A \_eap of Faith by Josh "jdm64" Marzano

July 31 2016

I knew something had to change after DreamHack: Austin. We lost to Cloud9 in a best of three, which didn't make sense for our team. At the time, they were a new lineup and Slemmy had just joined the team. We should have been able to beat them, and by all accounts we were the favorites. This tournament really was the final straw.

Leading up to and including DreamHack, we were in a bad streak of losing in tournaments. I love the guys on that team but I worked my ass off to get better and our results weren't reflecting that. We didn't measure up in an event that featured mostly NA and Brazilian teams, and this was the final tournament before our break in the run up for ELeague.

I was going through a really tough time during that period, too. My uncle had passed away 3 days before Austin, and I was in a really emotional place. I dedicated my time and that tournament to him, and when we didn't do well I felt frustrated. I wanted to win. I have the motivation and the desire to work harder than anyone else. The loss I felt that week made me realize that I needed to take advantage of the situation and finally make a change.

So as you may know by now, I went to Moses once I decided to leave CLG. He's a guy who I've gone to before and he really understands what I want to do in this game. We chatted about what I thought the "NA Dream Team" would be and how one team was pretty close to it right now. I wanted to be on a team that could compete with the best in the world.

Hiko's said it before and I completely agree: being the best team in North America is worthless. I really couldn't care less about that label because I think the NA fans deserve a team that can compete and win globally. I told Moses that a core of myself, Hiko, EligE, and nitr0 would be a crazy start. Back then I still wanted to play with Tarik but with contracts and everything, that just couldn't work out.

Fortunately, this chat with Moses happened just before the ESL Proleague Finals, where he would go and meet Hiko. I got a message from Hiko at the end of that weekend and we had a great conversation. We both felt frustrated with not being able to compete at a global level and we had similar views in terms of work ethic. I joined Liquid soon after.

I know I am one of the hardest working players in the scene and now I finally had a team who could support that.

Now it was time to go to the Netherlands and put that work ethic to the test. This was my first time meeting the guys as a teammate but honestly it was a pretty easy transition. It also helped that we were doing really well in scrims even though we didn't have any refined strats yet. We were just running defaults and rolling over some really great teams.

Okay sure, scrims aren't always the best indicator for success but they are great for building confidence. The main focus is to practice executes and create chemistry, but playing Bo3s against teams like Na`Vi, Fnatic, and Astralis on a regular basis teaches you a lot about both Counter-Strike and your team.

The EU teams also just take the game more seriously. Sometimes NA teams will just run around and goof off on the server. The players themselves are also better so you never get false-positives on strats just because you can outshoot opponents.

We also did a bunch of new stuff at this bootcamp. Or at least, things I had never done with a team before. We recorded our POVs through OBS every single game so that we had tape and comms audio of everything. Reviewing that was all very insightful.

The one caveat to an otherwise successful bootcamp was, of course, s1mple. He was a bit of a wildcard. When we were winning things were fine but when we'd lose he would get into huge arguments with Peacemaker. Generally our strategy with him was to just let him do his own thing outside of scrims. The core five of us would review demos and work on strats while s1mple streamed or played on his own. This worked pretty well but bootcamp can be a stressful environment with playing all day so there were times I would just have to go out and cool off.

I will say this about s1mple though: I do believe he can be the best player in the world. I tried to work with him on his attitude problems and if he gets that sorted he'll be incredible. When things are going well he's a joy to play with. The reverse is pretty dark though. People will say that he's still young but nobody should get that mad.

Before long, bootcamp was over and it was time for the Major. Like most Majors, the group stage in Cologne was played without an audience. And that really sucks. Playing in a big stadium is what everyone dreams about and it's really one of the biggest goals at each of these tournaments.

Looking at our group, I thought we had the second hardest draw. Obviously there was the group of death but ours was pretty competitive as well. I did think we had an edge coming in to this group though because some of these teams are known for being inconsistent while I thought we were coming in very strong.

I also really wanted to make the stadium event because ESL One Cologne was the one year anniversary of my first major. Last year we lost 14-16 against Na`Vi to miss getting out of groups. That game continues to haunt me. We lost despite a great personal performance and when it's that close you're always left agonizing over every mistake. I left thinking to myself "was there something that I could of done more that could have changed the game for us". I'm my biggest critic when it comes to losing no matter if I did really good or really bad. ESL is always great with player intros and missing out on that added to the pain I felt. The intros are amazing to watch at home, but agonizing from 9th-12th place.

