The genesis of Winstrike
Winstrike are one of the 24 participants of the IEM Katowice 2019 Major. We gained insight from roster members in regards to how they joined (or re-joined) the team, and how the squad was built.
Winstrike made the cut as one of the New Challengers of the IEM Katowice Major 2019 after a successful run at the recently-concluded Minor Play-ins. The road to qualification was not an easy one, as the Russian roster failed to secure one of the two “done-deal” spots at the regional CIS Minor, instead forced to qualify through the newly-introduced Minor Play-ins, featuring the third-placed sides from each of the four regional competitions.
Winstrike could be described as a team composed out of necessity, seeing as the majority of members had either been removed from their rosters or forced to search for new pastures as a result of crumbling teams. All roster members, bar team captain Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov, were brought in either fresh or given a second chance.
Starting with the more experienced individuals, Jan "wayLander" Rahkonen and Georgi "WorldEdit" Yaskin, the former FlipSid3 duo was part of a sinking ship towards the later stages of their tenure in the North American organisation, now featuring only Yegor "markeloff" Markelov and coach Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy, currently on loan with Gambit.
During their active period with FlipSid3, the team struggled to produce noteworthy results but still managed to wriggle their way into a very respectable number of Major tournaments. WorldEdit represented FlipSid3 at eight Majors, having joined in February 2015, while wayLander, who transferred from Gambit in June 2016, sported their colours at four.
The squad eventually crumbled after failing to qualify for the FACEIT Major, which served as the catalyst for departure of the duo, who sought to sign with a new promising CIS-based organisation, Winstrike.
"I believed in B1ad3 and FlipSid3’s resurrection to the very end, but we parted ways, and I had to seek out a new home," said wayLander.
Alongside the seasoned duo came an ambitious youngster, David "n0rb3r7" Danielyan, who seized the opportunity to play alongside more seasoned players. With a career that kicked off as early as February 2018, the Russian rifler initially represented dAT, albeit for a very brief period of time, a team that fostered a list of outstanding CIS talents, namely Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk, and his current teammate WorldEdit.
The youngster was not intimidated by his more experienced teammates, knowing full-well he would gain the necessary knowledge during his time with them:
"When I joined Winstrike I didn’t particularly pay mind to the fact that I had less experience. I was sure that I would accrue a good amount of experience with my team."
Concluding the team are two members of the successful Quantum Bellator Fire. squad, Aurimas "Kvik" Kvakšys and Boombl4, who managed to prove the world wrong with their former teammates at ELEAGUE Major 2018, where they secured a Legends title, besting many established teams along the way, including the likes of Virtus.pro, Gambit and the previous iteration of Envy.
Contrary to their stellar run in Atlanta, the roster was unable to reproduce the same results at the FACEIT Major, bombing out of the New Legends Stage with a 0-3 record. Due to the newly-introduced Minor Play-in, which saw two teams’ invites shaved off in favour of a quadrangular qualifying tournament, the team fell short of direct qualification for Katowice’s New Challenger stage. As a result, the team subsequently made the decision to bench four of five members.
"I asked the organisation to be released from contractual duties regardless of results at the Major because I didn't like our training process. I couldn’t find my place in the game, so I thought the best decision would be to leave the team and let them find a player that would be more comfortable with all of it.
"I didn't do it before the Major because I thought that every single one of us deserved to play there. It was then the organisation’s decision to bench almost the whole team after the event. It was reasonable, because our results were far from satisfying, so I was ok with it."
Despite having voiced discontent with the team's training process and being benched post-Major, Kvik returned to the starting roster less than a month later as the team was unable to find an adequate replacement for the Lithuanian rifler:
"For the most part, it was the people who were put in charge that made the decision to bring me back in. After some players declined an invitation to play in the team I was called back. Seeing the players who were already called in, and believing that with their experience the training process will be different, I was happy to accept the invitation and give it one more try.”
The sole remaining member of Winstrike, Boombl4, was promoted to team captain following the mass benching. Through mutual decision-making with Winstrike's management the latest iteration of the roster subsequently came together, producing one of CIS’ most promising teams, but not without difficulty and some doubt, as described by the Russian youngsters:
"I didn’t feel lost at all. I understood that the era of that team (Quantum Bellatore Fire) was over, and that I had to keep moving on. The most important part was to correctly set priorities to further my career and not think about others. You have to have this mindset if you want to be a successful player.
"After four players were benched I became the captain of the team, and together with our manager Dart and coach iksou, as well as Winstrike’s General Manager, Krookie, we made a list of players that we felt would fit the team. This was far from an easy task, as after two weeks had elapsed we still didn’t come to a decision.
"We ended up reaching out to WorldEdit and WayLander, who were experienced players, and I am happy that they agreed to join us. Afterwards we made the decision of signing a young carry player, namely n0rb3r7. He had little experience, but we were ready to teach him what we know, meanwhile his main goal was to frag as best as he could.
"As for our fifth, we had a really difficult time deciding, because we were doubtful; we subsequently decided to reintroduce Kvik into the starting roster, because I saw his potential in our previous team (QBF), and understood that he could start playing well in a new roster, which ended up happening.
"Having assembled a full roster we had our tactical coach, Pipson, join the roster. He had experience coaching in China, as well as previously playing alongside WorldEdit and WayLander prior to them joining Winstrike. I am really happy with the work we do as a team of seven, and that we have two coaches that fulfil their specific roles. Iksou is more of a life coach that gets the team out of bad situations, in addition to having a solid understanding of many in-game aspects. Pipson, on the other hand, helps us with preparation for opponents and the structuring of our game, more specifically preparation of rounds and structuring of various playstyles.
"I am very happy with our results after such a brief period of training and existence of the team, in general. We set our goals high and will do our best to achieve them as soon as possible."
Through perseverance and determination Winstrike have ascended the ranks in rapid fashion, now set to participate at the imminent New Challengers Stage of the Katowice Major. Constituent members of the team may differ in their experience playing the game, but if one thing is certain about the roster, it's that the team is aligned and looking to deal damage to anyone they end up facing.
The first roster to be tested by Winstrike will be North America's NRG, largely considered to be one of this stage's favourites, also given their current fifth place in the ranking. The two sides have not yet faced one another in an official match, producing a dynamic where an upset could be a real possibility.