Johnta: “Staying at the level between tier 1 and tier 2 isn’t our goal”

Johnta: “Staying at the level between tier 1 and tier 2 isn’t our goal”

After a big roster change, Hellraisers are on a mission to secure their rightful place amongst the best in the world, according to team coach Ivan “Johnta” Shevtsov.

Although Hellraisers managed to secure a Legends status at the FACEIT Major London 2018, their overall performance throuout the year was less than impressive. It was time for a change.

Last month Hellraisers brought in Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov in place of Vlаdуslаv “bondik” Nеchуроrchuk. With the new roster Hellraisers finished fourth at the SuperNova Malta 2018, finishing behind the likes of Team Liquid, NRG Esports, and BIG.

There are two more LAN events before the winter holidays for them — ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals and PLG Grand Slam 2018. And according to coach Ivan “Johnta” Shevtsov the goal there is to learn how to play as a team again and get ready for the 2019 season.

Vie: You swapped bondik for Hobbit roughly a month ago. Did you part ways with bondik on good terms?

Johnta: I hope that yes and he does not hold a grudge. After all, we all felt that he could have more impact and play a bigger role in another team. For me, Vlad (bondik) was always a carry-player, such as Magisk, rain, etc. For some reason, this was not possible in our team. I hope he will find a team in which he can realize himself completely.

Vie: Did the contract run out and you just decided not to renew it? Why? Whose decision was it?

Johnta: Yes, sort of. The team needed a replacement for several reasons. Mostly to refresh the atmosphere. There are different stages in the life of each team, in our case, the next stage just didn’t come and changes were needed.

I will explain in more detail. After some losses, the key mistakes that were made should have been corrected. They were not corrected as time went on and after a series of defeats, the belief that this team could win was lost. And staying at the level between tier 1 and tier 2 isn’t our goal. In such cases, the longer you delay with a replacement, the worse it will get.

Vie: Have you considered swapping other players? Many were surprised because they expected you to swap Deadfox.

Johnta: Yes, in our roster there were three players whom we could replace. We thought for a long time before making a decision. The main factor was what role the newcomer will play, and how we see the composition in the new format.

Deadfox is a very cool support player that remembers all the tactics and grenades, is not nervous on LANs and does not mind taking on difficult roles. If we replaced him with a player who does not play such roles, it would be the exact same thing that happened with Mousesports and Snax.

Vie: A year ago there was a similar situation between the organization and bondik. How is this time any different?

Johnta: In some ways the situation was similar. But this time the choice to change Vlad was based on the distribution of roles in the team. Previously, he played the role which ISSAA now takes. On some maps he just felt uncomfortable. We could not change this, and eventually Vlad didn’t find a comfortable position for himself within the team.

Vie: Why did you choose Hobbit? Who else was considered for the vacant seat?

Johnta: Hobbit is a very capable player, ideally suited to the role that Vlad played. We discussed this and realized that we would be perfect for each other. Considered a couple of players, our second option was Cromen.

Vie: Is it true that you already trained with Hobbit before officially signing him? How did he show himself in training? 

Johnta: We discussed the roles and talked about what he would like to do in the game. After all, he has changed a lot of roles during his last days at Gambit Esports. For us, Hobbit looks like a better choice, if only because he is more comfortable with the roles that he wants to perform. We had a whole month to prepare. It shows itself well, he adapts very quickly.

Vie: Was a month of practice enough for you to get in shape?

Johnta: We have three LANs in a row now. Our goal is not to get in shape, but to play and understand what we can do with this composition and form the basis of team and communication. And with this go for a winter holiday, and after that begin preparing for the Major and set the form as early as next year.

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jR: “How far can we go in the official games even we don’t know”

jR: “How far can we go in the official games even we don’t know”

Vega Squadron have been plowing their way through the Faceit Major, but not even the team captain Dmitriy “jR” Chervak knows how long that will last.

This being a third CS:GO Major in a row for the Russian team, most of the players are well accustomed with the pressure of the most important event in the game. Even though the Squadron managed to secure a respectable 9th-11th finish at the ELEAGUE Major earlier this year, they could not avoid the roster change that followed.

Vega Squadron, which for years remained one of the longest-running rosters in the game, had to let go two of their players earlier this spring. Sergey “keshandr” Nikishin and Nikolay “mir” Bityukov were replaced by Igor “crush” Shevchenko of pro100, and Anton “tonyblack” Kolesnikov of forZe.

