ash: “It’s great to see how EPIC is still stepping up after all this time. This is kind of what the scene needs”

It isn’t often that the halls of the Kettering Leisure Village are graced with the presence of a Major finalist. But at EPIC40, Ashley “ash” Battye came for the Friday and Saturday to check out the tournament. UKCSGO’s Lewis “badger” Head sat down with the GamerLegion coach to talk about the team’s Paris Major run, creating a team environment, and the team’s goals going forward.

Can you talk to me a little bit about the Paris run, in your own words, your perspective on it?

We had a meeting at the start of the tournament because I felt like Tier 1 CS was struggling at the moment and it was basically, if we get some momentum, we get confidence going. We felt really good at that moment. Teams are looking at us online and saying, GamerLegion aren’t in good form, but we’re actually in great form. We just lost a couple of games very close to the major. I think we lost to Astralis and ENCE, which is… It can happen, right? We actually felt really good. I was saying that if we keep going, there’s a chance we can actually win this major. This is from before the first game.

Then obviously, we start the tournament and we lose two best of ones instantly and it’s feeling a bit not as good then. But we managed to get ourselves going just with the mousesports win. Then we have momentum and we just from there, we were just getting better and better and better. And it just felt like all the time that we were going to win and we were just going to keep winning and nothing was going to stop us.

And the mood was great,  it didn’t feel like it was lucky or anything like this. We didn’t feel like we were playing gimmicky CS. We were playing just good counterstrike, communicating well, everyone’s playing great. And it was just an amazing experience. The way everyone played was quite fantastic.

ash at the Blast.TV Paris Major

Getting into the arena, can you speak a little bit about how that experience was for you?

It was great. We played in Brazil in Rio and that was very hostile. Very, very, very hostile over there. It was loud. There were a lot of fans that were a bit close to the stage. There was lots of shouting, screaming, booing, jeering, death threats and all sorts the whole time. I think it gave us a lot of experience for this one because now we’re coming to a new one and naturally the crowd were on our side because of keoz and the French crowd were behind us and the crowd was great. It was so loud. It was so big.

I think instead of being intimidated, we were actually taking it all in this time because of Rio. I think if this was our first event, we’d have probably found a different impression where it got to us. But here it was like a real boost for us from the go.

You’ve been with GamerLegion for over three years now. How good was it to find success with that organisation?

I think it makes it more special. When you know people for a long time, you get proper relationships. I think that makes it more special. When you know people, you know the organization owner, you have a good relationship with the manager and assistants. All the staff, I know all the media staff, we know them by name, we’re in groups and we talk with them, we hang out together. It makes it all one big group. When we do stuff, we have meetings. Everyone’s in the practice room all the time.

Everyone has their own dynamic in the team and it’s come from quite a lot of time. If you jump to a new team, you have success. You don’t really know who anyone is, you don’t really have the relationship. When you win, they’re more colleagues, I think, like this. But at this point, we’re more like a family because it’s been so long and we’ve seen so many ups and downs and we’ve gone through so many changes of players and staff and things like this. I think it makes it much better. Actually, the staff feel like they’re more involved as well as part of the win. Then it adds to the dynamic because it feels like you’ve all won together a little bit and I think it made it special.

Talking about the dynamic of a team, obviously, you’ve had new players coming in recently. Is there a dynamic or a team environment you try and foster as the coach?

Yeah, definitely. I don’t openly talk about it. I think maybe I talk to the people in the first instance about what I want from them and how we’re trying to build the team. But for me, the team environment is so, so, so, so important. That’s something where I want everyone to be enjoying things all the time. I want to feel like everyone’s got each other’s backs. I want everyone to feel like they’re friends with the people here and we’re not forcing it. There’s nothing that’s: “We have to do this, you have to do this”. We’re leading by example all the time and joining in.

It’s a team thing, right? You come from a sports background, we see teams like Heroic as well. They’re really putting emphasis on the team side of things to get the most out of people. That’s why I want to get really talented players in who fit the way I want to play and get the most out of them, and if we do that then we can perform, maybe even beyond our ability and we can be more consistent.

After the Major, you had Suihy and iM leave the team, move elsewhere, but then you had volt and now Snax coming in. Have you had to change the way that you play at all to fit them in?

A little bit. I guess the main change has been that we lost a very, very aggressive player in iM, and then we have to get a person to take up that presence and we looked at quite a few people that fit more into the role than volt, but volt is someone that I’ve really, really wanted for quite a long time. And it’s like, You know what? We can’t get the people that fit the role. Actually, volt is going to have to come in and he’s going to have to learn how to play these roles and then we’ll take a short term hit, but then we can actually play more of a defined style.

Then Snax was, we have a very specific set of players, I feel like, and I want to get the most out of them all the time. We don’t want to play a super slow, calculated style where all our players need to win their aim duels and have to be really on it. I want to have a proper style that we can be explosive, we can play slow, we can do things as a team.

