faveN on ESL One Cologne: "Online CS is more random than LAN; let's see how much damage we can do"
With ESL One Cologne Europe just around the corner, we caught up with Josef "faveN" Baumann to discuss Sprout's preparation going into the stacked event and how the Polish duo Paweł "dycha" Dycha and Michał "snatchie" Rudzki have settled into the team.
Sprout claimed a spot in ESL One Cologne in May with a shock win over BIG in the ESL Meisterschaft Spring grand finals, with faveN spearheading his team to 2-0 victory with a 1.30 rating. The $325,000 event features the best teams in Europe and will stand as this Sprout team's greatest test to date.
In this interview, the 20-year-old spoke about the mental state of the team going into Cologne and their expectations, the rebuilding process after the departures of Florian "syrsoN" Rische and Nils "k1to" Gruhne, the decision to turn to international recruitment, and his thoughts on up-and-coming national players.
Sprout will be playing in ESL One Cologne in a great opportunity for the team to prove themselves against the best in the world. What do you expect to get out of this event? And what would you consider a successful outcome considering you’re one of the the lowest-ranked sides attending?
First, when we qualified for Cologne it was still on LAN with the play-in stage, and our goal was to succeed and qualify for the main stage. Sadly, it is online again and we are automatically in the main tournament; now, the goal is to just to show some good CS. I mean, we are the underdog against every team there and nobody will expect anything from us, so we will do our best and see where we can go.
A successful outcome would probably be to win one match. We are facing BIG and then we will face either NiP or OG, so we're talking three really good teams. If we win one BO3 against any one of them, it's already good for us, but let’s see how much damage we can do. Online CS is more random than LAN so it probably gives us a small advantage.
You qualified for ESL One Cologne by winning ESL Meisterschaft Spring at the end of May after defeating BIG, who were ranked 21st at the time. You are now set to face off against the No 1 seed BIG in your opening match in Cologne. Are you confident in repeating your previous success?
Local head-to-heads are way more "random" than any other match. Most of the time, the worse team will win because it is more of a mental challenge than when you're facing a team from another country. Also, when we played against BIG they were not the No 1 team in the world, so we will definitely see another team on the server [now]. I think the matchup for us would be much worse against a team like Vitality, we would have it much harder because the mental challenge will benefit us more against BIG. Anyway, I think it will be a good and entertaining match and hopefully both teams will see each other in the grand final again [laughs].
You are leading the way in terms of statistics for Sprout in the last three months (1.14 rating), including a 1.30-rated performance against BIG in the Meisterschaft Spring grand finals. What do you attribute your upswing in form to? Do you think you can perform to that level once you meet again in your Cologne opener?
To perform well I just need to feel comfortable and I need the trust from my IGL when I do some moves. Changing my mindset has also helped me a lot; at the beginning of Sprout I used to change my whole equipment (keyboard, mouse, mousepad, etc) even though I hadn't done it in EURONICS. It was a thing in Sprout, but I have stopped it completely. Now I have a set training routine and set sleeping schedule and it helps me a lot individually. I hope I can show the same performance vs. BIG like at ESL Meisterschaft and I will give it my all to take a win, even though it will not be easy.
Have you changed your preparation for a tier 1 event like this or have you followed the same routine as any other tournament? Is practice considerably more intense?
On Saturday we came back home from a one-week bootcamp and it was very impactful. Every day before practice started our coach took our mobile phones and gave them back only when practice day was done, so everybody was on the same page and had 100% focus on the game and not on something else. Moreover, we were also given homework prior to the bootcamp which we had to present and we did some "experiments" during the bootcamp in order to improve our communication.
We didn't change much in terms of preparation because we want to have the feeling that ESL Cologne will just be "another tournament" so people won't be nervous or stuff like that. On the other hand, I played more individually and looked more into demos than I did before, but also just because I always want to be the best version of myself.
You have been with Sprout since September 2018 and experienced numerous roster changes. What has it been like for you to go through so much change? And how has it affected your individual development?
I really hate to change, I would only change if it’s really necessary, for example, when a player is really toxic, doesn't improve or isn't willing to. Also, players getting picked away has never been easy for me, they were not only teammates but also good friends. You need to accept it and continue improving because this is just how it works. It sucks to start all the time from zero when a new player joins, you start all the way at the beginning where you are going over the callouts again and you can't really improve quickly because of these roster changes. Still, you always need to keep grinding, if you don't want to improve or are lazy, someone else will grind all night and overtake you and that player is going to replace you in the end. So even though it was not that easy, I still tried to improve myself.
syrsoN and k1to were key players for Sprout before they joined BIG. What was the rebuilding process like? How big of a hole did they leave in the team?
syrsoN and k1to leaving was like a punch in the face. I can understand their decision, but it was just again a shitty situation for us, we tried our best to rebuild everything. We had a one-week bootcamp with the new guys and worked really hard to get back to the success we had with syrsoN and k1to. Obviously the process wasn't that easy, and one reason was the language barrier. Let's say, one-hour theory in the German team was like two hours with the international team only because of the language barrier. But I think we've made some really good progress despite the issue.
How did the decision to go down an international route come about? Did the team want to stay as an all-German side or was it your intention to look for players outside of the country?
When we learned that syrsoN and k1to would leave, we tried to think of German players [to replace them], but there was no one at their level at that time, so we instantly knew we needed to go international. We really wanted oskar and he was also ready to join and it was a done deal. About the rifler, we were testing some players, but the decision to get dycha was pretty clear. Then we kicked oskar and took snatchie into our lineup; at that point it was obvious that we would look for an international guy. It was really fitting that snatchie is from Poland so dycha also can talk Polish sometimes and feel more comfortable. To go full German [again] was never the intention and I think it's good like it is right now.
What happened with oskar? He's a very experienced and naturally gifted player, but things obviously didn’t work out.
I don’t really want to go that much into detail, but it just didn't work out with him. I don’t want to say that he wasn't motivated, but we had different views on the game and also some other stuff happened. I think this is not meant for the public.
What has it been like for you to play in an international lineup, especially since you’d only been in German teams before? What do you think that opening your lineup to foreign talent brings to the team?
To be honest, whenever a new player from a different country came, I instantly learnt something new about CSGO, so this is a nice thing. In the beginning, I had problems to communicate in English and to perform well at the same time, but I've got used to it and I know that I can still play way better than I currently do. It's not a secret that I feel more comfortable in German teams and I perform better in them, but I am really happy with snatchie and dycha and they always bring some new ideas into our game. Also to communicate in English just gives us way more options, we have a much bigger player market now and if there will be a roster change in the future it will be easier to find a replacement than if we only had to look in Germany for players.
With BIG ranked as the world’s best team and both Sprout and ALTERNATE aTTaX on the cusp of the top 30, do you feel German teams are living up to their potential? What’s the limit for this Sprout team?
German CS currently is probably the best it's ever been since CS:GO came out, but I'm a bit sad about our ranking because we know we can be way higher than that, it just isn't meant to be right now. Still, I'm happy that German CS gets recognized now and I am pretty sure sooner or later we will also reach the top 30. We actually don't set ourselves a limit, we will give our best and see where we will land. Obviously we want to get back into the top 30, but we don’t have a real "limit".
Also, I need to say that smaller German teams are playing pretty well. For exmaple, BIG Academy did pretty well in NineToFive and players like Krimbo or PANIX have a bright future, so I think we currently have some nice talents in Germany. Maybe in the near future we will have a fourth good German team, who knows?