zews on the state of the scene: "Hard to say who's the best, but we'd be ready to face any European team"
Evil Geniuses ended the tournament season on a high note, winning the BLAST Premier Spring Americas Finals and the second RMR tournament, cs_summit 6, the latter while dropping just one map throughout the tournament. Wilton "zews" Prado, who took over as coach in April, was able to quickly implement his blueprint as EG became the undisputed No.1 team in North America, taking advantage of Liquid's rocky patch of form and FURIA's hot-and-cold nature.
Having grown frustrated at the culture in place in his former team of MIBR, zews is happy that his ideas are coming across in EG, even if he wished things were a bit different. Back in Brazil, he is still trying to renew his P-1 visa because of the coronavirus outbreak and has had to make do with working from home, which has been a new experience for him.
In this interview, the 32-year-old discusses his first months with EG and why things didn't click at first for the team. He also shares the secret behind unlocking Ethan "Ethan" Arnold's potential and talks about the current state of North American Counter-Strike in a world without LAN events.
It has been three months since you joined EG. What is your take on what the team accomplished between your joining and the player break?
I think we played like two months and two weeks, something like that, before the break. I'd say that it was positive. When I arrived, there were a lot of difficulties, some disagreements in terms of how we were going to play, so we had to find the best positions for our players. The most important thing was that we needed to be on the same page again, to understand that we had one goal and we only had to find our best form. We really hit the reset button. Obviously, we kept some of the plays we were doing, but in terms of our approach to the game, it was a reset. I brought my ideas, they said that they liked their own ideas, we blended them and we kept testing and adjusting, until we reached this final stretch, where we began to be on point. I'd say that this was a very positive period... We were back-to-back champions in North America, we are in a good position to qualify for the Major... We're doing well.
What was the process of joining EG like? Did you have offers from other teams?
Look, I have changed teams very few times. I am not that kind of player or coach who keeps moving around. When I normally leave a team I always keep in mind at least what I want to do in terms of the region [I want to work in], and this time was no different. When I learned that I was leaving MIBR, I approached two or three North American organisations. I was also open to offers from outside of NA, but I had a clear preference, also because I imagined I was going to stay in the United States, which didn't happen, after all, because I had to return to Brazil, right? I still don't know when I'm going to return to the US. So I spoke with a few teams, and the one that really matched all the criteria, both mine and theirs, was Evil Geniuses, so the process was really smooth.
The team had some disappointing results after you joined, finishing 7th-8th in ESL One: Road to Rio and DreamHack Masters. Did it take some time for the players to get used to your system? What was the mood in the team like?
There had already been a reset in terms of the atmosphere, but obviously things don't happen overnight. That's when the adaptation phase that I mentioned really begins. We switched some positions — some of which have since been switched back, one or two made sense but three or four didn't. The results weren't favorable and that was really at the beginning of my time here and I think it was really down to me, because since it was just a coaching change — we didn't change a player —, it was down to the culture and the way we wanted to play, and normally it takes two to three months for my style to really set in. Thankfully, it happened sooner than I expected with this team.
You've been in Brazil since you left MIBR. What has it been like to work with the team from a distance?
In the beginning, it was a bit different because I was used to being close to the players. MIBR, LG and SK, I was always with the team, while in Liquid I always had players closeby, so this is the first time that I have been working 100% remotely, but we're making it work. I am not going to say that this is ideal, but it's far from being a disaster. We can work without any major issues, and then I can add a more personal touch when we bootcamp before the next events or something like that.
Ethan has truly flourished since you took over as coach, showing on a regular basis the level of form that used to be intermittent. What is the secret behind this?
I had little contact with Ethan before this. He has his own way but he's a really cool guy. I didn't know what he was like because he's not one to draw attention to himself, but people had told me that his communication was great and he always did everything well. I have been positively surprised by him, he is a complete player. Like stanislaw described to me, he is a captain's best friend, he is the guy who will go out and try to help set up the smoke, for example. When the atmosphere is good, people have more freedom to try to add their own touch, to do things their way, and I believe that is why he has been playing this well, because he is a great player. I believe he is comfortable now and things are going his way, so perhaps that is why his performances have been better, because he knows everything that is happening [around him]. His ideas are also flowing and everyone is on the same page. I think he is more aware of his surroundings and that can be seen in his game and in the team's game. I think everyone is more loose, confident and on the same page. We are in control when it comes to making decisions, we don't let the game come to us.
