enkay J on sh1ro: "I do think that syrsoN is the better AWPer"
It has been a mixed couple of years for BIG, coming from the high of a stint as the number one team in the world, to their current position down at #16. Along the way there has been a high profile roster change, but just as important is the recent addition of enkay J as coach.
Coming off the back of a run to the final of DreamHack Open, BIG enter the V4 Future Sports Festival with everything to prove, and they succeeded in clearing the first hurdle by booking a ticket straight to the semi-finals.
HLTV sat down with enkay J to talk about that DreamHack grand-final run and their performances so far at V4, the issues he has identified in the BIG camp, and how he plans to go about fixing them.
Congratulations on making it straight to the semi-finals, you must be thrilled!
We certainly are. We did come in with quite high expectations, seeing our group we realised we have tough opponents, but we got a bit lucky that Fiend beat Gambit so that played into our hands. In general we are quite happy about the results so far, but we are not done yet.
How did you feel about your match against Fiend, particularly the very tight battle on Mirage?
Going into the game against Fiend we obviously already knew which maps were going to be played, we 100% knew they were going to pick Mirage against us. I think we kinda surprised them with the Inferno veto, that might have caught them off guard just a tiny bit. We were really well prepared on every single map that we were going to play.
We did have a good game plan, but unfortunately we did lack some discipline when it came to the force buys; unfortunately we lost both anti-ecos after winning each pistol, so that kind of took some momentum from us, it kind of… it kind of f****d us over, right? In the end it was just a mentality game for us, as soon as we started winning some rounds we picked up some momentum, we kept rolling, and as soon as we hit overtime we knew we were going to close it out on Mirage.
Looking to the second map of Dust2, it raised a few eyebrows that you would pick a map that is so strong for Fiend, especially considering gade’s recent comments that you were working to expand your map pool. Why did you pick it?
…because it is also one of our best maps as well? That’s the easiest answer I could probably give you, we are really feeling confident on that map. I would consider us one of the top three teams in the world on this map. Obviously they are also a good team, but I have to admit the fact that they are playing with a stand-in favoured us. We are really confident on that map, against any team on any day of the week, so we went with comfort here.
The CT side was impressive on Dust2, is that a particular strength for you?
Definitely. It is definitely a strength of ours, the CT side, but that is currently sort of… I don’t want to say meta, but every team is really strong on the CT side ever since the recent changes. You used to see teams posting double digits on the T side more often right? Right now, it’s the complete opposite, CT sides are getting a lot of rounds, mostly hitting double digits. As soon as we picked up six rounds on the T side, we were really happy with that result, because we knew coming into the CT side that we were going to get at least 10 rounds there.
How do you feel about the upcoming semi-final matchup with Gambit?
The matchup would be quite intriguing to be honest. The map pool… obviously I don’t want to go into too much detail about the veto right now (laughs), but looking at the matchup I think it does suit us quite well. How they play, how our style compares against theirs, I think it does suit us. I feel that we will be going into this match as the underdog, and this will also play into our hands as well because we aren’t going to feel any pressure. We can just do the things that we like doing, and we can do as much damage as we want to because of the ‘no pressure’ card, so to say.
Are you worried about the strong map pool that Gambit have, given the admission that you need to expand your own?
I do have to admit that they do have a really really strong map pool, that’s true, but ever since I joined the team we have been working on strengthening our map pool as well. I think we did do that well in the last two weeks, obviously it is not where we want it to be right now, but for the two weeks I have been with the team we have improved a lot. We are confident in our map pool for now, and I do hope that it pans out as we are hoping.
Do you see the battle between the two AWPers, sh1ro and syrsoN, as the key to winning that game?
There is obviously going to be a tremendous battle between the two of them right, given the firepower that each of them brings to the table. I do think that syrsoN, in my opinion, is the better AWPer. Obviously I am quite biased here I’m not gonna lie about that (laughs), but in my opinion I do think that syrsoN has been performing really well in the past year or so. I do think that if he is really motivated, if he has a good day, then it is going to be super beneficial for us regarding this matchup, and this will then hopefully pave our way to the grand-final.
