ShahZaM: "So far this bootcamp has been the most productive one I’ve had with Complexity"
We got the chance to talk to Shahzeb "ShahZaM" Khan ahead of the StarLadder Major about Complexity's preparation for the event, life without Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz, and Owen "oBo" Schlatter's impact since his arrival.
With the StarLadder Major about to start, we quizzed ShahZaM about the preparation for the Major, Complexity's new facility, his expectations for the tournament and the upcoming release of the new version of Cache, among other topics. In this interview, the North American AWPer confirmed that the team is being coached by Jamie "keita" Hall, who has been working with the players for two months now.
With the addition of oBo and dephh’s transition into full time in-game-leading, what has the team been doing to prepare for the Major?
When we decided to have dephh become our new IGL we also decided to scrap pretty much everything we had before and reinvent the team while including oBo. With having people play new spots, new systems on maps, and new strats, it requires a lot of practice, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. We didn’t have a break and continued with full practice days leading up to our 12-day bootcamp here in Germany. So far this bootcamp has been the most productive one I’ve had with compLexity, and I think it’s largely because of our coach, Keita. He really drives all the discussion about our strengths and weaknesses on maps and helps us focus on the specific things we need to improve. I think we’re just about ready for the Major.
Going off of that, what are your expectations for the upcoming Major? Do you think the team has what it takes to reclaim a Legends spot?
Considering how we’ve been playing here at the bootcamp, I definitely expect us to advance through the New Challenger Stage. This team has what it takes to reclaim a Legends spot, and honestly, if we’re all playing at our best I feel like we can beat anyone.
Complexity recently opened up a new facility in Texas and rebranded, starting an “esports 3.0” era. What are your impressions on the new facility and techniques being introduced into the organization? Do you think taking a more “professional sports athletes” type approach is something that other teams should be looking into as well?
The opening of the new facility in Frisco and the rebranding have been really exciting for everyone. We were all anticipating this for a while and even though we now go there to practice every day it still feels surreal. Leading up to our trip here for the bootcamp and the Major we have been taking advantage of everything offered to us. Morning workouts a few times a week, lunch at the Training Table as a team, using the Mind Gym (cognitive training), and other team activities. I think there are a lot of things that traditional sports teams do that could be applied to esports and help increase performance. We’re trying many different things and figuring out what works best for us.
So far we have only publicly seen oBo play at one LAN event with Complexity, but you have obviously had more time to watch him play and develop these past few months. Do you think he has what it takes to be a big star for the North American scene? Has he been performing to the team's expectations?
I think oBo showed exactly what he’s capable of during our ECS run when we first picked him up. The kid is very talented, and we’re trying our best to teach him everything about playing with a team. Because we’re actually the first real team he’s played with, he’s had to learn a crazy amount of stuff pretty quickly. Honestly, he didn’t even know any smokes when we first picked him up because you don’t really need to in FPL [laughs]. I’m really happy with how well he’s retained all the stuff we’ve been teaching him, he can for sure become a big star in North America one day.
You have spent a large portion of your career playing under the leadership of stanislaw on various teams. How has it been to adjust to his absence from the roster? How different is dephh's style of calling and has it been easy adjusting to it?
Honestly, my stints under stanislaw were plagued with various team issues, so it’s been refreshing to have dephh take over as an IGL. His work ethic is honestly similar to when I played with Sean Gares and he’s done a really great job so far. Since he’s been working closely with Keita, his transition to in-game leader has felt really natural. We feel more like a team now than ever before.
You were last seen competing in the closed qualifiers for IEM Chicago and ESL One New York, finishing 3rd-4th in both tournaments. Was it hard to miss out on qualification for both tournaments, especially considering that you lost to teams you should be beating? What went wrong in those matches?
Ah yeah, losing both of those qualifiers was super disappointing. It’s already been a slow year for us, and we were the favorites for the Chicago qualifier and we blew it. It definitely hurt a lot, but I was also happy with how we responded. After we lost to Envy in the first qualifier we re-watched the game and discussed everything we needed to change the same day. We ended up playing them again on the same maps the following day and won convincingly because of it. Losing those qualifiers pretty much let us know how much we still needed to go over and work on, and it kicked us into gear leading up to now.
At the ECS Season 7 Finals, your first LAN event with this lineup, you managed to beat MIBR. Were you confident heading into that match? Do you think that result showed the potential of this team?
I think our ECS performance was decent considering how recently we had picked up oBo. We had just a few days of practice leading up to it and only had losses to Vitality, who ended up winning the event. I think it was good for the confidence of the team to win that MIBR game and also show ourselves the potential of our roster. We did a lot of preparation for the matches, which led to us playing confidently against them even without a lot of groundwork. It was nice to have oBo get comfortable playing on LAN before we head into the Major as well.
The new Cache will be showcased at the upcoming ESL One New York event. Are you excited to see the changes to the map? In your opinion, which map should it replace?
I’m pretty curious if any tweaks will significantly change the way the map is played or if it’ll just be smaller differences. My teams have always been really good on it, but personally I didn’t like the map too much. If it came back in the pool it should probably replace Mirage since I feel like the map is due for a re-work.
Your team seems to be flying under the radar at the moment, similarly to what happened at the FACEIT Major London. Do you think you can use that to your benefit and pull off some upsets?
Yeah, it makes sense that we would be the underdog heading into this Major. We just haven’t played a lot of matches with this roster yet. I think it always helps, it makes us play with no pressure like we did through the FACEIT Major. I expect us to advance to Legends stage, so we’ll for sure have to pull off some upsets to get there.
You’ve only played Vertigo in official matches three times, losing two games and winning one. What is your opinion about the recent changes to the map? Do you think it is more viable competitively now?
We all enjoyed playing the map as a team even before the recent update. I’m not sure if the changes make it more viable competitively, I personally feel like it’s done the opposite. It feels like some teams like to fight way more aggressively in A and it gets really scrappy with the spawn timings now. Maybe it gives the CTs more options but I think there could be more changes done to make it better. But overall I still enjoy the map and it’s nice to play something new and be creative.