MAJ3R : "it's a bad change for us, Cbble was one of our strong maps"
After the elimination of Space Soldiers at the DreamHack Masters Marseille, we got the chance to interview their ingame leader, Engin "MAJ3R" Kupeli.
(Interview in French)
We’re here at DreamHack Masters Marseille with MAJ3R, from Space Soldiers who unfortunately lost in the group stage after two Bo1 defeats. First of all, I'd like to ask about your feelings on your journey. We expected Space Soldiers to go up a notch and to see you do some damage here in Marseille. How do you reflect on how it unfolded?
So, it’s been a pretty catastrophic day for us, we played Astralis and they completely ran over us. And now, they are in the final and they’ve destroyed many teams. I kind of had that impression when we played them, I really felt that they were very strong. I couldn't find a solution against them, with the cards I had, with my team, etc. I couldn't find a solution at the moment, they played really well.
Then, we played Gambit. We started terrorists on Train, it's not ideal. I think that was my mistake. But basically, two Bo1, we had to prove that we were… basically on the Internet, we were in good shape these days but it's not the best place for me to really show something. Actually, when you play two Bo1 like that against two good teams, you have to perform right on this specific day, this specific hour, this specific minute. The problem is that we had an off day, and it went very badly. That's unprofessional. We come here, we are challengers, we play big teams, we have to show up, so we must not have an off day and unfortunately, we had it.
We're trying to see why it happened, why we lacked, not motivation, but let’s say that we didn't start the game at 150%. We started the game at 100% but normally, when we play, we play at 150%, not 100%. So we are trying to see what we can do in the future so that this does not happen again. It's a bad performance for us, we were disappointed and that's it.
For you, it's really a direct counter-performance?
For the team, yes, it's a counter-performance. If we had played a bit better, fought a little more, okay. We played, we got rolled over, we scored two rounds on two sides and we go home. We flew for eight hours there for nothing and it's unprofessional. We're here, we're outsiders, we have to show more than that.
Focusing more on Space Soldiers, we sense that you've recently climbed some steps. At the Major, we saw you do some great things, you made it to the WESG final, a tournament where you had already scored a good placing last year. How did you manage to climb these steps, what do you think is missing to climb the others according to you?
I think we've reached a point where we can beat a big team, any team, but we can also lose to pretty much any team. I think we're getting to a level where, against tier two and some teams, we won't lose but we're trying to get into the tier one, the top 10 and it's quite complicated. What’s at stake, against the tier one teams, is not tactical, is not about aim, but rather about everything that happens mid-round. When I say mid-round, I mean that when we start the round, then something happens, what’s our decision? It’s the adaptation based on what we see. Against good teams, it's important to have a fairly fast reaction time. That is, if I see something, I call based on what I see. But against good teams, if I'm on the left side of the map and something happens on the right side, it's up to my teammates on the right side to take a decision. I can't make a decision from the other side of the map. Against lesser teams, I can do it, and it works because the teams we are facing are not that strong so there is more time to react. But against good teams like Astralis for example, when players get aggressive on one side, then on another and back again, all the attacked sides have to make a decision immediately and I think we have a problem with that, with mid-round calling. We need to work on this, I need to work on this as leader. If we succeed, I think we'll have climbed an important step, but for now, we're a team between tier one and tier two. We're not consistent enough with our LAN performances. Even online, we had good results in the ESL Pro League but the system also helps. The EPL veto system is like, we favor the maps we want to play against a team, so there are three maps we remove. When I remove three maps from the pool, I’m left with maps where I'm quite confident to play them.
However, this Dreamhack format where it’s Bo1… In my opinion, the mistake I made at this LAN is to play the most important match, the decider against Gambit, on Train with the risk of starting as terrorists. I should have picked a slightly more balanced map, like Inferno, even if we got beaten by Astralis on it. On the T side, we wouldn't have gotten crushed like that. At least we could have had a few rounds to fight. But here on Train, when you start the game badly on the T side, it's complicated against a team that goes with full force into the match, it's difficult. My mistake here is to not have picked a more open-ended map.
Let’s talk about more joyful things, WESG. What's your reflection on your performance there? What do you think you missed in the finals?
