From nearly getting grouped to making it all the way to the upper bracket final, the run of the AVA.mix team has been just one of the surprises at EPIC36. After their close three-map loss to emps kids, UKCSGO’s Arnie Petty sat down with IGL Earl “Earl” Stephenson to talk about playing with hot prospect Oscar “AZUWU” Bell and his team’s performance so far.
It’s your first LAN and you’ve secured top three, which is a pretty good result. Did you expect that kind of a result or was that a shock to you?
I think it’s a mixture, I had pretty high expectations with Mo (mophoria) and Oscar (AZUWU). I knew they could be really good. We have good team chemistry so I thought if we as a core are playing well then we can upset some games. I didn’t expect this run of form we had though, after our initial loss we didn’t lose a game until this one. Once we got going we got going, it’s been really good.
You mentioned a couple of your star players there, one of them being AZUWU, who is one of the top prospects in the scene. What’s it like playing with him and as an IGL how do you try and help them especially on LAN?
With AZUWU he can sometimes get in his own head. So its my job to make sure he’s not in that space and he’s always positive and happy. I think at LAN its been way better than before, he’s really cheery at the moment we are all having a good time and having a good laugh. I missed playing with a player like him, he works so hard and he’s so good, I can call something stupid and we can win the round just because of him alone.
You named Mo as well, he’s maybe not a name that is as well known in the scene. I saw as soon as you lost to emps kids he was straight back to work in a server, does that show the kind of work ethic and mindset he has?
Yeah Mo heavily grinds, I think recently he has had a small confidence problem but he works really hard. It has been good to see him here at LAN enjoying himself and thriving, he’s been the big surprise for me.
With a top three finish you have secured yourself HLTV, what does that mean to you?
To us its just funny. You know, Connor and Matt have barely put any hours in due to work and stuff. They were like, yeah you guys deserve it but we don’t (laughs) but they have been great. For someone like me who has been around a while its nice to be able to say, “yeah I have a HLTV.”
It’s fair to say that you have been the surprise of the tournament, is there an advantage in being the underdogs?
I think some of the teams picked into maps that we wanted, purely because they disrespected us and thought “ah they’ll beat us anyway.” A lot of people are sleeping on us because they think its just AZUWU who can play, but like Connor has been really good on the AWP, and Mo has been great on T side, his trade-fragging on me has been really good, he’s always there.
As an IGL on LAN, is there any difference in your role, especially with a few of your team being at inexperienced?
I think we just try and have fun. It’s always important to have a good happy environment. It’s been nice to interact with my players, to look at them in the eyes and explain what we are going to do. It has been really enjoyable.
Is there anything you wanted to take a second to say or any final thoughts you wanted to talk about?
Just like a small side note. I think that at this LAN I have proven a lot of people wrong. I had a pretty bad stigma from when I was younger, to come to my first LAN and prove people wrong. I’m happy about that. Both in in-game performance and my attitude outside of the game, I have shown I’m not the person I was five years ago.