faveN: "The amount of experience we gain through playing against higher-ranked teams is already a win for us"
The 21-year-old discusses returning to an all-German lineup and looks ahead to their Flashpoint 3 campaign.
Sprout ventured down the international path at the beginning of 2020 with the signings of Paweł "dycha" Dycha and Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný, with the latter being replaced by Michał "snatchie" Rudzki three months later. The international side went on to hit a peak ranking of No.16 in September, but issues began to suffuse the roster as the year came to a close. The team failed to overcome the stagnation and fell short in their bid for ESL Pro League 13 qualification with a loss in the ESEA MDL S35 final, which proved to be the final nail in the coffin.
The Polish pair left on good terms, with dycha signing for ENCE, and snatchie making his return to AGO. With their sights set on a full German set-up, Sprout opted to pick up Fritz "slaxz-" Dietrich and Marko "kressy" Đorđević, whose ALTERNATE aTTaX contracts had run their course.
In the first four months of 2021, the Germans have been riding on an arduous road filled with twists and turns, from winning European Development Championship 2 to faltering in the ESEA Premier Season 36 playoffs. Now at 30th in the world rankings and their place in Flashpoint 3 assured, Sprout will be looking to stabilise and get their Major qualification campaign off the ground and begin their ascent into the top 20.
In an interview with HLTV.org, Josef "faveN" Baumann revealed why the team made a U-turn and returned to an all-German lineup, and opened up on the strengths of his new teammates, what went wrong in their ESEA Premier 36 Europe playoff matches, and the headspace of the team leading into Flashpoint 3, among other topics.
The last time we spoke was in the lead up to ESL One Cologne in 2020, when you had dycha and snatchie in the lineup. In the interview, you stated that "To go full German [again] was never the intention and I think it's good like it is right now." At the end of the year, the team made the decision to cut the two Polish players and return to its German roots. What changed your mind and led to the team going back to an all-German lineup instead of acquiring other international players? Was it to do with communication or something else?
The main problem was communication; in intense moments, there was often a word or two missing that could have completely changed the outcome of the round. Personally, I also don’t think it’s good to have only two nationalities in one team because the chance that the team will be split up into ‘two groups’ is high. What I mean is - for example in the bootcamp, three guys will talk in their native language and the other two guys in theirs and you can’t really build good team chemistry. Taking slaxz- and kressy was pretty much clear for us after we knew that their contracts would be running out at the end of the year and it always felt better to communicate in German.
How have kressy and slaxz- integrated into the team, and has the system changed much with their additions in comparison with dycha and snatchie? What do they bring to the team?
kressy and slaxz- have integrated pretty well. In the beginning, it was rough because everything was new, better opponents, new strats, etc... but things have since gone pretty well. The system hasn't changed a lot, the only thing we've changed a bit were the positions, but our playstyle is still the same, except we are now playing a bit more structured instead of a “loose” style because we lost a bit of firepower. Both kressy and slaxz- have brought good communication and understanding of the game with them, slaxz- has a lot of potential and is pretty good with the AWP, and kressy is really smart, especially in clutch situations.
You have played alongside Spiidi since you joined the team in 2018. Can you shed some light on him as an in-game leader and how his calling has evolved? Is he the sole voice in the team or can other players suggest potential strats?
His calling has evolved a lot, he is thinking a lot about our game and how to improve it, he watches a lot of demos and talks to us about our mistakes and how to fix them. Every time he makes a call he says it with confidence, we can be 0-14 behind on the T side but he is never showing it in his mood or voice, and this helps a lot in our game. Also, if someone else has an idea and calls it, Spiidi will allow it pretty often. It depends on the game plan, but most of the time he will say yes to it.
Sprout had an underwhelming showing in the ESEA Premier 36 playoffs after a confident 7-1 record in the group stage, falling in 5th-6th place with a loss to your former teammate snatchie’s AGO. Talk to me about what went wrong from your perspective. Why did you fail to carry the momentum into the playoffs? Have you sorted out these issues and now are confident in topping the new season?
Before the playoffs started, we were in a small slump and a lot of things just didn’t work out. Individually, we were not on point, I didn’t feel as confident on the server as I used to. It was just unlucky timing to be in a slump as a team and it really hurt us against AGO. Nevertheless, we are feeling pretty confident in the next Premier season, even though we lost our opening match.
You secured your place in Flashpoint 3 with a successful run through the closed qualifier with best-of-three wins over SKADE, Tricked, Dignitas and HAVU to get your Major qualification campaign off the ground. With higher-tier competitors entering the fray in the main event, has the team’s approach changed or have you prepared in the same way as you did for the closed stage? What are your overall expectations for Flashpoint 3?
We had a one-week bootcamp before the closed qualifier and stayed there for the qualifying matches, which I think helped us a lot. Everyone had only CS in their mind, we were just living for CS and it was pretty positive for us, especially for me - I learned a lot during this time. Sadly, we don’t have a team house and we can’t bootcamp all the time or play big tournaments from there, I think it would help us for future tournaments. The feeling of being together in one room instead of sitting home alone would hype us even more. We couldn’t prepare for the main tournament as we would have liked to because we don’t have many practice days and we are not playing from one location, but we are the underdogs and we don’t have anything to lose so anything can happen. But in the end, the amount of experience we gain through playing against higher-ranked teams is already a win for us.
You have posted a 1.19 rating in 2021 and are leading the way in terms of statistics for your team. How do you view your individual performances this year and do you think you can still reach a higher level in the future?
This year has definitely been my best year individually, I think it’s because 2021 started really well for me, especially outside of the game, and this helped me with my mental mindset a lot. Also, I gained a lot of motivation with the bootcamp at the beginning of the year and the arrivals of new players. I think there is still a lot of potential to show because, for me, it’s important to fully focus on CS.
Sprout will have a tall task ahead in a clash with world no.3 Heroic in the opening round of Flashpoint 3. What do you make of the new Danish powerhouse and how much research have you done on them from their recent events? Do you feel ready for them?
I think there is a reason why Heroic is currently the third-best team in the world: They have a lot of firepower, and with HUNDEN behind, they have a really good coach. Our coaching staff always prepares us really well for our opponents, and it will be the same this time. It’s just on us (the players) to process everything in-game. Our last results have been pretty rough and do not match what we expect from ourselves. We will try to show our best CS and hopefully manage to defeat Heroic.