British-Australian commentator Joshua “Dweg” Nathan is an up-and-coming name in the UK CS:GO sphere. He recently worked his first event in front of a crowd at the Pinnacle Cup Championship and was able to sit down with UKCSGO’s Freddie “GrimyRannarr” Pritchard on the second day of gameplay and chat about the Pinnacle Event as a whole, the next FNATIC roster, his own unexpected beginning in casting, his career so far, and the rise of casters and players within the regional scene.
Firstly, what are your thoughts on William “mezii” Merriman picking up the leadership role in FNATIC?
He has been a part of the organisation for a long time, they obviously have faith in him, if he had came within the first week and immediately transitioned to the IGL then you would have questions, but the fact he has been there for a while, and they obviously see leadership qualities, personally I thought Aaron “AZR” Ward would be a good option until I heard mezii was calling. Now that AZR was not an option you have to look elsewhere, and I think they have a very solid core of 4.
mezii has said that he was a second voice before he picked up that IGL role, now do you think because there might not be a strong second voice there might be some trouble for this roster immediately with the little practice they have had?
No, because I feel like they had a lot of freedom to play with because normally we see fresh lineups can do quite well in these scenarios. I think for mezii it will be a personal step up for him, and will be a challenge to the team, hopefully he can get some of the guidance from Jamie “Keita” Hall as well, a very good UK coach working together with a UK IGL can create some good synergy.
Looking at you as an individual, how did you get into casting? Was there a CS:GO background?
Growing up in high school, a lot of guys I was friendly with in my year all played CS:GO, so we just played MM a lot, went to the LAN cafes, mostly just had a bit of a laugh. The main thing that got me into casting was this event actually called EB Exo 2016 which is similar to E3. We had it in Sydney and we got tickets as a group. Our idea was to check out the new games, the new consoles. Realistically, I was into consoles in my younger years rather than PC, so we just wanted to see the new games and the first door I went into was a CS:GO event. The four best Australian teams where playing a LAN, and I sat down to maybe watch a few rounds of CS:GO and watched for the whole day. [I] ended up taking to guys such as Kevin “KaRath“Zhu, Jordan “Elfishguy” Mays, Iaian “SnypeR” Turner, some of the Aussie commentators, and they gave me a bit of a helping. KaRath especially, telling me how to get involved, recording VODs and getting it up on YouTube, getting it up on Twitter and that was sort of my leg in. It did take a while. The first 9 months of casting I was only doing local low division Australian CS before moving to the European side of things. At the end of 2018, when I finished school, I moved overseas to England.
It is interesting you had a CS:GO background, but by large did you then get into CS:GO through casting?
Yeah, we played a few open qualifiers and some FACEIT cash cups back in the days alongside MM, but I never tried to take it seriously. It was more all my mates getting together and having a laugh. Yeah that defo was my way into CS:GO.
Did you struggle a little bit at the beginning with the knowledge of CS:GO, did you go straight into being a colour?
So to start off I was not a colour, when I started casting I was a hybrid, dipping my toes in and out of both styles. I was mainly doing PBP in the first few years, it wasn’t really only until I moved overseas to dive into colour a little bit more. I then obviously took it more full time, and when I was back in Australia I was still in school, working EU events online with the time difference. I didn’t have much spare time, so was it difficult to gain that knowledge and to improve because of the schedule and how it was back then.
Did you then meet your duo EternalJay when you came to England or before?
Well, kind of, we worked together in 2017. There was a portion of time when I worked for E-frag and we were swapping with changing working with Jay, Flakes, Dinko, Hawka, Dean, Skriv…the list continues on for a while. Me and Jay casted maybe 10 or 15 games with each other when I was in Australia, so we knew each other. But when I moved over to the UK we actually casted Epic 26 together which was in early stages of 2019, only a few months after I moved over, I was still setting up and so still very fresh to the UK. We casted that event together but it wasn’t till the end of 2019 and the early stages of 2020 when we went into duo.
Even though you moved over in 2018, it took a while to get your footing into the EU scene, but then when it hit 2020 it looks like everything exploded for you. What was the cause for that?
