AZR: "I don't think we have the best winning mentality leading into these games"

The EXTREMUM captain talked to HLTV.org about the team's struggles in the lower echelons of European Counter-Strike and what they are doing to turn things around.

When 100 Thieves announced that they were pulling the plug on their CS:GO team late last year, everything indicated that IEM New York North America would be the last time that we would see "The Boys" playing together.

Over the next few months, twists and turns in the story led to four out of the five players, as well as their coach, coming back together under another organisation, Russia-based EXTREMUM. But the core that made history for the Oceanic region, reaching the Major playoffs and ranking as high as fifth in the world, is having a tough time making its mark on European soil.

What is going on with EXTREMUM?

EXTREMUM didn't have the smooth start they were hoping for

We caught up with Aaron "⁠AZR⁠" Ward during EXTREMUM's first bootcamp, which took place in Serbia, the country that is now the place of residence for Jay "⁠Liazz⁠" Tregillgas, Sean "⁠Gratisfaction⁠" Kaiwai, and Hansel "⁠BnTeT⁠" Ferdinand, as well as for staff members Aleksandar "⁠kassad⁠" Trifunović (coach) and Nestor "⁠LETN1⁠" Tanić (manager). With AZR and Joakim "⁠jkaem⁠" Myrbostad living in Scandinavia, the team dynamic is different than what it used to be during their time in North America.

"We are a bit all over the place, it's something we are definitely new to, but I guess we have adapted to it pretty easily," AZR says about no longer living near his teammates. "I think we are used to travelling all the time and being somewhere new."

Adapting to a new home was a straightforward task, but getting back on the server — not so much. The absence from competition left its mark, AZR admits with a chuckle. "Yeah, I definitely think we got out of shape. It was the first time that I had a break longer than two weeks in probably... let's say maybe 10 years. I've been playing CS my whole life and this was the first time for me that I had a long-ass break and just relaxed." After the collapse of 100 Thieves, he adds, the players spent weeks mulling over their future before the EXTREMUM offer came. "We all thought we were going separate ways," AZR recalls. "At one point I thought Sean (Gratisfaction) was going to VALORANT, then Jay (liazz) was going to Gen.G, and obviously Jod (jkaem) and Justin (jks) had already gone to their teams. As for myself, I thought I was going to play for another European team, but when EXTREMUM came to us and we could make this team, it was sort of a no-brainer."

The team finally assembled in mid-January following the arrivals of Liazz and BnTeT in Europe after they had both gone home. "I think the first couple of days of practice, individually, were pretty rough for everyone," the in-game leader says. "You could tell we hadn't played in a while. We definitely had some catching up to do. A lot of demo watching, a lot of deathmatch, just trying to improve our in-game. We are definitely a little behind, but we are slowly getting there."

Another setback that hit EXTREMUM early on was missing out on spots at the biggest tournaments following the reformation of their roster. Under 100 Thieves, the Australians were a part of the BLAST Premier circuit and the ESL Pro Tour, but they lost the privileges that come from being a member team after parting ways with the North American organization. HLTV.org knows that EXTREMUM were one of the parties bidding for the BLAST Premier slot that ultimately went to BIG, and that they will be vying to become a part of the "Louvre Agreement" group.

Getting to the big stages became increasingly difficult for the team in 2021

Even without being a member, EXTREMUM could've been invited to ESL Pro League Season 13 based on their past results, but ended up missing that window of opportunity. "I think because we made the roster too late, that slot had gone to another team," AZR says. "That was kind of annoying, not to be straight back into Pro League. Obviously, not playing any tier-one events right now sort of sucks, I guess it is a little bit demotivating compared to what we have been used to in the past. But we knew coming into Europe we'd have to grind against lower-tier teams and make our way back up."

The team's trajectory has been the opposite of what one would expect, mostly due to factors outside of their control. In 2019 and 2020, they were the team that almost exclusively played on LAN, but they reverted to online play as the pandemic hit. Then, in 2021, they took another step back, and instead of playing elite competitions online, they have been forced to grind the lower tiers. "So coming back to online play, and then coming to Europe and playing the lower-tier tournaments, it is sort of a demotivating factor, I guess you could say," AZR admits.

A touch of ring rust, a bit of a lack of motivation, and a field of hungry sub-top European teams — you put that all together and you have a recipe for disaster. AZR doesn't run away from his responsibilities in this difficult situation and acknowledges that criticism coming his team's way is fair and natural.

