suNny: "It is the first time in my career that I've been the hated person, I take it as fuel and my machine is going to start soon"
We talked to Miikka "suNny" Kemppi and Aleksi "allu" Jalli in Berlin, following ENCE's elimination from the Major in 5-8th place, with the two Finns shedding more light on the roster change as well as suNny's exit from MOUZ.
A loss to Renegades stopped ENCE's run at the StarLadder Major Berlin and ended the Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen chapter of the team. But ENCE wasted no time and straight away started practicing with suNny, who joined the team in Berlin for the playoffs.
suNny also talked about his benching in MOUZ, claiming it happened because the players and the organization couldn't agree on the roster moving forward. After a very busy year in the German organization, benching himself and avoiding additional burnout was an easy decision, the 25-year-old said.
On the other side, allu revealed that changing the roster came as a result of the feeling of stagnation in the team. The AWPer also discussed misconceptions about the in-game leadership and stressed that despite the removal of Aleksib, there is no bad blood between the two of them.
suNny, why and how did you end up on the bench of mousesports?
suNny: Because I felt that with the team we had last year we achieved almost everything we could. Obviously, we wanted to be better than what we had in mousesports, we wanted to change some people. We kind of agreed with that, but then, on the other hand, we didn't, they [mousesports organization] wanted a different team than we did, including ropz. As a player, I always wanted to move forward and I wanted to be the best, not a top 5 or a top 8 team. I think that was the biggest reason I didn't continue with them because we couldn't get a better team than we had at that moment. And it was pretty clear to mousesports that we wanted to be better than we were. We had, I think, a five months discussion about how the team should look and we didn't agree. I wanted things different to them.
suNny: The whole time in mousesports was really exhausting to me, we played too many events and we didn't prepare and practice enough so it got to a point that we had fights in the team, inside the game. mousesports just wanted to go a different way than I did so I told them I'm not going to do another year like this, start from nothing and try to bring ourselves back to where we already were. So it was kind of an easy decision.
My next question was supposed to be "was it a difficult decision", but you saying it was easy - what made it so easy? Because benching yourself, in the end spending half of a year on the bench, can be pretty hard, and it is maybe hard to come back from that.
suNny: I just didn't think it was worth it to burn myself out even more and it got to the point that benching felt natural and easy. Obviously, I thought about the fact my buyout would be high but I was ready to do it and rebuild myself, as I said in my HLTV top 20 interview, I didn't feel so good during our last months in mousesports.
What did your life look like when you were on the bench, what did you do for the last couple of months?
suNny: I think the first month I didn't play much, but then I started to play again and I had many plans going on with other players and team, but we mostly spoke with allu, and obviously some other ENCE players as well, about what can be done and when. The only thing I really wanted was to play in a team where I feel good and that I know can be the number one team in the world at some point, and to have good atmosphere, in and outside of the game.
suNny: So what I did: first I had some time off and then I started to play, but also saw my friends, went some places around the world and had some fun.
When someone is playing in a team you have maybe 6-7 hours of practice and then you play a bit of deathmatch and other things. When you are not in a team, how much can you actually play and how can you stay motivated to play, I don't know, 10 FPLs a day?
suNny: It is different for every person, I felt that I had enough team practice and all that kind of stuff during my career so I mostly played deathmatch to keep my aim on point and some FPL games to catch up with the meta and how people play. But it obviously depends, for example, s1mple likes to play a lot of FPL, while me if I play 12 hours of FPL in a day, I can't really focus on that, it is really individual how people play. But I guess it is mostly that you need to know yourself and what is good for you.
A lot of people are going to be expecting you to not be as good as you were before due to the long break. Going into ENCE, what do you think your form is going to be like?
suNny: I think I need some time, obviously, to catch up with other teams and stuff, because when you play in a top team you kind of know everything that is going on, every strat, every timing, every flash, stuff like this. That is the biggest thing that makes you good. But I think it is not going to be a problem for me to be even better than before because I think ENCE is a much better team than we were with mousesports, even at our highest peak. And the communication will be so much better, decision making, all these kinds of things that make me good, it is going to make things a lot easier. So I think that after two or three months I'm going to be much, much better than earlier.
To segue into joining ENCE, there are a lot of talks now about roster shuffles happening after the Major, most of the players are waiting for that to happen. Theorycrafting, people were saying "Maybe suNny can join with coldzera, NiKo...", imagining which superteams could happen. Why did you decide to join ENCE before the Major instead of waiting for what opportunities could arise after it?
suNny: I'm going to be really honest, I think ENCE is the best team for me in the long run and I feel like the atmosphere and how things are done in ENCE as an organization, and inside the team, how they practice, how they manage all the travel - it was clearly the best option. That is how it is. I saw that ENCE is the only team where I would be happy in the coming years.
Moving to allu, why did you decide to make a change? What were the results or things that happened in the team that you decided: "Ok, it is time to change a player"?
allu: It is a difficult question and it would require a longer answer than I want to give. (laughs) But in short, inside the team, we kind of felt at one point that we just didn't improve anymore. If you look at the last 18 months, we were always going steadily up, up and up. We took milestones where we could, we took big scalps against better teams than us and slowly climbed up. At the Katowice Major we kind of showed how good we can be, we obviously weren't mentally ready to play Astralis in that final, and after that we kind of kept the same level during the next events. After China, StarSeries i-League S7 when we lost to Na`Vi in the quarter-finals, which actually was our game and we just threw it away, things in the team kind of started to break apart a little bit. Tensions between people, frustrations as well.
allu: I understand that people think about our team that we are doing good, that we are doing ok, we are a top 4-5 team in the world, why would we change. But I think we just reached a point where we were kind of stuck. And we don't want to be stuck, we want to be the best and that is the only reason we did this change.