I feel like Snax has a really good idea of that. He’s in the mould of Suihy in the way that he in game leads. I imagine Suihy probably learnt quite a lot from Snax. He’s been a great player for a while, he’s been a great player for many years. And he also really understands the team side of things and he really wants to be involved in everything. His leadership style is great and it helps have a style that’s really definitive and all the players are used to it because they have before. So it’s not perfect, but we’re getting there, and we’re going to have a much higher ceiling.

volt, playing for ITB, at the Blast.TV Paris Major

Another bit of news coming out about GamerLegion recently was the academy project headed up by LVN. Can you speak at all to a potential relationship between the academy roster and the main team?

Yeah, so we talked a while about having an academy team and we want to be able to produce our own players because obviously the market is very difficult. As it is, the players are all on massive contracts, instantly locked down to academy teams. It means that if you want to get anyone that’s upcoming, they’re already on a massive team. It’s like we want to develop our own players, we want to push the main team a bit too… There’s a little bit of external pressure. We need to make sure we are grinding a lot because the new guys here, they’re going to be hungry.

If they’re performing, it’s going to push them a little bit. There’s other small reasons as well to why we want to have an academy team, but the main ones are we want to produce our own players. We believe that because of the success and longevity of GamerLegion, we can actually get into some tournaments and actually get these players pushed into tournament invites they might not be able to get otherwise. I think that’s more interesting for them and it gives them a path to the main team. It’s going to be a long-term future. I think that it’s what we need to do at this point.

CS2 is out now. Are there any big changes you’re a fan of, not a fan of?

I think the game is not really ready yet, to be honest. I think some people are being harsh, I know it’s not many people, but I feel like it’s just not ready at all. Not that we’re not going to use this as an excuse. It’s just you sit back as the coach and you think, First off, I can’t be in the server with the guys because they’ve not enabled coaching. There’s so many little things like the tracers aren’t where you think they are, and you think a bullet’s going somewhere because of the tracer and it isn’t and it’s hard to have that because it’s a new spray.

The peeker’s advantage is a big problem. The FPS looks disastrous sometimes and then people are dying behind walls. I think there’s a lot of really big issues, but I think that also the game, when we played in Sydney, actually has quite a lot of potential still. It’s just very far away from being done. I’m a bit disappointed that they rushed it out because CS:GO was in a really good place at the time. Then CS:2 was there to leap onto that.

I think they just rushed it a little bit and now we’re seeing some negatives are there, but I trust Valve to get those things right. Maybe they won’t add everything that was in CS:GO, which will be disappointing, but I think it’ll be a good game eventually. Just now, I just don’t think it’s even close enough to be playing competitively.

You most recently had a top eight finish at IEM Sydney. What are your goals for GamerLegion as a team for this upcoming year?

We’d like to just keep showing consistency. I think that the whole time I’ve been the coach. I don’t think we’ve ever bombed out last in the competition. We’ve always been, I’d say, where people think we are, we’re always above that all the time. Maybe one or two stages beyond that. I want to keep doing that. And eventually people might look at us and go, Oh, GamerLegion. Maybe they are actually quite a good team. Rather than just saying, GamerLegion are going to lose. They’re bad. The players aren’t good enough. Nothing they do is great.

I think that’s the normal sentiment we see whenever we look at any analysis is we’re going to lose. This is easy for the other team. Then we win and they’re like, Oh, okay. Then they forget about it again next time. Just keep showing consistency. We’ve got some smaller events coming up. I’d like to see us go further maybe if we can. Obviously with MR12 CS2, it’s going to be more random, I feel. But I want to put the challenge there to try and win an event if we can before the end of the year. That will be difficult, but I think it’s doable.

What has brought you to EPIC.LAN this time?

I just had the time. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time. Obviously I’m on the BCSA board, and we talk about these events all the time and one of the things I really want to do is I want to help people progress to the next level. I want to see people on a good stage environment and competing in a situation where it actually looks relatively similar to Tier 1 events.

So when they do get picked up, they go onto a stage for the first time and they’re not thinking: “Oh my god, I’m on a stage.” They will have at least played an EPIC.LAN, EPS finals or whatever, they’ve been on stage before under a bit of pressure. If a talented player goes there for the first time, like an RMR for example, and they feel the pressure, they could get written off as a player. Their confidence might take a big hit.

I want to see these events putting a proper stage out, proper competition with integrity, good servers. Pushing these Tournament Organisers a bit to go out and improve on this stuff, hopefully our expertise can help progress the players. I also haven’t been to an event for six or seven years, so I kind of forget what they are like in person. I had some time, so let’s go see some people for the social side. Obviously EPIC has always been good for that.

Any teams you’ve had your eye on since you’ve been here?

I’d say RAPTORS because I’ve known Adam forever. That’s probably only it because I don’t really have time to follow the UK scene at the moment. I’m more following the players sort of, so they look pretty good from what I saw so far. I guess those guys.

Anything else you wanted to add?

No, I don’t think so. It’s great to see how EPIC is still stepping up after all this time. I don’t think its changed too much, but it feels like it is running smoother. This is kind of what the scene needs, hopefully the other TOs look at this and push UKCS to produce more talent for the future.