Spencer "Hiko" Martin is the Lurker and in-game leader for Team Liquid. He's one of the most well-known and respected players in the CS:GO scene and is one of the few NA players to achieve a Top 4 finish at a Major.
With a few days to go until the MLG Major Championship in Columbus, Hiko took the time to speak with theScore esports — and he had a lot to say. This is Part 2 of his interview, where talks about his first place ambitions and the state of the competitiveness of the NA region.
You can find Part 1 here, in case you missed it.
OK, let’s get into the Major. Fnatic, FaZe, Splyce. I think among those three, Fnatic kinda have their slot in the bag so how do you guys feel about FaZe and Splyce?
Splyce has been a team that, in the past have randomly beat us. When we were trying out allu [Aleksi "allu" Jalli] before we had s1mple [Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev], we played those guys and they beat us for the qualifier for IEM Katowice. And then I think when we practiced against them, half the time they beat us and half the time we beat them.
I have a lot of confidence against them though, I’m not really that worried about them. Definitely doesn’t mean that we’re going to take them lightly, but I just think in a LAN setting, I have a lot of confidence for us to beat them.
FaZe is kind of the question in everyone’s head, they have been up and down. The last Major at Cluj they played amazing, and then online, the past couple months, they haven’t looked to still be at that level.
I think they have a player-role identity problem where their players aren’t necessarily in their strongest roles, so everyone’s been telling me the way you beat FaZe is you run set things and you make them make the mistakes by rotating or don’t give them shots, basically.
In a way they’re kind of like a pug team, where they don’t really have these sick strats, but they have some of the best aim in the world. We have to find a way around that and we’re doing our best to get ourselves ready.
What are your expectations beyond the groups at the Major?
It’s such a hard question because we’re playing with a stand-in. Obviously any tournament you go to, you don’t think in your mind, “let’s just get out of groups and we’ll consider it a win.”
Obviously everybody wants to make it to the finals, everybody wants to make it to first place, so that’s what I’m shooting for, whether that’s realistic or not. Well, I don’t care if it’s realistic or not, you aim for it.
Given that this is the most NA teams at the Major, how do you feel about the NA scene?
I think we are definitely improving. Back three years ago when I was playing with Cloud9, there was actually only two teams that were ever able to compete with Europeans, my team and the iBUYPOWER team back then. Now there’s four American teams at the Major plus Luminosity, who practice in North America.
It definitely shows that the scene in general is improving and the skill gap between Europe and North America is closing, I think the next step is fielding a roster that can be a Top 5 team in the world consistently.
All the teams and all the roster changes that happened in NA, CLG got pita and they picked up FugLy, Cloud9 picked up Stewie2K, we got s1mple and koosta. I think on paper our team improved the most, but we have also the most question marks.
Can s1mple get along, can we make sure all the roles work, can we be a team that lasts a long time. Regardless, whether it’s my team or whether it’s Cloud9, CLG, NRG, whoever, I think eventually NA will have a top team that consistently places decent at international tournaments.
A couple years ago, when I was playing with Cloud9, we had a very bad practice environment. We would just go in a server and wait for other teams to join us and there would be times when we would actually sit in a server for five hours a night and have nobody to play against. A lot of time was wasted.
I can say that we, as scene, as a community, have improved that to an extent. Now we actually have a Skype group where people post for practices and now you schedule your practices or scrims a night in advance. You know exactly when you have a break, who you’re playing against and all that stuff.
Unfortunately, we still have a problem where teams don’t necessarily try super hard in scrims and they just run around and just not take it seriously. In my opinion, I’d almost rather not play a team that does that and basically waste however many hours. It’s not perfect, but we’re working at it, we’re trying to improve it.
Talking to some of the South American teams, Tempo Storm and Luminosity, there’s a lot of pride in their region. Do you feel the same way for NA?
At tournaments? Yes, when we have a crowd behind us, you can feel it. Online? Absolutely not. Just look at Twitch chat, on Twitter, NA is considered a joke. Somebody makes a bad play, somebody throws a bad grenade, somebody does something stupid, all of a sudden, NA nade, NA play, NA aim, BOT whatever.
Back when I was playing my highest level, 2013/2014, that was never a thing. My team was always at a level where we were competing, we were placing well. People weren’t just treating NA like the noobs, I think some of that culture came from League of Legends unfortunately, but that’s the way it is.
It’s been awhile since an NA team has been in Top 8, in fact, it was only your teams, compLexity Gaming and C9, that were the only NA teams to get Top 8.
Well, we were Top 4 at the first DreamHack one [DreamHack Winter 2013], then Top 8 in Poland [EMS One: Katowice 2014] and Top 8 at Cologne [ESL One: Cologne 2014]. Literally no NA team since then has made it out of groups at a Major.
Is this the year of NA?
We have the most chances to be. It’s not just Cloud9 and iBP, right now it’s Cloud9, Liquid, CLG, Splyce, there’s Luminosity, but they’re not really NA…
They’re A, yeah. We have more chances than ever to do our best. A lot of different NA teams are going to a lot of different tournaments, but we still have a lot of inconsistent performances. Given time and more experience, I think all the NA teams, not just one of them or two of them, everybody will start to become more consistent against Europeans.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, Dungeon & Dragons and first-picking
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