Grim: "We've been playing our best CS since we made the team"
Complexity travel to Malta after a short break from top-tier competition and are eager to show the gains they made while away from the limelight.
Complexity left IEM Cologne at the play-in stage, taking the first exit ramp after two straight losses to fnatic and OG. The week before, they had been eliminated from the BLAST Premier Fall Groups. They returned home without showing much for themselves in their European tour, but that's when the work started in earnest.
Michael "Grim" Wince and company made it through two qualifiers upon their arrival on North American soil, earning spots at IEM Sydney and the Thunderpick World Championship, and flexed their status as kings of the region while trying to settle Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski into the team.
Their return to Europe was marked by a two-week bootcamp at the Kinguin facility in Poland to get ready for ESL Pro League Season 18's Group C. "That bootcamp was really nice, I think we've been playing our best CS since we made the team," Grim explains from the tournament's media day in Malta. "So I'm really happy with how that bootcamp went and I'm excited to see if we can show that here in the matches."
Natus Vincere's Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy said it was at Pro League that his team should be judged after making substantial changes, and not before then. Could the same be said for Complexity, even though their changes were minimal in comparison?
"For us, even just adding one new player, and especially someone like EliGE who knows a lot about the game and has a lot of stuff to bring, it's going to take a while to implement and add new concepts that we didn't have before," Grim says. "Everyone is getting used to it, getting on the same page, and learning how EliGE wants to play and what he likes to do."
Complexity was just not as ready as they needed to be at IEM Cologne and it showed. Now they hope that having had nearly two months without a Big Event match and 20 days without an official, their time running scrimmages in both North America and Europe will pay off against the top teams.
"Back in NA and now during the bootcamp we had the time to add the new stuff that needed to be talked about," Grim explains. "We got to a point in which we weren't adding too much new crazy stuff, we were just trying to get used to the stuff we already had and made sure everyone is comfortable with it. That has been really nice for us and I think we're really ready now."
For years North America has had the negative stigma of being a region with poor practice. Over and over, teams have complained about how hard it is to make progress there, to the point that Liquid have put their sights on a permanent move to Europe. Grim, up to a certain point, disagrees.
"I'd say that North America wasn't the worst. There were a lot of teams giving us decent practice, like M80, EG, Wildcard, all of those teams. Nouns, even," the 22-year-old says. "But when you come to Europe, you definitely notice your mistakes more because people punish gaps that you leave open and don't really know about. So yeah, you definitely learn a lot more in Europe, but I don't want to discredit North American practice. I think it was actually pretty good and not a waste of time by any means. We learned a lot there and improved a lot there, as well."
Time spent bootcamping in Poland helped Complexity find some of those gaps. The majority-American side went to the Kinguin Esports Performance Center in Warsaw, where their first EPL rivals, 9INE, were also honing their skills. "I didn't want to leak any strats there, I was trying to be quiet," Grim jokes, "but yeah, they're a decent team and we can't be underestimating them. We'll just go into it the way we were playing the scrims in the bootcamp and I'm confident that we can win.
"There weren't any mindgames or anything, we were on the opposite side of the bootcamp, so I don't think they heard anything, and we didn't hear anything, but it is funny that we were at the same place."
ESL Pro League, with its triple-elimination bracket and playoff berths for half of the teams in each group, can be a great confidence booster for teams reaching a Big Event playoff. But it can also force teams to dig deep and perhaps even past their preparations. "It's a really important event for Complexity and us as a team to see where we're at going into the next events," Grim says. "Having three losses you really get to show your whole playbook."
Complexity are now on a quest to fulfill their potential. "We were doing a good job of getting matches over the line at the beginning of the year, but a weakness was also letting teams make comebacks against us," Grim says. "That was really an experience thing and we didn't really have a deep enough playbook to handle some of those comebacks, and it was also a mental thing."
Now, with confidence from dominating their home region and a bootcamp to get up to speed with European squads, Complexity have had the time to iron out kinks and focus on their game. "We've been playing better as a team," Grim says, "making sure you're doing stuff with a teammate at all times, that has helped elevate our game. I'd say that I expect a better Complexity here. We've been playing pretty well in scrims, so as long as we can bring it into the matches just expect more from us."