liTTle on the Heroic series: "We engaged and started demonstrating our level too late"
In a post-match interview, we spoke with the team's coach, liTTle, who gave insight into some of the squad's issues, spoke about the recent achievements and revealed the goals for 2020.
At EPICENTER you managed to reach the playoffs. Coming into the event, what did the team set as a goal?
Our initial goal was to qualify for the event. After we managed to make it, we considered reaching the playoffs a good result, because we had a really packed schedule. We had just arrived from the US, where we had won a tournament, so we came with a positive mindset. We understood that it would be difficult here, but we achieved our minimum goal.
Tell us about the state of the team following your initial loss to EG, which came after your flight from the US. How did you take that result?
Everything was alright because we understood that the loss was not down to our game, but rather because we were tired. Three players from the team had fallen ill, we had slept for about two to three hours because we had a completely different schedule. Our approach was not to worry too much; everything was alright and we set the goal of defeating Virtus.pro the next day and make it out of groups. We achieved this, and then as an added bonus decided to go about taking revenge on EG, which we did (laughs).
Despite being in that weakened state against EG, were you able to extract anything useful out of that series that helped you the second time around?
Yeah, the fact that we lost gave us fuel for the next match. We weren't happy that they had a stand-in, we wanted to play against the full lineup. When they were playing as their full five we had competitive anger towards them, and really wanted to exact revenge, showing that we had the ability to fight them as a whole unit. It turned out well, and it I think the initial loss gave us motivation, adding to the motivation we normally gain from playing a tier-one opponent.
Let's talk about a certain aspect of the match against Virtus.pro. When we spoke to Jame at BLAST Pro Series Moscow, he mentioned that he found forZe's playstyle interesting and that he watched the team play quite a bit. Did you feel like they were throwing anti-strats your way or had a good read on your movements?
We play against them quite frequently, practically every month. We have a solid understanding of their playstyle, I watched a few demos of the maps we played against them, and I think the problem was that nothing really changed. As for during the match, I didn't feel like they were coming up with anything extraordinary. They tried to come up with something, but they still played their style and, in all, there was nothing new. They played their usual style and that was comfortable for both sides. We're used to each other at this point.
You and Heroic have similar map pools, which led to you picking Mirage, while the Danes picked Nuke, both of which are comfortable maps for the teams. With this in mind, why did Mirage see such a difficult start for the team?
Everything started from the initial round, to be honest. When we entered the warm-up stage, coming up to freeze time, I told the guys to communicate to the max and really work on taking in and communicating information. Immediately, in the first round, xsepower communicated that the enemies had pushed in Middle, and that we needed to back up. At that point, two players rush out towards Middle and die, and that situation indicated to me that - not that the guys weren't focused for the match - but maybe that they were overwhelmed by the crowd and the support, since it's the first time they were playing with such a crowd, or perhaps they were simply nervous. I'm not too sure what it was, but it affected the team's emotional state and we couldn't do anything about it.
I took a pause, came up to a player and touched him to get some sort of a word or reaction out of him, while he sat in silence and couldn't talk because he just seemed lost. He sees the crosshair, has information on, for example, B and that's about it. It's a bit ridiculous, and I understand that; this isn't the first time this happens in the team, and we haven't quite yet learned how to deal with this. I'd even add that this continued on Nuke, and approximately from 12-6/12-7 onwards we finally started showing the level of CS that we are capable of. Had they not been on map point, I think we could've taken Nuke without too many issues, but we engaged a little too late and started demonstrating our level simply too late. We were like sitting ducks, there's no other way to express it.
Coming into the event you were on a high note, after qualifying for the ESL Pro League and winning DreamHack Winter and the ESEA MDL Global Challenge. Now, you add to that a quarter-final appearance at EPICENTER. How significant are these results?
We have anchored ourselves at the second competitive tier. We faced off against teams from North America, Brazil and basically teams from all continents, barring Asia. We've played against them all, and we've come to realise that all of the tier two opposition that is within a five rank margin of us, we can defeat. As for tier-one opponents, things are a bit more difficult. Well, tier-one teams and Heroic (laughs), they're special.
You joined forZe before the StarLadder CIS Minor to replace 5TRYK#R, who had parted ways with the team. At the time you were unable to stand behind the guys because you were not officially a part of the team, but you assisted them outside of matches. What were some of the issues you noticed that required immediate addressing?
Firstly, I noticed that there were some internal quarrels in the team which needed to be squashed urgently. As soon as we managed to deal with the conflict, there were some positional adjustments as I didn't like how the players were distributed because everyone has their role on any given map and it has to apply to them all. We had a situation where someone was posted on A, while someone else took on B, it was a bit of a malarky.
The third component that needed addressing was the tactical one because we had a very one-dimensional game, which remains the case to this day, we can't adjust. We have a good early and mid-game, but our late game, post-exchange, plays out well individually. However, as a unit, tactically, we can't outperform our opponents in terms of mind games and macro control. Something along the lines of coming out 3B, 2A, throw out a triple fake and outsmart the opponent. We aren't able to do this currently, but we're working on developing an understanding for this style of play. It's a difficult style and it doesn't work out for us, maybe we're lacking experience.
Maybe it's the fact that since 5TRYK#R left and I assumed the coaching role back in September, we have had a very packed schedule and we only had two weeks of practice, and after that we'd have one or two days off, followed by a tournament. There were a lot of online qualifiers and LAN events. We had to attend all of them because we knew that while we were being offered these opportunities, we couldn't pass on them.
You mentioned that the team managed to anchor itself in the second competitive tier of teams. With this achievement in the bag, what are you aiming to achieve in 2020?
I don't really want to jump the trigger on the future because when you wish for something, it usually turns on you, but obviously we'd like to continue growing month by month. It's a pleasure to visit HLTV and watch us climb even a single rank, it's great. We'll just aim to maintain our level and grow a little bit. Even if throughout the year we managed to maintain our top 15 status, that would be a good result; It wouldn't be outstanding, and that's definitely not our dream, but it would be a good achievement.