EliGE: "everything is better when we're winning"
Team Liquid's Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski spent some time talking to Dust2.us about their performance at the Americas RMR and their mentality as a roster. The rebuilding process of the roster with young addition Joshua "oSee" Ohm was also discussed along with how the travel schedule has impacted the team, especially Richard "shox" Papillon.
So, you have now qualified for the Major, would you say that you had high expectations going into the tournament and have you reached those expectations?
We definitely had high expectations coming in, we wanted to finish with 3-0 and get the Legends spot because not only is it being a Legend and the prestige that comes with that, but it also would have given us another 1-week buffer because the travel schedule is so packed and there's so many tournament and qualifiers. It would have really helped. In that sense, we didn't really meet our expectations, but qualifying was still really good from us.
Obviously, you have a young guy [oSee] on the roster, does it mean more to him than the rest of you?
I'm sure he's super ecstatic right now that it's his first Major that he qualified for, and he's been playing really well and not everyone has seen how much he's improved since the beginning of the year and how well he's been playing. I've been seeing it day in day out in scrims; people can meme all they want, they can attack the headlines all they want, but I think that he's a really good player and he deserves it. I'm excited to play with him at the Major.
Do you think how the pressure will affect him or does he already have quite a cool head?
I guess a little bit here and there. He's already had to deal with some of the pressure playing at the EPL matches; the Heroic game was pretty high intensity, high pressure; the NIP game was high intensity, high pressure. The more that we keep playing in these important games against top tier teams, the more he's going to keep getting more experienced and be able to handle the pressure just like everyone else. But I think overall he's been doing a really good job and I'm not that worried about it at all.
You've been with Liquid through thick and thin and you've been there when the roster peaked as well. Would you say this roster has the potential to be the highest peaking Liquid that we've ever seen?
It's hard to say. I think that we definitely have the potential for that. Obviously, we were really good in 2019 and I do think that we have the potential for that as well. But it's not going to be as instant as it was in 2019 because the difference was when we made that change for Stewie, he was coming into a team that already was doing really well in the previous year. We had a solidified core, we had an identity of how we wanted to play. And now this year we have to develop that all brand new, fresh, with everybody. So, while we do have familiar faces, with nitr0 coming back and obviously NAF has been here with me, there's a lot of learning from everybody and we have to agree on our team identity of how we want to play. I do think that we have seen really good progress, shox is filling that same type of energy, idea, macro-oriented person, like Stewie did, and having a really strong AWPer, that's only going to continuously get better, in oSee. That's something completely new for us. I would just say that with having such a completely different team, of how it's being based on, I think the sky is the limit really. We have really high expectations; we all know how good it can be and how good we were in the past. I think that we have all the same pieces, well we have similar pieces — we have different roles, but we have really talented players that could do it all just the same.
So, would you say you're in a rebuilding phase as a team right now?
Yeah, 100%. I think any of the teams that made you know massive changes like us, if you change anything more than three players, that's just a brand-new team. Evil Geniuses are a completely brand-new team, we're a completely brand-new team. You can't just completely change out a core. There is no core, it's just two players that remained from before and three completely new players. The strat book starts from zero pretty much, maybe like 5%. Obviously, we're going to take things that we had before, we're going to take things that people have from other teams. But getting on the same page collectively takes time although it's been pretty fast for us. We've seen a lot of progress in the last two months and it's only going to keep going from there.
As a team that’s still rebuilding, isn't it kind of crazy that you going to be attending the Major? What are the expectations for you guys knowing that you're still in that phase?
Yeah, it's a tough one because not only is there a lot of work for us to do in the game, but there is a potential for burnout from us because we've already been [away from home] for about four weeks now. We're about to hit the four-week mark and then we have about 10 days that we're going to be playing the [IEM Dallas] qualifiers and BLAST Showdown during that time. As soon as that is done, we're going straight into a bootcamp for the Major and the Major is going to last about three weeks. I don't think that many people can understand how mentally taxing that is to be travelling for so long in a continuous way and having to be at the top of our games completely the whole time. It's really tough, and I feel like that is the biggest thing that I'm worried about. I think that we can persevere over it, but it's a factor that is going to be tough.
That's not a thing that a lot of people talk about, the fact that you guys are traveling so much, and you're away from friends and family for sometimes the majority of the year. Over your career how has that really affected you as a person?
I think that in the beginning of my career it wasn't as big of a problem because I was just super hyped to be travelling and all that, it was fun. Now it's kind of progressed where it's gotten more and more over the years. I feel like the travel has only gotten more and more intense. Especially in the last two years, I think it's broken me a little bit and this year I'm kind of coming back from that from how hard it was on me mentally. I think that it was really tough, really hard on me, especially last year. So, this year is kind of just bouncing back from that and we expected the schedule to be a little bit better which had had me at higher hopes and then everything kind of got ruined. It's arguably worse, I don't know the number is on, how many days it's been, but it has been really hard. I've just been taking it as it is, a more stoic mindset to it, and just powering through it.
Would you say that if you could be in a world where there were fewer days for events that you would want that?
Honestly, I think that they can cut down on the number of days of the events easily. I think that there shouldn't be a week buffer in between [the group stage and] playoffs. Not only does it kill the hype for the games, but it's also impossible for us to go home during that time. I personally think that should just be removed, we should go back to events where they were about 10 days long, 8 to 10 days long, that would just be so much better.
To talk about one of the teammates, shox has his family, I believe, still back in France. How does he stay positive during these kinds of long trips?
Well, everything is better when we're winning, so winning first of all definitely makes things feel better but it's going to be tough and I definitely feel for him, I understand how it is to be away from the people you love for so long. I don't think that he's had to do that for a bit since last year there were European online events, and in 2020 too, so he was at home the entire time. It's tough and we're going to be giving him as much love and support as we can during it. Since we're all going home after this four weeks in a row, but he's coming to NA right after. Thankfully, he's going to be with his family during that, but there's not that much buffer time and we're just going to be as much of a family as we can for him.
I'll end on a slightly lighter note, the NA fans at the moment get a lot of stick. They are meme'd a lot, and so are you guys, and I'm sure the pressure gets to you. Is there anything you want to say to those fans who have stuck with you guys the whole way through?
Yeah, I mean the fans that we have that have been super awesome with us the whole time, obviously we appreciate them a lot. Reading the nice comments when there's a sea of negative, it's always nice. Over my career it's been easier to just let go of the negative ones because they don't know what we're going through and how the games are, what could have happened during some of the rounds, and they are just freaking out. But we appreciate all the fans; all that people that are NA supporters we love you. NA doubters... You gotta keep it PG13 for the interview, but we're just here and they only fuel us, so yeah, that's it.