"I definitely don't think we are playing up to our standard," he says. "When we come into our official games we make a sh*t ton of mistakes, ridiculous stuff. Mistakes, miscommunication, whatever, there is definitely a lot to improve on.

"At the same time, going from tier-one to tier-two and tier-three events, however you want to call it, I don't think we have the best winning mentality leading into these games. It is sort of hard to get motivated, is that the right word? It is hard to get pumped to play against these teams — and that is completely on us, we need to fix our mentality coming into it, get hyped as if we'd be versing f**king Astralis or something. That's also been a downer for us.

"But, in general, we've been playing pretty sh*tty, to put it like that, and we are going through a big adjustment period with Hansel and Liazz, we are still trying to figure out the best way to put them in better positions for themselves, with communication and stuff with Hansel, it's been a little bit rough, but it is just stuff we need to fix."

The Australian caller notes that the strength and depth of teams in Europe are completely different to what they were used to in North America — "I think there is a massive gap" —, with GODSENT, forZe, Winstrike, and Sinners some of the teams that EXTREMUM have lost to since they returned to the servers. Nevertheless, the team that proved time and time again that it can take on the best on LAN was expected to have a lot more to show for their work after two months together. With the discrepancy between where they were with Justin "⁠jks⁠" Savage and where they are now with BnTeT, discussions about how important the Australian clutcher was for the team have come to the forefront.

"For us, Justin was our rock. We always said that in the past." AZR says, explaining that jks always delivered, both as a multikilling solo anchor on CT and a clean-up clutcher on the T side.

"I still think he is one of the best players in the world, it was massive for us to lose him. When it comes to us now, it is just a matter of us being more consistent than we used to be, so we fill in those holes. I guess it also means that individually, all of us have to step up. He filled in a void, if we f**ked up it was like: 'Justin, what's up bro, go hit a headshot for us'."

Currently, EXTREMUM are still working on finding the right spots for everyone on the team, having realized that plugging BnTeT into all of jks' roles wasn't working as well as they hoped. "I think communication-wise, in those roles, that it has been a little bit rough", AZR points out, adding that Liazz will be getting a bit more freedom, while BnTeT will be put in spots where he can focus more on his aim and less on communicating.

A key part in elevating EXTREMUM's level will be played by kassad, the team's coach who returned to the fold after a brief tenure with Cloud9. "Round three!", AZR throws in, jokingly, before opening up on the topic. "At the end of 100 Thieves, kassad and I didn't end things too well. It was pretty rough. It was COVID, everyone was feeling pretty stressed, it was just pretty rough." The fact that, in-game, the two have always understood each other helped put their differences behind and allowed for a reunion that they hope will bring more impressive results. "I think that is very important for a coach and an in-game leader, to see eye-to-eye and make sure the team is playing towards that goal that the IGL and coach have."

kassad returned to the fold once more

But what is the goal for EXTREMUM right now? Having failed to qualify for the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown following a loss to Spirit in the Winstrike Spring Cup, they will have to content themselves with competing in the likes of Snow Sweet Snow and Pinnacle Cup, and hope for brighter days.

"These are tournaments we have to play because there are no tier-one tournaments for us to play right now," AZR says. "For us to stay relevant and get points, we have to play these events. We want to be a top-10 team, we want to be playing these tier-one events. We just don't want to become irrelevant, you know what I mean? We need to be playing the top-tier events to get up the rankings."

But the pressure is on as the pride of Australia is currently ranked only 36th in the world (ESL ranks the team even lower, at 67th). Without a big turnaround, invites to tier-one events won't be arriving anytime soon. Can EXTREMUM click before it is too late?

"I think it will get better, there is still stuff I think we have to improve on, but it is something we have to work on every day and keep grinding," AZR starts optimistically, before changing the tone.

"If not, if we don't start improving, then I don't know if we will have to change roles completely in the team or... I don't know. I don't want to think too far down that line, I want to give this lineup a chance to prove what we can do. Because practice has been alright, but when we go into officials, we fall over, [we're] f**king noobs, you know? But we just have to keep grinding, stay positive, that's the main thing."