That's how bad we wanted to win this year.

One of the biggest things that convinced me to join Liquid was my conversations with Hiko about the team's work ethic. At Cologne, everyone really delivered in this regard. When I saw the time everyone was putting in, I was confident we would go deep. We demonstrated at this event that hard work pays off, and I am confident that we'll prove the result was no fluke.

Behind the scenes, Jokasteve and Peacemaker were vital and proved that they were an integral part of our team. It felt like we were playing 7 vs 5 at this event and everybody pulled their weight. I roomed with Peacemaker and we would watch about six hours of demos a night before our next match. This was something I had always done as an AWPer to learn tendencies but this time everybody on the team would take a stack of demos to go over.

It was so refreshing to have the whole team taking part in the research process. You can try to explain an opponent's rotations to your teammates but it's another thing entirely to watch them happen. Sean Gares spoke to Thorin about this in an interview and I think we proved that it can't just be the IGL watching demos. It's super rewarding too! When you can watch a half and say "oh you just played two spots in 15 rounds, I'll just shoot there tomorrow" it's a great feeling.

We also weren't shy about watching our own demos. During our game against VP, there were some clear communication issues. Instead of sulking in our loss though we watched the replay and isolated the problem. We came up with some new strats that night and our Cobble game got even better.

There's nothing more motivating than feeling overlooked by an opponent. It felt like this was the case going in to the semifinal against Fnatic. A prominent storyline for this tournament was the battle between SK and Fnatic for the title of "best team in the world".

Fnatic are an incredible team and those guys have accomplished so much but during the period when we were warming up and preparing they were more interested in the SK vs VP match. Seeing that our whole team buckled down and we all knew we could win.

Even though I thought we would win, beating them was still insanely sweet. It felt like we had just won the tournament. Being the first NA team to make the finals was a great accomplishment and I was proud of all the work my team and I had done.

Of course, most of the talk at that point was centered around s1mple. He was playing some of the best CS in his career and he had many crucial rounds for example that 1v2 no scope. He's got so much talent that it tends to overshadow the work and great plays that some of my other teammates made. Elige had an amazing tournament and the same goes for nitro and Hiko. Everyone stepped up when needed and that's what got us to the finals.

This is something you think about more after the event though. It's kind of annoying not to see all the behind the scenes work come to light but that's the price of having a s1mple on your team. In the server though this team didn't see individual plays, it was all about the round wins.

And we now had enough round wins to make the finals of a Major.

Unfortunately we didn't put up much of a fight in the finals. Going in we honestly thought we could win but in the end it wasn't our time. Making the finals felt great but winning would have been so much better.

After the match I sat at my desk and watched SK's whole celebration and them lifting up the trophy. I made sure I watched the whole thing and took in the feeling of losing the finals. It was not a good feeling at all and now I know what it's like to be in that position. I will make sure that the next time, if we do make the finals, we won't feel that way again. We will be the ones lifting up the trophy for NA.

Looking back at the tournament, and playing in front of that crowd, I really don't have any words. The whole experience was so surreal. All the players have been on vacation since the Major and it's been great to just relax and reflect on the event.

With how everything unfolded it feels great to have this result validate, in a way, all the hard work we put in and the choices I made to get here. It just feels good to see your decisions be rewarded. When I was leaving CLG a certain person told me 'the grass is not always greener' but in this case it certainly was.

This tournament result has also put me in a new place career-wise. It used to be that I'd say yes to every tournament because I had to. Now we have to choose which tournaments we want to go to so we don't over do it.

In closing I really just want to thank my team again and say that I'm really excited for s1mple's future. I have a lot of respect for him and I wish him the best in whatever team he decides to join. I want to thank Liquid (the organization) for fighting for me and giving me this opportunity but also wish the best for my old teammates. I love those guys and if they're reading this they know that.

Finally, I want to thank my followers and our fans. Those Liquid chants were what made this Major such an unforgettable experience.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Writer // Joshua "jdm64" Marzano
Editor // Ryan Prager
Graphics: // Zack

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