New Heights in Sight: oSee finds consistency in NA
Over the last few years - and especially the peak of the COVID pandemic - NA CS looked on the brink. And even for a region that has looked “on the brink” several times now, 2020-21 looked especially dangerous. The biggest named teams in esports wouldn’t touch the region and a large percentage of the developing talent transferred over to VALORANT, where the orgs and the financial support now lived. So many of names to watch in NA were leaving CS that it felt like they formed a proscription list for the region.
But within that drained scene, you still had glimmers; names that stayed off the list. In terms of teams, the big one was Extra Salt. In terms of players, it was oSee. Inside a drained scene, this young AWPer became the principal danger inside the NA servers. NA was a wreckage at the time, so more than ever its top talents were big fish in a small pond. oSee’s numbers were shocking even for a big fish in a small pond. He wasn’t just fragging out, he was also leading flashbang statistics in 2020 and 21 and looking surprisingly complete for an NA up and comer.
Perhaps even more shocking was his patience. He had huge offers on the table if he wanted to enter Valorant all at one of the bleakest moments in NA CS history. In my earlier interview with Nitr0, he discussed trying to recruit oSee to the 100 Thieves Valorant team. But oSee stayed. Partly because of his love for the game and partly because of his growth inside it.
“I’d lie if I said wasn’t tempted a little bit. There was a time period where I was considering it but CS… CS is one of those games where there’s not another one in this world. There’s not another game that’s like CS.” oSee relays the love of the game calmly and pauses to collect the rest.
“When I got asked about Valorant during that time period, I was in that phase where I was starting to come up in the scene, you know? People were starting to notice me. It would’ve been a really bad timing for me to leave and not really prove or show I can get to that level.”
And now, against the odds, oSee’s patience has paid out. Obviously, he’s made it onto NA’s biggest roster in recent years. But more subtly, NA itself seems resuscitated. For NA CS, the Valorant hype cycle and the lack of international LANs hit incredibly hard, and it was a matter of surviving both blows.
Far as we can tell, the scene is still standing after the bell. As oSee went to TL, the core of his old squad went to Complexity and, even after a brutal stretch, EG is tripling down on NA CS. They’re rumored to sign 15 players in a 3-roster development plan (if they can make that work within ESL and Valve’s tournament structures).
Sure, the region has not yet fully recovered and even when it does, it will remain the underdog. But this is all part of the buzz around oSee, isn’t it? It’s one thing to come up from EU, from the cradle and capital of CS. It’s another thing entirely to do it all from the struggling daycare, the thinned-out third city that is NA.
“If every rookie in North America right now was working like oSee, we would have so many good players.”
Elige gave Confirmed, HLTV’s podcast, a hell of a pull quote with that line. Elige has led NA CS for a long time and much of his in-region legend stemmed from a growth arc that started with joining Liquid in 2015 and gradually gained momentum over the next 2 years. It’s a growth arc that runs such a neat parallel to oSee’s that you could call it foreshadow.
When Elige joined Liquid and oSee joined C9, they weren’t even close to being the stars of the roster. Elige entered the team as an entry fragger, with all the ceremony of a 6-question announcement interview. oSee was just a solid AWPer that C9 inherited from an ATK team with more notable names. Over about 2 years, they’d both grow into some of the biggest hopefuls in the region and staple players on their respective rosters.
In NA CS, this is a tough climb to make - and even tougher to sustain. In any sport, coming from a smaller region alone adds a lot of wrinkles, demanding a much more intentional training regimen. Coming from NA, players face an added cultural trouble in the region’s general “for fun” approach to computer games. (A struggle that crosses into League and Dota as well).
To top it all of: those few dedicated NA players will need to uproot their life and live a third of it across the Atlantic and in liminal travel spaces. It’s not only another element added to the morale and mental game it’s also something that removes NA’s few good teams from the ecosystem they came from.
So oSee’s growth will always have a bit more intrigue. There’s always the question of how he managed it. The answer is, much like Elige, oSee made the climb by being deliberate and calculating.
Both Elige and JT have credited your work ethic and the way you go about practice. Can you give any insight on what you do that other players in NA - or even worldwide - don’t necessarily do?
I’d say the biggest difference is I try to improve on my decision-making, positioning, whatever. I’ll watch back a lot of demos to see my POV and then compare it with other players’ POVs. It’s not all about deathmatching, which I feel like a lot of NA players do right now. They think grinding is getting your aim really good when in reality if you wanna compete at the top level, you wanna improve on all aspects of your game.
What does it look like to improve your game sense and macro game and some of these intangibles?
Well, the first thing is a lot of people try and copy exactly what other players do, right? People watch back demos, and they’re like, “Okay I’m gonna steal this. I’m gonna steal that.” But in reality, everyone’s their own player and has their own style. So picking out the things that would fit you as a player from other people is a good thing, but copying it exactly isn’t the best because sometimes you don’t even know the real reason why people do certain things.
I think it’s just a lot knowing in what situations [it works] as well. You need to see the whole picture of the round when you're watching back these demos and seeing why people do stuff. I think that’s something I’ve been doing a lot, picking apart some of the things people are doing but also putting my own little spin on it.
You’re also known to be a pretty versatile player. It’s not like you’re a fish out of water when you have a rifle, and you’ve got the utility [down] as well. I was curious when you started finding this versatile approach to CS.
So I used to be one of those people that I would just DM all day, every day. I didn’t wanna become one of those players where I just relied on the AWP only. I wanna be able to still do stuff for my team when I have a rifle in my hands. It was definitely a focus for me during that time phase where I was just DMing only. I was working on my rifle and my AWP at the same time.