Taking a closer look at syrsoN’s play, how do you feel about how reliant he seems on the scoped rifles?
I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but syrsoN actually came up as a rifle player. He only made the change back in… I want to say 2015, I could be wrong here and it was 2016, but back in Alternate Attax he made a transition to a main AWPer. If we keep this in mind, I think he has been doing exceptionally well.
People probably have the wrong conception about the fact that he is only using scoped weapons, and just make the assumption that he is really bad with rifles. A player that has been even more reliant on the scoped rifles was JDM in my opinion, right? He never really played rifle. syrsoN is actually a really good rifler, back in the days he was an entry fragger and was playing really well with the rifle, but then he was offered the main AWP role and made the transition. He can do a lot of damage with the rifle as well, he has been showing that in some rounds in 2020 I think.
I remember a particular highlight on B site of Nuke! Do you think it's preference, or more to do with the roles and positions he plays?
I think it’s a bit of both, I think everything comes together here; his role within the team, then with the positions he is taking on the map it is a lot easier, for example, to be posted up and cut off rotations at certain times with an AWP. Also obviously it is a preference for him, now that he has been playing the AWP so much, he is feeling so comfortable and confident with the weapon that he is just gonna take it, even a Scout over an AK nowadays. Within the role that he has within the team, he can get more kills with the scoped rifle than a regular rifle.
To dig into the map pool issue a bit more, how have you gone about improving that since you joined BIG?
That is a good question indeed. For me coming into the team, I can just look at their statistics and I can be like “okay, you suck on this map, you suck on that map” but it’s not always the case. For example, when I look at the stats, our Overpass is at a 25% win rate over the last three months or something like this, but we really do feel confident on that map. The stats don’t really reflect how we are feeling, how we are actually playing, or how confident we are on the map in general.
For me, when I joined the team, it was more or less about having dialogues with players and seeing what do they feel confident on, where do you feel comfortable, just getting a good feel of where the players see themselves performing well consistently. Then after the talks, we are just coming up with a solution: okay, we have to focus on these specific maps, if we do focus on these maps more in the two weeks preparation we have for this event, then we will have a quite decent map pool in our opinion.
How much do you look at what other teams do on a particular map, compared to just jumping in a server and coming up with ideas?
A bit of both I would say, it really depends. For me, for example, it’s tough with Overpass, I haven’t been really playing or looking at the map for the past two years because it has always been a perma-ban for Sprout. In general, we look at what other teams are doing quite well, comparing that to our strat-book, and if we do have something similar then maybe we can tweak it. It’s a bit of both as I mentioned before because sometimes tabseN is coming up with a lot of great ideas on the fly of what we could add, or what we could adapt, but sometimes you need some inspiration from other teams as well.
Taking a step back to ask a more general question, how do you think things have gone since joining BIG?
It has been going quite well so far, we did reach the final of DreamHack Open, and if I am informed correctly it was the last DreamHack Open, so it is a bit of a bummer we lost. We are… I don’t want to say happy, but we are satisfied with the result of reaching the final, obviously we would love to have beaten fnatic and it was a bummer that it ended up beaing clean sweep for them.
In general, in my opnion, we can be quite satisfied with the past two weeks since I have been here, because we did improve our map pool which was our number one priority. Now we have also reached the semi-finals of this event, and we are not done yet, we do hope that we can reach the grand-final and take the trophy home to Berlin.
When you came into the team, what were the first impressions like?
To be honest I was quite surprised how much better the communication and tactical awareness was, and in general how well things have been done here compared to where I have been in the past. I did realise that I can take a lot of workload off of tabseN’s shoulders by taking care of scheduling, taking care of the content of practice, what we do really want to work on and what are things we need to do right away. Relieving some of that workload from tabseN has been the number one priority for me coming in, because if he has less work like that, the better he is going to call, the better he is going to perform individually, and the better the team is going to do overall.
