Jonji: "We have the grit and the balls to do good"
EG.PA made their way to Fragadelphia 17 after an unfortunate last-place exit for the squad at ESL Challenger Melbourne last week. The former Party Astronauts squad had little trouble in their first two matches of the Last Chance Qualifier as they trounced b4it and Vireo.pro, but their qualifying game against British side 7AM proved to be a more strenuous affair. In the end, despite dropping the opening map of Vertigo, EG.PA found their footing on the final two maps of the series, which saw the North Americans secure qualification for the main stage of the event after a 16-0 on the decider map of Nuke.
Shortly after the team's dominant finish on Nuke, EG.PA rifler Jonathan "Jonji" Carey sat down with Dust2.us' Samuel "Draik04" Popkes to cover a wide range of topics, including EG.PA's results over the past few months, the controversy that resulted from Evil Geniuses sending two teams to Fragadelphia, and what fans can look forward to seeing from EG.PA in the coming months.
Before talking about Fragadelphia, let's take a step back and discuss ESL Challenger Melbourne. What were the expectations for the team going to that event?
Our goal when we were going to Melbourne was a set goal which was to get out of groups. We went in there, and that was our first time having a set target goal of getting out of the groups, and I think it was all our first time dealing with that as well, let alone with a stage and crowd. We kinda just took it too seriously, and we tried almost too hard to accomplish our goal if that makes sense. We were too focused on that and not focused enough on playing our style of CS that we've been building and that we're comfortable with.
When you guys went to the Pinnacle Cup Championship, did you guys have a more loose approach then?
Yeah, when we went to Pinnacle Cup we had just been signed to EG, and we hadn't really had any of the help yet because we just signed and the help was coming up in a five-week bootcamp we ended up having at EG headquarters in Seattle. Beforehand, we were just kinda left to our own devices, which was fine. We just went there to see how we were going to do; I think we expected to put up a better fight against Finest when we were at Pinnacle Cup, but playing Astralis is always hard, especially for the first time. I remember my first time playing them - it was not a fun time at all.
For Melbourne, you highlighted getting hyperfocused on the goal of getting out of the group stage. Do you think there were any other issues like jetlag or having off day?
I personally just feel like it was the hyperfixation. We got there with almost five days before the event, so I don't think we can really blame the jetlag, to be honest. Everybody was feeling good, we just got a little nervous with the crowd and everything and then we were too... not stressed, but we weren't having fun or focusing on the right areas.
At both the Pinnacle Cup and Melbourne you guys, unfortunately, placed last. From an outsider's perspective, these results don't look great. Internally, do you guys feel like you're making progress as a unit?
I think every game we show that we make progress in certain ways, whether it be almost coming back from a 14-3 lead just now. We showed every time we play that we have the grit and the balls to do good, and it just comes down to us doing what we know how to do the best that we can, and not worrying about past results because at the end of the day that's in the past and if we're really good players we're gonna show that we learned from our mistakes.
Bringing it closer to home, we're at Fragadelphia right now, a way different event than Pinnacle Cup or Melbourne. Did you have set goals for this event like in Melbourne, or is it another loose approach like Pinnacle Cup?
I think, in my opinion, we're probably, if not the best team the second-best team here besides Apeks. Even then, I don't know that much about them so we could be better than them or on the same level, I have no idea. We'll see when we play them. We didn't really come in here with any expectations or pressure; it's Fragadelphia and we all know we're just here to have fun and just shoot people.
When talking about Fragadelphia we have to talk about the concerns some people have raised over Evil Geniuses sending two squads to this event. Could you share with me your thoughts on the matter?
I mean it's pretty obvious, I don't think anybody from either team wants to lose to each other, just from a pride perspective. If anything, it just made this tournament have more competition, and what's better than having more competition at a LAN? I feel like there's literally no bad thing about having more teams come here, I wish there was more, you know. It's a FRAG, and any exposure is good exposure for any of us. We're just here to have a good time.
Talking about the game you just played, can you walk me through it a bit? On Vertigo was it just a slow start for you guys, or did they have a really strong Vertigo that you guys weren't prepared for?
Since we qualified [for Melbourne] versus ATK, we put our focus on a couple extra areas because we had put a lot of focus on Vertigo. We just hadn't brushed up on it in a while. So like, I was just dying in really silly ways, the dumbest ways, and after the next map I was like "Yo guys, I'm sorry". I genuinely felt like I didn't know what was going on. We've played a stupid amount of Inferno and Nuke over my entire career plus on this team, so I was stupid confident that I knew we were just gonna crush them on the next two maps.
So far at FRAG you've played two North American teams, and 7AM, a British squad. Did you notice a distinct difference in the way 7AM played the game versus NA teams that you've played?
They definitely had better skill, but like the two teams that we played prior weren't event really teams, they were just puggers or friends. We didn't really expect much of them, we just got the games over with and prepared ourselves mentally and in-game for our games today.
Of the three main Evil Geniuses' rosters, the Party Astronauts squad is the only one that hasn't experienced any roster changes. Do you guys think that the stability you have as a five-man unit is a core strength for you guys?
I mean, how can it not be? When you go from myself on Bad News Bears, and them on PA, when you're unsalaried for so long it's insane that they even have that core that they had for a long time. People don't understand how much pressure it is that you have to play to get your paycheck, and that might sound bad, but there's people that at the end of the day they roll out of bed and they know they're making X amount of money. All of us came from having to do it, so we want to do it now, but it's also nice to not have the pressure that you're basically playing for a paycheck. We know at the end of the day we're gonna get compensated, and we just need to play our best game.
Now that you guys have qualified for the main stage, are there any teams that you're hoping to play?
I'd like to play Apeks, just to test our strength and see how good they are. Other than that, I'd love to play ATK or oNe just because we've always played against each other and it'd be a really fun series.
Not Carpe Diem?
I mean, yeah I'd love to play CD as well, but I think at the current moment, we should be, and I feel like we are, better than them. Obviously, they've had a few changes, like with RUSH. Like you were saying, our team has been stable for so long, if we play them we should win. It's expected of us.
On the subject of CD, recently they played the qualifier for ESL Challenger Rotterdam. I'm curious if you could elaborate on how the organization determines which team does which qualifier. Do you guys alternate, or is it something else?
I don't know how they choose to be completely honest, but it's only fair in my eyes that we made Melbourne, got to go to Australia to experience it, so I think they deserve a shot to get to go somewhere else to play against good teams.
With CD competing in ECL and the main team handling the partner team obligations, what can we look forward to for PA?
I believe that there's talks of a bootcamp in progress, going to Europe and getting that next step for our team. Yeah, we had that five-week bootcamp in North America, and at the end of it we showed that our bootcamp was successful I would say by qualifying [for Melbourne], I think it was a giant step for us. The next step is to go to Europe, get to play seven or eight hours, maybe more, scrims, practice, FPL in Europe, and play against the actual best players, and just get better. Every time we play there, we come back and we've learned so much, we just understand a little bit more about the game and it's just overall a great experience. So I think that's what you can expect from us, and then hopefully there's some things to play while we're over there.
EG.PA will continue their Fragadelphia 17 later today when the group stage of the main event kicks off. EG.PA's opening match in Group D against Vendetta is slated to begin at 12:00PM.