valens: “I challenge our new players to succeed where our previous rosters couldn’t”
Cloud9 have overhauled their roster bringing in four new players, Damian "daps" Steele, Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas, Kenneth "koosta" Suen, and Tyson "TenZ" Ngo, as well as a new head coach, James "JamezIRL" Macaulay. The new members of the team will join Timothy "autimatic" Ta and valens as Cloud9 will try to get back to winning ways after several roster moves that didn’t end up working ended in two disappointing losses to lesser teams in the StarLadder Major’s Americas Minor Closed Qualifier.
In the interview, valens talks about assembling a new lineup, what happened with the old lineups and why it was impossible for Cloud9 to build a competitive roster, why the need for a complete rebuild, and what the team’s short, mid, and long term goals are moving forward, among other topics.
How did this lineup come together? What was the selection process for the players that are being signed?
After our disappointing run during the minor qualifiers, we had a couple of options. We could either wait until after the major ended to see what kind of options we would have or we could try to rebuild now completely from scratch. We chose the latter and started with the IGL. Once we had daps, we discussed what kind of style he would like to play and looked for players that were available to make that a reality.
Having had some roster turmoil during the past year, what are the expectations for this new lineup? How much of a long term project is this?
This is the first time in the last 16 months or so that we weren’t bound by having a trio/roster for a Major event and to keep optimizing for a recipe that clearly wasn’t working. What we needed was a complete rebuild. Slotting in 1 or 2 players to recreate our 2017-2018 form wasn’t working, even though we had a lot of gifted players over that time period. Expectations are to be better today than we were yesterday. There is no guessing game here-- we have metrics in place to ensure we are consistently improving, win or lose. The rest will follow.
It seemed like RUSH was on his way to becoming a franchise player, but was finally left out of the new roster. What went into making that decision?
Being a franchise player requires the desire to keep improving in the face of all adversity. The desire then needs to be put into action-- this is difficult, but it is meant to be. RUSH has the capacity to do this, like he has done countless times before in his career. I felt he has been missing some of that and I hope this lights a fire under him to come back to top tier play with a vengeance.
There were several months of uncertainty with Cloud9 making a lot of roster moves, and several rosters that didn’t pan out. What led to the team not being able to find its footing?
There were several unfortunate circumstances that we couldn’t control that led to inconsistency in our roster (tarik and stewie leaving, Golden becoming sick, flusha taking a break, skadoodle retiring etc.) What we could control was our mentality going into a new team, and knowing that we wouldn’t be able to be the same type of team as in 2017-2018. We made a lot of progress in developing a more consistent playstyle with the help of Tim, myself and Golden. The caveat, though, is that learning a new style with players that are not used to it while also being thrust into playing top-tier events constantly is a recipe for mediocrity. Only a handful of players can take on those challenges, maintain a strong mindset, and persevere.
Are you happy to be getting a fresh start with several changes?
Yes and no. I am happy that we are now more well-rounded CS players than we were last year, but I am unhappy that we weren’t able to execute it when it mattered most. I challenge our new players to succeed where our previous rosters couldn’t-- I know you can do it.
Moving forward, it seems there are certain roles that will be filled with experienced players. daps taking the lead, autimatic as a star player, mixwell AWPing… Is having solid role players like that something that was missing in some of the past iterations of the team?
The biggest thing that hurt us as a team was Tim taking on the awping role out of necessity. It is a testament to his process and skill that he was able to become insane at it in just a few months. The main issue, however, is that trying to replace Tim with another rifler who has a similar skillset is almost impossible.
The roster includes a young up-and-coming talent in TenZ, could you tell me a little bit about him and why he was included in the lineup?
He was included in the lineup because he can obliterate people. The rest is where we will help him get better. I have a lot of faith in him because he has a great attitude .
JamezIRL will be the coach, can you tell us a little bit about that? What will be your role in the team?
James is one of the hardest working people I know. His work ethic, organization skills, and eye for detail are all great qualities to have in a leadership figure. He will be thrust into the head coach role with our full support. I will still be very active during practice and reviews, and also supporting the team from a data-driven perspective.
You’re scheduled to play at BLAST Pro Series Los Angeles, which is quite soon. Will the team prepare in any special way ahead of that event? Will there be a bootcamp?
Cloud9, and specifically Jack [Etienne], has done a great job building an environment that allows players and staff to focus completely on CS. We will all be working together in person, getting to know each other both in and out of the game.
What do you expect to gain from that event?
LAN experience: specifically in the areas of making communication better and striving to play matches the way we practice.
You have some free time after BLAST Pro Series Los Angeles, as your next scheduled event will be the next ESL Pro League. Have you already planned how you will use your time before the start of the upcoming season?
Besides a player break to allow players to spend time with friends and family, we will be actively practicing together to find our own style.
What will be the goals for the team in the short/mid/long term?
Short term: just play the game and mold our style around our natural strengths; be better today than we were yesterday.
Medium term: consciously improve on closing the gap between matches and practice.
Long term: deepen our map pool, make our utility usage more efficient, keep our individual play up, and enjoy each other’s company