Courtesy: M80

M80 SyykoNT: "I had my eyes on Swisher from day one"

M80's VP of Esports talks laying the foundation for a tournament-winning squad.

Since entering North American Counter-Strike, M80 have exploded on the scene, immediately coming to blows with some of the region's best domestic squads. Currently undefeated in ECL, narrowly missing at spot at IEM Sydney, and looking at an upcoming ESL Pro League group, M80 has a lot to look forward to.

To get insight into the new organization,' Jeffrey "Mnmzzz" Moore reached out to M80's Vice President of esports, Donald "SyykoNT" Muir, to talk about the philosophy of building the roster and the specific players of which it comprises, the coaching, and expectations coming into EPL and beyond.

To start, was the plan always to assemble the roster this quickly, and the media tour was sleight of hand, or what happened to see M80 launch this early in CS?

I've definitely learned to throw in a bit of sleight of hand when it comes to dealing with containing information, right? But, in this case definitely we gave ourselves a broad window to get this project up and running, and fortunately some opportunities opened up that allowed us to get it off the ground way a little bit sooner.

The initial plan was to allow the team a bit of practice and development time before announcing, but certain factors pushed to announce a bit sooner, including the players wanting to get started. You get a good group of five players and a good coach and the first thing they want to start doing is playing.

Thunderpick allowed us a unique opportunity to introduce this roster to the world at the North American level and though it was just with a couple days of practice we're still very happy with the results and the qualification. I hope that people are excited with the little glimpse they've seen of what this project can do.

With this team launching as quickly as it did, does that suggest that M80 were always committed to signing an NA-based team?

I was definitely going into it with an open mind and exploring all options. I talked to a lot of players across a lot of different regions, that was definitely true but we were certainly leaning towards North America going into this considering our history as an organization and as individuals, as well as the other teams we have.

We saw a lot of other organizations pivoting away to the European Counter-Strike landscape, but we see the potential in North America. We see a lot of young up-and-coming talent that just need a system to develop in. I've seen it and done it firsthand in Valorant and I've seen this kids come up. Players like zekken, like Cryocells, with no competitive experience whatsoever and through matching them with veteran talent and very good coaching and support staff we've seen what we can do with these North American players. We want to break that stigma of how North American Counter-Strike is looked at right now.

M80 want to give some of these young talents the opportunity to come up and prove that they can compete with the best of the best given some time and support.

Speaking of bringing up younger talent, I wanted to ask you about M80's choice of lineup for each of the players and what you see in them. Can you walk me through the lineup starting with Swisher?

To be honest, I had my eyes on Swisher from day one. If we were going to go with the North American route he was the guy I wanted. I had some pretty early conversations with him that were very fruitful and I heard nothing but good things from his peers and other leaders in the industry.

I know Swisher had some interest from other big organizations at the time, so I knew I was on to something if others were also interested. A lot of people have been waiting for Swisher to get his shot and see what he can do. He's obviously had some showings out in Europe already where he's been moderately well if not pretty well. With some development time and some veterans and leaders around him he's going to have the chance to blossom into something really good.

What about the other two American names on this team, reck and WolfY? What can you tell me about their additions to the team?

reck is a young kid and he's been coming up with these ATK guys and putting up really good showings. He's been playing anchor positions and more of a support role but his mechanics are that of a star fragger and that given some time and development he too can become a true star in his role.

He's very raw, out of everyone on the roster he's the most moldable. We're excited to see what we can do with him but we've heard a lot of good things about him from his teammates. He was named by Swisher as someone he really wanted to play with. Other coaches in the scene have also pointed him out to me as well so I'm excited to give him an opportunity within this roster.

As for the AWP position, AWP talent is less deep in North America than it is in some of the other regions. Something I've been very keen on is that you do need a bit of a European flair to your roster. Though WolfY is an NA player, he is born to Swedish parents and he travels there quite often and he spent part of his Counter-Strike career playing in Europe with both Fnatic Academy and ECSTATIC.

He has some experience playing within European systems and that's something that was very important for me in pushing this project to be something that's going to line up with what top global Counter-Strike looks like. We want to push towards a system that can compete at that level in the next couple years.

While that trio came to M80 via free transfer, M80 had to go out and acquire maNkz and malbsMd. What made that duo so integral to go and seek out?

I talked to tons of IGLs, part of the process was to have this European flair to the style of play that we bring. I want to be much more in line with what the current meta is at the top level. Part of doing that and achieving the team cultural structure that I want of hard work, grinding, and putting in the long hours that's something that is in the blood of Danish Counter-Strike.

Bring in a Danish IGL was something that I was really excited about doing. We talked to a couple different Danish and European IGLs but maNkz was someone who I think is at the sweet spot in his career for what we're looking to do. He's still moderately young, in his mid-20s, but he's been working with a tier-two roster in Europe and been doing very good things with them. He's achieved incredible results with a team which, to be frank, has no stars on it. It's a bunch of players that are underneath him that he is leading to success.

He didn't have a coach, they don't have a lot of support outside of their salaries and it's been clear he's been running the show for a very long time and achieving results. He's someone who I can trust to come in and be a very good IGL and a very good leader. He was another one who had other interest from other orgs so once I knew that top ten teams were looking at this guy, I knew I was onto something in the scouting process.

His calling reminds me a lot of IGLs that I've worked with in the past, specifically dephh and listening to him call lines up so well with how dephh looks at the game and looks at the IGL role and structure. I think they are going to be a very good pair together that lent a lot of reasoning into why he selected maNkz.

