jks: "We are more open to each other than we were on past rosters"
In a sit down with Justin "jks" Savage following Renegades' 5-8th finish at the IEM Katowice Major we learned about how the team managed to achieve Oceania's best Major result, and what they need to improve before StarSeries i-League S7.
jks was his team's best player throughout the run in Katowice, leading the charge with a 1.11 rating across 10 maps played. In the end, "The Boys" were stopped in the quarterfinals by MIBR, falling flat on the Spodek stage.
In our interview with jks, the Australian rifler shared his thoughts on what they managed to achieve, described what went wrong in the MIBR game, and what they will be doing to avoid burnout moving forward.
You had a day to collect your thoughts, you had a long Minor-Major Qualifier-Major run here. What do you think about what you managed to achieve so far?
I think that, overall, we are satisfied with our result. As you said, it was a really long run, we went through the open qualifiers which we played in Australia, then we went through the Minor, then we went through the Main Qualifier, then through the other Swiss stage after that... Overall we are pretty satisfied with the result even though it would've been great to be in the semi-finals, but you have to look at it from a bigger perspective, I guess. Obviously, we made some mistakes in the MIBR game that we can fix, they played very well also, but you can't really be unsatisfied with coming top 8 at a Major, right? Hopefully, we can just improve on that next time.
What do you think were the mistakes that you made in the MIBR game? Because it was the closest quarter-final on paper, but in the end, you didn't live up to the task.
When we finished that game I was pretty disappointed because I felt like we didn't really put up a good show for everyone at the arena, and especially the fans back at home. We made a couple of mistakes on the T-side which lost us some crucial rounds and they kind of strung the rounds after that together and they got a bigger advantage. I think that if we won one or two of those rounds on the T-side, which were crucial, I think it would've probably changed the way the game went. Then, on top of that, on the CT side, we lost the anti-eco and we didn't even get a kill, that was really bad, especially for our economy. We didn't win a round after that, it pretty much put a nail the coffin for us.
I think that our problem was that we weren't really following the gameplan that we set and we were kind of doing things that we never really did in practice. That is what we came to when we had our debrief after. So I'm not to sure what it was, maybe it was the stage jitters, maybe it was just the pressure getting to us, but I'd say that, overall, in some of those rounds we didn't follow the gameplan and it cost us multiple rounds, and on top of tht, they punished us a lot and played really well as well. It was kind of like facing Astralis, it was a brick wall in some rounds, especially on Train, it was very difficult on the T-side. It kind of reminded me of playing Astralis on Inferno, for example, you can't really get anything done. You get down to the 3v3s but they are just way more experienced and better at those situations and they just close it out.
This is the biggest achievement that you guys managed with any of the old Renegades rosters or the Vox Eminor rosters. With the latest roster change, what did the players bring that made you unlock this new level?
Outside of the game, in every roster, everyone got along with each other, we've always been really good mates outside of the game. I think that it is just a matter of what people bring in-game, how people see the game. I think that this time around, now that we have AZR leading and kassad as the coach, those two see the game really similarly, they are kind of on the same page about that. On top of that, me and jkaem are really open to the way we play the game and we follow the way they want to play. To add to that, we have Liazz and Gratisfaction who are the new players, and being a new player in your first big team, they want to do pretty much whatever they are told. They want to be a part of the team, do what is best for the team.
So putting all of that together, I think everyone is on the same page, that is the most important factor of it. Additionally, Gratisfaction and Liazz are both very skilled individually, even though Liazz has got some of the tough roles after joining the team, so maybe his stats don't show that—not that it matters. He is really good individually, he is a really good support player in terms of what we tasked him with, he has taken that role pretty well. It is an "everyone is playing for eachother" kind of a thing, so over time, I guess it will get better, once we get used to each other better, once we sort out some more things in game. Overall, I think that everyone just sees the game exactly the same way, the way we should play it. And we are always working on our mistakes, trying to fix them, and we are more open to each other than we were on past rosters. That definitely helps in fixing our mistakes faster. I'd say those are the main factors.
One of the things you excelled in at this tournament were your mid-rounds, which were much better than they were before. Looking at your team's stats, your opening kills aren't that good, multikills as well, just fragging out isn't working that well. But in the end you get the rounds, so there has to be something you do in the later stages: how did that develop and why are you improved in that part?
I'd say it is probably because AZR is really good at midround calling. He has a really good read on the game when it is 40 seconds or below. Everyone feeds him info and having that info is very important, we can just decide where we want to go on the map, what is the best play to do. He has always been good in that regard, as a secondary caller, so I guess that, from when he wasn't a caller, plays into what he is doing right now. I'd say that is a really big part of it. I'm not quite sure why we do better in those situations other than that, to be honest.
About 4v5s, that is something that we are working on really hard. We realize it is an issue, especially on the T side, that is something we are working on and are trying to implement into our game more. It just comes with time, practice, and stuff like that. But I think we've done pretty well this tournament with fixing a lot of those mistakes that we have in the mid-round and I think our trading is actually quite good, it is something we've been focusing on a lot in practice. We have some more things we are going to work on between now and StarLadder [StarSeries i-League Season 7], just to help us get more opening frags and kind of make trading more beneficial for us, more advantageous for us.
As you mentioned, StarLadder is your next event, what is your short term plan until then, what are you going to be doing?
We have to sort out some visas for the US over the next week because we can't return there without them. We are going to be taking a small break here, probably in Poland, so we are going to be here for another 10 days on top of the 50 days or something like that we've already been here. But yeah, we can't really do much about that. After that, we are going to head back to the US and we're going to be treating the remaining two-and-a-half or three weeks like we did the time here, same schedule and stuff like that, because we really want to do well at StarLadder and hopefully we can win it. Because after the show we've put on here, I kind of realize that we actually can do a lot of damage at big events.
Is there any worry that you are going to be burning out from playing too much?
I don't think so, we are going to be using the next few days during which we are doing the visas [to relax], jkaem is going to go back to Norway because it is a really short flight and I think kassad is going to go back to Serbia also. For the Australian guys and the New Zealand guys, it is a little bit harder because it is so far away, if we did go home, we'd have four days max so it is not really worth the jet lag and the cost and everything. I think we are going to try to do things outside of the game instead of playing pugs, chill out a little bit, make sure we are hungry when we get back to NA to start the bootcamp. Not burning out is definitely something we are focused on, in our debrief yesterday we talked about how we worked really hard, that we deserve a break, of course, but we still have to stay on top of things. I think it is a fine line we need to balance.
You guys making the top 8 is the biggest success for an Australian team, Grayhound made it into the Major qualifier, also had a decent performance even though they didn't make it deep. How do you think all of this reflects on the Australian scene and the guys back home?
I think Grayhound had a good showing despite the losses, I think they had very close games against every team almost. It is nothing to hang your head in shame, they did really good. Hopefully, us advancing to the top 8 motivates more teams in Australia to practice harder, to make them more hungry to come overseas and play big events as Grayhound does. Obviously, it is a very good thing overall, the first Australian team to make the top 8 and the Major is obviously the most prestigious, biggest event, so everyone is talking about that event. So hopefully, on top of making the teams more motivated to play, it also brings more sponsorship deals to Australia, that would be good for the scene. I think it had a very positive effect overall.