Australia Justin 'jks' Savage
Justin 'jks' Savage
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.08
Maps played:
1053
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.63
Australia Aaron 'AZR' Ward
Aaron 'AZR' Ward
Age:
28
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.99
Maps played:
1025
KPR:
0.69
DPR:
0.69
New Zealand Sean 'Gratisfaction' Kaiwai
Sean 'Gratisfaction' Kaiwai
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.06
Maps played:
829
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.62
Norway Joakim 'jkaem' Myrbostad
Joakim 'jkaem' Myrbostad
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.03
Maps played:
1113
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.70
Serbia Nestor 'LETN1' Tanić
Nestor 'LETN1' Tanić
Age:
28
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.02
Maps played:
1111
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.63
Indonesia Hansel 'BnTeT' Ferdinand
Hansel 'BnTeT' Ferdinand
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.16
Maps played:
916
KPR:
0.78
DPR:
0.62
Australia Jay 'Liazz' Tregillgas
Jay 'Liazz' Tregillgas
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.08
Maps played:
865
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.62
interesting.
2021-03-31 13:00
4 replies
extremium kkkkkkkk
2021-03-31 13:21
#38
 | 
United Kingdom Triturn
It’s gotta be S1mple right?
2021-03-31 14:14
2 replies
Boring meme 🥱🥱
2021-03-31 14:33
1 reply
#46
 | 
United States 3manu3l
+1
2021-03-31 14:37
#2
 | 
Sweden RaaCCooN
ok
2021-03-31 13:00
#3
sausol | 
Switzerland x676
ahhaahhaahahahahahhaha
2021-03-31 13:01
Ok men thats interestimg
2021-03-31 13:01
#5
 | 
Portugal GMartins77
they should be doing much better but it comes with time. They are a good team in paper so they just need to work harder and the results will come
2021-03-31 13:02
#6
 | 
Finland ManLikeRopz
Don't give up!
2021-03-31 13:02
I translate for you: We are going to keep stealing paychecks 2/3 months before we change something
2021-03-31 13:03
3 replies
>russian org >paychecks pick one kkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
2021-03-31 19:05
2 replies
This russian org surely have big mafia money, why would this players go to this extrange unknwon "extremum" team if they get payed like shit
2021-03-31 19:25
1 reply
#97
 | 
Russia r2geboy
funny
2021-04-12 15:29
Sad tbh, they may as well quit now if they've already given up.
2021-03-31 13:03
2 replies
#39
fl0m | 
Norway MarsPi
Did you even read it?
2021-03-31 14:15
1 reply
The moment you start to flag and lose hope, may as well move to Valorant, the scene is too competitive to have players with a less than 100% mentality.
2021-03-31 14:17
It has to be s1mple right
2021-03-31 13:06
1 reply
#40
 | 
Finland Sandelssii
+1
2021-03-31 14:16
change roles? maybe roster???
2021-03-31 13:06
1 reply
No roles for now since liazz and bntet are uncomfortable with the current spots their playing and if that doesnt work out then they change roster
2021-03-31 20:19
#11
try | 
Denmark Zetix02
Ooooo really it took you guys 3 months loosing to tier 2 teams to find out something is wrong
2021-03-31 13:09
#13
 | 
United Kingdom galaxyv2
‘ Sean (Gratisfaction) was going to VALORANT’ i think he should tbh
2021-03-31 13:12
10 replies
#21
 | 
Serbia XD___
true
2021-03-31 13:26
Pretty sure that missing all the easy shots isn't a viable playstyle in Valorant either
2021-03-31 13:49
8 replies
#34
 | 
United Kingdom galaxyv2
it's hard to miss in Valorant when everyone moves at the pace of a snail
2021-03-31 13:51
7 replies
And in csgo you are usually shooting at targets that stand still
2021-03-31 13:53
6 replies
#37
 | 
United Kingdom galaxyv2
what
2021-03-31 14:08
4 replies
Am I wrong? In straight-up duels, both are standing still shooting at each other. When you run into a site, you are checking positions and if you find someone, they stand still and you shoot at them. Many awp angles are you sitting in the back and have the Ts run at you. Running at you is the same as standing still, pretty much. If you are lurking and you find someone on a timing, they are usually setting up nades or looking in a different direction, again, standing still. Of course there are times when you shoot at moving targets, but most of the time that's not the case. Tracing is something you really don't have to do much compared to other shooters
2021-03-31 15:23
3 replies
#56
 | 
United Kingdom galaxyv2
