As the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals quickly approach, theScore eSports spoke with Conquest's in-game leader, Damian "daps" Steele about what it is like to lead, how his roster came together and expectations headed into the year's final event.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to be where you are?
Playing professional CS:GO was not something I really expected or planned to do CS:GO was just a hobby for me while I went to college. I did used to play CS:S casually but I used to work a lot and never really had the time to put into CS:S. When I finished high school I had a lot of free time and CS:GO came out roughly the year after.
Why did you decide to use the name daps?
It’s not really a creative alias it’s just my initials.
How did you become an in-game leader?
Well, I started playing CS:GO with my friends that I knew for a while before the game came out and we made a team in ESEA-open. I never called prior to CS:GO, but no one else on the team wanted to, or could really, so it’s just a role I was kind of forced into and just stuck with since 2012. But I enjoy the role now more than I used to.
What would you say your in-game leadership style is? What are your favorite rounds to call?
My in-game leading style is dynamic I would say. I base most of my calling around how the other teams play. Against teams that play more aggro on CT-side, I’ll most likely call more passive defaults and let them push into us. Against teams we either feel we are way better than or just teams that play pretty standard, I’ll call fast executes or just fast 4-1 splits into sites. But it really depends on the map as well, as playing default generally works against most CT-side play-styles if done correctly.
For those aspiring to be in-game leaders, what do you think is the most important thing about making the calls in-game?
I would say the most important thing about in-game leading is learning how to keep control of your players mentally and making sure the atmosphere of the team doesn’t deteriorate. Obviously watching demos, putting in the extra work and just knowing how to mid-round call is extremely important as well, but from my experiences as an in-game leader, I would say making sure everyone keeps a good mental state makes grinding rounds out and coming back when down in matches 100 percent easier.
To this day I am still learning a lot though, so it is definitely a role that is hard to perfect and is one that everyone can always get better at.
Who would you say has influenced your career the most and why?
I wouldn’t really say there was anyone at the start that influenced my career or made me want to play CS:GO other then maybe the players back from the CGS (Championship Gaming Series) since I only really played CS:S. I definitely learned a lot from playing the old Curse/iBUYPOWER lineup before they were banned though as they did provide the best practice in scrims for my old teams.
Prior to landing in Conquest you had bounced around a handful of teams during 2015. How did that affect you throughout the year?
When I was replaced on Team Liquid I took a break and didn’t play for season 1 of the EEPL as the team offers I got were not really what I had in mind for trying to get back into the top mix of teams. The one team I joined before the lineup now known as Conquest was eLevate, I knew Xp3 as we won LAN ETS together with a pug team and he ended up picking me up after roca and Rush left to Tempo Storm. Even though I was upset I got cut from Team Liquid, it ended up being really good for me individually, as I needed the break from CS:GO for a bit.
The current roster of Conquest is three fifths of the Denial roster that competed in the ESEA Season 17 finals at the end of last year, where you upset Cloud9 to take fourth place. Did that history with NAF and ShahZam come into play when your current lineup was being put together? How did you end up with the five man roster you have today?
Well getting our roster back together was something we always kind of joked about, but were always partially serious about, as that lineup had a super insane roster and we all seemed to play well together.
When LG cut NAF it was insanely good timing for us because we had just put together the new eLevate lineup. So we ended up cutting rooroo due to lack of experience for NAF and also ended up getting Rush back from Tempo Storm. After some time passed the Tempo Storm team broke up and NAF, Rush and I decided to join up with ShahZam and ryx as we felt that lineup could be stronger in the future.
After sometime playing with ryx we felt as a team that the atmosphere was getting way too hectic and on top of that his play-style was not something we felt could work within a team, so we ended up getting stanislaw who is insanely smart and also a really good teammate. That really helped round out our roster and we won 16 maps straight right after we picked him up before CEVO LAN.
Conquest was on a roll following the CEVO Season 8 LAN finals. What do you think has been the biggest reason for your team’s success after that event?
The biggest reason for our success is partially because of how well the roles on our team work and also because everyone enjoys playing with each other. Our success after CEVO LAN has been alright, not to be too modest but we definitely have a lot to improve on regardless of our success for being a team for only one season.
At your most recent event, the iBUYPOWER Cup, your team got eliminated in the group stage. How do you feel about your team's performance there?
I don’t want to say we didn’t put our all into that event but we did not prepare for it like we did for CEVO LAN. Not having time to prepare for the event hurt us as I probably watched 30-40 demos for CEVO LAN and then we only had three days till we left for the iBUYPOWER Cup, but had five ESEA matches during those three days. The group stage was also two best-of-ones and those matches can go either way as Cloud9 and compLexity are both good teams.
What do you think your team needs to do to stay competitive with the top NA teams?
I think we can stay competitive within the top NA teams just with our lineup alone and just playing a lot. The goal is to compete with the top eight teams in the world and to accomplish that it’s going to take time playing with each other a lot more and just becoming more coordinated as a whole.
Your next big event will be the EEPL Finals in early December as you qualified through your regular-season performance. As it is one of the biggest events around right now, how do you feel about your team qualifying and what are you expecting to achieve at the event?
With the way the season started for us we didn’t expect to make it as we were 1-4 and the inner team conflict was getting so bad it almost killed our team; but after we replaced ryx and picked up stanislaw it changed the whole dynamic of the team and gave us some kind of spark as we pretty much won out for a whole month in all leagues.
At the LAN, we play Fnatic first and then either EnVyUs or Liquid. All three teams are really good and experienced and even though we beat Liquid 2-0 at CEVO LAN we are probably still considered underdogs to them. It’ll be a tough group but we are hoping we can prove we can compete against the world’s best and not get decimated like it was earlier in the year by Fnatic and EnVy.
Has your team set up any plans on how you would like to prepare for the event?
At CEVO LAN most of my prep was watching a ton of demos of every team and trying to counter them which worked to an extent, but had its negatives since we didn’t focus as much on our own game. So for this event, we have been focusing on our own game for the most part and have been trying to improve our CT-side which has been our biggest struggle in the past.
Do you have any final words for your fans?
Would just like to say thanks to everyone that supports me and my team and we hope that we can make some people proud at the [EEPL] Finals coming up next week!
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Paul Park is a writer for theScore eSports. Follow him on Twitter.
Jacob Juillet writes about Counter-Strike for theScore eSports. Follow him on Twitter.