Liquid Rivals: Quake

May 24 2019

Shane “Rapha” Hendrixson is the GOAT.

Rapha competed at his first QuakeCon in 2003. He won his first QuakeCon in 2009. And that led to more wins than I have time to sort through. But trust me, it’s a lot. And now Rapha is waiting for Quake to announce some tournament dates for this year, so he can add to that list.

Rapha’s rivals are also anticipating these announcements, waiting for their chance to finally defeat him. To take his title. But this doesn’t scare Rapha at all. In fact, it’s what motivates him. It’s what makes him keep improving each year. For Rapha, Quake is all about outthinking his opponents. Staying one step ahead of them. That’s the challenge that has kept him passionate about Quake all these years. It’s what has kept him the GOAT.

He said: “Rivalries have always been a good thing for me. I let them drive me to perform at my absolute best. I have respect for how good everyone is. I have to be even better to beat them.”

Rivalry #1: Clawz

For the last two years, Clawz has been Rapha’s biggest rival. And that’s because Rapha felt Clawz was the best player in the world after QuakeCon 2017’s results. From there, it was all about trying to constantly defeat Clawz in duels and team play.

Rapha faced off against Clawz in duels over the next few years, including PGL, and then the ESL Italy Invite Tournament. When it came to team play, Rapha and DaHanG faced Clawz in the semi-finals and finals at DreamHack Tour (with his partner Silencep) and QuakeCon (Toxjq).

“Even though we won DreamHack Tour and QuakeCon against his teams, the games were super, super close,” said Rapha, despite QuakeCon ending in a 4-0. “It’s not as though they were blow-outs or anything. They were hard-fought and we had to play at our best to beat him because of how good he is.”

Rapha noted that the odds are currently in his own favor against Clawz. The Belarus-born player has a “style mismatch” in the game’s current meta when it comes to facing Rapha.

“His style is very aggressive. He’s always trying to use good aim and movement against you. But he’s too overaggressive,” Rapha discussed. “I’m very balance and control-heavy. I tend to be ready for more of his tricky pushes or extra angles. I tend to punish his overextensions.”

But Rapha is aware that “there could be one day where everything just clicks” and Clawz could “be a monster.”

It’s this (possibly imagined) future threat that keeps Rapha on his toes. That keeps him from slipping. If he wants to remain the GOAT, he has to make sure Clawz doesn’t have that chance. But looking at their record, it’s hard to believe that Clawz is anything more than a motivator for Rapha. It’s more of the anticipation of Clawz suddenly becoming a threat to his title that keeps Rapha on his toes, more than a current rival who could truly dethrone him.

Rivalry #2: Cooller

So, the question remains. Does Rapha have a true rival?

Well, in IEM’s Quake Live tourneys in 2010 and 2011, Rapha and Cooller were the two finalists. Both times. Then they didn’t really face each other again until PGL in 2018. It was a great final, said Rapha. One with a lot of anticipation to finally face Cooller again. To maintain his title.

The humble Rapha painted a picture of the ultimate motivation. Neck and neck face off after face off, keeping Rapha on his toes. There’s no bad blood, of course, but they do hate losing to each other.

Sounds like an intense rivalry, especially with the anticipation of facing him again after all those years of waiting. But then Rapha revealed that he beat Cooller in both 2010 and 2011. In 2010, it was a 3-1. The following year, a 3-0. Oh, and Rapha also beat him at PGL 2018 (although Cooller did win in group play).

To me, this sounds like another opponent who doesn’t even come close to taking Rapha’s title. But for Rapha, Cooller is another motivation to keep improving. To keep ahead of the competition.

“Playing Cooller brings out the best in me. And in him,” he explained. “We both play better and better the closer we get to the finals. That rush of competing, and literally having to do everything possible to win, is addicting.”

Rapha said they both have varying playstyles, but they both try to play to their opponent. They adapt. They’re constantly changing and interacting based on how each other is playing.

“It’s an outwitting of the minds,” he said. “But I adapted when it mattered most.”

Rivalry #3: DaHanG

Playing against Clawz and Cooller keeps Rapha on his toes. A potential defeat keeps his mind sharp. In a game like Quake, one mistake can cost you the game. And that’s something he can’t let happen.

But Rapha’s only true rival is his duel partner, DaHanG, a fellow Liquid player.

In Quake Champions, DaHanG beat Rapha twice in 2017. In 2018, Rapha said he finally broke through and started playing at his top form like he did back in Quake Live. In fact, he had to defeat DaHanG to make it to the final in PGL, where he faced Cooller.

“I consider DaHanG the number one Quake Champions player,” Rapha admitted, “since he won DreamHack Winter 2017.”

DaHanG’s win streak - including his placements with Rapha in duels - gave him that title until QuakeCon. The one that Rapha won. DaHanG came in second. That’s when Rapha felt their titles may have flip-flopped.

“We build each other up,” said Rapha of his teammate and greatest rival. “But when it comes to 1v1, neither of us wants to lose.”

Dating back to Quake Live days, Rapha recalls a “very strange phenomenon” where the two don’t seem to face each other until the “KO point.” Once they face each other, it’s at the point where the loser must go home.

“When I lose, I think about how well he played,” Rapha said. “I am upset, but it goes away. He’s my teammate. My friend. I’m happy for him that he’s succeeded. And it’s the same way for him. He’s not super salty if he loses to me. Especially if we’re at a tourney where we played both duel and 2v2. We just focus on what’s next. We take it one match at a time.”

The two don’t normally scrim with each other. They don’t want to form any habits that only serve to beat each other’s playstyles. There’s the rest of the player pool to worry about. (Well, at least that’s what Rapha says.) And if they want to remain the GOAT, they can’t start slipping against them.

When it comes to North American tournaments, Rapha feels that DaHanG and himself are the top players in a very small pool of high-skilled players. But when it comes to the European scene, Rapha feels there are 12 to 16 players that could potentially defeat them at a tournament at any time. That may or may not be true. But if it keeps Rapha motivated, that’s good enough for me.

Writer // Olivia Richman

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