OpTic daps: ‘The North American region is only getting stronger and it’s gonna be a challenge to stay at the top’

by Dennis Gonzales Jul 11 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Helena Kristiansson / ESL

Ever since they added Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas in April, OpTic Gaming have put themselves on the CS:GO map. They beat out top teams from their region like Team SoloMid and Immortals to win the Americas Minor, and eventually earned a spot at ESL One Cologne, their first-ever Major.

Though OpTic didn't make it far at Cologne, going down 0-2 in their group to Ninjas in Pyjamas and FlipSid3 Tactics, the team have high hopes. theScore esports caught up with team captain Damian "daps" Steele after their run was cut short to discuss the recent performance of North American teams and how new coach Jonatan "Devilwalk" Lundberg has helped with OpTic's preparation.

Overall how would you say you guys did in the Major?

Well, we obviously didn’t perform well. We at least expected to beat FlipSid3 again, but it just seemed like FlipSid3 was better prepared than we were. We beat them in the Major qualifier 16-9, I believe on Train, and I felt like we were more prepared than them for the Major — or maybe it was just they were more prepared for us this time. They had a lot of good T-side executes that really messed up with the normal setups that we usually run.

In terms of the NiP matchup, we played Dust 2, which is a map we don’t normally play that often. We did expect it to get picked, we didn’t let it through thinking, “Oh no, Dust 2!” We did expect to potentially play it at the tournament, we practiced it and did well in practice on it. We just, we lost both pistols...I think we lost every pistol this tournament, maybe we got one against FlipSid3, but we just couldn’t really get anything rolling at the start of the matches. And, that hurts you.

In terms of preparation, when it came to FlipSid3, was it a case of them anti-stratting you harder than you anti-stratted them?

I think in the bootcamp we did — it was the first bootcamp we’ve ever had as a team, first bootcamp I’ve ever had in my career — so maybe we didn’t know how to utilize our time properly. Maybe we have some inexperience in terms of using the full 10-12 hours a day effectively.

I do feel like we improved a lot on our CT-side, which was our main focus in the bootcamp. We had a lot of help from Devilwalk in helping our CT-sides, but I think we maybe relied on him a bit too much in practice, in terms of him helping with communication. Having Devilwalk [during practice] telling us things we need to be doing on CT-side, but not having him in our actual matches hurt us a bit.

So during practice, Devilwalk had more of an active role, but during the actual matches he was kind of more passive and held back?

No actually. What happened was, you have to submit your roster two weeks before the Major qualifier, and we didn’t actually have him in mind at that time. So what happened was, he helped us with the bootcamp and everything, but he wasn’t technically allowed to be behind us in-game with a headset on.

Going forward, will you keep Devilwalk on?

Yeah, in terms of our T-sides, we haven’t really talked about how he will be integrated into that. I’m still the in-game leader, I don’t think he’s had any experience in-game leading as far as he’s told me, but he’s a very smart person. He’s more experienced than anyone on our team, including myself, and he has a lot of good opinions that everyone respects, which is important. I feel that having him long-term will help us significantly.

So is his role more of an analyst?

Not really. An analyst won’t be in-game telling you things you need to be doing and looking out for. I think there’s maybe a bit of a misconception between an in-game leading coach, and a coach and an analyst. There isn’t actually many coaches that in-game lead, to my knowledge.

I think it is kind of hard to in-game lead as a coach, because you’re not one of the players in-game and you don’t have sound. But there’s a difference between a coach that in-game leads and a coach that coaches.

How did you guys actually meet Devilwalk and bring him to the team?

I’ve known him for over a year. Met him when he was coaching Fnatic and when he was playing with Winterfox. I talked to him at pretty much every event that he and I went to, and talked to him online a few times over the course of a year.

I don’t know him super well, like we’re best friends or anything, but I knew him well enough where it wasn’t awkward to reach out to him be like, “I think you would be a good addition to the team, bring some experience, bring some needed insight.” And he agreed and he was interested in the job.

If I remember correctly, this was the first Major for every single member on OpTic, other than Devilwalk. Did you have nerves coming into this event?

For myself personally, none. People put Majors on a pedestal, obviously — it’s the event, every team dreams to attend and hopefully do well at. I just look at it as another LAN, with a best-of-one group stage that hopefully you can get out of.

