T.c told Dust2.us that the team have recieved interest from organization looking to acquire the whole lineup from Cloud9
Jeffrey "Mnmzzz" Moore had the chance to sit down with Cloud9 for an extended interview following their match against Triumph in EPL Season 12 on September 11th. They discussed the team's EPL campaign, the South Africans' journey in North America, the challenges of being a North American team in the online era, their time with Cloud9, and their plans for the future.
Starting off with today’s match against Triumph, did you expect it to be such a comprehensive victory? Overall, how do you rate yourself compared to the newer EPL teams, primarily Triumph and Chaos?
JT: I think Triumph is a new team and they are working things out but yeah they are one of the lower level teams, so I rate ourselves much higher than them. Chaos though, I think they are a really good team probably at the same level as us. But, we are really inconsistent so it’s hard to know where we are in the NA team rankings.
Looking towards the remainder of the EPL season, your next match will be against Liquid, what are your expectations for the match against them?
JT: No expectations really. If we bring our A-game we know we can beat them, we beat them all the time in scrims and we have beat them in matches. It just depends what version of our team comes online that day.
Following the Liquid game, your next three matches will be against 100 Thieves, Chaos, and Gen.G, how do you feel about your chances at making playoffs?
T.c: We basically have to win all of our matches, so it is going to be tough. But, I think we have got the two most difficult matches out of the way, besides Liquid, so I definitely still think we have a shot at playoff contention, but it depends on if we can keep this form up for the rest of Pro League.
Looking at the field of teams in EPL, it wasn’t that long ago that your lineup, Chaos, and Triumph were all in MDL. For a lot of people your breakthrough moment was at the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals where you upset North and G2. Did these wins put your team on Cloud9’s radar or were they already in talks with the team at this time?
T.c: We were already speaking to Cloud9 since the Americas stage of ESL Pro League Season 10, but we were mainly speaking to JamezIRL at the time. After the performance in the finals we were contacted by Cloud9 directly.
With that, did anyone mention the win over G2 as pushing it over the edge with Cloud9 or was that brought up in any way?
T.c: I suppose our performance at Pro League helped as it was pretty much right after Pro League that they contacted us with an offer, but it wasn’t like they directly talked to us about the G2 win.
This question is directed more towards JT and T.c. Reflecting on your ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals performance as a whole, did that mark the moment you felt you made “made it”, after embarking on Project Destiny more than two years ago?
T.c: For me personally it was great getting our form back and being able to beat those teams, but that moment for us was more back at DreamHack Winter 2018 when we beat G2 and OpTic with the Bravado lineup back then as we felt we could beat these teams as long as we could get on a stage with them more often.
JT: If anything, it was our first time beating tier one teams at the time, so it was our first big event because DreamHack Winter obviously wasn’t a big event. So of course, it was an achievement, but it wasn’t some crazy thing that was happening to be honest.
T.c: It was more like we were happy that we could replicate it again, for me at least with a new lineup, we weren’t the same five people we were back in Bravado. So being a new team, getting another opportunity at a LAN event to play against European teams and being able to beat them again it was a good feeling to replicate our previous success.
Speaking of your original lineup, after parting ways with Detrony and Sonic the team tried out blackpoisoN and Domsterr for a period of five months after which you decided to bring in the American trio of motm, oSee, and floppy. Was there a moment when you decided to have a majority American lineup, and do you believe it was a risk at the time to bring in American players?
T.c: I wanted to bring in American players ever since we left Bravado, but at that time we were still set to play in WESG 2018 and back then you had to have five people from the same country, so we had to bring in two South Africans with blackpoisoN and Domsterr. After that event, we were like “well we’re not just going to get them for one event we’re going to try and make it work.” But, even back then we already wanted motm and floppy, but floppy had just joined Singularity and he didn’t want to be known as a team hopper, so he turned us down.
We spoke to them again at the Global Challenge in Dallas and I told motm he needs to join us, and I told floppy if Singularity don’t make the Major and EPL he should join us as well. So, discussions had been on our mind and we had wanted to make those changes earlier in the year when the Bravado situation happened, but circumstances prevented us from making those changes to incorporate more North Americans into the lineup, but luckily it came together later in the year.
Hello floppy, we were talking about when you and oSee joined Singularity. Was it a risk for you and oSee to leave Singularity to join ATK? What was the experience of leaving Singularity for this new project?
floppy: Yeah Singularity was kind of rough because T.c talked to me after we lost to FURIA while using guerri as a stand-in at the Global Challenge and then we didn’t do well at the Minor qualifier, so it was kind of expected especially after we lost to ATK in EPL Relegation.
