ALEX: "When we know how a team is going to play we're generally pretty good at stopping them"
Vitality came to China after a rough exit at StarSeries i-League Season 8, where they lost three straight best-of-three series with 0-2 scorelines after a strong start with two wins on the opening day at the event in Turkey. The French team have now managed another playoff run in at IEM Beijing, with wins in their opening match against local underdogs TYLOO and in the winners' match against FaZe.
Vitality made it through to the IEM Beijing semi-finals despite little team practice together since bringing Richard "shox" Papillon into the team, as they focused on individual play after their StarSeries i-League Season 8 exit. A lot of theorizing and day-to-day tweaks have worked for Vitality so far as they advanced to bracket play in China, but ALEX believes there is much more to refine once the team gets to really hammer out their play on the training grounds.
You guys played your opening match against TYLOO, which you won, as expected. Today you played FaZe, and I'm kind of curious about how the match transpired from the inside because you won each other's picks soundly and ended in a one-sided decider. Can you run me a bit through the veto and how it all went down?
We expected them to pick Nuke because they've been playing really well on it, but we felt confident that we could beat them on it. When we know how a team is going to play, we're generally pretty good at stopping them and our win rate on other teams' maps is pretty big. We gamble-picked Overpass because we expected to win on Nuke, which allowed us to throw that curve ball in. It didn't go well at all [laughs], but as I said it was a gamble-pick and going into Inferno we were really confident because we know we can beat anyone on it.
There were a lot of good individual plays and performances across the board in the series. How are you all feeling individually?
We were disappointed with the result coming home from Turkey, but we had to take the week off to get our visas sorted and shox had some personal things to do, so we took the week to play individually and get our skill back, which was kind of lacking in Turkey. We then theorized a few things, just talked generally about how we want people to fit into the system and where people aren't comfortable. It seems to be working out for now, and if we can set that foundation now, when we do have time to work then we'll hopefully be super good.
shox isn't always at his best, but when he is, he makes you guys look formidable. How has he been fitting in so far, now that you've had a couple of tournaments together?
It's hard because, as I said, right now we're theorizing things and kind of trying it out on the day and as days go by things change and playing against different teams we have to work on new things, but in general he's fitting in very well. As a person, outside of the game, we all really get along with each other and have fun, so that helps going into the games. I think he's in the role he can be really good at right now, it's just that he doesn't know what we're doing so he can't lurk properly and stuff like that. It's just a matter of time really, and getting some practice in. Once we play the second ESL Pro League group stage we'll have a couple of weeks to practice, which should be good.
Going back a little bit, to when he first joined, you had a good first run in Malmö where you made the final, and then in Turkey it was the other side of the coin. What do you think that was due to?
Malmö was our first tournament together and everyone was in sync, we were all committed to the cause, if you can put it that way. Everyone trusted the plans 100%. We destroyed both teams we played in Turkey and made it into playoffs, so we were playing kind of the same, but we're not used to winning the opening games and we're not used to having days off.
Every time we have a day off we lose afterward, which is something we need to work on. If we continue to win our opening games, with time, we'll get used to it. We weren't playing well individually in Turkey and if you aren't on point skill-wise and what you try to put in place isn't done 100%, you lose three best-of-threes 0-2, it's simple, those are the small margins there are in Counter-Strike right now.
To round it out, what were the expectations you had coming here and are you meeting them, exceeding them...?
We're meeting them, we knew the group stage was going to be tough because we know that six teams here are really good, not to disrespect the Chinese teams, and right now it seems like anyone can win any tournament, but we know we're a playoff team and therefore our goal was to at least do that. We feel like we can win any tournament we go into and making playoffs is step one, so we'll see where it takes us.