stanislaw: "I'm proud to say that we didn't give up, and I think our belief at this moment is the highest it's been in the past year"
We caught up with Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz ahead of Evil Geniuses' opening BLAST Premier Spring Final bout to talk about the changes the team has undergone since the beginning of the year and where they're headed.
Evil Geniuses entered IEM Summer as one of the weakest teams on paper, ranked 38th in the world at the time, but they managed to pull off a single-map opening victory against Spirit and a massive upset against world No.3 Heroic to secure a spot in the tournament's playoffs in what turned out to be a redeeming showing following a string of last-place finishes.
stanislaw's troops weren't able to find any more victories, losing out to the eventual finalists, OG and Gambit, but the playoff appearance at a tournament of this caliber shined a ray of light on a team that has undergone several roster changes and is currently in between coaches after recently parting ways with Wilton "zews" Prado.
Ahead of Evil Geniuses journey at the BLAST Premier Spring Final, the Canadian in-game leader opened up about a range of topics, including their recent struggles, the importance of the IEM Summer victories and what they're looking for in a new coach. He also offered his take on Ancient, saying that while the map "plays well" and is a welcome addition to the pool, it still requires some fine-tuning to the colors.
Let’s start off by talking about the most recent roster change. What was the motivation behind parting ways with zews? Are there plans for a new coach to come in?
The motivation for the change was to get better. We've been struggling for a long time and we felt like we needed a change that wasn't necessarily with the players, so we decided to make that change and so far it's paying off. We're working on getting a new coach but we obviously can't say too much right now.
You've gone through a couple of player changes already in the past few months, the latest one being MICHU for tarik. The first couple of events in North America were tough, but it got better at IEM Summer. What has his adaptation been like?
It's been a tough transition period. tarik was the kind of player that always created space and was very selfless, as was Ethan, so losing two of those players is always going to hurt a team. We've had to rework a lot of positions and tactics to get MICHU and oBo accustomed to our playstyle, and that's why the first couple of events were so rough for us, because we were still trying to figure those things out.
Now that we've actually gotten back to a bootcamp and had a fresh start, we feel like we're getting closer to figuring out the puzzle and putting everyone in their correct positions. We're still tweaking a few things, but it's flowing a lot better than it was when we first started and it just comes down to putting in the time and work.
What is it you're figuring out with the new players that is allowing you to put together the puzzle and get on the right track? Are there any examples you can give me?
The easiest example I can give you is on Inferno. If we're going to do a halls pop, tarik used to be the guy who would pull out his knife and jump backwards, but MICHU has like a 0.0 sensitivity and he's not capable of doing that [laughs], so we have to either put oBo or me there, someone else has to go first, so it just comes down to using everyone to their strengths and with the loss of tarik we're just having to figure out who can fill that void.
What would you say MICHU's strengths are? What does he add to the team?
He's just all-around a great teammate. He works hard, he has very good aim, he's very calm, and he brings a lot of ideas. I don't have a single bad thing to say about him.
It has been a bit longer since oBo came in, about three months ago. Now that you’ve had some time with him, how has his integration into the team been?
It has been tough to integrate him because he doesn't have as much experience as the rest of us, but he's stepping up to the plate a lot more recently. He's giving a lot of ideas, as well. He's obviously very gifted at the game and he has incredible aim. He's kind of the X-factor on our team if we're ever in need of something special — he'll just pull it out of his pocket and that's great to have. So hopefully, with more time, he'll get more match experience under his belt and we'll keep on improving and integrating him into the system.
Brehze seems to be in a bit of a slump, at least statistically speaking. Has he been having some trouble adjusting to the new players coming in?
Yeah, he's the one who has probably had to change the most in terms of positions, but we're still tweaking a few things to get him as comfortable as he can be because he's one of the best players in the world. He's had to change the most, so that's probably why he has struggled, but we're not too worried about it — he'll bounce back, he's a great player.
I imagine that being in between coaches, you now have a bit more freedom or you can do things your own way without outside influence. Considering this time of rebuilding and restructuring, what is it like for you as a leader?
It's been fun. I've had to step up a lot and carry the weight of two jobs, essentially, but it's been fun. I love watching demos, I love learning, I get to come up with some new creative things and I hope that it continues with the new coach.
You can't reveal details about the possible new coach, but can you tell me the profile you're looking for? Is it someone very tactical or rather someone who can help more with the psychological side of the game? What is it you're looking for in the next coach?
That's a tough question, but I think we just want someone who is going to bring the best out of everyone because we have five very unique personalities on this team and they can't be tended to in the same way, so hopefully this new coach will put a lot of time into bringing the best out of each person individually.
How would you compare the potential of this team, this lineup, to the best Evil Geniuses we've seen in the past?
I think the potential is the same, I wouldn't be on a team if I didn't feel that way. All of us on this team, on our day, we can beat anybody, and I think we've shown that before. It's just a matter of building up our consistency again. I know for a fact that we're capable of that because we've done it before and practice usually goes pretty well. We'll hopefully get a new coach and it'll be a fresh start for us to build up that consistency that we once had. We were a top team for a long time and I hope we can get back there sooner rather than later.
You've said that you have full confidence in this team now. What makes you say that? What makes you think you'll reach the same heights that you have reached before?
We're all working hard and we believe in ourselves again. Like I said before, it'll be a fresh start with the coaching change and we can play the game that we want to play. Everyone is going to have to step up to the plate and perform at their best. I feel much more confident after the showing that we just had, and the atmosphere in the team is really positive. We're all feeding off of each other and hopefully that will carry on in the future.