It's the same problem, in the end, we make a good CT side, we win the gun round as terrorist so it's not bad. We had to win a few extra buy rounds to close the game but we don't get them because our opponents adapted. We couldn't find a solution, I couldn't find a solution at the right moment. It's hard because the problem in my team is that I don't have someone to support me sometimes when I have to take decisions. All these must come from me. My teammates don't have that much experience, they’re learning, little by little. Now, some people in my team are starting to suggest decisions but overall, in 90% of the cases, I have to take the decision, I have to see what's going on. Then it's quite complicated to pay attention to my game, to what's going on, and take decisions at the same time. I do it, but when we play a good team, it’s brain-melting and sometimes it's complicated.
I really think that with Space Soldiers, to make it to the next level, I need my teammates, not just as players, but I need that two or three players like me garner experience, and become able to see the things that I see. All this comes with time, with experience. I had to learn, it took time, I did a lot of LANs, it doesn't pop up like that. It's like a chess game, you have your board, your opponent makes a move and you have to make a quick counter move to counter it. That's all about experience. If you've been through a situation a thousand times, you know pretty much what you're gonna do. In their case they only experienced it a hundred times. I've experienced it a thousand times, so I react faster. It's all based on experience and time. You have to stay together, stick together and work together.
Is it something you want to set up, to have a co-lead on map sides where you don't play?
Not a co-lead, but I'm just human. For example, if in my default, I go somewhere on the right and something happens on the left, if a player gets one or two kills, then someone on this side has to say "we accelerate or we freeze". Now, it's me, on the other side, who has to look at my radar, try to imagine the situation based on communications and then tell them to accelerate or freeze. But I am far from the action. Sometimes I make random calls. These aren't calls I'm sure of. Against Gambit, as terrorist, we often got the opening kill, we were often 5vs4. Afterwards, there was no mid round call, I did not give any, I tried to let them have some freedom but then…
We need to work on that. Mid-round, we did something, or they did something, you take a decision, you close it together. When you take your decision, people understand you, we all are on the same page, and that's when a team really works out and becomes consistent.
So more initiative from the players themselves, or from small groups of players?
Yeah, that's right. Now I'm gonna let them be free, give them freedom. Even if they do something wrong, they'll understand on their own. Before I was stricter, I was in a phase where when I came into the team, we had to have results. So I really structured everything, I created tactics, I structured everything, I tried to understand their strengths and weaknesses and I created a playstyle based on that. Like, we absolutely had to win. Now we've won some, we've managed to accomplish things, but to get past this stage, I have to do things differently. I must let them have complete freedom, let them decide what to do. I don't say anything anymore, I just tell them when they make a mistake from my point of view, what they could have done or not done. They will learn from themselves and from the experience they will gain. This is my mindset right now.
To continue on WESG, fnatic expected a difficult match against you, the scene talks highly of you, because you are getting better, etc.. You said you liked the outsider status because you feel that you have a real advantage. Do you think that you can still see yourself that way when people fear you or see you as a strong team now?
It's all about empathy. I was in a good team on 1.6 so I played outsiders and I know what the favourites think, they say "alright, our opponents aren't bad, but if we play our game we'll beat them". With that state of mind, if the outsiders start the game really strong and cut your throat really fast, it's hard to come back. Now the problem is that since two, three, four months with Space Soldiers, we don’t have this status anymore, we have a status more like "it's a good team, they can perform well against very good teams, but they can lose against anyone". To start a match knowing that this team has this state of mind, for me it's a strong point, it's a strength, the strength of the outsider. Now, some teams like Astralis, when they play against us in Bo1, they know that if they give us a chance, we can jump on it and win right away, so they start super strong, play seriously and kick our asses. And these guys now think "alright, when these guys play, they're not bad, they're capable of beating us, guys, we have to play our game and it will be fine". We've lost some of that outsider strength and it's something we deserve, something we've managed to earn, so we also have to put our cojones on the table now and say "guys, okay now if we're really going to be a good team, we have to put more [cojones on the table]".
Let’s talk about the recent news, there was an update this very weekend that changed the competitive map pool. We saw Dust 2 which was reintroduced and Cobblestone which was discarded. Cobblestone is one of your strong maps, how are you going to approach this change?
To be honest, it's a bad change for us, I’m not gonna lie. cbble was one of our strong maps. When we play Bo3, we have two really strong maps: cache and cbble. So when a team bans nuke, I take cbble and vice versa so I was confident on the maps we were playing. Now, there is no more cbble so we have to find another map. We have to work on a map where we are really comfortable. We have a good map pool… well it's not really good, but I would say that against tier one we have a bad map pool and against tier two we have a good map pool. Some tier two teams don't play Nuke, so I don't ban it and I'm able to play Nuke against them, no problem.
