Jame: "[The Major run] gave us the belief that we can still achieve something together"
AVANGAR are one of six participants of BLAST Pro Series Moscow, currently sporting a 1-0-2 record after sustaining losses to Ninjas in Pyjamas and forZe, followed by a victory against Natus Vincere in round three. The team will look to improve their position in upcoming matches against MIBR and ENCE, in hopes to advance to the final of the $250,000 tournament.
We spoke to main AWPer of AVANGAR, Jame, where we discussed the squad's Major run, received his thoughts on the grand final series against Astralis, picked his mind on the team's new #1 status in CIS rankings and how the addition of Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev impacted the roster.
There is a shuffle going on in the CIS region at the moment, and amidst the chaos, AVANGAR let everyone know that you were sticking together. Was this decision made prior to the Major, or did the result affect your decision to remain as a unit?
We never had an agreement whereby we'd play with one another till the rest of our days. At some point someone can leave - it entirely depends on the decision of the individual.
As for the result, from one perspective it meant that everything was ok, and no one needed to leave, but if we failed at the Major, then I don't know what would've happened, perhaps we would have quarreled, or kept going at it, I'm not sure. It's not that this performance kept us from being part of the shuffle, it just gave us the belief that we can still achieve something together.
What would the team have considered a failure at the Major? What was the bare minimum you set out to achieve going into Berlin?
We had poor results prior to the Major, and maybe even if we lost 0-3 it wouldn't have been a total failure. I just mentioned theoretically that perhaps someone would have left in the event it happened. I can't really talk for someone - anything can happen.
You mentioned that results going into the Major weren't as good as you had hoped. How did the team manage to gain enough form to demonstrate a grand final run?
We adjusted our game, we revisited all the fundamentals of team-based Counter-Strike. As for Berlin, it turned out that we attained peaks in individual form and team synergy. It's either that or teams that played at the Major play worse than they do online, whereas we started playing better. It was easier for us at the Major.
The grand final was lop-sided, where Astralis defeated you in two maps, both of which saw single-digit rounds for the team. What conversation did the team have after the match? What conclusions did you draw from that specific series?
We noticed that Astralis were ready for our game tempo, our main executes and they focused their utility towards stopping us in our tracks. It sounds obvious now, but it wasn't during the match. The only thing we realised is that we should've adjusted our game plan to something different.
The game we demonstrated at the grand final is what we demonstrated throughout the tournament, whereas we should have done the opposite - we should have presented all of our unknown setups to ensure they weren't prepared for them.
After achieving second place at the Major, AVANGAR are the #1 team from the CIS region, one rank above long-time title holders, Natus Vincere. Has this sunk in? Do you feel it reflects the reality or is there still much work to be done in order for this to be concrete?
I wouldn't say the ranking aligns with my personal gauge 100% - sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. In the context of us being higher ranked than Natus Vincere, I think we should win against them in an important match, or outshine them in the long-term to discuss whether we're better than them. We can't state that we're better than Na`Vi until we face them or have consistently demonstrated good results over time.
In June, AVANGAR added AdreN to the roster. He brought experience accrued over years of playing Counter-Strike at a competitive level. From the perspective of a person who was part of the roster prior to his arrival, what were some of the pivotal changes he brought in?
He's an experienced player. He gave us a lot of in-game knowledge in specific rounds, theory and our approach to the training process. He rearranged our training process, we became more disciplined and started dedicating more time to the game. We started focusing more on our individual performance, ensuring everyone plays. He really brought a lot, and that's not accounting for things like him generally being a mature, mentally and psychologically strong player.
We conducted an interview with qikert before the Major grand final, where he mentioned that he was happy he turned down an invite from Natus Vincere, opting to stick it with AVANGAR. Did you know he made this decision beforehand or was it somewhat of a shock?
Of course. We knew the same minute he received the text, it didn't shock us.
The discussion must have been a difficult one, because from one perspective it would have been totally understandable if he made the decision to join them, but from the other, you would have lost one of your highest impact players. Did the team try to convince him to stay? What was that conversation like?
Everyone voiced what they felt they needed to. We understood that if he left, we would have lost a certain degree of our strength, and we would have to grind it back up again, or perhaps would never attain the same level of performance. An immediate departure would have been a loss for us, but from a different perspective, we also understood that it was his personal decision and his life. In all, it was his own decision - no one pressured him.
For a little while now, there has been the "Jame is saving" meme. Does it bother you at all?
No, it doesn't bother me at all. It's a meme, and it has its place. I just try to focus on the game, all of my attention is towards the game. I don't really keep up with Twitter, or the reshuffles etc. All of the reshuffles that take place I find out about from my teammates. For the time being I'm not really engaged on social media, and my focus is on my game, to ensure I'm progressing. Maybe somewhere down the line I might hop on the hype train and gain some followers off the back of it, but for now, I don't need it.
Having secured a grand final run at the Major, did the team's expectations shift? Have your goals changed?
We didn't really have goals beforehand, goals only really appear after you've played at the Major. Had we failed, we would have adopted minimal goals and expectations. Seeing as we demonstrated a solid performance, our main goal now is to anchor ourselves in our current position.
Talking about BLAST Pro Series Moscow, have you set any specific goals for this event?
The main thing is not to go 0-6, because if that happens, the 20 tournament days we just came off of were in vain. Our goal is to win the tournament, and demonstrate as good a performance as we can.