So, you were excited to leave the Singularity project to try something new?
floppy: Yeah and getting to play with motm again because he’s a good entry-fragger.
Then of course the final piece of the current lineup is Sonic, can you discuss your time with Envy and the subsequent return to ATK?
Sonic: Me and Nifty didn’t agree on some things so I decided to part ways with Envy, and I heard JT wanted to build a new roster and I thought it was a good idea so I linked back up with him to build an American roster. We thought it would be a solid team with floppy and oSee, especially.
Were T.c and ATK immediately interested in bringing you back, how quickly did your return to the team come about?
Sonic: I contacted them when I returned to South Africa and we spoke over the phone while they were still in America…
T.c: I think both of us were in South Africa actually and yeah we were talking on the phone as Sonic was leaving Envy as soon as it happened and it was perfect because we needed Sonic back, the timing worked out perfectly.
Around three months after adding Sonic you of course joined Cloud9. One of the first additions to that team was m1cks, who you worked with briefly on Bravado. I don’t believe he has received a lot of attention on Cloud9 and his history with the South Africans in particular, can you discuss what he brings to the team?
T.c: We were already working with him actually before he joined Cloud9, but we had him with us at Pro League in Los Angeles since like October and we actually flew him with us to the Pro League Finals, so he was helping us the whole time. It just wasn’t an official thing as he had just left eUnited, but he helps us a lot with anti-stratting opponents and finding reads on them that allow us to know what they are doing. Aside from anti-stratting he helps us a lot to make sure we don’t have tendencies opponents can read into. Overall, he helps elevate the level of the team and in preparation for matches.
Around this time Cloud9 also brought back JamezIRL as a consultant, and I remember at the time we discussed his role as fluctuating per his availability. In recent months, can you discuss what he has been doing with the lineup?
T.c: That one is a bit harder to answer, we don’t actually get to work with him as much as I would like. We were planning to bring him back full-time but obviously that was cut short once Cloud9’s plans changed. JamezIRL was helping the team a lot in terms of being the bad guy towards the organization in a sense. There were a lot of things we didn’t agree with and I feel like JamezIRL would intervene in those situations and help us out and help them see our perspective and see why we didn’t want to do certain things. And then he was also helping out with matches, whenever we had official matches he would give his notes on the match even though he isn’t as involved with practice and so on.
He didn’t know everything we were doing in practice but he would give us a brief overview of what he thought went wrong and yeah he was helping a lot with reviewing and compiling match VODs with the stream overlay so we can see what’s going on not just from our perspective but the other team’s perspective as well. So, we get to see the bigger picture instead of just focusing on what’s going wrong on our side. That combined with the notes he was giving us made a big contribution to developing the team further and developing our style more.
T.c: Johnny do you think there’s more JamerzIRL contributed with?
JT: No that was an eight paragraph answer, I think you got it haha.
So, you said he was the “bad guy” between you and the organization…
floppy: He was the devil’s advocate.
What did he do exactly, smooth things over with Cloud9…
T.c: He had less to lose right, so like if we wanted to say something stupid we can’t just say that because it won’t look good from our side but he could be like floppy said, the devil’s advocate and speak his mind because he had less to lose than the rest of us. Like, it was obviously our first time on a tier one organization so we didn’t know if it was our place and whenever we didn’t agree with things there would be repercussions…. Yeah.
Is there any particular example you could give of him saying the “stupid things” for you guys that you couldn’t say to Cloud9?
T.c: I don’t really want to go into details on that. I feel like it happened and it’s in the past.
Fair enough, speaking of moving to a tier one organization, is there anything Cloud9 has been able to bring to the table that has been an upgrade, a luxury, or a perk compared to your previous teams, perhaps especially compared to Denial?
T.c: Actually, to clear that up, we never signed contracts with Denial, we were just representing them, and they were supposed to take over the rent for [Bravado’s former team house], but we never got to the point of signing contracts with them. But when they actually gave me the contract I was like “well this is awful no one is going to sign this." So yeah, we were representing them, but we never signed contracts with them. But in terms of what Cloud9 gave us there was an upgrade from other organizations definitely. I mean when we joined Cloud9 it felt like there’s more staff than players and teams and that’s something we’ve never had on any previous organization where it has been pretty much one guy running the entire show who is the CEO, social media manager, and pretty much doing everything. I mean back in ATK I was manager, coach, analyst, and chef you know…
floppy: Travel agent…
T.c: Passport and visa organizer you know. I had to do all of that stuff, so I think definitely that upgrade in terms of staff and having a manager to take care of all of those things. Also, having a content team to make content for you pretty much every week who is trying to grow the players’ individual brands is definitely something we have never had before. And yeah just not having to worry about food and cooking, having that always provided for us were probably the biggest things. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 we didn’t really get to use the gym and stuff like that.
