FNS on qualifying for FLASHPOINT: "This was our one and only chance to make it"
We caught up with Pujan "FNS" Mehta after his Orgless roster secured qualification for FLASHPOINT 1 to find out what earning a spot in the league means, how beneficial the monthly stipend of $25,000 will be, and the kind of struggles he has faced in recent times.
Orgless took down Chaos in the semi-finals of the FLASHPOINT Global Qualifier to earn a spot in the first edition of the league, which will kick off on March 13. In Los Angeles, the Canadian team will be joined by fellow qualified side BIG and the tournament's ten franchise partners.
Ahead of the closed qualifier for the Americas Minor, the Canadian in-game leader spoke to us about the team's reaction to qualifying for the event with minimal practice, Matthew "WARDELL" Yu's individual abilities, why teams have a tendency to remove in-game leaders after stagnating, and the prospect of going up against Vito "kNgV-" Giuseppe in FLASHPOINT 1.
What's the mood in the team like after qualifying for FLASHPOINT? What are your thoughts on reaching the league?
We are extremely happy to be able to make it into this league seeing as this is the only “league” we had a chance to get into. We weren’t able to obtain an MDL spot so this was our one and only chance to make it. We were also very surprised with how well we played considering how little practice we came in with. Due to WARDELL’s surgery, we had literally 2 days of dry runs and scrims coming into this event. Prior to that, we had had a good five days of practice when we had first started playing. This is definitely not a bad result with seven days of practice total.
This team only officially formed at the start of February. What led to picking out the players you have now and how long did it take to assemble the roster?
This lineup took around two weeks to form completely from scratch. As soon as I left Riot Squad, I contacted Subroza to see if he was interested. He and WARDELL were a package deal, so that was very enticing for me as well since I think they are heavily underrated as players. I lucked out by being able to get these guys.
Once we had our core, we looked at our options and considered players like FugLy, ANDROID, and SicK before ultimately choosing yay and Infinite. I knew yay from my short tenure with Complexity and I knew exactly what he was capable of when he had a positive environment around him. I also had a high stock on Infinite since I had qualified for the previous Minor with him on Lazarus. I was really impressed with how much he knew about the game, given how inexperienced he was.
WARDELL was without a team for over eight months after his time on Ghost. Can you speak about integrating him into your system after his break and how he fits into your overall style?
It honestly wasn’t that hard to get started with Matt since he has a very versatile AWPing style. It was pretty easy to throw him into a default and let him play his game. I didn’t try to micromanage him too much since I figured it would be smarter to see what he was capable of without being told what to do, specifically on CT side.
It turned out that he was incredibly good at moving around and making his own plays without needing direction. Then it was just up to his site mates to play around with what he did. He’s probably one of the most confident AWPers I’ve ever played with when it comes to his own ability to perform, which helps me out a lot with calling gamble stacks and just leaving him on his own island at times.
Before heading up this team, you were the captain of Riot Squad for almost six months. You told Dust2.us that you “lost faith” in that lineup and wanted to make a handful of changes. What happened towards the end of your time on that team?
Honestly, without giving away too much dirty laundry, that team wasn’t a good personality fit for me. I didn’t really have a natural bond with anyone. We didn’t really share much in common as people and, normally, that wouldn’t matter if the team is winning and the vibes are really good — which is how it was early on. Not fitting in that team became more clear when things didn’t go our way and I saw how people reacted to losing. We lost our Pro League spot to INTZ, we failed to win the MDL Global Challenge grand finals, and we didn’t qualify for a couple of DreamHack events.
That hurt me a lot and when I rewatched our games, I saw the same mistakes over and over again that I thought we had fixed during our time together. All in all, I wasn’t a good fit for that team and that became very clear after we failed to qualify for these events and I chose to make a decision to remove three players or leave the team. Ultimately, the organisation chose the latter. Ironically, that same organisation dropped their team the following week and came to us — Orgless — with an offer. We chose not to sign due to contractual reasons, but I have nothing but love for that organization and everything they provided for us during my time there.
You were part of one of the teams that were majorly affected by the EPL changes and didn’t get the opportunity to play in Relegation. Now that some time has passed, what are your thoughts on how that whole situation was handled and the way it was communicated to your team, specifically?
I think we can agree that it was ridiculous for EPL to take as long as they did to let the teams know whether they were in the league or not. Regardless of their circumstances, it’s inexcusable for an organization to completely black out their communications with teams until the last second. That being said, I appreciate their willingness to accept that and come up with a compromise that helped the teams that got shafted by giving them another chance through MDL. Whether it’s fair or not isn’t for me to determine.