We beat North on Nuke even though it is a very good team. For me it is a team right between tier one and tier two, kind of like us. But when you play tier one like Astralis, you can't leave Nuke, because you have an 80% chance of losing, because the guys are really strong on it. Our map pool against tier one isn't very good, and now they're taking Cbble off it so that's not good, we really need to go back on that. It's a bit complicated, it's not good for us, but with work we'll fix it and we have to remain positive, it's not the end of the world. Dust 2 was a map we were pretty strong on, in the sense that my players like Dust 2 and we will work on it and it will be our Cbble, no choice.
We’ll be in June soon, when there will be the Blast Pro Series in Istanbul, Turkey. We can imagine that as the first major tournament in Turkey, it’s going to be really important, but at the same time you’ve been invited, it’s only invites, and it’s a pool of teams that can be quite scary, how you approach this tournament?
I'm looking forward to it, it’s the first time in Turkey, in Istanbul, it's something important for me, we're playing in front of our audience. The teams that are there, it's a good tier above us for now, we’re not going to lie, it’s teams that are stronger than us on paper. We're going to be outsiders, but we're not going to fail our invitation, we'll go there and we'll give everything we have, whether it's astralis, whether it's SK in front of me, I don't care. As Makelele said during the 2006 World Cup "I don't give a shit that there's Brazil in front of me". We'll give it our all and we'll fight, because we'll be in front of our audience and there's pride at stake. It is important to give everything we have and even if we get a bad result, the important thing is to give everything we have and that’s the main thing.
You've been evolving on the Turkish scene now for about a year, and recently you’ve obviously seen everything that happened with G2, the French scene, etc. A comment on this situation?
The two best French teams, G2 and nV, are rebuilding. They are in phase where they must rebuild something, G2 removed shox, one of their pillars, that is to say, he was a leader therefore he had a rather important role. They put Nathan [E/N: NBK] in the lead, I think he's capable too, he's a great player. They just need time. They recruited Mixwell and the communication takes time to adapt. Rome wasn't built in a day. So it takes time, as we needed time with Space Soldiers, at first when I came in I needed a solid three months to be able to explain them my game plan, etc. It takes time, it's not easy. And the problem in these teams is that time is their enemy, it's not something they have in spades. They need results and that's up to them to prove that and assume this G2 player status and do it.
I wish them happiness, I love them all, I am in good terms with all the players whether in nV or in G2. Frankly I am in good terms with everyone. And with work they can do it, but if they remain over the moon, like "it is ok, we’re playing in G2, nV" it will not work. They really need to work. You know, talent is important but work is even more important, really. And even for the young players who arrive in the scene, guys, if you ever want to play in a good team or tournaments, it’s mandatory to work. Without it, even if you are the most talented player in the world it won't do. It might work once but you won't be able to stay on top. And that's what's important.
G2 brought Mixwell in. The situation is different, but you too were evolving on the French scene before and you found yourself in the Turkish scene. You could speak Turkish right? For callouts, etc. it's not the same though.
Of course I spoke Turkish, but even today I speak better English than Turkish. The thing is, it's my third language and when I came into the team, the callouts were different, I had to explain what I was talking about, what I wanted to do, there’s an adaptation time. Mixwell, he just arrived, although he doesn’t have a leading role like me at Space Soldier. When I arrived I spent twelve hours of CS every day between four walls. I had no social life, I was there in the gaming house, I had nothing at all and I made a lot of efforts. But in the case of G2 and Mixwell, you need time to adapt and at some point it will eventually work, it’s going to succeed, they have to believe that, it will come with work as I said, I like that word.
Any last words?
Thanks to all the French fans, I really love you, I see your messages, your support, it touches me. And one day if I'm not too old, because I'm 27 years old, I may come back to France and make a team and teach what I was taught in the past. It will be with pleasure, because I was born in France, I feel as French as I feel Turkish, really. Today I had no choice, to be honest, I was at a point in my career when I had to make a decision either to stop, or to come back fully committed. I made the decision to come back that way with a team of youngsters, etc. I had to make a decision. But then if I have the opportunity to come back to France, it will be with great pleasure. Thanks for the interview.
Questions by Ragnarork ; Translation by neL, Ragnarork and Siger.
Credit photos : hltv.org