Yeah, I don’t think the amount of money has ever affected anyone on my team’s heads. It’s not like, “Oh, we have to get out of groups for the money,” or like, “There’s so much money at stake, there’s so much pressure on us.” I don’t think it’s ever been like that, I don’t feel like anyone on the team was extremely pressured. Maybe if we got to the playoffs, there’d be more nerves, considering the crowd, but I don’t think anyone really had nerves. I think we just underperformed.

You guys have had kind of a quick rise, ever since you acquired mixwell, but you haven’t done as well at LANs. You made it to the finals in ESL Pro League, but didn’t make it out of the group, then at ELEAGUE you guys were four rounds off of the last chance qualifier, and now here. Considering that quick rise, are you satisfied with how your year’s been going?

We haven’t had any huge accomplishments other than winning the Minor and making the Major, but if you look at our ESL Pro League group, we had Astralis and LG. We beat Astralis. We lost 16-13 I think twice to Luminosity. And that was our second LAN as a team. So I think it was a pretty good showing.

In ELEAGUE, we kind of sucked in group stage, but we picked it up. We did a bit more research into NiP, we almost beat NiP in a best-of-three. Obviously we’re not technically having success in terms of placings, but I think the fact that we’re playing close games against good teams consistently over the past two months is an improvement from what we were at.

You mentioned putting the Major on a pedestal, but I’m going to put the Major on a pedestal a little. At this moment, you’re one of the Top 16 teams in the world, and as far as regions are concerned, you are better than the likes of Cloud9 and TSM. What’s next for you?

ESL Pro League I believe is the next big online league that’s starting again, and the focus obviously is to remain in the top teams of North America. And it won’t be easy because teams like TSM, if they keep their five that have been doing really well, they’re a really strong team. TSM’s actually probably one of the teams that we hate playing the most. We prefer playing Liquid and Cloud9 over TSM. Cloud9 as well, they’re a strong team, we usually go 50/50 with them. Liquid’s a very strong team as well.

The North American region is only getting stronger and it’s gonna be a challenge to stay at the top, but we like that challenge and we hope that we can continue improving.

Do you hate playing TSM because of their map pool?

I don’t think it’s their map pool. I think it’s just the style they play. I find they play a lot more chaotic… I won’t say scrimmy, because they do have plans. They have organized chaos, I guess is the best way to put it.

We prefer playing teams like, I guess, SK. I mean, we hate playing SK because of cold [Marcelo "coldzera" David] and all the insane players on the team, but we prefer playing teams with the style of SK, or Na`Vi, etc. Teams that you can maybe predict a bit more, even if they’re insanely skilled. We prefer playing against teams that play a bit more standard style.

A lot of the NA teams have been breaking out Nuke and Cobble. Is that a development that you saw pretty early on?

Yes and no. I think Cobble is a big map for North American teams, because it honestly doesn’t require a lot of preparation, especially for T-side. Cobble T-side is probably the easiest T-side to call as an in-game leader, from my perspective at least. I think the biggest challenge that defines a good Cobble team is if they can do well on the CT-side of Cobble. That is the hardest part in my opinion. I think it’s a fairly simple map, there’s a lot of fun little quirky plays you can make on it, the drop splits and everything. So I think it’s a map that NA teams enjoy because of those reasons.

You were in ESL Pro League, you’re gonna be in next season, you were in ECS, there was ELEAGUE and the Major…are you finding that the amount of competition is getting a little overwhelming? Do you need to carve out personal time, or do you want more CS:GO?

I think there does need to be a balance. As you said, the Big 4 — the Major, ECS, ESL Pro League and ELEAGUE… And we were actually one of the few teams that attended Gfinity at the start of our LAN run. So I think that you will probably see less good teams going to events like that, due to the insane amount of CS that we do already play.

I think what needs to happen is the four big leagues need to work together to create a schedule where I don’t have to schedule online matches in between attending LAN events. When things start overlapping like that, it is very stressful and hard to give it your all.

We had a moment where we were at the Minor and we had to play three ECS Bo3s and then playoffs for ECS, and I wasn’t even at home when I played half those matches. And we ended up not qualifying, probably because of that, because we were not prepared to play all of these online matches when we’re at events.

So the big four need to work together to create a schedule, and whatever time is left between maybe we can attend the smaller events, or if we don’t qualify for ECS, then we can go to other events like that.

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 Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev. You can follow him on Twitter.