The roster change left a lot of doubts in the team before the Faceit Major, but the Russian Sharks proved the doubters wrong. After a very impressive comeback, they overcame Team Spirit 16-14 in the opening game of the Major and further increased their lead by defeating BIG 19-16 the following day.

Team captain Dmitriy “jR” Chervak revealed in an interview, that not even he knows how far their team can really go.

Note: The interview took place before the game against BIG and was translated from Russian. 

Vie: You had a strong showing at a previous Major, but you really struggled to find your game since. Even after a roster change, your performance remained shaky. Why was that?

jR: We ourselves are still looking for answers to that particular question. (laughs)

Photo via HLTV.org

Vie: You had a roster change a few months back. Your performance this Major looks really solid, but was it enough time to get used to your new teammates?

jR: The atmosphere within the team is much better right now, we can freely discuss our mistakes and look for ways to fix them. How much time will we really need to minimize the number of mistakes is still unknown. Scrims have been going really well for us lately, but how far can we go in the official games even we don’t know.

Vie: What did your training look before the Major?

jR: It’s the same as usual, actually. We practice a lot and we work on minimizing the number of mistakes both as a team and individually.

Vie: So it must have been a busy time for your coach, Fierce?

jR: He’s the one looking for mistakes and helping us fix them. It’s just so much easier noticing these faults from the sidelines, than when you’re the one immersed in the game.

Vie: What are your goals for this Major?

jR: Top 16 and that’s the worst case scenario for us.

Photo via HLTV.org

Vie: What do you think about Winstrike? Will they be able to repeat their performance from the previous Major?

jR: They are a pretty good team. Lately, however, their performance was less than stellar, but that’s something they know best themselves, what they have to work on and what they have to fix. I think the repeat of the last Major is possible, even the upgrade, everything comes down to how well they will play themselves.

They proved that it’s possible once before, you just have to tryhard the best you can and trust your team.

Vie: Let’s talk about your game with Team Spirit. They looked really strong in the first half, but then they just collapsed. What do you think happened there?

jR: Team Spirit have gained a lot of momentum before the Major and they are in their best form right now in the history of this roster. The question always was whether they will be able to properly deal with the nerves and close out games. If they can find a way to do that, I could see them easily making it to Top 16 and once they’re there they would have a serious shot at Top 8.

It all comes down to whether they will be able to get ahold of their nerves before the rest of the games.

Vie: A few teams had some issues with the visas. Did your applications go well?

jR: It did, no issues whatsoever.

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Who’s who in CS:GO: November

Who’s who in CS:GO: November

A lot of impressions resurface with the final match of Esports Championship Series Season 6 behind us, both good and bad. We take a look at what the scene looks like after the tournament.

ECS brought us a lot to talk about. Among those things are the excellent game between NiP and Astralis, and the complete opposite performance of them in the face of Cloud9, as well as the first three millionaires in the history of CS: GO.

Danish excellence

Let’s start with the winners of the tournament. For the second year in a row, Astralis has dominated the CS: GO scene, and few people can beat this team. MIBR were very close to victory over the Danes, finishing both cards with the closest possible score – 16:14 on Inferno and 22:20 on Overpass.

Who knows, maybe if Fernando “fer” Alvarenga did not perform so poorly in the finals, maybe Made in Brazil and could take one map. Or maybe even win it at all, as they already did in the match of the winners bracker of group A. By the way, after this tournament, fer will take a short pause in performances due to health problems. Who will replace him is unknown.

Where is Cloud9?

Surely, many have noticed how “cloudy” come out after winning ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018. The best result for Cloud9 this year, after winning the major, was second place in cs_summit2, where they lost to compatriots from Team Liquid with the score 3: 2.

What can help C9 again become a threat to top teams? It is hard to guess. The team has repeatedly made changes in the composition, and recently acquired a top Frenchman Fabien “kioShima” Fieu, but he could not help the team to return to their positions. Maybe in the future, the guys will play, but so far the game Cloud9 delivers causes extremely mixed feelings.

NiP can still perform

Throughout its history, Ninjas in Pajamas have been a top team, it’s hard to deny that. Many will disagree with me, because they remember the time when the guys went to the finals of each major, and believe that the quarter-finals or semi-finals for them is not a significant achievement.

Even at the time when NiP could not reach the major, they consistently took top places, or even won at other tournaments. The same happened at ECS – NiP under the net carried NRG and North but lost in the semifinal against Astralis with a score of 2: 1.

