ImAPet: "You kind of lose that fear of the number one team if you just keep playing them in scrims"
The North American side NRG advanced to the playoffs in Berlin following an impressive showing, defeating Renegades, Liquid and Astralis. NRG are therefore the second team to advance to the final stage of the Major, joining ENCE in the playoffs.
To hear about what the team changed under the leadership of Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz, the issues in the games against Renegades, and taking down their North American rivals Liquid, we sat down and talked with ImAPet.
You come into the New Legends Stage and play against Renegades in the first match. You potentially even look like the worse team in that match, but you manage to win it. Tell me a bit about what happened in the game.
In the Renegades game we had a sick first half, but then we swapped over to the T side and... we have a problem, especially vs. Dreameaters when we reached OT, we are having problems closing games out. I don't think it is anything about complacency, we are just trying to play too safe and guaranteed. But because of that game we played a lot more free in the next ones, but yeah, without those hero plays and the ecos Renegades were losing, we probably wouldn't be in this position right now.
Renegades are a great team and I can clearly tell they bootcamped and made it pretty productive, maybe they need a little help on their coordination on some parts of their T side. Overall, I think they are a pretty good team and it sucks to keep losing 16-14, 16-13, overtime... They will get there, I hope it is not a mental block. If so, a sports psychologist is needed (laughs), even though that is not a magic answer. But we will see how Renegades does, but for us, it was huge momentum to keep going through the stage and helped us fix a huge problem.
Are you working with a sports psychologist right now?
Unfortunately not, we are going to find one, and if you are a sports psychologist reading this, you can for sure hit us up because we are still looking for one. I think it is good to have it, just as a resource. Obviously it is not going to be a magical solution, it might even make you worse, you never know, but you might as well try it and see how it goes if you are on the back end.
After that you go and play Liquid, obviously number one NA team and number one team in the world right now. And it seems like a completely different game, comparing to the first one, you smashed them. How did that happen, how was it so one-sided?
I think, first off, I think everyone played like a fu**ing beast. Everyone aimed super-well, they were super-crispy. We started off pretty nice and positive, everyone is so positive right now. So when we faced Liquid it was also a team we scrimmed a lot in our bootcamps and we were just getting super comfortable with them, we just play the same maps over and over and over again. You kind of lose that fear of the number one team if you just keep playing them in scrims.
We were just kind of rolling, we learned from the Renegades game that on the T side we need to be more fast-paced, throw in some slow rounds but also have a more versatile style. And you know, Dust2 is pretty basic, you don't have to know fifty smokes, you just need to know mid-B, long corner, the spawn smoke from cat and you are pretty much set. We let people have a lot of freedom to help maneuver the rounds, Ethan has been doing a great job, he has been helping a lot, especially on Dust2. It feels like he is really comfortable and it feels like he knows how to navigate the mid-rounds. I think that without him saying what he is saying right now, we probably wouldn't have beaten Liquid.
Has that always been something Ethan was good with? Helping mid-rounds and maybe coordinating the bombsite he is playing on?
Before we got tarik and stanislaw, Ethan was always the one talking with daps, the one coming into the server and watching demoes randomly, coming up with ideas. I think that throughout that time, he has gotten a lot better working on his mid-round. I'm not going to say that he called perfectly every round, he definitely made his mistakes, but he is a young guy and I appreciate him making the effort all the time to help the team out in the mid-round.
I think that throughout all of those mistakes and all of the games we've played he has gained enough experience that now his mid-rounding is super good and is a big positive impact for the team because we have a bunch of people who are pretty vocal. No one is going to take over the whole round and not give anyone else a say, it is a two-way street, everyone can talk with each other. Even though Ethan can have the best call, stanislaw will sometimes say no and do his own call. But at least Ethan's call has been heard and it might be used in the next round.
After Liquid you go and play Astralis, you just finished the game now. The first map, Train, lasted more than 50 rounds, but you managed to close it out, and then you just blew them away on Nuke. Talk me a bit through the series.
Before the game started we said that we wanted to disrespect them. Because they are a team that knows how to play against a slow style and we are a slow style team. So we came in guns-blazing, pop-flashing and scrimming them. We were just like: "fu** it, we will show them how NA is". And then it came over to the next side and they were showing us how EU is (laughs), they were doing this weird strat where they were coming outside really quickly, denying so much vision. It was a really good strat, more people are probably going to take it, we will take it probably.
That strat was really hard to adapt to, but eventually, we adapted to it and we were able to bring it to OT. They kept doing similar strats, they seemed like they had a lot of bread and butter strats where you know they think it is a 100%, so we were mainly focusing on those strats they were doing. One of them was, like I said, a crazy outside strat, where they were smoking the back six train, doing the electric-sandwich smoke. I was just like "what the hell is this?" and we've seen them do it before in a demo, but it was a whole different thing experiencing it yourself.
Talking about CeRq who had a great performance on Train, in one of the interviews he mentioned that you are trying to build a bit more around the AWP now. How has that been developing and how does that take away from Brehze who was the star before?
I don't think it takes away from Brehze at all. I think we are finding ways to make everyone useful, everyone is supporting each other. As for the AWP, we made sure during our bootcamp that CeRq always has a chance to do something. We learned a lot. Before that, sometimes, he would buy and AWP but we would call stuff that didn't make sense, he couldn't have a way to open the round with his AWP. That is more in our minds now, if he is getting an AWP, we need to make sure it is useful. We can't make him throw smokes and flashes all the time because, while he might be able to get the clutch, sometimes he needs to be put into the action to get the entry frags that we need. You can clearly see that in the Astralis series he was getting a lot of impact.
Now NRG made it into the playoffs, it is the first Major playoff for you personally and three of the guys on your team. What is the feeling managing to get that big achievement?
Honestly, it is pretty unbelievable. Our first goal was to not go back to the Minor (laughs), that was a huge pressure off of our shoulders, and then making it to the Legends stage is even crazier just because a lot of people probably expected us to make it but it a whole another thing actually getting there. We expected to make it the last time as well, with fugly and daps and, unfortunately, we went 0-3 and did the exact opposite. It just feels really good to do the reverse and go 3-0.
Anything you want to add to finish of the "made it to the Major playoffs interview"?
Just shoutout to my teammates, Peter, Tarik, CeRq, Ethan, Vince. You all did good, I hope you are reading this interview and having a big smile on our face, let's keep going.