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arTisT: “People should watch out”

Verdant's IGL discusses their season, how to make it in the UK & IE scene and QUBLAN.

by Darragh Harbinson
arTisT QUBLAN

Verdant’s year started with the removal of Andrew “Wolfie” Allan and Matas “Extinct” Strumila taking a step away from Counter-Strike. Their season looked in danger of languishing, however the bold call to move in-game leader Tom “arTisT” Clarke to rifle and allow the signing of young AWPing talent Remi “Diviiii” Alexandre has spurred their in-game revival. Recent victories against Sampi, Sangal, and B8 have typified the renaissance brought about by their combination of roster moves and a commitment to grinding which has seen them play hundreds of official maps in the last month alone.

Yet when given a chance to take a break from Counter-Strike, arTisT chose to attend QUBLAN – Queen’s University Belfast’s yearly LAN event instead. arTisT sat down with UKCSGO to talk about his thoughts on the event, Verdant’s season and how to best foster UK & Irish talent.

How are you feeling after the first day of games?

Yeah, it was pretty fun. It’s a more social thing for us to come here. But it’s a nice venue – good vibe. We’re glad to be here.

I saw you do some fun boosts on Vertigo and have a bit of craic.

Aye, it’s something that we’re not going to take too serious. We’re here for a bit of fun. I think everyone knows we’re going to win.

Spoiler alert: They did win.

I wanted to ask about the event. Obviously, it’s a bit different from what it was last year – in this facility. What do you think of it?

I think the venue’s better now than it was last year. Just a better atmosphere. The floor last year was kind of just in a uni room and it just felt like you were in a university and you’re cramped into a room and people didn’t actually have the correct desk space and stuff.

Yeah. So I think this is definitely a better venue and better vibe. It suits perfectly exactly what a Counter-Strike tournament should be.

What do you think about the PCs being provided this year?

I mean that alone got us to come. If that wasn’t supplied we wouldn’t have come. They announced that a bit later on. I think if that was announced earlier, you would have a lot harder teams and have a lot more better players come along.
It’s just easier to come. You don’t have to trek all the way up from Cork or Limerick or something.

Jack β€œJackmon” O’Donnell had said to me [at GamerFest] he didn’t want to bring his PC from Galway…

It is hard to bring your PC all the way up. Especially with those guys, they’re using the train or bus so it’s kind of hard.

I wanted to about the format. Obviously, GamerFest was a Semi-Final/Final on stage. Here you have the group stage and it’s all one LAN, it’s a bit more old-school. How do you find it in comparison?

Yeah, I think this format is to maximise everyone playing as much as possible. I think I overheard someone say at minimum you play eight maps if you lose [every match] 2-0. I mean that’s a lot of maps. And it’s Β£35. and you’re playing eight maps on LAN. I mean, it’s definitely worth it. So I think the format to get everyone to pay as much as possible is perfect for this type of event.

arTist and Extinct at QUBLAN 2024

Tom “arTist” Clarke and Matas “Extinct” Strumila taking advantage of QUB’s new facilities.

Do you have any thoughts on why it’s so important for CS players play on LAN? Why go out of your way?

Nerves for one. It definitely eliminates nerves as you go up to the bigger tournaments because you’ve already played at the casual tournaments, intermediate, even EPIC.LANs. You kind of go into like… my example is playing in the RMR, because I played the EPIC.LANs and One Taps before and GamerFests and all the Irish LANs. It wasn’t that I showed up to BLAST, rank S LAN with zero experience. It is important for us to play this. Even this, it’s very close to where we all live. It’s kind of ‘Let’s meet up, play some Counter-Strike, go out for a few pints. Happy days.’

If people are inspired by here, or if there’s someone is coming out of Ireland or Northern Ireland talent. What advice would you give them? How would you get to the next stage?

Well, understand what it is. What your goals are. Don’t think you’re gonna just be a pro. I think you have to set small time goals – join an intermediate team and make your way to main, grind main, get your way into advanced. It is a long process and requires sacrifice. I think very few people get to the top by just solo pugging, and just play and FACEIT. That’s probably not the best way to do it – it’s probably full teams. Then not only are you trying to improve, but you also kind of you learn a few aspects – you’re better at communication, and you’re better with teamwork. That’s stuff, you can bring forward as well, so there are benefits of playing it but I’m not sure.

The problem with the UK and Ireland is it’s not very supported. It feels like there’s a cut-off point at maybe 21/22 when you finish University and then you have to go to work. So, it’s very tricky. I think very little few people, even in the UK scene have been able to do that. I mean, Max, me and Adam [Adam9130, in-game leader for EXO Clan], but Max has always been salaried, so maybe even just me and Adam. So you have to be in a unique situation, and it requires sacrifice, which people have to understand.

So people have to think about it and it takes a lot of thought and effort to get to the top.

About your season with Verdant, you’ve had some great results, you’ve got some scalps against top 50 teams but you’ve had some tough losses as well against EXO at UKIC. How do you feel about the season?

So we started the season with Doron “Zax1e” Prizent, our Israeli player, and we kind of just took a gamble like “let’s try and pick up an AWPer to see how that kind of changes the team environment”. I think it’s paid off. I think this season’s been actually great. It’s probably one of the best seasons we’ve had in maybe a year to be honest.

It’s been a really good season for us. There’s a lot to iron out. There are a lot of creases but we are working on it. It’s the first season I’ve started picking up rifling again, and Diviiii is coming in to AWP so it’s a different environment. There are different protocols, different plays, and different strats so we have to kind of rework but within that month like Diviiii‘s only been on the team for maybe seven weeks, six weeks.

It’s very early. Once we settle that and get him comfortable. We have took off teams like we beat B8 in qualifiers, we took down other teams as well, we beat Endpoint in the RES qualifier. We’ve had a pretty good season. I don’t think one loss to EXO means too much in the UKIC, to be honest. I think at our level we are kind of inspired to play in European competitions rather than UK ones. But yeah, it’s a disappointing loss, losses happen, wins happen. That’s the game.

Yeah, that game happened during the ESL Challenger [Relegation] and maybe that was the priority?

We are addicted to saying yes to every single competition there is so we’ve accepted EPLs, United21s, UKIC, we’ve made ESEA Advanced playoffs, we played Challenger Relegations you’ve played anything and everything – any open qualifiers we can get our hands on. I think within the last month or since Diviiii has joined, I think we’ve played like 350 maps. It’s a crazy number so we’re definitely going to look at that and why we did that.

arTist biscu ESL Premiership Autumn 2023

(Coach) CiarΓ‘n “biscu” King (L) and Tom “arTisT” Clarke (R) are working hard to improve Verdant after roster changes.

So obviously you feel like you’re growing as a team, but is there something that you feel like needs to change within the team or do you feel like there’s anything that’s going to take you to another level?

I think practice to be honest. That’s the main thing that’s going to just iron out everything because it has only been a few weeks since I’ve been back on the rifle and playing with an AWPer as well, it’s different from how I have to call.

Before I just kind of hold the gun, I hold this angle you guys do this, but now it’s kind of commanding Remi to say what he wants to do and how to have his impact within the game. So there’s a balance, we have to find but to be honest early stages it’s been very good, very successful. People should watch out.

Thanks very much. Just a stinger question for you. I’ve seen Extinct play stand-in for you guys, do you think that’s going to be something that’s gonna become more permanent?

No comment.

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