After the game, the captain of Astralis Lucas “gla1ve” Rossander noted that the games against NiP are always difficult and they have become stronger since their last meeting. I wonder what will happen next?

For device — MVP medal record

Speaking of the rivalry between Ninjas in Pajamas and Astralis. The previous MVP medal record from HLTV was held by Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund with ten medals. Eventually Kennis “KennyS” Schrab and Nikolai “device” Reedtz caught up with him, but after the latest tournament the title of the most MVP holder belongs entirely to device.

For the player, who is only 23 years old, winning the ECS brought him the eleventh medal overall. By the end of the year, Astralis will play in two more top events — BLAST Pro Series Lisbon 2018 and ESL Pro League 8 Finals tournaments. Who knows, maybe Nikolai will be able to replenish his MVP piggy bank with two more medals.

Unless someone like Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev can step up at those events and snatch the MVP medal for himself, another title for device seems very likely.

Money money money

The victory at ECS made three veterans of Astralis — Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen and Nicolai “device” Reedtz became the first players in the history of CS:GO, to earn a million dollars from prize money. Xyp9x leads the group with  $1,038,721 USD, followed by dupreeh with $1,035,922 and device with $1,033,423.

Nikolay “device” Reedtz sometimes takes breaks from the game due to his health problems, this explains his lag in prize money from his teammates.

What is yet to come

December will hold several top-tier events, two of which — BLAST Pro Series Lisbon 2018 and ESL Pro League 8 Finals, will feature most of the best teams in the world. Astralis have been looking very dominant throughout the year, but if any team is looking to challenge that in 2018 that would be their shot.

Natus Vincere, while missing the ECS finals, will attend both of the events and are aiming only for the highest position. So will Made in Brazil. While NiP will miss ESL Pro League Finals, they will try to keep the momentum and redeem themselves at BLAST Pro Series Lisbon.

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flamie: “We are concentrated on improving teamplay”

flamie: “We are concentrated on improving teamplay”

Egor “flamie” Vasilyev is ready to dethrone Astralis and take that number one spot in the global rankings for Natus Vincere.

The Ukrainian team will have two more shots this year to climb the rankings — the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals in Odense, Denmark and BLAST Pro Series in Lisbon, Portugal. The former will begin next week, with 16 best teams of the regular season from Europe, North America, South America, Oceania, and Asia fighting it out for the lion’s share of $750,000 USD.

BLAST Pro Series will once again feature six invited teams, battling for $250,000 USD over two days of competition. Both Astralis and NaVi were invited, alongside Ninjas in Pyjamas, FaZe Clan, Cloud9, and MiBR. Egor “flamie” Vasilyev’s NaVi will be entering the tournament in Portugal as the defending champions, after their convincing victory over NiP in Copenhagen earlier this month.

Natus Vincere had a fairly lackluster season, with “only” three championship winnings, the other two being ESL One: Cologne 2018 and StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 5. What made it truly spectacular was a series of second place finishes, usually behind Astralis.

For Egor “flamie” Vasilyev and his team this will be their last chance to finish the year on a high note and maybe even claim that highly coveted number one spot.

Vie: In anticipation of ESL Pro League S8 Finals and BLAST Pro Series Lisbon, you have set up a bootcamp. What goals did the team set for this training period? What are you planning to work on first?

flamie: First of all — work on our weak maps. And also concentrate on improving team play.

Vie: S1mple in a recent video said that the priority for NAVI is the finals of the ESL Pro League S8. What is the reason? How important is the Intel Grand Slam challenge for the team?

flamie: This is one of the last top-championships this year, so we want to show the best result. If we manage to win the Grand Slam — nice, but if not — it’s not a big deal. So, we do not prioritize Grand Slam and for us, it is more important to win the tournament.

Vie: During your career, you have already played in three finals of the Major tournaments. In which of the defeats you suffered the hardest? What was the reason?

flamie: I think, it was on the second Major (MLG Columbus — NAVI vs Luminosity), because we felt confident in our success. We lost the first map in overtime, gave away our game, which was quite painful.

Vie: Continuing the theme of victories and defeats. Maybe you had a loss more painful than the Majors finals?

flamie: No, I do not think that there were more unpleasant defeats than the Major finals.