Now that you have qualified for FLASHPOINT, you’re eligible for the $25,000 monthly stipend that the organiser is offering uncontracted teams. With the team being entitled to that stipend, does that change your expectations in terms of what you seek from an organisation? Does it give you more time to find the right offer?
It definitely helps. Being able to have this stipend allows us to comb through each offer thoroughly and decide based on all factors instead of rushing into signing just to get a paycheck. Realistically, we haven’t even had so much as a day to talk to organizations due to our packed schedule. I hope that with us showing that we were able to earn this spot, it entices organizations to reach out to us. Until then, we’ll just keep doing our best to prove ourselves.
Something that has been common in North American teams without an organisation is that they eventually fall apart once players begin to get approached by bigger teams with a solid financial backing. Are you afraid that this might happen to your team, or do you believe that everyone is here for the long haul? Does the stipend help to resolve that issue?
I’m not worried about that, to be honest. On all of my teams, I’ve always been very honest with my players. If they get an offer they can’t refuse, they should do what they think is right. On this team, I think everyone has a lot of faith in each other and everyone gets along really well. Another big thing that comes with this roster is that everybody listens to each other and takes feedback really well. That helps so much when it comes to progressing quickly through the ranks. We fix mistakes really fast and all my players are able to take criticism really well. That quality, in my opinion, is insanely underrated. Players who can take constructive criticism and actually take feedback from teammates improve a lot faster. Time isn’t wasted during practice and we get a lot done, even with a short timetable. I believe everybody has enough faith in this lineup to not leave just yet. If we continue to perform and qualify for events, I doubt anybody will choose to leave, even for a better offer, financially or otherwise.
The swapping of in-game leaders after a team finds success continues to be a hot button topic, and a situation which seems to keep occurring - in FLASHPOINT alone, MAD Lions have already benched HUNDEN, and daps has had his fair share of struggles on past teams. For you personally, what do you think leads teams to making these changes, and how has it affected your own career?
I think for myself, daps, HUNDEN, Zeus, and so on, a big part of why players choose to remove IGLs who aren’t consistently putting up numbers is due to the team hitting a plateau. Whether that plateau is top 30 or top 10, all players involved, especially the stars, will start to feel resentment towards players who aren’t playing as well. It’s human nature and it’s their competitive mindset to get rid of anything that holds them back from winning, regardless of cost. These decisions can sometimes prove to be fatal because when you’re in the heat of the moment and see someone as a total liability, you start to forget what made you play with that person in the first place.
In my career, I feel like I’ve run into that a lot and once players build up resentment, due to my performance in-game or even my calling ability, it’s basically game over. You can never really move past that with most people until either they’re out, or I am. By no means am I making excuses for playing poorly. If I’m not putting up numbers and we are consistently losing close games because of my mistakes, then I should be removed. It’s simple. However, I don’t feel like that’s been the case in a lot of the times I’ve been removed from a team.
You left your last three teams (Cloud9, eUnited and Riot Squad) rather abruptly. What did you take away from those experiences? Given the fact that in-game leaders are always in such high demand, why is it that you have found it hard to build a stable project lately?
I was definitely bitter after my stint on C9 and how things ended there, but on eUnited and Riot Squad, I feel like it was more my decision to leave than anything else. Playing with some of the players on these teams made me realize one very important thing: I need to play with people who I get along with inside and outside of the game. People who think of the game in a similar way as me. I realized that the composition of the team should be prioritized before just picking up the best players. It's important to have players who will bring the best out of each other.
I went into creating this roster with that exact mindset. Creating a team that gets along inside and outside of the game and sees the game similarly to one another. Subroza, Infinite and I are probably the most vocal to each other about how we should be playing. The fact that we’re able to consistently come to an agreement instead of looping arguments that never end is refreshing.
MIBR will also be competing in FLASHPOINT with kNgV-. You two share a piece of notable history, so what is that situation there looking like heading into the first season? Is it all water under the bridge at this point?
The only history we share is that Tweet. That has been water under the bridge for a long time and the fact that people bring it up still is hilarious. We’ve spoken and apologized for how we acted. There’s no bad blood between us but i’m sure that won’t stop the freaks on Reddit from continuing the meme. I wish MIBR the best since I’m a big fan of what they’ve accomplished in the game and I look up to a lot of their players. FalleN is a legend.