Vitalize are considered one of the UK teams that could be the next to bridge the gap into Advanced. However, after a season in which they have had to consistently use a stand-in and gone weeks without sufficient practice, the team find themselves in a bit of a limbo coming into EPIC38.
The team arrived in Kettering with minimal expectations and to add to the lack of practice, the team were using Fraser “Frazehh” Sollom as a stand-in. The veteran IGL and AWPer helped the team through to the top six where they eventually fell in a tight 2-1 loss to eMasters. UKCSGO’s Arnie Petty caught up with Earl “Earl” Stephenson before that match, to discuss the team’s recent troubles, their expectations for the event and what it’s like playing alongside a veteran IGL.
This is your first time attending a LAN with, nearly, a full team. What’s the difference between attending with a mix and a team?
With a mix, there is no expectation right you are always the underdog. It’s a lot easier it’s a lot freer, whereas you come into this event and people are like Vitalize are the next team to make advanced, they are the team to make a deep run in this tournament. So there’s that pressure and that expectation, so when things aren’t going right you start to worry and stress and get into your own head. Especially without being able to practice, we don’t have that synergy we are meant to have. So it’s a bit tougher than attending with a mix.
You had some good placings, like top 3/4’s, coming into this LAN with a team did you expect to do better than those tournaments or were your goals the same?
Well with the mixes, I think when I had the mix for EPIC36 we expected to make top six so when we made top three we were amazed. For the I69 I wanted the final, I thought we could get the final and the fact we didn’t left me quite hungry. Last Epic, I went in saying I don’t know, I don’t see us going far. Then we started owning everyone and I was disappointed we didn’t make the stage in the end, because we were playing well enough to make the stage.
You lost a couple of matches that maybe you shouldn’t of at this LAN, what was the feeling in the team after those results and how did you recover from them?
The feeling was disappointment and confusion about how we lost those games. At the end of the day, we are all human and that’s why they say LAN can be a teamkiller because these upsets happen frequently. Now the adjustment process has been to take a step back and free up everyone in terms of the roles and not go too structured because of the lack of practice, and my situation to overthink everything is pointless.
You’ve touched on the issues you have had this season in ESEA. Once you get your settled roster and can play with your full team, what’s the plan for the next few months?
I think we are going to have a chat after this LAN and assess everyone’s situation. Not being able to touch the game for three weeks has affected me individually and also on the calling side of things. The meta hasn’t changed dramatically, but little tricks and things are being posted and found daily these days. So not being able to do that has been frustrating, I think going into this season of ESEA we wanted to be winning a LAN or at least attending a final at LAN and making ESEA Advanced, which is looking less and less likely.
Bearing in mind you are an IGL, you have some solid stats that suggest that you are a ‘fragging IGL’ is that an important part of your playstyle?
Originally it was, I’m now starting to debate whether I should be taking those roles anymore though. Me, Rhys and ReegaN all have a bit of a clash with the roles we like to do and maybe it’s time I step back and let them do what they want to do. At the end of the day, the thing I love to do is run in first and get a kill and I think that will still be possible, but maybe I have to take a step back on some of the CT positions I like to play. I would say I’m a good fragging IGL, I think that’s a good term for it.
You have mentioned ReegaN, he’s one of your young riflers he won insomnia, he’s known for not having the best temperament and it’s something that’s been mentioned in the past that he’s trying to work on. Have you seen a notable change in that attitude at all?
Absolutely. I think he has been more positive than me at times. He seems really happy, really comfortable and confident the only thing is he sometimes gets frustrated with himself. He’s not letting it out as much as he had done previously.
What’s it like playing with Frazehh, obviously he is also an IGL, have you had any conflict when you are trying to call, are you learning from each other what’s that experience been like?
I’m learning quite a lot from him, we were starting to have a conflict between the calling styles so for the remainder of the event I think I will just step back and let him call. When you are out of the game for three weeks even just like, thinking and processing things isn’t as natural as when you have been playing constantly. So I think, for now, Frazehh will keep calling. I think the reason we have taken some of these rough losses is purely that me and him would have conflict over a call and that would confuse everybody. So now I’m just going to let him call and pick up on what he has because he’s a lot more experienced than me, he’s played at a really high level so I’m learning a lot from him.
What do you think your team needs to take the next step, to reach your goals of Advanced and LAN finals etc?
Prac time. I think we need to start working in the same direction like I want to play one way, Rhys wants to play another, and Klay wants to play another we just need to come together and make that leap into how we want to play. I think we also need to take dry prac more seriously, how we react to certain plays and all of that needs to be more cohesive. I think we also need to enjoy playing more outside of team prac. I would say a lot of people have not been enjoying the game as much and therefore haven’t been playing as much. That’s a shame and like obviously I have come into the LAN on five hours past three weeks.