wow they stand still for half a second just like valorant your point really makes sense in the context of this argument well done bro /s
2021-03-31 15:33
2 replies
Well yes, my point at #30 was basically that valorant and cs are the same in that regard. The characters moving slightly slower in valo doesn't really change anything when you never have to trace your opponents model in the first place.
2021-03-31 15:45
1 reply
#64
 | 
United Kingdom galaxyv2
'The characters moving slightly slower in valo doesn't really change anything' yes it does /closed
2021-03-31 16:11
0/8 aim_bots is not competitive cs
2021-03-31 15:15
It feels like they don't know what to do and how to improve. The guy wants to play tier-one events against Astralist, but at the same time they didn't play for 2 weeks from the start, they can't beat tier-3 teams because of playing "like f*cking noobs" (as he said). Of course, you, guys, want to be in elite club again with all those invites and free ranking points even if you failed in a group stage, that's understandable. The thing is that 100T invested a lot to work with ESL and be a partner. If your org is not a rich partner, you're gonna struggle against low tier teams
2021-03-31 13:16
1 reply
I think what he is acctually saying is, that they were used to the tier 1 Meta. Clearly were comfortable agaisnt those teams and showed consitent middling results 2nd best team in NA for a period only falling to Furia and making playoffs in alot of T1 lans in 2019. The online era in EU is extremely volatile and they thought it was just go back to normal, If they retained the proleauge invite even middling to low results would of provided enough ranking points to stay within the top 30, and losing that place as hurt their motivation and ability to receive invites to other events,
2021-03-31 13:30
EXTREMUM should grind tier 3 like Complexity and Gambit
2021-03-31 13:19
1 reply
Best case scenario is that it works out for them like col where they finally get an invite and show up that one tourney
2021-03-31 20:21
Hopeless
2021-03-31 13:21
which games is he talking about?
2021-03-31 13:24
#19
HS | 
Estonia qoznyyy
they should just move to NA, to win some games imo
2021-03-31 13:24
2 replies
Actually sounds like a good idea
2021-03-31 13:50
#52
 | 
Pakistan LoOuU2
they were gonna compete in NA for the RMR tournaments at least.
2021-03-31 15:06
hate to see it, changing grat and liazz has to happen as much as i love both of them
2021-03-31 13:24
7 replies
#26
 | 
Australia csRIOTgo
Not sure what went wrong with liazz. Now that he's getting a bit more freedom, I was expecting him to shine a bit more. Grat, well when he's having a good day, Extremum is performing well. But he needs to be more consistent in hitting the easy shots. Had flashes of brilliance, but had bread and butter shot that the likes of device would hit 9.9/10 but Grat seems to be hitting them only 8-9/10 :( Maybe they need a team psychologist as well, something which I don't believe they have? I haven't heard otherwise.
2021-03-31 13:43
6 replies
team psychologist is a good shout, they seems pretty down in the dumps rn
2021-03-31 13:45
100% if Grat is performing they are a different team, take the train map agaisnt spirit for example. His ceiling is high he just struggles to reach it.
2021-03-31 13:45
4 replies
#44
fl0m | 
Norway MarsPi
Yeah his ceiling is high but imo he needs to lift his "floor" up, if you understand what mean. I just really miss seeing the boys on the big screen man, azr has been my fav player for 3 years, sad to see him sad you know.
2021-03-31 14:23
3 replies
Yes 100% right
2021-03-31 14:49
wait theres lift at grats floor ? lmao
2021-04-02 15:25
1 reply
#23
 | 
Greece RedWinter
AZR should have gone to GODSENT
2021-03-31 13:34
#24
 | 
Czech Republic fnx_legend
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOW REALLY??????????
2021-03-31 13:38
#25
 | 
Czech Republic fnx_legend
AZR MUST BE GENIUS
2021-03-31 13:38
Play valorant
2021-03-31 13:43
replace Grata with a good awper and you will be instantly better
2021-03-31 13:49
It has to be s1mple right
2021-03-31 13:50
after a long break and with LAN's coming back soon you would think they would have all the motivation they need, might as well just retire if you don't want to win or even compete anymore.
2021-03-31 14:08
looks like he still doesn't understand they need to prove they can play before getting invites on platter, you lose to nordavind, godsent, nemiga why would I invite to play astralis virtuspro and vitality?
2021-03-31 14:20
