSeries they showed up pretty well. overall. We watched the demos after the first loss, which was online, and in every map we had a lead and then we started to be less concentrated, we lost one round, another round, then they took a round because they felt more confident and they just won the game. It was exactly the same in the game at StarSeries, we were leading like 8-2 and lost the game 16-10. It is all about that.
Then we played against TYLOO, we lost to them also, in some ways it was the same, because we played a map that was really good for us, Overpass, against them especially. And we had a lot of moments when we were just not that concentrated and lost again. So sometimes you just need to get through some moments and mistakes a couple of times, definitely, to change your mind about this. Then we played Sprout, it was an overtime game, and on paper we should've definitely win way easier, but they played pretty good CS and I think that overall, they played pretty good at that event. They lost three games, but all the games were pretty close. We showed a bad T side but really good CT side, and we saw that during the CT side, the communication was super good and players were trying 100% and we knew that this is the way we needed to play, this was the way we used to play when we were at the Major, when we were on point.
It was same against CyberZen, but then against Vega something started to crumble. First of all, it was a late game, sometimes we have issues with late games if we start early, it is something we are looking how to solve, when you have an early match and then you have to wait a lot of time and then play again. I think it was the main issue, and we didn't play the best game, definitely. StarSeries was, overall, the tournament for us not only to understand the issues, because, for me, I can see the problems. But sometimes when you tell people what the problems are they can be "Yeah, of course, I understand", but then they need to feel it in order get to the same conclusions themselves. It was basically an event about that, for us.
After that you had some online games and then you had the opportunity to come here as a replacement for mousesports. So what is your goal and what do you see yourself doing here?
After StarLadder we had a couple of days off because we finished the event earlier and we could have a weekend at our homes. Then the guys came to Kiev on Tuesday because we had to do the Russian visas there. And it wasn't a bootcamp, but we were together in an office and we could focus a bit more on online and practice. Especially because we had EPL matches with Astralis and FaZe, one of the best teams in the world, so our focus was pretty high on that.
I think we gained a lot by being prepared for these games, we won against FaZe and lost to Astralis, but the latter was not that crucial because they are definitely super-on-point no matter if they play LAN or online. I think that, in a way, we are getting better from every match we play, so I'm looking forward to this event I'm sure that we can pass through the group stage, to the playoffs and perform there pretty well.