You have to remember when I first moved over, I did not have many contacts so the work was quite limited, but then in the early and mid stages of 2019 I worked for BLAST in London. So I worked with them for about seven to eight months and when I was working with them I wasn’t casting. It was put forward I was working with BLAST and BLAST only. I did a couple events in early 2019 and then the mid to later stages of that year I didn’t do any casting because I was working at BLAST.
How did you get back into casting after BLAST?
I sat down with Jay and said that I want to get back into casting, I knew that he didn’t have a duo and that was sort of it. We both had some contacts and started working together and pressing it all. We did a couple events and worked a ESL LAN event but we worked remote for the Polish National Championships at the end of 2019 and then we started working with Grid in the early stages in 2020 for quite a while and that was our initial contacts getting into the the Home Sweet Home series.
Was all these COVID events then your first footprint in EU casting?
Maybe not the footprint, but it was definitely the road to where we are now. It was more frequent and more regular, it was constant month after month just doing so many of those online cups. We were doing 20/25 broadcast days every month for 9 months a year so it was a taste of what is to offer, and a taste to [what COVID was pushing] in the online department. We took it by the helm and worked with it.
Was your rise a gradual thing then?
Oh for sure. I started casting in 2016, Jay started in 2015, and I know Jay dipped in and out of a couple big names but by large we didn’t have that consistency, and it took a long time. [It] was not easy whatsoever, we had to grind and work hard to make a name for ourselves, we had to learn a lot ourselves. The hard work paid off when we saw that in the later parts of 2020 and 2021 doing a couple offline events and now here we are in Lund for 2022.
We had to fix and improve stuff by ourselves, it was not given to us on a silver platter.
You have casted for a while, are there any metas you disliked?
Meta wise, I would maybe put it a different way, different regions offer something else. Growing up in Oceania I was very close to the Australian and Asian scene, but nowadays I do not see as much of that being in Europe, but the meta in that sort of way has changed. Maybe the Kreig meta to an extent, but by large there has never been a time when I felt like it was boring. I love CS:GO, I will watch it any day of the week.
Talking about regions, are there any teams or individuals in the UK that you feel like could make that top 30?
That is a very tough one, I would of said the new EKO roster, maybe not top 30 but around that area, top 50 is more realistic. They got close to that and the hard thing about making top 30 is that you not only have to play well, but also have to have a brand to get invites to a lot of events and unfortunately aside from Endpoint who are not even UK anymore, not a lot of UK teams have that reach to constantly get on HLTV cups. I think that is somewhat the main issue.
Sebastian “Volt” Malos going to FNATIC rising is a great opportunity and that is a move that probably had to happen. The new look Fambit looks decent bringing in James “Mad” Debono and Jack “Gizmy” von Spreckelsen. It will take a little bit longer to reach the success we saw from them now. For ITB roster changes too have plagued them. I thought they were going to stick it out, and when you heard the behind the scenes chatter it doesn’t look ideal. A few new names coming in and if you are in the know you are in the know. Thomas “Thomas” Utting and Owen “smooya” Butterfield moving away is a shame. I am a big fan of Cai “Cypher” Watson and believe he has a lot to offer, and I think that realistically to make it in the top 30 and you are a UK player, your best chances are going European and to build a team to the top 30 is one of the hardest grinds. It has been attempted before and most certainly will be attempted again. I wish them the best of luck but you have to be realistic and do it one step at a time.
So looking at that issue of not having the big brands in the UK, how do you think we can start attaching those big names to the UK? Is it more LANs, more online events, or even content being produced?
That is a very good question, content is most definitely so important. I was at I-series for a couple of days, you have FAMBIT and ITB not really making any content, they are the two top teams, and I have said to Ciaran “Biscu” King and Tom “ArTisT” Clarke that you have to work hard and it is difficult so from our perspective we can see the media side of things. The players do not have that experience and knowledge to know how important the social brand really is. Content pieces are so important, personal streaming can be good and that seems to have disappeared. It is probably also an overall subject that a lot of people do not have answers for. Keep your head down and work as hard as you can, work on getting the HLTV ranking, and hopefully more opportunities will come from there.
