allu: "The main focus would be to take more time off so we can give 100% when we do play"
Not long after ENCE won their first $250,000+ tournament, StarSeries i-League S6, the Finnish squad was competing in Moscow at EPICENTER. As the highest HLTV-ranked team at the Wild Card Qualifier, they were promoted directly to the group stage and placed in group A alongside Natus Vincere, FaZe, and HellRaisers.
ENCE wasn't able to continue their strong run at EPICENTER, being eliminated after two BO3 losses: one to FaZe and one to HellRaisers. In our interview, allu explained how the team obviously didn't have the same energy that they did in Ukraine, which lead to this subpar performance.
A lot of players, especially younger ones, after getting a big achievement, a big win, have a motivation drop. Talking about your win at StarSeries, do you think that that affected you guys as a team at all?
Maybe a little bit, but, we are still in the learning phase as a team. Ok, even though we won StarLadder, it is a huge achievement for us, but in the bigger picture, it is not that big of a deal. We beat mousesports in a BO1, good team, but then again they replaced Snax right after, so the team most likely wasn't in the best shape, even though they won New York right before. Then we beat BIG, they are a good team, right? So that was a good thing for us, but then we beat OpTic, who are on a similar level to us, so that is nothing special, and then we beat Vega Squadron, who is also on a similar level to us. We kind of just did what we had to do. Of course, it is a good thing to win, good experience for us and a confidence boost, but in the end, we shouldn't get too hyped about it.
And why we failed here is not because our motivation dropped, it is mostly because we are really tired of playing. We practice so much, all the time, we have online qualifiers, we have ESEA MDL, we were in Kiev for nine days, we played a lot, with a lot of focus, there was a lot of wanting to win, wanting to improve. You put in everything, you put your heart there, you want to just beat everyone. And then we come home, we have half of a day off and then we start to play... and then we come here. You know, people are tired, it is mostly that. I think we played really badly here, we weren't ourselves I would say, but we still lost to FaZe, who have been struggling but are still a top team, and even playing badly we got a map off of them. Obviously, they weren't in the best shape either, I think that in our game they played pretty shaky. And then we lost to HellRaisers who are also a good team. So it is a learning process here.
You mentioned that you practice a lot. I think, on record and off record, a lot of people have been saying that you've been doing great in practice. What is different about the way you approach practice, compared to other teams? Is there something special?
I've played in a lot of teams, right? So the difference with this team is that we try to play "match moves" a lot in practice. We have strats that we want to practice sometimes, but mostly when we practice we try to learn how to adapt in certain situations, how to play and not overpeek, we try to play the clutches as you would play in a Major final, you know? Obviously, not play scared, but play smart. We try to implement that in practice so it transfers into the games. Obviously, there are one or two practices, here and there, where we just push a lot, but mostly our practices are really serious and we try to really focus on improving rather than just playing.
Some of these players in your team are pretty young, inexperienced, how do you get them to buy into that mentality that every practice needs to be played as if it was an official? Because a lot of people say that, but when they really go into the server and start practicing, it doesn't really hold up.
We just want to go high. We have our goal, together, to reach the top. And to reach the top we have to put a lot of effort and a lot of hours and everybody has to be on the same page. And also be focused a lot on communication, I stress it a lot to the boys that we have to speak all the time. In practice, even if we are tired, even if you are doing stupid moves, you still have to say what you are doing so that the practice is not useless. So you get the communication up. I feel like that is really key, when the communication is flowing you take more initiative, your teammates make better moves, you can play off each other. That is also one reason why we have improved a lot, the communication part.
Now we have reached the point where we have to practice other things, now people started to know a bit how we play, people didn't use to take us seriously, we were a bit under, now we are towards the top and people know that you shouldn't underestimate us. So now we have to start practicing how we can play our own game, but still adapt so it is harder to read what you do, as sometimes we play pretty predictable, I would say. Now we are trying to fix that. But mainly, the point is to get everyone on the same page, that we want to improve together and we want to go higher. If everybody has the same goal, all five of us and the coach, you will make it work.
What are your impressions of playing with sergej so far? He wasn't playing on the top Finnish scene when you were playing in Finland, but now you are back and playing with him. What do you make of this guy?
I really liked him, we have a good bond, I would say. We are roommates and he is a really nice guy and obviously a really skilled player. He is calm and is one or two years more mature than his age, which makes it easier for the rest of us, who are a bit older, to work with him.
For a team like yours, you have probably three main things: qualifying for the big events, making the Minor and Major, and then the online leagues. You are in ESEA MDL, how big of a focus is doing well there and qualifying for Pro League, compared to these two other things?
The focus of qualifying for MDL playoffs and hopefully qualifying for Pro League is obviously important for us. But MDL is really hard, firstly when we practice, we practice against tier 1 teams. When we play in tournaments, we mostly play against tier 2 or tier 1 teams. Then, when you travel a lot and you practice a lot, you should have a good focus in MDL playing, let's say... after we won StarLadder we played against the Swedish team Flow. It is really hard for you to put 100% of your focus after you've just played on LAN against teams like BIG, mousesports, where you are hyped. When you go back home and you play against Flow, you don't get the same feeling, it is not disrespecting to anyone, you just don't get the same feeling. And then it makes it harder.
Now, we are going to take some time off, a little bit, as we dropped out here, and then we will really start to put our focus on qualifying for Pro League, and obviously the Minor, those are the two most important things for the rest of the year for us.
You kind of covered all of it, but still, is there anything else you will be focusing on as a team going forward from here?
As a team, mostly, I guess we have to, when the schedule is really hectic, take a little bit more breaks, as since we created this team six months ago, we only had a break during August for two weeks, but other than that, we don't really have any breaks and we practice mostly six days a week. So we play a lot, really a lot. And it showed here that we are really tired. When we went to Kiev, you could feel the energy, even in the airport, when we were traveling, that we are going there to play. We want to play, we want to win, we want to show ourselves. Then, when we came here, everyone is more like: "Ahhh... we are going to Moscow. We are playing EPICENTER... it's ok." People are tired. So the main focus would be to take more time off so we can really give 100% when we do play.