Oliver “leaf” Jackson is a veteran of the UK scene, despite only being 19 years old. Being one of the players who formed the notorious 1PIN core, who made waves in 2022, he now headlines Coalesce as one of the team’s key fraggers. The majority of players in the squad have not attended a UK LAN for numerous years, and EPIC.LAN 38 marks both the players and the British organisations return to the KCC.
Coalesce managed to achieve a flawless run in groups despite a close call from mix team 3F2F, and have charged forward into the upper bracket of the playoffs. After scoring wins against both Jezzies R US Red and eMasters, leaf and his team find themselves in the upper bracket final, with only one best-of-three standing between them and the grand finals. Despite their impressive run, the goliaths of the UK seem to have a chink in their armor after suffering their first loss in the entire tournament to eMasters on Ancient, 16-12.
After Coalesce managed to reverse sweep a fierce-looking eMasters, UKCSGO’s Matthew “meffew” Godsell took the opportunity to speak to leaf about the team’s games in the tournament so far, their goals for the event and some of his thoughts surrounding the UK scene.
*This interview was conducted ahead of the upper bracket final, where Coalesce emerged victorious against Viperio 2-0 to net themselves a spot in the grand finals on Sunday.
About the eMasters game, you lost the first map, which is your first map loss in the entire tournament so far. Did you expect Ancient to go their way?
I don’t think we expected it to be that rough at the start, we probably expected to get at least seven or eight rounds on CT. They caught us off guard, and they got off to a really good T-side. We haven’t played Ancient much recently, so I think it was a good pick for them.
We’re almost in limbo when it comes to our map pool.
Ancient was one of your better maps before, do the changes made to the map hurt your map pool in addition to Anubis replacing Dust 2?
Yeah, we kind of chose to play Anubis more than Ancient when it first got changed. The changes feel a bit random… we’re almost in limbo when it comes to our map pool, it’s like Anubis, Ancient, which one is the better option for us?
With Anubis, do you enjoy it personally and have your team put a lot of time into learning the map?
I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, I think it’s very T sided. CT sides can be really hard with how easy it is for Ts taking control, and some other stuff too.
Bringing it back to the eMasters game, you won Vertigo pretty comfortably and on Overpass they got off to a pretty strong lead on their T side. What happened there?
I don’t know, they were playing pretty crazy. mrhui was just walking through smokes and catching me and shyyne off guard on A, and then we lost some rounds on B which meant our money was messed up. I think it was important for us to get a 7-8 half, especially since we were down so much at the start. We’re always quite confident in our T-side on Overpass, so I was happy with seven rounds at halftime, with it being so bad at the start.
Now you’re in the upper bracket final, you’re guaranteed top 3 and you’ll be playing against Viperio. Is this a game you’re expecting to win?
Viperio are a very good team, they’re definitely one of the favourites. Hopefully we can make it close and we can win, but the map pool is going to be weird. They ban Inferno, which is our favourite map, and Vertigo is their own favourite map also. I don’t know how the veto will end up going, but it’s in their favour.
Grand finals are the minimum for us, obviously we want to win, but it’s between us and Viperio.
I also wanted to ask about the expectations for Coalesce. Most people expect to see you in the grand finals at the very least, is that something you agree with?
Yeah, 100%. Grand finals are the minimum for us, obviously we want to win, but it’s between us and Viperio just now. One of us will go down to the consolidation final, and then hopefully whatever happens, we meet each other in the grand final.
To continue the talk about Viperio, they made the RMR. You were in the qualifiers yourselves and had some tough losses, tell me a bit more about that.
In the first qualifier we lost to ITB on Vertigo, this was after a best-of-three against Illuminar in CCT at 1:30pm. We finished that around about 4:30pm, and then we had the qualifier at five, so I think we played something like 5 best-of-one’s… We were tired, and it wasn’t even close in the game against ITB.
Let’s tie that back to LAN, on Friday you played seven best-of-ones’s and a best-of-three. It’s been a while since you’ve been at LAN yourself, did it take some time to settle in?
It was made easier since, without disrespecting any teams, we had some games which didn’t run over, so you can kind of get a feel of things and make sure your setup is all good. That made it quite nice, because we didn’t have any hard games at the start of the day.
Speaking of groups, the closest game you had in groups was against 3F2F. They were up 14-10 and you brought it back to a 16-14 victory, was that due to their mistakes or did you out-perform them in the final stretch?
I don’t know… I won two 1v2s in those six rounds, so I would say it was probably down to their mistakes. They obviously got themselves into round-winning positions to close it out, but they couldn’t do it in the end. I think we were playing pretty badly as well, our Overpass is usually okay, but I guess against these teams, they just got too many rounds against us. It’s too close to be comfortable.
Compared to some other UK teams in attendance, you guys are quite reserved and quiet when you play. Is that something by design that you’ve discussed?
Nah, it’s just how we are. We’ve always been quite calm as players and as a team, we’re not really ones to shout. I mean for me personally, I don’t like shouting because say you win a 1v1, you shout or whatever, and then you lose the following round… you feel like a bit of a div [laughs]. So it’s not really for me, I wouldn’t mind if my teammates did, but I think they maybe feel the same way as me. That’s just not something we do.
When other teams get loud and shout, do you see it as them trying to be disrespectful, or is it them more showing passion for their own team?
It’s all fun and games, I wouldn’t say they’re purposefully trying to be disrespectful. Obviously they’re trying to get us mentally, they’re trying to pull us down, but I think we’re quite calm. I don’t think it gets to any of us, we just focus on our game.
Let’s talk about the UK scene. In your opinion, is the scene in a good place right now? We’ve got two teams who made the RMR, you guys of course were close as well.
Yeah, I think it’s in a good place. I think Viperio are definitely a good team, I think ITB have got some really good players you know, they’ve been winning a lot recently. Then you’ve got these other teams, eMasters, Legates, Arctic Raptors, 7AM as well even though they’re not here. There’s a lot of orgs supporting these teams, which means obviously there’s a lot of potential.
Going back to your online results in ESEA, you’ve had a lot of close games. You’ve had close wins and even closer losses. Talk to me about your feelings about playing in Advanced.
Advanced is always hard, when it’s all best-of-ones and you’re doing the veto ten minutes before the game… yeah, you can get off to a bad start pretty easily. With the losses, I think it’s on us. In some of the losses we’ve played bad. Pistol rounds are crucial for these games, and we’ve been losing a lot of them recently.
Do you think that fact makes ESEA season records hold a little less value?
Maybe a little bit, that’s just how it is when it’s all best-of-ones. But you know, obviously we still want to get playoffs and we want to beat as many teams as we can. But for sure, Advanced can be hard to deal with.