Pujan "FNS" Mehta is the in-game leader for Counter Logic Gaming, a mainstay of North American CS:GO. FNS spoke to theScore esports about his experience in 2017 and looked back at the controversy with Vito "kNg" Giuseppe at DreamHack Montreal 2017.
This interview was conducted on Day 2 of the Americas Minor 2017 - Boston, after CLG's match against Misfits.
Let's start with your match against Misfits, how do you guys feel about taking them out?
As far as beating them, we knew coming in that we should be able to beat Misfits, just because they seem a little off these days. We've played them in scrims like a month prior, I think maybe once or twice. And from what I remember of them, even though they were online matches, they just seemed a little off.
Everywhere they go we knew beforehand where they're going, but their lurker this time around, AmaNEk [François "AmaNEk" Delaunay] I think, was getting 2-3 kills at mid and kept flanking our players. So that's why we lost some of the rounds that we lost, but I felt like that game should have been over a long time ago. I think we're better than them right now.
Your confidence against them, does some of that stem from the fact that you used to play with some of their players?
Not necessarily. I think they're all skilled players, straight up. I think Sean [Gares] is a good in-game leader and I think they all have skill, but sometimes even if you have a lot of skill on the team, if the players don't mesh, then it's not going to work. So, I just don't think it's working for them right now.
Talking about Sean Gares and his leadership style, do you see that coming through a lot even though they have two new players?
I think less so now.
I think they're a little easier to read than Sean's older teams and that might be due to the fact that there's a language barrier, I'm not too sure. But I would say that the recent times we've played them, they've been pretty easy to read.
Continuing on with playstyle, let's talk about CLG. You've mentioned before that you brought a tactical style to CLG when you rejoined, but I know that a while ago CLG were trying to implement a bit of an EU style, when they had Faruk "pita" Pita on the lineup. Is that continuing or are you bringing a new style?
I think for me, I'm trying to evolve myself as an in-game leader as well. So, at the start I brought a more strategic aspect, like executes and more, but I'm trying to move away from that and add that EU style as well, which is a bit more loose.
I think our players play a bit more confidently when they're loose, so it just comes down to the team we're playing against and how disciplined we need to be.
You've also mentioned that you've maybe had some difficulty against the Brazilian style. Thankfully for you none of the Brazilian teams on Group A got through, but unfortunately you're in the same group with Luminosity Gaming, who you guys lost against for WCA. What are your thoughts going into a potential match up against them?
I mean, I'm excited to play them, I think they're a really good team. They're much harder to read, I would say, than Misfits are. It'll be a tough match up for sure and, like you said, Brazilians are a counter to us, especially in recent times. So hopefully we just come out to play.
I think every player is confident on LAN and I think the good thing about our team is that every time we go to a LAN, every single player plays a little bit better. So that's the one advantage we have going into that match, but outside of that, hopefully it's just a good match.
Are you looking to maybe implement some of that 'BR style' into your own game?
We already have. There are certain tactics that they have that we've already added to our playbook, because some of the stuff that they do is super... it makes a lot of sense and it's also very little risk with high reward, but at the same time it's very pushy. It's a very aggressive playstyle that they have.
They're really good at information gathering and they don't really let you have too much information and I think that comes down to how well they communicate. So I think if we're on par in communication, I think we'll be able to beat them.
We've been talking a bit about NA, so let's take a step back and get your thoughts on the scene in general. Looking at EPL you guys are Top 3 I believe, but in ECS you guys are middle of the pack. And between SK, C9, Liquid and maybe not so much Immortals now, but where do you guys feel you stand?
I think Liquid and C9 are on another level right now, playing on another level. There's a lot of confidence in those teams and a pretty good tactical approach. So, right now if you were to put us in a best-of-three versus Liquid or C9, I think that we would have a low chance of beating them. But outside of those two, I think we can beat any team in North America.
And honestly, I have more confidence playing against SK than I do Liquid or C9. Just because the playstyle, you know, sometimes playstyles don't match up and I think SK has the type of playstyle that we like to play against. Whereas Liquid and C9, they are a little bit more loose, which is a lot harder to play against.
Speaking of styles, again, another thing that came into the NA scene is OpTic's EU lineup. What are your overall thoughts on that and have you had chances to play or scrim against them?
So we didn't really get to practice with them, because they're in Europe, but we did play a match against them and lost. It was 1-1 and they're playing from Europe and they just beat us on Cache 16-1, so that was pretty impressive. They all had 100 ping, but they're insane; they were hitting every shot.
I think they have a ridiculous amount of skill, I think that's pretty obvious on the team, but I think what really helps with that team is the fact that they have ImAPet [Chet "ImAPet" Singh], who was our previous coach.
I think he brings a lot to the table when it comes to hard work and work ethic and I think they've all embraced that.
Do you see OpTic as a higher priority when it comes to scrims?
Yeah, for sure. If we get to play them, we definitely play them, because we know they're the type of team that would be prepared, they have a lot of skill on the lineup and I think they're on track to be Top 10 in the world.
You mentioned ImAPet, replacing him is Steve "Ryu" Rattacasa. In my interview with Steve "reltuC" Cutler, he's mentioned the same things you did about ImAPet in reference to Ryu, hard work and work ethic. But outside of that, what does Ryu bring to the lineup, especially since he interacts with you a lot, as the team's IGL?
