Sonic: "Nifty did a good job at choosing personalities that would match well"
Sonic was one of the core roster members of the Bravado lineup that made the move to North America in January of 2018. While a majority of the year saw the team grind their way through a number of qualifiers as they looked to improve, their year was capped off with a second place finish at DreamHack Winter, securing victories over G2 and OpTic in the group stage.
The new year saw the team's fate take a downturn as financial instability for the Bravado organization lead to the roster seeking a new home, with the team initially enticed by Denial before managing to backtrack and settle on ATK. In an up-front interview, Sonic gave us his perspective on what happened with the organizations, how his move to Envy came about, the team's current outlook, as well as a handful of other topics.
Let’s go back to the way the first half of the year ended for you guys. You narrowly missed out on a spot at the StarLadder Major Americas Minor and were eliminated from IEM Chicago in last place. Obviously, Nifty being unable to play in the decider series against MIBR was unfortunate, but where do you think your team stands as you exit the player break?
During the first half of the year we were a reasonably new team, a new lineup, and we were reworking a lot on the team's structure and the way we play together, our synergy and whatnot. We were just using that time as a bonding period and weren't really expecting results from anything, but we were putting up some decently good numbers against some pretty recognizable teams. It was unfortunate that we lost out in the Minor, but it happens. I think that now, if we were to play those games today, with our current form, we would definitely have put up good results and made the Minor. Maybe even pushed through to the Major. It is what is it is.
It was unfortunate that Nifty fell ill in Chicago and we couldn't play with our full lineup and we lost our in-game leader, so that made it pretty difficult to play against MIBR. They also had a stand-in, for the record, but it wasn't their IGL—they still had FalleN with them. It was a bit difficult, but we were pretty close to winning that match. We kind of threw it in the end, but we were still happy with how we performed, so we weren't upset. The situation was what it was. It was a pretty good experience for us and a pretty good experience for the team as a whole.
Going into the player break we all just took some time off. We're still playing, just individually. We got back at it as a team about two days ago when we started playing together again ahead of the MSI MGA qualifier, which will be taking place this weekend. I think we're pretty ready for that.
With Nifty missing from the IEM Chicago match against MIBR, Eley said that s0m ended up calling during that series. s0m is still pretty inexperienced on LAN, that was still one of his first offline events, but he still played pretty well. How does playing with s0m at some of his first LANs compare to playing with Fadey on Bravado last year?
Fadey, he's quite a nervous player, so we didn't really expect much of him on LAN. We thought he would have some LAN jitters, but he actually pulled through and played extremely confidently, putting up some really big numbers, and it's almost exactly the same with Sam [s0m].
Sam is a more outgoing person and has a lot more energy, especially on LAN, which I think helps him and boosts him a lot, and it's quite an advantage for a player to have. We were also all just giving input so we could help each other and not just lay it all on him. Sam did perform pretty well and he was calling the majority of the games despite not having performed so well at previous LANs, like the ESL Pro League. He definitely stepped his game up at IEM Chicago and I think it will just continue and carry into the next tournaments.
From your perspective, what happened with the whole Bravado situation and the move to ATK?
We played DreamHack Winter, where we did really well, and after that we went to the Minor in Poland. At that point, before going to Poland, we were made aware that the organization's finances were dipping really hard and that they probably couldn't support us anymore and we would probably have to return to South Africa for a good period of time, a couple of months or so.
That meant we would possibly lose our league placements, we'd lose a lot of progress as a team, and we could fall behind, which wasn't an option for us. At the time we were also using up a lot of our own personal finances to support ourselves, we were even paying for parts of our bootcamps in other countries, and it just wasn't sustainable.
We did the whole fundraising thing and we fell short of our goal, but Bravado's sponsors then said they would cover the shortfall. I don't see that as a legitimate business practice, I think that's bullshit, it shouldn't be like that. Sponsors should be your first friend, not your last friend. Then there was also the uncertainty that this would just happen again three months down the line. The fundraising would only have supported us for three months and we would have just ran into the same issues again and again. We felt like we couldn't grow as a team and move forward if we were constantly fretting over the financial issues and with crisis sort of looming over us, so we decided it was best for us to seek another organization.
What led to ATK being the team you eventually settled on, did they reach out to you or did you guys contact them?
Yeah so about ATK... a good friend of mine was actually messaging me about them, telling me they wanted to speak to me. This was when a lot of the shit was going down, and I just didn't really get back to them. We eventually spoke and they mentioned that they're putting together this whole project with a lot of financing and funding. We had a meeting with them when we went back to South Africa and it seemed pretty promising. They were offering us a lot, so we decided to go with them. It was also a South African organization and we wanted to keep it at home since our experience with Denial wasn't so pleasant.