This is directed to the players, is the cuisine under Cloud9 an upgrade to what T.c would make as ATK “chef”?
floppy: T.c is the greatest chef on the planet.
T.c: I became pretty good at cooking haha.
T.c, I know back in Bravado you were a part-time coach initially while also pursuing your Doctoral work, and then in North America you handled all these other roles, has the move to Cloud9 allowed you to improve your overall craft as coach now that you can do it full-time without any distractions?
T.c: Definitely yeah, I got to focus a lot more on just coaching and I didn’t have to worry about all of the other things I would have to take care of. I think it has allowed me to develop a bit more and find some different areas of expertise I could improve on and also different approaches, right? Like working with JamezIRL and so on has helped me see different ways we can do things. So yeah, I definitely think this period has been a big developing period for me as well as a coach.
Touching on the lineup’s overall development, prior to COVID-19 the team attended DreamHack Open Leipzig and IEM Katowice. At the events, Cloud9 struggled to finish highly. Now of course we know those may be the last big LAN events of the year. With that, has the move online affected the team in any way in terms of development and has it been a challenge for the team?
T.c: From my side I think it’s not the fact that we moved online that’s harmed our development per se...
floppy: There are just better teams in Europe.
T.c: … But we are just playing the same teams over and over again. I feel like that is the biggest thing stunting our development and what’s preventing our growth at the moment. Compared to the opportunity we had when we able to travel and play European teams that just allows you to grow so much more. Even when you have a week long bootcamp in Europe I feel like you learn more in a week than you do from a month scrimming in North America because it’s just the same teams over and over. So, I feel like that’s the biggest limitation on the team at the moment. I also feel like since it shifted online we have so many tournaments compared to back in ATK where we could have a really good growth-oriented mindset where we could be focused on developing the team every day and making it a little bit better every day. But, because of having so many tournaments day after day after day it shifted our focus to results-oriented mindset that focused on getting really good results and that’s where we went wrong when we went into the online-era. Instead of just trying to focus on continuing to grow as individuals, as players, as people we started shifting a little bit off focus to try and get the best results we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.
floppy: Oh Tiaan, it wasn’t just us.
There has been a lot of discussion about the schedule being too packed with events and the events running too long. Do you guys think the schedule has been too dense?
JT: Yeah I think it’s horrible, there’s way too many matches, and we play the same teams at least three times a month so yeah we need a break. The teams need time to progress in their game. Every single match just looks the same at the moment there’s no way of knowing who is going to win. So yeah I think the schedule is terrible.
floppy: Events don’t even feel like they’re events. It just feels like the same thing over and over.
JT: Yeah, we are playing a big event, say ESL One Cologne, and it feels exactly the same as the rest of them. None of the events mean anything.
T.c: And even if they do mean something it’s hard to get hyped for another online match against the same team you’ve played three or four times these past two months. It just feels like another day you know.
Are there enough teams to scrim in North America? How far down the rankings would you be willing to scrim against usually?
T.c: It’s sometimes hard but we’ve been fine majority of the time. The only time where it was really rough was during ESL One: Road to Rio where we were in Group A and we would play the one day, then Group B would play the next day, and Group A would play the day after that. As a result, no one in your group would want to scrim and then on the day you didn’t have a match the other group would be playing so there was literally like no one to scrim unless you already played someone in your group. So, that was really rough when we had it like that. But usually, we go down to MDL teams like New England Whalers, Yeah, RBG, and Levitate. So sometimes we’d have to scrim because everyone else would be in your group or playing a match on your scrim days. So yeah there’s definitely a lack of good practice.
This next question is more geared to floppy as you have been in MDL the longest, have things improved over your 10+ seasons especially since you moved up to EPL? For example, have the MDL lineups you guys scrim improved over time?
floppy: I think at one point when they reduced the number of teams in MDL it got better, that was like 2017 or something because MDL got oversaturated because there’s a bunch of different teams some of whom don’t deserve to be in MDL. I think reducing the number of teams in MDL definitely helped but I think as of right now because of COVID-19 it’s the worst it's ever been in terms of NA CS. There’s only like five or six teams in North America, like you have us, Liquid, Evil Geniuses, Gen.G, who don’t even have an IGL right now, FURIA, and MIBR, who aren’t even here. And then in Europe you have like 30 different teams that all have really good calibers of skill, you obviously have tier one and tier two but below that it’s not even close compared to NA.