Vie: Regarding victories — which success of a tournament brought the most bright and intense emotions? Why was that victory so significant?

flamie: ESL One Cologne. It was a Major tournament with a prize pool of $ 250,000. We beat Astralis, which was almost at the peak of their shape. Additionally, the importance of this championship added the fact that there were represented all the best teams in the world at that time.

Vie: In the second half of the year in the games of the Born to Win, a certain pattern can be observed: if the team participates in tournaments for two weeks straight, then in the second case an unsuccessful performance follows. What causes this? Is it just fatigue or are there other factors?

flamie: It happened twice when we were flying from Europe to America: it was a long flight, we didn’t take a rest, and maybe it was just hard for us to immediately switch to another schedule. I think we need a more competent approach to this issue.

Vie: After the off-season, NAVI participated in six LAN tournaments. You showed the best result on FACEIT Major (1.18 rating), and the worst — on IEM Chicago 2018 (0.74 rating). What was the catalyst for success in London, and what was the reason for not quite the best performance in Chicago?

flamie: I can not name the exact reasons. You can never know in advance how you will play. It seems to me that we just got into a good shape before the FACEIT Major and as a result, the game was going smoothly. And in Chicago, we very quickly dropped out of the tournament, in fact, the whole team performed poorly, including me. Thus, when you play two maps badly, it seriously lowers the rating.

Vie: It is interesting that the most successful map for you in the last three months is the Train (1.10 rating), and the worst is Nuke (0.92 rating). Is this related to your role in the team? And are you satisfied with your position or would you like to change something on some maps?

flamie: Yes, I think it’s correlated. I have a more flexible role on Train, which is pretty easy to play in terms of statistics. At Nuke, I have such a role that i have to look at “ramps” where rivals do not particularly often go, and on the offensive side, it’s not that easy to find a frag. In general, you can always perform better and improve your game.

Vie: Do you have the most beloved and most hated map in the game? Name three positions where you like to play the most, and three — where you only dream that the game ends faster.

flamie: Train evokes the most sympathy. As for the positions, a supporting role on Train, the plant side B on Overpass, and on Inferno, I liked to watch “five,” and also play on a supporting role.

Vie: Do you like the recent changes in the economy of CS:GO? What other changes would you like to see in the game?

flamie: Economy — yes, the changes have brought some new and interesting rounds. Now, finally, the teams practically do not force buy in the second round. And after the score 2 : 0 there is a chance to see the AWP in action.

Vie: Recently, you have begun to be more strict about the food you consume. Tell me, please, what is included in your diet?

flamie: I’m not particularly strict about the food. I just consume it in smaller quantities. So the most common diet, just need to eat less. And do not abuse junk food.

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n0rb3r7: “I had to choose between Winstrike, Gambit and forZe”

n0rb3r7: “I had to choose between Winstrike, Gambit and forZe”

The 17-year-old Russian quickly became a sensation in the region, but his prowess remains virtually unknown internationally. Since David “n0rb3r7” Danielyan joined Winstrike, the player is hopeful it will change soon.

The young player entered the competitive scene earlier this year after he officially joined the revived dAT Team line-up. The team with five up-and-coming players on the line-up showed a lot of potential from the get-go. Coached by the veteran in the scene, forZe and tp.uSports alum Alexey “OverDrive” Birukov, the young team quickly established their aptitude.

It took them less than two months to win their first title. After defeating Anton “tonyblack” Kolesnikov’s TEAMSWAGYOLO, dAT claimed a trophy in Alienware League Russia.

Good early results and plenty of potential in the roster did not stay unnoticed for long. David “n0rb3r7” Danielyan and his team were invited to join WINSIDE eSports, their first professional team. The players took their five-month contracts on the spot.

n0rb3r7, Photo from personal archive

But it all went downhill from there.

The next few months brought mixed results for the team. Their best performance came in form of a second place finish at CSGO.NET CIS Derby, where they were defeated by more experienced AVANGAR. Internationally WINSIDE performed even worse, often finishing outside of the Top 30 in the online qualifiers.

But even while his team was struggling to find wins, the 17-year-old n0rb3r7 managed to maintain a respectable 1.13 average rating. Even more impressively, the young Russian has a 63% win rate in clutch situations and 1.12 rating on LAN.

It was only natural that Danielyan would start getting attention from the bigger teams in the region.

