For a mix containing the core of the Arctic Raptors roster that just made main, maybe more could have been expected of the GUGUGAGA lineup. However, this was a team attending the LAN for fun and the experience. Whilst the team awaited their fate in the Inters tournament, UKCSGO’s Dafydd Gwynn took a deep dive with former Recognised Talent rifler Zachary “seiren” Bland and fellow Arctic Raptors player Ash “Xey” Xey for an assessment of the teams time at EPIC36. Their honest reflections on the UK scene and some retrospective advice they would give to their younger selves.
So you kind of bombed out of your bracket. What did you gain from coming to this LAN, what was your intention?
seiren – We are basically just a friendship group, they’ve known each other for like seven years. I’ve known most of them for four or five, it was our first time meeting the guys from Norway and Germany. It’s kind of just an added bonus that we have ash and Noah, because it’s their first actual LAN. Which means when we go in October it wont be their first proper LAN, so they will know what its like, so hopefully no nerves or anything like that. Which could cost us when we try and get like top four or wherever we place.
Xey – I mean I’ve played at a LAN before, one of the epics a couple of years ago, but the one in October that will be the first one for me and Noah in an actual team. We are currently under Arctic Raptors which is a great org, the owner really helps us out a lot. We just made Main, which is great for us so October is a perfect time for us because it will be right as the main season ends.
seiren – Yeah it will be right as the main season ends. So going into that, especially if we have a strong first season, we are going to LAN with a lot of confidence.
What are your expectations for that LAN?
seiren – Urmm it depends. Honestly it depends what teams show up. I feel like this LAN we could of got fifth/sixth if not push for top four, but I think with more time…Like you should see the size of our stratbook, it’s disgusting, literally pages and pages.
How long are you guys aiming to be together as a roster?
seiren – Obviously everyone says you don’t want to make changes but if it gets to a point where it gets stale. Like on recognised talent. For the first LAN we went to as recognised talent when, we were in Open, we had AZUWU stand in for us because we didn’t have a permanent fifth. We got top eight at that LAN, we went 16-14 against Lucent who finished third and we choked that game. Bringing in the fifth that we did, we went from top eight, to ninth-twelfth to then not even making Inters play-offs. The goal is to stay together as long as we see progression.
Xey – If someone gets a better opportunity down the line, like Advanced or something. Obviously our target is to make Advanced in the future but if someone gets an offer from a really high Advanced or UK team, you cant really turn down that offer. Or if people lose interest, sometimes they lose motivation or quit because of IRL reasons. As long as we all stay motivated then we are reaching our expectations.
seiren – Most people see Main as the first competitive level, so getting out of that and getting to advanced that’s the biggest jump. It’s where all the good teams are, that’s why there’s only a few in the UK. Look at what happened with Havik they were just stale for two seasons. Everyone has the idea of we are all friends lets just stay together for as long as possible, but sometimes it isn’t possible.
Speaking of the recognised talent roster, there’s a few of them here AZUWU and C60 what do you think of those talents and how far do you think those guys can get in the scene?
seiren – AZUWU is one for the future definitely. We knew it at that LAN. I kind of introduced him into the UK scene. We met in faceit premium and me and him were just chatting mad shit back and forth. Then I added him and we played the next game together and we just became friends. He started in open with a couple of the players he’s here with now, they progressed into main within a couple of seasons. At the first UK LAN he had been to he got there setup in ten minutes and played an official and 40 bombed. Think them like 16-2ing EYEBALLERS, in his first advanced season. He’s done really well, progression wise but the experience is what he’s lacking. I think he has so much space and time compared to other people. Then c60 he’s one of my favourite ever teammates. I think he’s on a short break after Hypnotic disbanded.
You’ve surrounded yourself with upcoming talent, but you are only 19, you also have a upward trajectory. Would you consider yourself a upcoming talent?
seiren – I’m not as good as some of the people out there. Like I had that stint on Flight and stuff but I don’t think I have really had a chance to show my potential. I had a bit of a damaged rep when I was younger, like I used to chat so much shit on twitter when I was like 15/16. This is the first time I have qualified to Main, so hopefully that gives us a chance to solidify our position at the top and we can only go up from there.
Would you say you are a different person now?
seiren – Definitely. Everyone is, you change from the time you are 19-20 let alone 16-19. I think with me a lot of it is mental confidence, I worry a lot about losing us the game instead of trying to win it. It really plays with my mental sometimes, in important games especially.
Would you say you have found a balance between arrogance and confidence?
seiren – Sometimes I think like, my attitude can be pretty bad sometimes. Like my arrogance can get in the way of winning games, I hold onto mistakes for way too long.
What would you say to your 15 year old self if you could go back?
seiren – Just don’t have a twitter account man (laughs). Don’t get involved. People just troll you, like everyone knows what the UK scene is like. It takes a while to integrate, like the UK scene is quite a friendly community but when you are on the other side of it its not. So best advice would be just get off twitter and just play the game.
Xey – I mean I’m a bit older so, you know, I think I’ve always been quite reserved when talking to people on twitter and online and stuff. I’m a bit more careful with my words. I came into the scene when I was like 18/19 so I was a bit more mature, where as Zach was like 15. It’s completely different when you are on LAN though, everyone gets along and stuff, but when you are behind a screen it’s way more emotional. One of the problems I think with the UK scene is that people get to like level 10 on faceit and their ego’s get ridiculous. I think the ego comes from the lower level in the UK scene, like people have just got into the scene and feeling good about themselves and they start to realise it’s not like that.
seiren – I think the actual good players in the UK scene none of them have ego’s. Look at mad and arTisT, like mad I asked him to help me on overpass. I’ve got it recorded, he sat with me for 40 minutes and went over it with me like everything you need to do, completely for free just because I had met him a couple of times on LAN. I was asking stupid questions and he didnt say anything about it, and we won 16-11 against a Main playoffs team. We farmed them because of what he had shown us. We’ve also asked LVN for help on ramp on Nuke, because it was a new position for Noah. The people who are actually good, know they are good and don’t have ego’s, they would rather see progression. Everyone has a bit of wanting to see other teams fail, because it means they would be on top. Like the top four teams here, BLVKHVND and ex-TLR wouldn’t mind seeing the other teams go out because it means they would do better.
The best team here is arguably a mix, what does that say about EpicLAN’s?
Xey – I think the reason why they are on top at the moment is they have like CYPHER who is on Into the Breach, cryths who won last LAN and JackB and moshi who are both really good. Then Yoshwa who is also really good and has a lot of experience. They are all friends as well, they have played together a lot. This is the first EPIC in while that hasn’t got a clear winner though.
seiren – Yeah literally, it could be between TLR (Temperate), BLVCKHVND. I mean BLVCKHVND lost to CYPHER and that already haven’t they, but I think if they play again they could beat them. Playing against Rory is awful. In that top eight LAN, we played them for top six and we were in the big hall. He was sat on the other side of the hall and I could hear him and he would be pushing hut and killing me just screaming mid-round. He gets in everyone’s head. Having a mix winning I don’t think is a good thing for the UK scene, it shows that there isn’t enough at stake for the top teams to be here. There isn’t enough games on HLTV, there isn’t a big enough prizepool and there isn’t enough orgs sending teams. Into the Breach and like 1PIN aren’t fussed about coming, it’s not worth it.