After two BO3s, EliGE and co will have to go through Astralis

EliGE: "I am 100% expecting whoever our next opponent is to pick Inferno"

Liquid is now on the cusp of the Legends stage after taking down their North American rival Complexity.

While reporting from the PGL Major in Antwerp,' Ryan Friend chatted with Liquid's Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski after their BO3 elimination win over Complexity. Before it was confirmed Astralis would be Liquid's opponent, the two discussed coming back from 0-2, team-building, the ESIC bans, and more.

I'm here with EliGE, coming off the victory against Complexity, it was not as tight of a game but a little bit scary towards the end. You had 8-9 round losses in a row that you probably could have executed, any thoughts on that?

Yeah that was kind of rough. I felt like there were a lot of nervous mistakes that were happening, but in the end, we took it so, whatever.

When you say nervous mistakes, what exactly do you mean?

I think just a few jitters in some situations, over-peeking a little bit when we're a man up or just being scared to make mistakes overall. I could definitely feel that instead of being confident in the fundamentals that we have, people trying to end the match or not being exactly sure of what they should be doing. So I think, overall, we just got a bit nervous but in the end, I think we were playing a lot better.

So, you guys had Ancient, Vertigo and Overpass. Ancient was a little interesting to let through since Complexity had played it a lot during the RMR, was there any thought in not banning Nuke and perhaps banning Ancient instead?

No, no way. We're way better than them on Ancient. We played them on Ancient at one of the last tournaments and we beat them as well. And I think it's our best map, we've been picking it whenever we can. It's just, in the BO1s, it's just not possible to be picking our best map like that, but statistically, it doesn't look like our best map because we've had some hard games on it and we were getting used to Ancient in the beginning. I think that, overall, we're still really good at it, and that we played better than them on it, so we weren't gonna take any big risks like that.

Vertigo was also an interesting game there with it being Complexity's pick, but you really jumped out fast, was there anything that you were thinking about that you wanted to try and exploit, and what was your game plan?

Well, we knew it was going to be 70/30 Vertigo/Inferno pick, but they got owned on Inferno by Vitality, so that's why it was at a lower percentage. But, we kind of figured that it would be Vertigo and we still had the preparation that we had when we last played them, they've only played a little bit since then, so all we had to do was update how they're going to be playing, we know the pacings that they do and the little plays that they have and they're kind of super obvious tells, and we're comfortable against them.

You guys had your backs against the wall, 0-2 isn't the position you want to start out at, how are you feeling now that you have that last shot to make it through?

To me, it doesn't really feel any different. We're a good enough team to make it out and it might end up being against Astralis, but I haven't checked out who we will be playing.

Let's check live... it's either Bad News Eagles or Astralis so what are your thoughts on that?

Honestly, I've never watched BNE play once, there are so many matches in CS and so I only really watch the teams that will be up against us. But yeah, I mean they're playing good enough to get to this point so we're going to take them pretty seriously whenever we know the matchups are confirmed with the match prep. Astralis is obviously a really good team as well but I think that we're stronger than them. I don't think they're playing that scary, I think that our map pool is better than theirs. We'll see, I'm looking forward to it.

Liquid have undergone a rebuild, how have you felt with that development of the team and all those potential changes that have happened?

It's definitely a new team compared to the end of last year. We swapped three players, and we were going to have to do the building blocks just like everybody else. It's not just that nitr0 was on a team before so he's going to know everything instantly. There are completely new fundamentals, new protocols and stuff that we have to go over, new strats and the pacings of the round and it's been a process. There are a lot of learning pains that we had to go through, and I think everybody should be expecting that. It's not the same as other teams changing one or two players, it's huge the amount of stuff we have to go over. So there's been a lot we've had to cover, figuring out our team identity, how we want to play a lot of the rounds, and that's the thing that is being the most help, just being really focused because if you go through every little mistake that happens, or every setup that you wanna fix here or there, it's going to take forever. There are so many maps and only so much that you can talk about and that people can remember. So, it's better to just go over the identity of how you want to play, in general, those rounds. It'll be easier for it to flow in your head when they're happening because if you identify: "This is how we want to play in this type of situation" across all maps, and if that's how we feel, then we should be able to identify that in the round, in whatever map it is and come up with the correct solution. So that's been our main focus in the last two months and what has helped us the most.

Toward the end of last year you said that you wanted to be a better teammate and that last year was obviously very difficult for Liquid internally, so with this year, how do feel that you have developed yourself to be a better teammate, especially with someone very new and who doesn’t have a lot of Tier 1 experience such as oSee coming in and do you feel like you have been more of a leader since you have been around for so many iterations of this team?