Outside of the hard work, which every coach usually has, he brings in a lot of criticism, which ImAPet kinda lacked; but maybe he's improved on that, I don't know.
I think Ryu is a bit more of a stronger personality, so he has a tendency of getting on players when they make mistakes and stuff like that.
Does that grate on the players though, or is that part of the growing process?
I think you just make sure that every player plays to their potential and if they make mistakes you call them out.
You've also worked with other notable coaches as well, namely Soham "valens" Chowdhury when you were on TSM. How does he compare to him?
Soham was as hard working as Chet, in the sense that he was a tactical coach, and that's the difference between Ryu and Soham/Chet. Ryu brings in the discipline, while Soham was more of a passive person.
What about mental strengthening? I think that's something that's becoming more of a priority for teams, especially for teams like Astralis. Is that an aspect that important to you guys as well?
So Mike [Michael Schwartz] is basically our out-of-game coach, making sure we're prepared for games.
It's good to have an in-game coach, obviously, but as for outside of the game, some people can sometimes slack off and not [be] doing what they're supposed to be doing. Going to the gym, warming up, having a good diet, waking up on time, etc. All of that stuff is what Mike takes care of, for the most part for us and making sure that he has one-on-ones with us to know where everybody is mentally.
If somebody doesn't like somebody, we figure that out immediately, but rarely do we have problems like that. It's really more a couple things I mentioned earlier, which is people not waking up on time or somebody slacking at the gym. Basically he gives us goals that we aspire to.
Shifting gears a little bit, talking about James "hazed" Cobb leaving the team and org. I view it similarly as Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert and Michael "shroud" Grzesiek leaving C9, which was a fairly emotional parting.
I know you left CLG before to join TSM, so that may have been the "emotional part" for you (perhaps parting with the mouseSpaz crew I guess), but was there an emotional reaction when hazed left?
I mean, I replaced hazed. So, that was kind of shitty going in. I felt a little weird about that because I wanted to play with him, I really did. And we had the chance to when we were replacing Subroza [Yassine "Subroza"' Taoufik], we were like, "are we going to get hazed back, or are we going to get Rick [Ricky "Rickeh" Mulholland]?"
We chose Rick because it felt like he had way more skill.
Talking about the IGL role, how does leading this CLG compare to the previous iterations?
So the good thing about this iteration is they rarely second guess me, whereas the previous iteration, the reason why I got replaced in the first place is because I was getting second guessed a lot. And eventually I think players lost faith in my calling and probably my fragging ability as well.
Now, everyone listens, anything I say they listen to. Anytime I bring in a strat, there's no second guessing. And that's different than criticizing. People will criticize me if I make a mistake, but there's no second guessing when I'm calling a strat or if I have an idea, because they know the amount of experience that I bring and they know how much I watch demos all the time.
They know that I understand the meta of the game and how to outplay the other team, they just need to believe in me and this iteration believes in me more.
You've notably spent year-long careers on teams, so one year on CLG, then a year on Team SoloMid and now another year on CLG. How does this year stack up?
In the previous version of CLG we made the Major three times when I was on the team, but with TSM I would just call that a big failure, honestly. It had good players on it, just not the right mesh.
So TSM, let's just cancel that one out. That leaves this iteration of CLG and I would say that this has probably been the best for me, this year, in terms of how much we've accomplished; we've beaten a lot of good teams. However, the second half of this year has been a big failure for us.
We've failed to qualify for a lot of events after coming off of hot wins from StarLadder, all that stuff. So we had a good beginning of the year, we just need to pick it up again, make the Major here, or at least the Major qualifier. Make EPL LAN, make ECS LAN and if we can do that and end on a high note, I don't see why I wouldn't be on the team next year.
Going back to the controversy from DreamHack Montreal 2017. Banter is nothing new in CS:GO, players give shit to other players all the time and it's mostly taken in good humor, so did you even imagine your one tweet having the effect it did?
No, I just did it out of a joke. I didn't mean to harm anybody and I made that very clear in my following tweets.
If anybody knows my personality, they know that that was a joke, but I guess the fact that kNg didn't really know me and know me as a person... we weren't friends or anything, so in that sense I understand where he came from, so that's why I apologized on my side; I didn't mean to make them look bad.
But no, I didn't expect it to go that far.
Some time has passed since then, so have you been in communication with some of the Brazilian players or maybe even kNg himself. Has there been any recompense or anything like that?
So, Lucas [Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles] and HEN1 [Henrique "HEN1" Teles] immediately messaged me and explained their side of it and I apologized to them and they apologized to me; it was all good.
But no, there hasn't been any contact with kNg as far as any of that stuff; I'm pretty sure he still hates me. But as far as everyone else on the team, I think I'm chill with them.
Have you tried contacting kNg, or you're just kinda hands-off on it?
When it happened, I was ready to talk to him, but he was upset. So he didn't want to have any conversation with me, or rather, his coach told me to just not to bother.
So yeah, I did try at first, but now it's water under the bridge.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
a silenced Cavity 9mm Ryu Bounty Hunter Dual Berettas a Tractor Cannon. You can follow him on Twitter.