guys just thought it would be easy peasy to win on t-3 events in EU glad they realised their mistakes quick enough to fix them still believe they can beat t-1 teams up in the future
2021-03-31 14:21
#47
 | 
Turkey yeeGeT
Build hype until major Get stickers sell stickers make profit disband
2021-03-31 14:45
Ye not playing tier1 events dude sit down you are a snow sweet snow tier of a team at best
2021-03-31 14:47
#save_bntet the australian wasting bntet talent so hard. they need kick 3 australian and bring other danish like MSL and es3tag. let bntet igl and ez major qualifier
2021-03-31 14:57
2 replies
#83
M1N | 
Sweden txshirx
Currently, EXTREMUM are still working on finding the right spots for everyone on the team, having realized that plugging BnTeT into all of jks' roles wasn't working as well as they hoped. "I think communication-wise, in those roles, that it has been a little bit rough" Doubt having BnTeT as IGL will work
2021-04-01 08:26
1 reply
almost win against old vp and liquid as igl. its about individual skill from asia its so bad.
2021-04-01 11:45
#51
 | 
New Zealand Keah_Mow
Liazz has been very underwhelming, AZR looking rusty and Grat still a little inconsistent. Such a frustrating team to watch. There mid round calls and defaults are just horrid sometimes, dont know if thats AZR or Kassad. They need to find some confidence or consider changes.
2021-03-31 15:03
#53
 | 
Pakistan LoOuU2
hope they get their shit together sooon , they really have been quite underwhelming compared to what was expected from them. All three in Liazz, Gratata and AZR havent been able to put consistent numbers. AZR as IGL can be excused, Gratis was never consistent but Liazz in particular seems to have got hurt the most.
2021-03-31 15:08
they were just farming points on na and get undeserved spots at rankings
2021-03-31 15:34
#58
 | 
Russia mshkoda
If they don't play until the summer, I see no reason for the organization to keep them on a contract.
2021-03-31 15:37
U got this
2021-03-31 15:38
#60
 | 
Norway TheDEA
Soon Top10 again, I believe in the boois
2021-03-31 15:43
#62
 | 
Hungary Pitsa31
What, doesnt bntet speak english well?
2021-03-31 16:10
2 replies
no
2021-04-01 07:15
1 reply
or aussie accent hard to understand mate...
2021-04-02 15:26
#63
 | 
North America joeS
this core needs a shakeup.
2021-03-31 16:10
#65
 | 
Estonia thisba!tes
- BnTeT + jks Complexity - jks + BnTeT
2021-03-31 16:17
1 reply
#84
jkaem | 
Indonesia DucX
idk why but this will probablly work lmao. jks hasnt been playing as good in coL while bntet is super consistent switching this two wouldnt be so bad
2021-04-01 10:10
AZR is a great guy
2021-03-31 16:17
So basically they have too big ego to grind and actually become good like gambit or complexity did, and just want free invites ahahaha
2021-03-31 16:53
#68
 | 
China HEIDASHUAi
Save jkaem and BnTeT if this lineup ends up not working out
2021-03-31 17:30
#69
 | 
Brazil Anarchybr
Damn I admire this guy’s honesty. Tier 2/3 scene in Europe, on online events are way harder than most people think. I hope they can make it work and climb up on the rankings
2021-03-31 18:22
well maybe you should go do that then?
2021-03-31 18:56
damn hope they can pull through i dont wanna see the boys go
2021-03-31 20:40
#76
 | 
Indonesia Nuryuky
I think need to change IGL
2021-03-31 22:23
Things are not s1mple anymore for azr
2021-03-31 23:22
Hang in there breh.
2021-04-01 00:26
#79
 | 
African Union EZ4GOAT
Until they check bank account and see +322
2021-04-01 02:41
#81
 | 
United States notawaffle
trash
2021-04-01 08:18
#82
M1N | 
Sweden txshirx
Thank god! Liazz time to shine my man
2021-04-01 08:22
#85
 | 
Poland SebL
They have been showing a little bit of life in them, but it feels like they don't have the chemistry without jks, seems like jks was the glue for this team, now it feels weird.
2021-04-01 11:21
#88
 | 
France cedd
Liazz has been very underwhelming like every game. I think change would have to start with him. Get him to perform or find someone else who will.
2021-04-01 18:21
Poor BnTeT
2021-04-01 20:01
#90
 | 
World Beard43
Gotta pull ya finger out boys, get up 'em kent. #ytb
2021-04-02 13:01
TLDR : Azr bitching about their current performance and said that bntet couldnt comms and glue to the team... -bntet +jkaem......
2021-04-02 15:27
#93
 | 
Russia SpoodHamer
jks leave = trash team (no negative, just facts)
2021-04-02 15:25
good luck boys
2021-04-04 17:47
Login or register to add your comment to the discussion.