Let's talk about how this iteration of Envy came together. Can you tell me a bit about what led to your move from ATK to Envy? Was a team change something you were considering for a while, and were there any other teams that reached out to you aside from Envy?
I've always had offers from American teams throughout my career here in the States, but at the time I was just really comfortable with Bravado and ATK. I've always wanted to do this whole thing with a South African lineup just because that's how I envisioned my dream to be. I was also just really close with them and we were really good friends. We lived together for a couple of years and I've known them for a good portion of my life, so I felt like I almost owed seeing it out with them, but it got to a point, with all the ups and downs, through all the team issues and the financial problems, that I needed to make a decision for myself and what I wanted to do with my future as a player.
At that point I was approached by Nifty. Envy is a really good organization, it's a really big organization with a lot of resources at its hand and the offer came at
a time when I was sort of questioning what I was going to do with my future, if that was really what I wanted to do, and I saw it as a really good opportunity. I sat down with JT and T.c, our coach, and they encouraged me to actually take the opportunity and to follow through with it. Personally, I also just wanted a change of environment, a change of goals and aspirations for myself, so I made the decision to go with Envy in order to face some new challenges, have some new experiences, and see where it takes me.
In an interview with Hotspawn, Nifty said he built this Envy roster based on how you are as people, looking at in-game attitudes and whether players are stubborn or not. Do you feel that when you're playing?
He was very clever in the way he picked players and did a really good job at choosing personalities that would match well with each other. Purely because of my experience so far, it's been pretty great. No one really clashes, there are no disagreements, everyone respects each other in an equal manner, and everyone is pretty open to listening and learning from one another, which makes for a pretty healthy team environment. It's working pretty well so far. Everyone has a good understanding and mutual respect for one another, and the team is growing accordingly. I can see it and it should show in our results soon enough.
Speaking a bit more about Nifty, how does he compare as an IGL to someone like JT? This is the first North American roster that you've played on, are there any stylistic differences you've noticed?
I see some good similarities between them, but I think Nifty has some extras under his belt in terms of leading. He's got a bit more experience with other teams and he's very calm and collected, the same way that JT is, but Nifty has this... he's almost got this little bit of an edge, he's very quick and decisive, and he's very clear when speaking and communicating to the team, especially in high pressure situations. That's very difficult for an IGL to maintain, usually, and it's what's required of an IGL if you want to compete at a high level. I respect him for it, we all respect him for it, and it's really good to have a tool like that in the team. He also notices outside aspects which improve the team, such as seeing a sports psychologist, dietary planning, physical fitness, etc. He sees those as important parts and integral to the game. He's a step ahead, in my opinion.
Stepping up to a pro-level team, have you noticed any immediate discrepancies between playing where you are now and MDL?
In terms of practice, we do practice against the same teams as I did with ATK, just because that's how scrims go, but in terms of matches, Chicago was quite a step up. I have competed against some top teams before with the Bravado and ATK lineups, but in Envy it's almost as if there's this professional sort of atmosphere. There's this different kind of energy and vibe surrounding the players and the way they approach and play these matches. It's almost as if it doesn't matter who you're up against, while if you're on a team that is yet to establish itself in a scene, it's almost frightening to play against higher tier teams in matches that count. In Envy it's just not like that, it's as if it's another day at the office, which is a nice feeling because it allows you to compete in this pressure-free environment and allows you to perform at your peak as a player.
It was just announced that you guys will play against INTZ in the ESL Pro League Relegation later this month. One of your aims is to keep your spot in Pro League, but are there any concrete goals that you guys have set for yourselves for the second half of the year?
We just wish to qualify for as many tournaments as we can and stick to our plan of growth. This is a long-term project, so we don't expect too much in a short period of time, but I'm seeing our growth rate is pretty exponential both as a team and as friends, as well.
When you say that you are sticking to your plan of growth, can you expand on that a bit with what that entails for you guys?
Yeah, so a lot of teams set themselves up with these short expectations, and usually that could lead to failure, that's how I see most of these teams that disband or kick players because they feel it's not working—or they just don't see it working, but they don't give themselves enough time. Nifty has this vision that I agree with and that we spoke a lot about, and that's a long-term goal-oriented team that is built up over a long period of time so that you give things a chance to grow.
If it doesn't work in the end, then it doesn't work, but I believe by doing that, you give yourself a lot more of a chance for success because things that may not seem like they're working now may end up working later on when you chop and change or fix things.