As for malbsMd, he was one of the first people to reach out to me when I made that tweet. We had a really early conversation and I wasn't entirely certain about him at first. I wanted to get more information, but the more people I spoke to about him, again it was nothing but good things to say about this guy.

dephh and I started looking at some VODs and watching the tape and it's just incredible the amount of mechanical skill malbsMd has and the amount of potential he has. It's clear that he has already started to develop this understanding of top-level teamplay and how to work with his teammates and approach fights from a team mentality rather than just swinging and go for kills. We see this potential in him to be even greater than he already is, and he's someone who's putting up some incredible numbers. I think he's a shining beacon for the firepower of this squad moving forward.

Based on what you have said thus far, it seems like dephh has been an integral part of M80's plans in building this squad. How long have you known that you wanted him to become a part of this roster?

dephh was my IGL on Sentinels and XSET so we've been together for two-and-a-half years as an IGL-coach duo. That duo and relationship is so incredibly important for the success and development of the teams and the vision. We always discussed the potential of when I inevitably moved up to management roles and he moved up to coaching to stick together. He wasn't originally going to be part of this project but he was someone who I was heavily consulting going into it.

I'd tell him who I was talking to and asked what we thought and just going back and forth I realized there was some interest from his end to come in and coach this project. The first couple times I asked he wasn't sure if he wanted to keep playing or move into coaching but on the third or fourth time I asked him he came around and the chance to reunite with me and to reunite with Marco was really exciting.

He's someone I have a lot of faith in as a leader, not just in game, but also as a human and as a leader of men. He knows how to mold people and get the best out of them. These are traits that are pivotally important for a coach especially in a game like this. Though he has been playing VALORANT recently, he played Counter-Strike for a very long time and made some deep runs at Majors. He's no stranger to CS strategy and being an IGL himself. He's someone who's just intricately in the know.

There was no concerns from me in terms of him coming over from VALORANT and back in Counter-Strike.

Looking towards M80's LAN debut, how important is it for M80 to have a strong debut at ESL Pro League?

I have said from the beginning the purpose of the roster is to lay the foundation for success in the future. We want to be contenders and in 1-3 years, and we want to attend Majors and make deep runs but it's not an expectation we are going to place on our players right away.

We see it as an opportunity for growth and for experience. We don't see this as an opportunity to come in and expect immediate results. It's a benchmark for the team and coaching staff to assess where we're at and what we need to work on across the next six months to a year where when we come to EPL we're able to put up a better showing.

It's all about those building blocks and providing benchmarks and goals to slowly and surely develop this team to get better and better to reach a point where we are contenders.

As someone with experience in multiple esports disciplines and sectors, is there one change you would like to make to CS2 as a product more compelling when it releases in the near future?

It's a bit early for me to say, I've been watching Counter-Strike for a very long time as a spectator but up until now this is my first foray into CS behind the curtain so it's early for me to recommend any changes in terms of the view experience. But, a very big step in the right direction would be bringing some sort of Pro League back to North America. The organizational investment is here, the viewership is here if it were taken advantage of properly and executed sustainably. That would be the biggest change for me, it's hard for NA fans to get behind their teams when there's not a lot of opportunity for the teams here outside of small competitions.

We discussed this previously, but with the general buzz towards CS2 we've seen a number of NA players and coaches return to the game. Do you think it's possible to see more VALORANT pros dip their toes into the water and come to CS2?

There's definitely buzz around CS2 both among viewers, players, and industry folk alike. Everybody is dipping their toes back into the game to play a little bit. A lot is up in the air in terms of the level of investment that's going to come back into CS, but with the likes of M80 and TSM, some of these other orgs that have been hinting about it may follow through.

From there who knows? There's an opportunity for a resurgence for North American Counter-Strike teams. If that is the case and if roster are playing and organizations are investing, these VALORANT players will see this opportunity come back and pursue a career in a game they once enjoyed, it inevitably will happen.

There's a lot of young North American tactical FPS talent that is laying around playing ranked in VALORANT, Counter-Strike, or BattleBit, or whatever, these guys are there and they're just waiting for someone to put them together into a team, develop them, and show the fundamentals and then just let them grow.

If more organizations come back and allow these players opportunities to do that, I think the players will take these opportunities.

To close out this interview with another fairly bullish question, do you see this core once the foundation has been laid as a team that can contend for top eight at Majors?

The idea was definitely to lay the foundation for something that's going to be great. Is that going to be in six months or in three years? We don't know. What kind of decisions and what kind of changes we'll have to make along the way we don't know. But, we have built the foundation for something that is going to be great.

I have been on organizations where they spend millions in buyouts and just put together a team of five players that have been good in the past and just hope they mesh well. I've also been on teams where you put together teams where you put together five players who click very well and have a lot of potential, but are unknown and then you let that team develop over time and make changes and asses needs, and give them time to cook so to speak.

That is the better option and that's what M80 is trying to do here and lay this foundation. Maybe it's these same five players in two years that are making a Major and making a deep run or maybe even winning a Major, who knows? But with the talent we've laid here with our young, unproven players, and they have a lot of potential to come up and the sky's the limit truly.

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#1(With 0 replies)
September 11, 2023 07:59AM
lets see if they win a series in pro league
#2(With 0 replies)
September 11, 2023 03:34PM
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