Looking at the LAN side, do you think bringing back the more consistent LANs we had similar to the Grosvenor circuit will bump up the competitive side but also bring in a lot more eyes?
Yes, if the opportunity is there, then the opportunity should be taken. I worked at one of the Grosvenor events in Reading, and I also worked one in Cardiff and I really enjoyed them. Low-ticket events, not a BYOC so you didn’t have to bring your gear, 15/20 pounds a ticket and you had a whole day of playing CS:GO. It was a fantastic incentive to the UK scene but unfortunately when COVID started the plug was pulled which was a really big shame. That could have turned into something special. If anyone is looking to get back into something similar, I would give it everything they got and it would really benefit and really help out.
Looking at the UK scene now, would you say that we are in a better position than the past?
Before COVID we had Vexed and London Gaming, but the way I look at it now is that the tier two scene years ago was not as competitive back then then it is now. If you are even somewhat competitive now then you are probably doing something right, and it is more impressive to do it now than a few years ago for instance. The likes of FAMBIT and ITB have reached heights that have surpassed previous years and just honestly need to keep consistency. It is not just them too, there are some other names in the picture, BLVKHVND have just made roster changes and they looked impressive. Making ECL right now for the UK teams is so vital, there are few in Advanced and further when you go down the ranks. That one jump too ECL is so crucial. ITB did it for one season then unfortunately went right back down.
Are you looking at any UK prospects that are not CYPHER and not on formidable rosters already?
It is honestly quite difficult for me, I am not a outsider, I would say, but I tend to keep up with the top teams. I don’t have the time to be watching main teams and inters teams. I have seen some really good signs from Oscar “Azuwu” Bell and other than him, excluding the top end teams, I think the only other player would be Mad, who was on the old EKO roster, who is maybe not a known player, but is a very strong rifler and will find some good success in the new EKO roster.
Talents and commentators within the UK scene: is there anyone that you could see joining you at some of the events in the future?
That is a tough one because there are so many commentators right now. I think back to when Jay started getting into casting back in 2015/2016 the sample size was a fraction of what it is now. There were not many casters in the scene, not many from the UK either. Nowadays is a different ball part. We can loosely throw Pavlos “ExWarrior” Georgious in the mix even though he is kind of UK. He has made some super impressive strides recently and is now at the Pinnacle event in Lund. Overall, the gap is very close. As an example, Zerpherr, Retr00, Neokai and TravCS are all starting to make the opportunities for themselves and are so close nit, but no clue who I think will make the next further jump. I do not watch or listen to enough of the other casters in the UK scene to get a better vibe.
Would you also agree there is more CS:GO to be casted?
Yea I guess there is. I do not know though if that is an attribute to there being more casters. We obviously saw a lot of casters come in the online scene. A lot of people were bored and didn’t have their normal lives, so they thought “I play CS:GO for fun, why not go into casting or observing or whatever it may be.” You can make the sentiment that because CS:GO has increased, the caster pool has increased, but I would also say COVID brought in the majority of the new casters.
Do you find that with all these new casters it creates a healthy environment or an unhealthy level of competition?
I would 100% say that any competition is good competition. What it means to the individuals is that you have to make yourself strike better and more so than others, so that is going to pull the stronger talent forward and the weaker talent behind. You have to remember there are only a certain number of talent spots to go around, and a bloody lot of casters right now.
I think that the next 6 or 12 months will show who is working the hardest, and the main attribute to success is just grinding, whether you are a player or a caster.
To round it off, what message would you give to the casters out there?
Realise that success does not come tomorrow. The sentiment that I started in 2016, Jay started in 2015 and we are working our first LAN with a crowd, my second LAN in general, at an actual venue and I have been casting for six years. Yes, maybe things were different back then, I was still at school, working for BLAST and all these other attributes, but you’re not going to go from casting online CS:GO to LAN in a few months. You may get lucky here and there, but it is a slow and gradual grind and you have to just keep up with it, dig down, and stick it out. It will come but it will not come soon.