Replacing Aleksib with suNny, is that then a change because of the roles or was it more of a personality change that you think is needed, the human part?
allu: I think it is both, but when we look at our roster, obviously "CS experts" might disagree, but I think suNny fits Aleksib's role the best, that is the most logical thing role wise, talking about what roles Aleksib has and what suNny can do. And also, the human part is a factor but almost no factor at all. We are professionals and we want to win, no matter how we feel about each other, it doesn't change anything as long as we have the team to keep going forward all the time and we reach our goals, we are happy and we will make it work.
allu: The change itself, it can be rough as we have a rough schedule right now. Two days practice and we go to Moscow, our luck I guess is that many other teams changed players as well but we will see how it goes. At least the practice has been good and the atmosphere in the team is really good right now.
allu: About taking the in-game leading role, it is also a change for me, but it is also not as big of a change as people from the outside believe as I have been a caller in teams before as well, mid-round calling and being the second caller has pretty much always been my role. In this team maybe even more than before. Twista's help is also really underrated in the scene. But Aleksib obviously had a strong voice in our team so it is going to take some time, I guess, but I think that with this team we are going to be even better than what we were before.
With allu becoming the main caller, I guess suNny, you are taking on the secondary caller role. How comfortable are you with that and how much experience do you have with it from past teams?
suNny: I've always been doing the same as allu, starting from ENCE in 2016 when allu left for FaZe and Aleksib joined us, it was the same as what allu was doing now with Aleksib, I was doing that kind of stuff. In PENTA, my first international team, I was doing like 75% of all the calling, strats, stuff like this. In mousesports I was always helping chrisJ a lot and at some point last year we changed that I was calling for some time, I think that for four months it was only me calling and chrisJ helping me mid-round. But yeah, I have a lot of experience from that, those are certain things that people don't know from the outside because it is never one person doing all of the stuff in teams, but the role of an in-game leader is much more powerful outside than inside the team.
Why don't teams go a bit more public about it? Both in the mousesports and the ENCE case, from the outside, people thought it was very strict, very one-person-leading-everything. Why isn't it discussed more openly, mentioned more?
suNny: To be honest, I think that players don't care that much. Inside the team you always just play for the win, you only focus on winning and doing all that kind of stuff, so there is no merit to being an in-game leader or a well-performing in-game leader, or whatever. I think that people just don't care that much. It is just the speculations that people make, the rumors, which make some people think that some players are much better than they are.
With you replacing Aleksib who was kind of a fan favorite, especially for the Finnish fans, you've gotten a bit of hate directed towards you at the moment. How has that been for you?
suNny: (laughs) It has been insane. 12-to-14-year-old people from Finland, they don't even know I was playing or mousesports or that I won some titles, they call me "bum" and are basically asking "why the f*ck are ENCE bringing in some old ****** to the team that has done nothing but sitting on the bench".
allu: They have been listening to Thorin too much. (laughs)
suNny: It is kind of funny, but I also kind of like it because it is the first time in my career that I've been the hated person, I take it as fuel and my machine is going to start soon.
You touched on the future a bit, leading up to BLAST Pro Series Moscow the schedule is pretty tight, but what can you expect to do there?
suNny: It is always really random when you start. When you look at how we started with mousesports, we bombed out from DreamHack Masters Malmö 0-2 and we got a maximum of nine rounds there but then we suddenly won Mykonos over Liquid in a BO5, so anything can happen I guess. I don't know, we can win or we can bomb out, that is how it is.
Looking at the long-term, what needs to go right for you to achieve what you want to achieve with this team, and on the other hand, what do you think could be the pitfalls, what could make this team not work?
suNny: I think the thing we need to function is to get some practice, the only thing that can be a bit of a slowdown for us is that if we fail really hard in our first three events, where we now have two day of practice [for Moscow], and then we have one week for New York. If we fail pretty hard it can hurt some people's confidence, but I think that there is basically nothing that can stop us if we just get good practice.
allu: I agree with suNny. An important part also might be that suNny is an upgrade to Aleksib firepower-wise, and that might make some people that used to do good stats-wise have fewer frags. That can also affect people. We mostly don't think about that, we only want to win, but it can hurt people's confidence, so I hope that doesn't happen. And we also need to find the balance between me, Twista, and suNny as the calling trio, from what I know I doubt it will be a problem but it is also something we need to sort out. Other than that we just have to play and then we will see what happens.
Is there anything that we didn't touch on, or something you want to address in terms of criticism from the outside?
allu: There has been a lot of talk about me and Aleksib not getting along, but this is not true. There are no fistfights or anything, we depart on good terms and I wish him the best of luck, I'm sure he will find a good team for himself.
suNny: I also want to mention something, mostly for the Finnish fans who don't remember anything and that is that I played in a team with Aleksib as well, there is no bad blood between me and him, we actually won a tournament together back in 2016. So when I comment on his social media it is not because I want to hurt him or anything like that. I wish him the best, and as allu said, he will find a good home for himself. And also, big thanks to everyone that sent me messages and support during my break.