So how does MDL rank to when we last had a chance to talk to you in 2019?
floppy: It's definitely the worst it’s ever been. Like MDL right now there’s only oNe, New England Whalers, Swole Patrol, who change their roster like every two weeks…
T.c: And all the good teams from MDL are in Pro League now because of the division changes due to COVID, so your good MDL teams like Triumph or Chaos and even us will probably end up back in MDL now if we don’t have a place in FLASHPOINT or whatever. But, they’re all playing Pro League so it’s just decreasing the level in MDL even more.
Discussing the move online, with the overloaded schedule, and the lack of teams to practice against do you think it was fair of Cloud9 to look for a new roster while your team has been stuck online?
floppy: Me personally I don’t think teams should make any changes during something like this where there are no LAN events. But that’s just me personally and that may not be something people agree with but with no LAN events there’s no reason to make changes.
T.c: Yeah, I think it is hard to really judge the level accurately at the moment because of all the things we have mentioned. But for Cloud9 at the end of the day it is a business decision and I can respect that.
Speaking of their decision to sign the European team, HenryG tweeted recently that he potentially wanted to integrate floppy and oSee into the new lineup. However, he said the offer was rejected by both players. floppy can you discuss why you turned down the offer to play with the European lineup and to stay with this current lineup?
floppy: I rejected it because I didn’t want to move to Europe and considering it is a team that they don’t even have a set roster for, and you don’t know how people are going to act personality-wise or if you will get along with them. And honestly, if they really did want me that bad, I feel like they would let me know a lot more information regarding the [European] team because I didn’t know where in Europe it would be based until the very last minute. I feel like they really weren't that committed towards me to be honest.
I was interested in both players. They are truly fantastic and have a bright CS:GO future.— HenryG (@HenryGcsgo) September 11, 2020
They wanted to remain as a 5 and I completely support that.
We are still working daily to find them a new home, that makes sense. We will hopefully have an update on that soon. https://t.co/wkJGS8DfBq
oSee now that you are here as well, can you explain why you turned down the offer to join the European Cloud9 project?
oSee: So first of all I really enjoy playing with everyone on the team right now so I didn’t want to just leave for a team where I had no idea who was on it and I am also one of those people where if I don’t enjoy playing with the people I will just shut down and lose motivation. So, for me just knowing the people personality-wise is huge. And just that the fact that I’d have to move to Europe first of all and the fact that I had no idea how they were personality-wise was a big factor for me.
I also had a more general question about your development as a player this year. When Cloud9 signed the ATK lineup a lot of pundits were impressed by floppy and Sonic but wrote you off as not ready for Cloud9. Since then, you have become a key part of the team. Has something changed in your playstyle or the way you are being utilized by JT and T.c in matches that has helped your development?
oSee: I think I have built a lot of confidence in my myself and my plays and I think in CS that is a huge part of your game so that’s one reason. Also, I’ve just improved a lot through deathmatch and have tried to make the use out of my time in practice. I think most of it is confidence and grinding.
Alright, so moving towards the end of the year, your last big event after EPL will be IEM New York Online. What are your guys expectations for that event although it of course has less significance with the Major being cancelled?
JT: We want to win it, we are upset.
JT: So, we want to win it, the whole event.
With the Major being pushed back is there a lot to say about it?
T.c: It’s kind of just another online tournament that is difficult to get hyped for.
As JT said, you guys want to win it, do you think you can confidently beat any teams in the event, any trouble spots?
JT: All of them.
T.c: I honestly think on our day we can beat anyone in North America. Evil Geniuses is definitely the best team at the moment, you can tell even just from scrimming them. They’ve really done a lot of work; they’re doing something right at the moment so they are the hardest to beat but on our day we can beat anyone in the scene.
floppy: They’re just getting lucky.
They're just getting lucky?
floppy: You can put that in, I don't care.
oSee: Everyone would know you are trolling.
As a final wrap-up question, this roster has been together for a very long time and it doesn’t sound like you plan on changes. Now that you are looking for a new organization, has Cloud9 been able to help you at all in the search? Are organizations interested in the entire lineup or have they been looking at you guys piecemeal and asking for one or two players?
T.c: Yeah Cloud9 and HenryG specifically are assisting us with finding a new organization. We did request to stay together so Cloud9 are only entertaining offers for the entire team although there has been some offers for certain players. But yeah for the moment they are trying to help us find a new organization. There’s nothing concrete yet but yeah we are looking. I can say there is some interest from an organization, but I can’t reveal any details because they said if it comes out it could jeopardize the deal.
As the North American Cloud9 roster continue to search for a new organization, they still have a packed schedule. Their next outing will see them take on Liquid in ESL Pro League Season on September 18th at 3PM EDT.