hutji: "We sometimes play like sh*t online, but we know we come to LAN and do things differently"
We spoke to Pavel "hutji" Lashkov in Katowice after Vega Squadron went 1-1 on the first day of the Major, losing their initial match to G2 14-16 before taking down their compatriots Spirit in an equally close encounter.
As usual, Vega Squadron came into the Major with very little data on them from the past two months, as they have only played a small online tournament since their appearance at the Bucharest Gaming Week in December.
Here at the Major, they have so far played two very close matches, losing to G2 14-16 on Cache and beating Spirit 16-14 on Mirage in a match not unlike the same two teams' encounter at the FACEIT Major.
After the day ended for the Russian-Ukrainian team, we sat down with hutji and the team's manager, Alexander "Lk-" Lemeshev, to find out what the team has been up to since they came back from the break and ask them about the first two matches in Poland.
You were one of the teams that have played very little online, and nothing offline, since December - can you go through what you have been up to and what you focused on since your appearance in Bucharest?
The same story again, yeah, we went off the radar at the beginning of January. Our last LAN appearance was in Bucharest, but since then we haven't really had any chance to attend any LAN or something because we had lost all the qualifiers and then we were playing some of the online qualifiers, like Starladder, we lost to Vitality or something, and at the beginning of January we had a small online tournament where we were playing against ViCi, 3DMAX, and SuperJymy, I believe. This tournament was like a warmup for us before the training process because we had a small vacation during the New Year's Eve period. We were playing those matches at that online tournament to just see what our main mistakes are, how we can approach these rounds differently, etc.
Since then, we were only playing some ESEA Advanced games, we keep trying to get through to MDL, but it isn't working, we lose to some teams that we haven't even heard of before. Those games are just terrible, sometimes they tilt us. We know we are playing totally differently online, but here, as we come to the Major, maybe it's another mindset. I don't want to say we're approaching the Major as a different tournament, but it seems so because the moment we entered the practice room here at the Major, we were playing differently. Everyone was communicating well and the same applies to the matches here. We are communicating way better, everyone is trying their best - I don't want to say we're not trying online, but it doesn't work. And here, everyone is just breathing differently, I would say. It's some sort of Major air (laughs), I don't know.
What kind of expectations did you set for yourselves after making it to the next stage the last few times but failing to make it to the playoffs? Will it be different this time, have the goals changed?
Our goal didn't really change, we still want to make the top eight, but the thing is, as soon as we come to LAN, we know that everyone is playing differently compared to how they play online, how they play in practice, or in official matches. We can see that there are tons of upsets tonight, like fnatic lost to ViCi, then Grayhound were up 13-2 against Vitality. No one expects this and that's what we keep in our heads every time because we know maybe sometimes we play shit online, but we know we come to LAN and do it differently. I wouldn't say if anyone is afraid of us or any other team, but if a team is losing hard, it's hard for them to get back into the game. But that's not the same story for us somehow. Even though we can be losing by big numbers, like in the game against Spirit at the London Major, we were down 3-12 and we managed to come back and win it 16-14. This game wasn't the same, but we were still losing a lot and we managed to come back. But anyway, to get to the top eight, we need to proceed to the next stage first, and to do that, we need to win three games one by one. And we just got the first win.
Previously, you had a big advantage in the surprise factor, teams didn't really know your playstyle, but is it getting tougher to compete here now that the scene has a better idea of how you play?
I still think it's different because if you look at the data since the previous Major, which was almost half a year ago, we have barely played like more than 30 games, I believe. It's kind of complicated for teams to look through our games since they see there is a match in September 2018 and the next game was in December 2018, you don't know if they changed anything throughout that. It's some sort of a mindgame, they don't know what to expect from you, they don't know if you're going to be playing the same way you did before. We don't really care about how the teams adapt to us, we want to adapt to them, we have the data on them and we can learn about them and mix the styles. We can adapt to them, but they can't really adapt to us.
Tell me about your first matches here - losing to G2 14-16 at the beginning on Cache, why do you think that didn't tip in your favor?
It was a really close game, and it's not the main reason, but it was still the first game of the Major, you somehow get nervous even though you are an experienced player and you have played at like five Majors in the past. Sometimes our communication wasn't on point and we had some really close rounds, we lost some clutches to them and we were losing advantages, and we lost both pistols. We were kind of ready to face them, we knew we would most likely play Cache and we learned about them pretty well. They were doing the same stuff we expected, but we weren't 100% focused in those rounds. It was a tough game, anyway, and it was a close one.
You already mentioned how you played against Spirit at the last Major and, generally, you have a history with them seeing as you come from the same region. Did you approach this matchup like any other or was it more difficult to go into it and play it?
There is the term "el classico" when Real Madrid faces Barcelona. I wouldn't say we are like those big names, but every time you come to a Major, you see Spirit and you face them in the first or second round. Personally, I'm glad we didn't face them in an elimination match or a decider match because now both teams still have a chance to advance. It was just another day, there is nothing special about it, that's how we approached this game. It's still the same, you're playing really close rounds. Both teams, they want to die to win this game and that's pretty much it, everyone is doing their best, trying to overcome themselves to beat this team. Maybe we were lucky to win.