When Yegor “markeloff” Markelov’s Flipsid3 Tactics decided it was time to bring in new blood, they turned straight to n0rb3r7. “While I was playing for WINSIDE I had only one offer and it was from Flipsid3,” the player confirmed. “In the end, the two organizations couldn’t come to an agreement and the deal fell through.”

n0rb3r7, Photo from personal archive

When the North American organization approached WINSIDE management earlier this year the deal couldn’t be made. Whether WINSIDE really didn’t want to part ways with the young talent or were simply looking to get the most out of the offer remains unknown. However, the offers that Flipsid3 received from the Russian organization were deemed “unreasonable”.

n0rb3r7 had to play the rest of his five-month contract under the crumbling WINSIDE banner. However, once the contract was up, a new ray of hope shined on him.

“Once my contract with WINSIDE expired I immediately received three offers. I had to choose between joining Winstrike, Gambit, and forZe,” the player said.

Gambit had their own share of struggles in finding new players to fill their roster after the benching of Abay “Hobbit” Khassenov and Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev. PGL Major Kraków 2017 winners quickly recognized the potential of the young player and tried to snag him before anyone else.

n0rb3r7 will join Boombl4 at Winstrike

However, it was a newly revamped Winstrike team that captured Danielyan’s attention. “I decided that I want to play with Winstrike because I feel like I will be most comfortable there,” n0rb3r7 said. “I want to show my best and I feel like I will be able to do that here.”

David “n0rb3r7” Danielyan joined a completely rebuilt Winstrike roster, headlined by team captain Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov. With the return of Aurimas “Kvik” Kvakšys and the addition of Georgi “WorldEdit” Yaskin and Jan “wayLander” Rahkonen, Winstrike now has enough experience and firepower to compete for the highest spots.

The team’s first big test comes in three weeks at the Katowice 2019 CIS Minor Championship Closed Qualifier. The road ahead of them is tough, but the goal is simple — get back into the Major.

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Spiidi: “I was really itching to play against mousesports”

Spiidi: “I was really itching to play against mousesports”

After a series of disappointing results, Timo “Spiidi” Richter and the rest of Sprout find themselves in a struggle to close out their games.

It’s been a tough few months for the German team. A much-needed roster change failed to deliver the kind of improvement the team was hoping for. The team let go Dennis “sycrone” Nielsen and brought in Josef “faveN” Baumann — an 18-year-old star from EURONICS Gaming.

However, that didn’t help by much in Kiev, where Sprout finished dead last at StarSeries i-League Season 6 finals. They suffered three straight losses against mousesports, Vega Squadron, and HellRaisers. Interestingly, every match ended with a round difference of less than 4 for the German team.

One of the founding members of the team, Timo “Spiidi” Richter, explained their situation within the team and talked about his past with mousesports.

Vie: The tournament didn’t go so well for you. What thoughts come to mind after such a loss?

Spiidi: It went horribly. We are like a new team, we didn’t practice that much, but this is obviously not the result we expected. Every game was really close, 16:14, 16:12, even over-time. So I don’t think we had no shot at the playoffs. We just lost. And that’s the worst feeling in the world.

Sprout. Photo via HLTV.org

Vie: In every match, you came really close to winning. But then you just couldn’t go all the way and lost. Do games like these bring your team down?

Spiidi: In our last tournament, in Poland, we lost in a very similar fashion. It was 0-2, with scorelines like 14:16. And this was a repeat of that. When everything comes down to the small things it becomes really important. You have to learn to overcome your issues and to fix these mistakes. We can’t keep making the same mistakes.

Because every game comes down to the wire it doesn’t mean that we have to change the whole system. People have to understand that. We have to motivate each other. We have a good structure, we just have to give it our all. It’s something we have to overcome.

Vie: You lost your game against mousesports 14:16 too. Was that a grudge match for you in any way?

Spiidi: I was really itching for this game. It felt like I never had an opportunity to play against mousesports ever since I left. I knew we could beat them. Even if all the odds were against us. It’s the kind of thought that appears when you play against your old teammates. Even if it’s just subconsciously. Plus, we were somewhat of a dark horse in this match.

Spiidi. Photo via HLTV.org

Vie: Did that help you at all?

Spiidi: It’s possible. Maybe in a few rounds that they played in the same style. But in general, it wasn’t that helpful. They have three new members, it’s a completely different team. It mostly came down to motivation.

Vie: What’s the next goal for the team?

Spiidi: After we return home, first things first — win MDL and qualify for ESL Pro League. That’s our main goal right now.

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