Liquid qualified for the playoffs after the ESL Pro League Finals opening day in Odense, with victories over G2 and BIG. We caught up with Epitacio "TACO" de Melo after their second victory of the day.
Liquid's run could not have started better, as they were able to take a best-of-one against G2 before sealing their pass to the playoffs with a best-of-three win over BIG. Tomorrow, Liquid will face a whole different beast as they will go up against Astralis, their bête noire, for a berth directly in the semi-finals.
In the interview, TACO touches upon winning in Malta, playing BIG again in Odense, the match-up against Astralis tomorrow and what they can do to make their map pool match up better against the Danes's.
So you finally lifted a trophy with Liquid in Malta, but it wasn't a huge tournament. How did it feel?
It feels like a boost of confidence, which is pretty good. It wasn't the biggest tournament, but some good teams like NRG, BIG, and HellRaisers were there. It could have been bad, as well [laughs], it could have destroyed our team if we would have lost that tournament, but thankfully we did a good job and got the confidence boost.
Talking about some good teams being there, BIG was there, and you beat them then, and you beat them again today. How was playing against them again? Not the hardest game you've had, 16-6 both maps...
BIG is a team that's difficult to play against, but when you get used to their style... I don't want to say it's easy, but when you get used to it, it's better for you. We know the way they like to play, so we just played our game. In Malta we had the chance to study them, so we just used what we studied for them in Malta and it worked.
You had a streak of bad tournaments late last season, and somebody on the team said you felt stale and needed to rework your map pool and so on. This time around, you fell out of ECS, but still seem to be doing quite well winning Malta and the two first matches here. What has changed between what you felt late last season and this season's final stretch?
To be honest, since we bootcamped before the Major, we haven't had enough time to change a lot of stuff. We've been using the stuff we created before the Major, but we are a good team and I know everyone watches us play. We just have to adapt, to change small stuff, and ECS was just a bad tournament. We didn't play at all there, I don't know what happened, it was just a really bad day.
It happens, you know? It's just a rock in our path, I don't think we're the kind of team that goes out in the group stages, we're better than that, and we've proved it at many tournaments we've played this year. As far as our preparation, it's just adapting, and when we have time to practice we're always trying to change some stuff and adapt as much as we can.
You said winning in Malta gave you a confidence boost, does that change how you go into this event at all? Is not winning or making the final now a disappointment?
Since I joined the team and when we started to get some good placements in tournaments, we always go to tournaments with high expectations, and this one is no different. Our goal is to win the whole thing and we're sure that we're capable of it. That's our mindset right now, and winning in Malta proved it to us. It took some of the pressure off of our shoulders. It also gave us a boost of confidence. If we lose I don't think we'll be sad because I don't think we're the favorites. Astralis is playing and the best teams in the world are here, but of course our expectations are high and hopefully we can win.
Talking about Astralis being here. They're your kryptonite and you're playing them tomorrow for a spot in the semi-finals. How are you feeling about that one?
Our record against Astralis is really bad. The problem is that their map pool is really good against us. They have a really good Nuke, which if you watch our Nuke, they're the only team that beat us. Actually, except North, but that was a really bad day [laughs]. We only lose to Astralis, and it feels bad because they win it against everyone, and so every best-of-three they pick Nuke and start the series 1-0. This time around I hope we have learned from the other times and we can take it.
Do you think you're going to be the team that breaks their streak?
Yeah, I think we're the closest ones, we had 14 rounds against them once, and the second time was 13. We study it a lot, we had a bootcamp in LA to try and get a good Nuke. We've even thought about adding Train to our map pool because of Astralis, which would help us a lot. Going up against Astralis, for me, it's just one more match, and if we play our A game we can win, I'm 100% sure.
So adding Train to the map pool, is that Liquid's Christmas homework?
Yeah, we're thinking about playing seven maps. We don't have that much of a chance to practice Nuke because teams in NA don't play it much, so it's hard to practice, but I think adding Train to the pool will be good. We actually had a good Train when I joined the team, but we had a bad result and decided to ban it. We actually know how to play it and we wouldn't have to learn the map like for example when I was in SK. We never played Nuke, so if we would have picked it up we would have had to learn everything. This case is not like that, we know how to play Train and just decided to leave it out of our map pool, but maybe in the future we add it back in.