When first starting off in the team for this year it was obviously going to be a process, especially with how I felt about last year, with it nearly being like a PTSD kind of feeling of “oh it’s this again”. Even with a completely new team, I’m going to have to change that because it’s not an easy thing to shift instantly even though I’ve done it like that before back in 2017 where I said, “Ok this is serious, I have to get better at this” but it’s a process and it does take time. It took me about 2 to 3 months to get comfortable in the mentality that I have in being able to move forward with things and being easier with mistakes and my overall mentality which means being happier in general. It’s been a lot easier to be happier this year, whereas last year I was a lot sadder in general. Last year was a really tough year personally and professionally, whereas now I think I can handle the balance better despite the schedule being kind of crap. There’s been promises of it getting better which gave me hope which does help with the mentality of how I was feeling personally. So overall, a lot better.

Mentality has been a big topic within this Liquid team for a long time, with the mentality of shox being looked at now. When I was speaking with nitr0 he said that shox has been under a lot of pressure and it has been hard for him since he thought he was going to have a lot more opportunities to be in Europe. His performances for the first half of this event have not been very solid, but he has really picked it up in the second half. Has there been something that he has done to pick up his performance or was it something you guys did to help him out?

Nothing specifically, but maybe the obvious one is that we stopped picking Inferno! We haven’t played Inferno in the last two bo3’s so that’s made it a lot better which I don’t know, can that be my answer!

oSee has really been stepping up by being that secondary caller and a supportive voice in the team. We have also heard before that shox has been a very good voice in terms of helping out and leading. Are those the voices in the team that everyone is starting to rally behind and that lead you?

I would say that it is mainly shox as a secondary caller. oSee is definitely very good in figuring out things that he can do to get picks and how he wants to support the team in rounds with what kind of strats we could be doing, but overall it’s nitr0 and shox. Myself and Naf are obviously helping too, but the majority is definitely nitr0 and shox.

You’ve knocked out the other North Amercian team. Did it feel good or feel bad to knock out Complexity?

It definitely doesn’t feel very good to beat them. When we saw the matchup that we would be playing them I felt good because I thought it was a good matchup for us and one that we could win, but it feels bad because we are all friends and we were even talking before the match so it doesn’t feel good to beat your friends but it is what it is. Whenever you lose, you can learn a lot so they’re going to take stuff from this loss and get better.

There are now only a few more chances for teams from the Americas to go through, so where do you feel that you guys would find the most success at this event and what is the realistic goal for this tournament?

I think the biggest goal would to be make it out of the Legends stage. The obvious short-term goal is to make it out of the Challengers stage, but overall at the major, we want to make it out of the Swiss format at the Legends stage where there are a lot of strong teams. If we were to squeak out some wins against those teams, it would feel really good for us heading into IEM Dallas.

In order to do that you guys are going to need to iron out some of those mistakes that you have had. What are some of those mistakes that you feel specifically need to be ironed out?

The main thing would be Inferno since it has been really tough for us. Thankfully for us, 9z and Complexity were not comfortable enough on Inferno so that was good for us. I am 100% expecting whoever our next opponent is to pick Inferno and if they don’t that would be really nice for us that they wouldn’t be confident enough in themselves. If you don’t feel confident enough to pick Inferno after watching our first two games, then surely they don’t have a lot of confidence in their map pool. We’ve gone over our Inferno stuff already and we have some interim changes that we are going to be doing to make us less predictable and have a better direction on T-side by correcting some of the mistakes that we recognized there and we have some good ideas on CT-side too. We just have to see how it goes because in theory, it might be better but when you get into a match that’s when you really see if it is working.

ESIC recently banned Peacemaker, Zakk and Hally just before the major with the timing causing a lot of controversy on social media. Do you think the bans were justifiable for the major and the timing of when the punishments were handed out?

I think it’s really random because they had the clips for so long and then decided to do it now. You can see the clips were uploaded in early 2021 so I don’t understand why it took so long. I didn’t watch everything but I think they were trying to cover their bases just in case those teams did go far in the major since some people would then put an asterisk next to it. I am not saying that but I do think ESIC need to have more resources if they’re going to be so strict with their rulings because with some of them it was just one round, it was third person and they didn’t even move it which resulted in a zero-tolerance policy that was so extreme where the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. If you’re going to say that one instance where nothing really happened is something like one year, then I think that’s crazy. The free-roam bugs are a totally different thing and that’s clear from some of the cases, but for some of the other ones I think it’s too much because anyone in their position would be saying “well is this going to fix itself after the round?” and if they leave after the round when it isn’t fixed I don’t understand why they should be banned for so long.

Finally, Evil Geniuses have been in the news with Malek being transfer listed and both EVY and Hepa have had their contracts terminated, with the latter two finding out via Twitter. Any thoughts on Evil Geniuses and this coaching overhaul?

I don’t really know what their plan is, but from reading some of their comments it seems like the only change which is going to be made and that they’re blaming the coaching staff but I don’t really feel like that’s the vibe I got from it and I think they’ll be doing more. I feel like most people would say that it’s not the coaching staff that is the problem and that there’s a lot of things going on and they’re trying to address it however they can. It would have been nicer if they told people before they removed them, but I guess there are just a lot of oversights happening there.

After eliminating Complexity, Liquid will have to beat their long-time rivals Astralis in a final showdown with advancement and elimination on the line.

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