Relyks: "I found out Cooper- was being signed from an HLTV article; it was just a mess towards the end of eUnited"
After being released from eUnited at the start of the year, Relyks took a step back to consider his options. After finding stable ground on what is now New Identity, Relyks narrowly missed out out on a spot at IEM Chicago following a loss to Envy in the grand finals of the closed qualifier.
In an interview during the player break, Relyks further elaborated on his exit from eUnited, reuniting with Will "dazzLe" Loafman and Michael "dapr" Gulino on New Identity, and a handful of other topics.
Let's start with your time in eUnited. There were a number of role swaps and changes to the bench when they brought on FNS and were deciding on adding Cooper-, so can you walk me through a bit of what happened towards the end of your tenure in eUnited there and what may have led to some of those role swaps?
Well the thing is, I don't really ultimately know what led to these role swaps. When we first formed the team, I went into a in-game leading position, which was the first time I'd done that in my career. Over the course of multiple different months we continued to improve, we made Pro League, we made ECS, we went to the Minor, we were showing really good improvement for the amount of time we'd been together. And then, out of nowhere, I had heard that they were picking up FNS for Ace, obviously to IGL. I primary AWPed for just over a week and then I found out Cooper- was being signed from an HLTV article so I was like, okay, I'm either getting benched or being removed.
We'd already had discussions among the team and our coach about who would be the most likely roster changes if we were going to change them, and all of a sudden that had all changed from what I remember and all of a sudden I was being talked about being benched. I was just kind of like, "whatever you guys wanna do, go ahead." Then they benched dazzLe, and then I came back, so I switched to entrying, and then before the holiday break I was told I was going back to the bench and dazzLe was back. It was kind of just a mess towards the end of eUnited.
I don't actually know how much influence came from the players and came from management, because certain things like the Cooper- signing was all management as far as I know. A bunch of my teammates didn't even know that they were signing that player, which is... kind of bad. As far as what caused the roster changes, I don't know, I don't know if somebody said something, if it was just management deciding they wanted to see better results and a roster move was the answer, I don't know.
So you didn't really have a heads up, no one on the team knew what was going on at that point?
Yeah, at least not with the Cooper- signing. With the FNS signing, we had kind of talked about FNS before, because I didn't join that team to be an IGL, I just assumed the role because the player that was on their team, vSa, that was on the original Rise Nation lineup as their IGL, ended up not being able to continue playing with them, so now that role was open, someone needed to call, and I think I was the most likely person because no one else at that time had any pro experience or weren't really people that looked like they would be IGLs.
You were released from eUnited in January, but then you took a bit of time off and didn't end up joining a new team until April, which was Bad News Bears. Were you taking time to analyze your options or just taking a break?
It was a bit of both. I wasn't really looking to join the very first team that messaged me or anything, I was waiting to see what I had available because I wanted to join a team where I knew I would fit in role-wise and personality-wise. At this point in my career I've played a lot of different roles so I was open to a lot of different things, but I wasn't in a rush to do anything.
Did you receive any offers while you were taking that time off that were tempting?
Yeah, over that time period after I was released from eUnited, I got reached out to by multiple different teams. A lot of them were just MDL teams looking to make a change. I did get reached out to by one... prospective pro team I guess you could say. They were very likely to get the pro spot out of the current season of MDL that was going on at the time, that I wasn't playing in, but just not tempting enough that I just wanted to join right away. Because I really don't mind joining a team like the one I'm on now and working through MDL to get a Pro League spot, I'm not opposed to doing it.
When you did join a team, you first linked up with Bad News Bears, which ended up turning into what is now Riot Squad. You were only on that roster for about 3 weeks, what led to you leaving that team?
There were a few things. Part of it I could chalk it up to difference in practice mentality, or even focus. Not to say they weren't taking it serious, but there was just a lot of things going on in practice that led me to not wanting to continue to play because I didn't really want to waste my time. I wasn't comfortable just practicing and playing to be a middle ground MDL team, I had the aspiration of getting that pro spot. That was the goal, that was the whole reason of playing MDL. Not to just accept being average.
Also, there's a lot of role swaps going on, even in the very first few weeks I was there. When I joined the team ptr was IGLing, and then they brought shinobi back from coaching, and then he was IGLing because he called for them the previous season. Then they were wanting me to IGL, and at that point in time I didn't want to IGL if I didn't have to on a team. I wanted to just play another role and be able to focus on myself individually. But obviously I'm calling on New Identity now, so I couldn't escape it.
You've reunited with dazzLe and dapr on New Identity now, but this is the first time you're playing with wrath and seb on a team. What are they like as players compared to some of your former teammates?
seb is usually the other calm voice of reason with me. He's the oldest player on the team, and he's definitely been playing CS for quite a long time, longer than all four of us. He's like an old 1.6 player so he has a lot of experience and he can help guide someone like wrath, who is 17. Wrath and seb tend to play a lot of positions together and seb is kind of the guiding voice when he doesn't know what to do mid-round. wrath has really good aim, he's one of those young up-and-comers that people were talking about a few years ago and he kind of never went anywhere. My goal is to continue trying to help develop him as a player and see if he can find his niche so to speak.