Other than that it’s just a work in progress, I still need time as I have only been here two weeks. It is going to be taking more time, and we are just going to be doing things on the fly for now.
What kind of role do you see the ideal coach fulfilling in a team?
I think the most important thing is that the coach is some sort of role model to the players. He has to be really strict when it comes to scheduling as well as being on time, he has to be a role model in that regard. He has to take care of the things that players don’t really want to do, such as the content of practice. He has to pretty much just do things so that the players don’t have to do as much work as they otherwise would have. As well as obviously then, preparation-wise, analysing not only the opponents game but also our own game, trying to eliminate the mistakes or the fails so to say, so it’s a lot of things that come together to form the coaches role.
When I spoke to gade, he spoke highly of your contribution to the team’s mental state. Do you see the motivational aspect of a coach as something that is important?
Definitely, that is also something that is important for the coach’s role. If the coach is sitting or standing behind the team and constantly facepalming or raging, it’s not beneficial for the team, the players may feed off the coach’s energy. You have to have some kind of positive attitude, not only when it comes to the official games, but also when it comes to practice games as well.
Obviously at some point you have to be some sort of asshole when it comes to mistakes, if they keep doing it over and over again you have to be that pain in the ass telling the player “Hey, stop doing that BS”. It’s tough, sometimes you have to be their friend, sometimes you have to be their boss, and just tell them what they need to do. They probably will hate you for that, but that’s just the way it is.
What are the longer-term expectations and goals for BIG?
I personally want to get to where they were last year when they still had XANTARES and tow b as player and coach. I want to get them back to the number one position in the HLTV world rankings, that’s my personal goal and I think the team have set themselves that goal as well. This is what we are going to work on, step by step, day by day, month by month.
What do you think you need to do to get there?
Work harder than we did before, that’s probably the simplest answer I can give you for that. I still have to get a better overview of where we can improve, where we are lacking certain things. I do have some impressions for now, but two weeks is just too short of a time to be able to tell what we really need to do, but we need to work harder than before, we do need to work more efficiently in a lot of regards, and we need to have the joy of playing and love the game.
I feel like they have been lacking this a bit in the past couple of weeks or months, ever since results haven’t been as good as they have been before, I think this has taken a bit of a toll on them. Just enjoying what they are doing is the most important thing, enjoy working, if we do this then we can do great things in the future
Is it pressure from the community, or is it the pressure they put on themselves that has taken the toll?
To be honest, I don’t think that the players do get affected as much as one would think by the community’s point of view. I do think they themselves set their own standards, ever since they were the number one team in the summer of 2020, standards have been at a different level and they have been putting themselves under too much pressure in that regard. They have been used to performing as well as they have been, and when you get used to winning and all the sudden you are losing to teams that in the past you have been beating constantly, then you’re getting frustrated, one thing leads to another, and people start turning on each other. As soon as people get that hunger again and the motivation to work and grind harder than before in order to realise the common goal, then it will click.
Let’s finish off with a fun question; what do you think about the change Valve made to allow grenades to be dropped? It feels like we haven’t seen the meta develop too much yet on that front.
I think that was a great change to be honest, I think that was a great change that Valve did there. The timing was probably not the best one could argue (laughs), but I think, as you also mention, that we have not really seen the meta change that much. At BIG, we are always trying to be as smart as we possibly can about our utility usage, so therefore we are constantly looking at where we can improve our grenade dropping. I don’t want to go into too much detail, we just want to be as efficient as we possibly can with the utility, and I think the buff that change will bring is going to be very beneficial for us in the long run.
Right now, we have a lot of ‘construction sites’ so to say in our camp, that we need to focus on first. As soon as we get rid of these little areas for improvement, then we will have more time to sit down together and talk about where we can come up with something nifty.