It is no secret that you had some issues with stanislaw during your time with Liquid. Is that behind you?
We are all getting along really well. I had been on a team like this before, where there's chemistry between everyone, where everything works and where, most of all, everyone is friends with each other. In regards to stanislaw, our issues were resolved. I don't know if everyone is aware, but he kind of was my point of contact here. Our past issues had already been resolved, but we talked about it again to make things even more clear. And since I joined we have never even looked back, it has been nothing but positive. He has been great to work with, a hardworking captain. People who have strong personalities will always like to do things their way, and I think we have both learned that there is a time when we must put our foot down and say, 'no, this is the way to go', but also a time when you have to say, 'let's at least give it a try and see how it goes'. We're truly getting along really well. I am really enjoying working with him again.
How are you going to prepare for the upcoming season?
We are returning to work one week before everyone else. We are looking to return on August 1. We'll get back to work and, hopefully, we won't lose much of what we gained [in the last few months] because of the break. But, and I'm saying this in a good way, the guys in my team are all nerds, they don't stop playing CS, they're streaming, so it shouldn't be a problem to get back on the horse and resume our work.
A lot has been said about the current state of North American CS. What is your take on this? How do you think your team would fare if Cologne were on LAN and you had to face European teams?
Unfortunately, there are few teams competing at the highest level, so we end up with the same matches many times. I think Thorin put it well when he spoke about the top 10 and said that there will always be that prejudice against NA because Europe has a deeper pool of teams. I'm not saying that the pool is better, only that it is deeper, which means that there is more competition in the lower tiers, which makes for more upsets and fosters more competitive teams. It's hard to say which team is the best right now without any matches, but we'd ready to face any European team that came our way.
Burnout has been a huge topic of discussion in the community in recent weeks. Has your team been affected by this?
I think this is such a complicated matter. We for sure felt some of the effects, but I think it's normal in any season, whether it's in esports or in traditional sports, right? We felt them a bit, but I have a different opinion than the community. However, I will never oppose those who have spoken out because no one can truly know what another person is feeling or what their reality is. But in our case, being at home has only made things easier. We were already at home, we weren't going out, we are taking Covid-19 very seriously. We were practicing and playing, so in that sense, it hasn't affected us too much. We miss the tournaments and the atmosphere, it will never be the same as when you're on LAN. But I've felt burnout in the past, when we planned things wrong and we played several tournaments in a row. For me, the worst part is the constant traveling, when you have a month-and-a-half, two months on the road, each week in a different country, a 12-hour flight here, a six-hour flight there, going from hotel to hotel, packing and unpacking, then the event, the photoshoot... That is all very exhausting. The matches are never the exhausting part, the problem is everything that comes with it and that really takes a toll, at least for me.
This was supposed to be a historical year for Brazilian Counter-Strike with the Major, but then the coronavirus put everything on hold. How do you think that your country is dealing with the virus?
Brazil is going through a very delicate moment in terms of the coronavirus. Things here... it's a very big and densely populated country, and the way we've dealt with the virus hasn't always been the best. But there's a big discussion here because you either die of Covid-19 or you starve to death. At the same time, there are certain things that you just can't stop, but this is a very complex topic that is just not for me to analyze. It terms of the community, there's sadness all around for sure because this was supposed to be a special year, a Major in Brazil, teams in Brazil competing... Every event in Brazil is quite the show, so everyone was super hopeful. It's very sad, but you have to put safety first, and if it does get postponed I hope it will be hosted in Brazil in the future. If it does, I am sure it will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the history of Counter-Strike, in terms of audience and emotions. We, Brazilians, are warm people, everyone that comes here says that. Obviously, incidents happen sometimes, but the positive outweighs the negative, so I want to see that side of Brazil, I want to see the country doing well, growing and showing that we have many good things. It's not just about talent but also about knowing how to host an event like this and treating everyone well. Hopefully, we will pull through and get that chance in the future.
When you left MIBR, you stated that the team had complex problems that required significant changes to the roster and/or to the team's culture. How is your relationship with the players right now?
My relationship with the guys is still a normal one. The decision that was made was a professional one, things weren't obviously working, that's not a secret, and my leaving has born fruit for me and for them. My personal relationship with them continues. It's obvious that I wanted to continue to represent my country, but we have to understand how things work. Life is all about cycles, that one closed and we have to move on. But I always say this: those guys, we made history together, they are my brothers and nothing will erase that. What happened will never affect my relationship with them on a personal level. We are great friends.