Touching on those sort of upcoming players in North America, oBo and s0m have risen up through FPL recently, but I remember talking to you in Montreal and back then you said that you thought FPL was a bit of a negative influence sometimes on the stylistic upbringing of players. Is that still the case?
Yeah, in North America unfortunately I think that's still the case. A lot of people seem to be of the same opinion that they think it's a bad environment and a lot of people don't take it seriously and just kind of mess around. I think FACEIT is trying to take the management of their league more seriously, like they're implementing a new report system to try and hold people accountable for not taking it serious and whatnot.
That being said though, I think FPL is still a good place for these up-and-coming players to show their individual skill, although it may not be the most team-oriented or good Counter-Strike, at least they're playing against other people that are highly skilled individually in their region and they get to test themselves.
You were just talking about how you're comfortable with going back down to the lower leagues and grinding your way back up. Do you think that is something that's missing from the North American scene, where the more capable, experienced players are willing to grind back to the top with the up-and-comers?
Potentially. I think a lot of people, especially if they've played pro before, when they become teamless and they're looking for a team, a lot of them at least at first, they don't have any interest in playing anything other than pro. Once they've waited for a while, seeing what offers they get, and if they're getting no pro offers, then they'll consider playing MDL and looking at MDL offers.
I don't know if it's just because they don't want to play MDL, or like if you've played two or three seasons of pro in a row and then you go back down to MDL, I think there's this fear that all of a sudden maybe you're considered an MDL player and you won't even get a look from pro teams if they're making a roster change unless you're back in Pro League. I have seen it before, like even me playing on a team in MDL, talking to another ex-pro player when we're looking for a potential roster and them kind of saying like "thanks for the offer", but they're going to wait and see what offers they get. And I look at them a few months later down the line and they're playing on a different MDL team.
That seems to be a big difference between North American and European MDL, in Europe there seems to be a lot of experienced players in teams that are grinding up, like Vitality had to make it through MDL and they became a top team at the same time.
I'm not sure why the cultures are so different, I was talking about this the other day with my stream and someone was asking about the disparity, for the most part, when it comes to Europe versus North America in Counter-Strike. Obviously right now Liquid is ranked number one in the world, but still when you look at the top 20 teams on HLTV, how many of them are North American? I don't know if this is the full cause of it, but I think it does have to do with the spreading of players.
If you think about it geographically in Europe, like if you're looking in Denmark, or Sweden, or France, or any of these pretty big CS countries, all of their best players are spread between two, or maybe three teams. Meanwhile you look at North America and how big it is as a region, geographically, and how many people there are playing and where all those players are spread all throughout MDL and different Pro League rosters and things like that.
You guys are playing in the Fragadelphia 13 Online tournament right now and have the MSI MGA North America Closed Qualifier coming up this weekend, did you guys take a break and are coming in fresh or have you been practicing during the off-season?
We took a little break, it was less than a week long. We've been practicing for over a week now. We're practicing during the off-season, really getting ready for this next season of MDL, playing in these online qualifiers when we get the chance. We're playing in Frag Online because we'd like to go to Fragadelphia, we're also playing in the ESEA Proving Grounds, but really it's just to help us get more practice and to play more coming into this MDL season because it's also a move-up season.
Speaking of Fragadelphia, N3rd Street Gamers have been doing their National Championship Series, but until this year there were very few local LANs around North America. Is that something you think we could use more of to help build an infrastructure for CS in NA?
Yeah, it's one thing I've always praised Fragadelphia for. We certainly could use more of it. When you have a LAN as big as Fragadelphia, which for a local grassroots LAN has a pretty big prize pool, you start getting more and more serious teams attending. You start actually having full MDL teams, and I've even heard of a few pro teams that want to go and they might send themselves.
Although that's a good thing for all of these other people going there for experience and what not, I think we could use more smaller LANs around the US that could give people their first taste of LAN Counter-Strike in a competitive environment and really show new or inexperienced players a LAN experience so that as they make their way up through the ranks, maybe there's somebody like oBo, who grinds and grinds and then gets picked up by coL (Complexity). He went to ECS Season 7 as his first LAN, a big international LAN, and I think that if these younger, developing players could attend a few different smaller local LANs as they go up through the levels, get some experience in that environment and with CS on LAN, then that would help prepare themselves for actual international LANs versus top teams.
To tie this off, aside from making it to Fragadelphia and the MSI MGA Grand Finals, do you guys have any goals in mind for the second-half of the year?
Obviously making EPL, and this team, the previous iteration of this roster, they had a spot in whatever leads into ECS, so we'll figure out where we stand there and try to make ECS also. When it comes to the state this team is in, where we've been together with this five for a month and a half or something, we're just practicing a lot, grinding, playing any online qualifiers we can for any events. IEM Chicago we lost in the finals to Envy, we could've been at that event.
The goals really are making Pro League, that's really the big goal, but other than that playing in any sort of qualifiers we can for any events, any offline tourneys we can go to, and the other big league is ECS so we'll figure out our standing with them and try to make ECS at the same time. We're really focused on ourselves right now, trying to improve as best as we can, as fast as we can.