shox: "I'm still working on the switch from being the IGL; I didn't think it would take that much time"
Our first interview from StarSeries i-League Season 8 is with Richard "shox" Papillon, who talked about the struggles of switching from an in-game leading position, Vitality's results in the first few weeks together, and about the Turkish tournament itself.
The French star discussed his new role in Vitality, moving away from in-game leadership, as well as the newfound combination and chemistry between himself and the team's superstar, Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut, in clutch situations.
shox also commented the team's surprising run to second place at DreamHack Masters Malmö and their struggles in the first group stage of ESL Pro League, where the French side missed out on a direct ticket to the finals due to a one-sided loss to NIP, before moving on to the Turkish tournament and talking about how Vitality are balancing the enjoyment aspect of it.
Touching on your exit from G2, was it expected ahead of the Major that changes would be happening if the result wasn't up to par with your goals?
No. No, at least not from the players' point of view, we didn't know anything about it.
In your interview with 1pv you talked about not being sold on G2's two ideas of either going international or trying to stay with a French lineup. Do you think they will be able to solve their issues with the roster they put together? What do you think about that move?
I think nexa and huNter are two great pickups, definitely, because in G2 we had the problem with the captain and in-game leader role. Having a proper one as nexa is definitely a good thing for them and huNter is definitely a good player, so they are definitely two good additions, but as I'm not in the team anymore, I don't know how it's going with communication and stuff. But, for example, at ESL Pro League, they came second in the group stage and they almost beat Na`Vi, so it looks pretty promising for them so far.
Going over to Vitality, XTQZZZ spoke of your role in a podcast, saying that you would need to adjust on some maps and that you'd be more in your comfort zone on others - how do you see your fit in the team in terms of roles?
I really enjoy the role that I have in the team at the moment, but it's still not something natural for me. I think being the in-game leader since 2016 makes it harder and slower to just switch as a player. Yesterday I had a talk with the coach about this specifically, he still thinks that I'm thinking too much as still an in-game leader, trying to help the team with tactics and stuff like that. The objective is to just focus on myself and to be the best I can individually. I do agree with them that if I'm in my game and just focusing on me, then I will be good. And when I become good it will just come naturally for me to help with my calls and not doing the opposite, always helping the team with calls, tactics, and stuff, and not really focusing on myself. So yeah, I'm still working on that switch with the coach and also with ALEX. To be honest, I didn't think it would take that much time. We're not talking about playing together for six months or whatever, but I was thinking to myself that I would have to adapt for two or three weeks, but it's still not natural and that's one of my main objectives individually coming into this tournament.
From we've seen so far, your role allows you to have some combinations with ZywOo, especially in clutch scenarios, and in Malmö we saw the two of you win some big disadvantages together. What do you think about this newfound combo?
It's really cool because, when we are together, it's really funny how we play it. It's like we forget everything that happened in the round and we are just having fun like when you are playing on a retake server with a friend, that's kind of how we play it. We are just talking together, having fun, and it works, so it's really nice.
What did you make of your showing in Malmö overall and the result, was it a surprise to reach the final with just a week of practice with the new lineup?
Yeah, definitely, it was not our expectation. Our expectation was to at least go to the playoffs, but we didn't see ourselves going into the final and putting up a good fight in it. That was definitely a good thing, but the thing is that we can't take it as "okay, it's going to be easy" because, as we could see, we had a lot of trouble in the ESL Pro League group stage. We got crushed by NiP and the two games we won against Heroic and Sprout were really hard to win. We are just suffering from the schedule, I would say, as we don't have any time to practice between events. When we came back home we had two or three days maximum and we have a six-map pool. I don't know what the word is in English, but we are making do with what we have and trying to just make small adaptations from one match to another because we don't have the proper time to practice and to work, which is definitely something we are not happy with, but we have to deal with it. We know it's kind of going to be like this until the end of the year with the schedule we have. It's going to be all about fighting, being really strong mentally until the end of the year because the proper work will begin in 2020, I would say, when we have more time.
What are your goals here at StarSeries, then?
For this tournament, of course the first one is at least to go to the playoffs, but we are aiming for a top-three finish.
The way this tournament is set up, being in a holiday resort, it lends itself to slacking off, enjoying the free time at the beach, and makes it look not so serious. But at the same time, there is $500,000 on the line, which is more than most tournaments have, and it is very hard to win due to the extra long, fully best-of-three format. What do you think of this dynamic and how are you going to approach this aspect with Vitality?
Actually, we are enjoying it, but in the good way. We know we are in a place that is really enjoyable and you can have a lot of fun, and we are just taking the good vibes from it. You always have some time off in a tournament between matches, or some day off or whatever, and sometimes there are plenty of events where you don't really know what to do. It's really important to just reset between matches and have a fresh mind, but with the environment a lot of the time you are just locked in the hotel, which is not really anything cool because it makes it hard to reset. We are just taking it as: okay, we are in a f***ing nice environment, so we're going to use it to reset. But it doesn't mean we're just going to enjoy it at 100% all the time, we are here for the tournament, we know what we want to do here and we want to do really well. So we just take it as a bonus and an advantage because having the sand beach is really nice for your mind, it's proven scientifically that being in the sun gives you some vitamins and stuff like this. You just wake up and you naturally have a smile. So yeah, it's pretty good, but we know the balance we have to have here.
Your manager, Matthieu Péché, seems very hands-on with the team, doing things in the background like pushing you to do physical training. I'm not sure if you've experienced that sort of management before, what is that like?
Yeah, it's something new for me, but I'm really enjoying it because I think being fit makes you feel better, and if you feel better in your body and in your mind, it will definitely be better on the server. Plus, there are a lot of good things, being more healthy and stuff, that can help, and you can just be more focused and more ready when it comes to the game. Having good sleep, having good food, having time to rest and stuff like this, there are a lot of benefits to that. On top of that, when we are at a tournament, we are doing it together, which is also something good for the team spirit and team building, so definitely a lot of good stuff that I like.