The first half of the year has been pretty tough, with roster changes and repeated last-place finishes at events. These disappointments must have been quite draining. How are you dealing with the mental struggles that come with such a rough period? How are you leaving it behind and looking forward to, as you said in an interview during IEM Summer, "a brighter future?"
With each change there were a lot of struggles, and if we don't perform that just adds to the pressure that we already put on ourselves. Our confidence has also been very low for the past year, but I feel like each change gave us a breath of fresh air and a new chance to believe in ourselves again. Hopefully, we won't make more changes in the foreseeable future other than a new coach coming in, and I hope that stability will help us make progress on the fresh start that we have so we can finally just focus on the game itself.
Talking about pressure. What pressure has the team been under during this period? How have you dealt with it?
I don't think that anyone who isn't in our shoes can really understand what we feel. Not only is there pressure from the community and obviously the organization we represent, but also the pressure that we put on ourselves because we know what we're capable of. So when you compile those three and you're at your low point, it's very tough. But I'm proud to say that we didn't give up, and I think our belief at this moment is the highest it has been in the past year and that's something to look forward to.
It was a pleasant surprise to see you get some big victories at IEM Summer, starting with the opening best-of-one against Spirit and continuing with the huge series win against Heroic, a top-three team in the world, especially after you had been in such a slump. How did you experience such results, especially when compared to your expectations?
Coming here we didn't really have any expectations since it was such a fresh start and we're still kind of in the unknown because we don't have a coach, but it was kind of nice to come to a tournament and not really have that pressure as obviously nobody really expected us to perform in any kind of way. When we did perform well in the first match, it really carried over into the next one.
Ever since we got here we've just been using the fact that we really don't have any pressure right now as motivation. It's a new chance for us to start to get a new level of consistency and build upon this. We're obviously disappointed with the OG and Gambit results, but this was a good first showing. Overall, we can be proud of our finish at IEM Summer and hopefully we'll have an even better one at BLAST Premier Fall Final.
Do you think that the lack of stress from not having any expectations has given you more comfort and confidence of late?
Yes, when you don't have that pressure you're obviously going to play better. Now we just have to figure out a way to play that well even when there is pressure, and that's just going to be a learning experience for this team. The longer we’re together and the more matches we play, the quicker we'll learn.
With the coaching change we've been able to focus more on ourselves and play the way that we want to play, and hopefully, our new coach will help us improve on what we're starting to build. We're really excited about that and it's been fun so far.
Your first match at BLAST Premier Spring Final is going to be against Gambit, the No.1 team in the world, who are in great shape and just won IEM Summer. Having lost to them in the IEM playoffs, how do you see yourselves going into this opening match?
I'm always confident when we play against Gambit, we beat them in IEM Katowice and last time we played I felt like it was competitive. I know they're on top of the world right now and they're the type of team that punishes mistakes. And we're going to make those mistakes, which is why we lost, but I don't feel like we got blown out by any means and I feel like it was a competitive match until we lost a few rounds that swung it [in their favor].
The results show 16-10 and 16-11, but to me, it could have been a 16-13, 16-14 match if one or two rounds went our way and we didn't make some of the mistakes that we did. But you know, that's what separates the No.1 team in the world from us right now. A team like that will punish mistakes — hopefully, as days go by we can minimize those mistakes and become the team that punishes them.
It’s not happening quite yet at BLAST Premier Spring Finals, but LANs are on the horizon and more are now being announced, including BLAST’s Fall Final. How do you see that affecting the game? Do you think it's going to be something good for a team like yours, which has several experienced LAN players as opposed to the likes of Gambit. How do you see that unfolding eventually?
Yeah, we're a LAN team. You'll see that when some of these kids return to LAN they're going to cave under the pressure and I'm sure the rankings are going to show a drastic change.
That being said, what do you expect from the BLAST Premier Spring Finals?
I think that we can make it through [the bracket] if we perform the way we did at IEM Summer and we build on that result.
You recently bounced back into the top 30 in the world rankings. Do you think it's where you're at or do you see yourselves rocketing up even higher soon?
I can't really say right now. I think the ranking is currently fair, but at the same time, it's not, because we're a North American team in a European climate and once we're finished with this bootcamp, we can probably actually evaluate where we are as a team. We'll have a lot more tournaments under our belts and we can make a fairer evaluation. Just playing one tournament here and the past couple of tournaments being in North America just really isn't a fair evaluation of where we are as a team. We have to give it more time.
Changing topics, Ancient seems like a map that's being taken up by a lot of teams and is starting to see a fair amount of play, even just in its first few tournaments. Is it a map you're incorporating into your map pool?
Yeah, we've already incorporated it, but my opinion is that it's a stupid map with stupid colors. It plays well, but why is it all green? I don't understand that. We haven't played a match on it yet, but we're prepared.
So you think it needs some changes, especially in the color?
Yeah, it's just the color. It plays really well and is really interesting, but the color... It hurts me!
Do you think it's spicing up vetoes and map selection a bit more?
Yes, it was a much-needed change. We had the same maps for far too long and it's going to be fun to finally learn a new map. We're going to see a lot of creative things from everybody, I'm sure.
Now that you have a renewed sense of confidence and things could be picking back up for EG. What are your goals in this last stretch before the player break?
We haven't really discussed it as a team yet. We want to get our new coach and finally set some tangible goals, but personally, for the foreseeable future, I just want us to make the playoffs at the remaining tournaments we play. I think that would be a pretty nice achievement and it would give us a nice confidence boost going into the player break.