I also like to play a lot of pugs with my friends so I would say in those pugs, I’m not always AWPing. Sometimes I’m just running around, rifling, getting my rifle practice in. I think it’s super important to be an AWPer where you’re not dependent on the AWP every round, you know? You’re gonna have rounds where you’re not gonna be able to afford one. [...] Nowadays in top-tier CS, every AWPer has a good rifle too, as you can see. CS now is a game where you need all 5 people who can do all 5 roles.
This is something I’ve talked with a top Smash Bros. Melee player [Ginger] about too - the idea of different levels of practice: People who are better than you, people you’re even with, and people who are worse than you. [They say] you can actually gain a lot from practicing with people who are worse than you. [...] Do you find that there’s any specific value in playing at that [lower] level?
I’d say you could learn a couple things from pugging, playing against lower-level teams. But these teams aren’t exposing your mistakes. The fastest way to improve as a team, in my opinion, is getting exposed for your mistakes. You don’t get exposed to that kind of stuff in a lot of these matches and pug environments as well. I’d say you can [improve] but not at a fast speed.
For me, pugs or playing with my friends, I don’t think about it too much [...] it’s more me just having fun with my friends [while] at the same time making sure my aim stays crisp. As long as you’re not building bad habits then you’re fine. [...]
It’s still possible to learn from [pugs], especially in some of the pugs that I play in nowadays. Dude, they’re like full tryharding, throwing execs, fakes, double-peeking everything. It’s kinda cool to see all these players try to improve.
When you go over to Europe and you pug, every single pug is super tryhard. They’re defaulting heavy, calling pistol strats. It’s actually insane the differences I can see in Europe and NA even in the pugs. Everyone in Europe takes it super serious and then in NA you’ll have one of those games where they’ll try really hard but most of the time it’s people having fun and running around.
When you were on ATK and when that team got picked up by C9, at the time I felt like Sonic had a reputation somewhat similar to what you have now. He was pretty good with the AWP but was a pretty versatile player. Was Sonic a player you learned from at all?
I definitely learned a little bit from Sonic. He’s one of those players where I know if we go to a LAN or something and we play a big match, he's gonna play the same way. Doesn’t matter if it’s a scrim, if it’s the Major finals, he doesn’t really get nervous. He’s just very confident in his own ability and that’s something I learned well from him, just being confident in yourself. You can’t half-ass things in CS, you gotta fully believe in what you’re doing. That’s something I struggled with in the past - confidence. I’d be scared to peek some players because of their name and that’s just stupid. Sometimes you just gotta peek em, you just gotta believe that you’re better.
[After your time on C9] NA was probably facing one of the biggest existential threats that it had faced in a while. How did you feel in that moment as one of these rising talents? Was there a worry, was there a hope?
It was definitely worrying. It felt like everyone was leaving for Valorant. [...] I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect me a little bit, how I thought about the future of NA CS, if what I’m doing is that sustainable in the future.
Obviously, CS is massive in Europe. That’s never gonna go away but NA CS was a big question mark. I just told myself even if shit is going down, all my friends are leaving, there’s always gonna be that European CS. I don’t wanna admit it, but as soon as I get to that level of competing tier 1, I’m not even gonna be in NA a lot, so I don’t gotta worry about it too much. [...]
It didn’t really affect my motivation but it definitely got me worried about what was gonna happen. I was still really happy with my team [Extra Salt] at that time, and we had a really nice org backing us up.
I think it’s a fair consideration. Twistzz leaving for FaZe, it’s an experiment I’m surprised hadn’t happened before, where an NA player says, “Fuck it, I’ll just live in Europe.”
I’d say it’s very tough to say, “Fuck it, I’m going to Europe.” I know for Twistzz, his girlfriend lives in Europe, that definitely helps. [...] But for other people I think it’s a lot different. People don’t realize how draining it is to be away from home for long periods of time. [...] You don’t have your friends there, your timezones are all messed up so you can’t speak to your family too often… It’s just not the best conditions.
Some of the players that switched over [to Valorant], that was a huge thing. They would love CS still but they couldn’t see themselves living in Europe for long periods of time. Even for us, we’re there for months on end. [...]
It’s just super draining and I can fully understand why people didn’t wanna make that switch to Europe. Honestly props to people who have that mindset because it is a huge commitment. It’s a huge commitment, it’s a huge risk too, and you’re just doing it for the love of the game. Huge respect for people like that but honestly, for myself, I don’t think I’d be able to do it. There’s just too many things at home that help me balance out.
Elige and oSee might sit on parallel lines of growth - and even have parallel attitudes towards travel - but there is a key difference separating them. It’s 3 letters:
oSee represents something unseen for both Liquid and NA: a truly dedicated AWPer with the potential to be team-defining. It’s not to say that there haven’t been any good NA AWPers or that Stewie or Nitr0 (or jdm64) didn’t do the job well. But they weren’t dedicated to the gun in the way oSee is - and they weren’t in a meta where they needed to be.
In 2019, the AWP meant a lot but it wasn’t all-important. Nowadays, you can’t expect a major, a Grand Slam, a dynasty, or an era without a top 10 AWPer in the pocket. What would've been a minor question mark for Liquid in 2019 would be looming in 2022. oSee might be the most real answer Liquid’s ever found.
Still, oSee is not the answer to all of Liquid’s quandaries - nor their guaranteed ticket back to the top. After their Grand Slam run, Liquid suffered from deeper issues than, “no primary AWPer.” Leadership, morale, team construction, COVID, they’ve all created question marks even larger than that meta-dominant sniper rifle.
They were on oSee’s mind too, as he left an Extra Salt team that felt like family. In an interview with CS Money and Arseny Kuzminsky, he made it clear he knew the risk of the roster. Prior even to Liquid, oSee prioritized the feel of a team over the raw talent explaining to HLTV’s Nohte that he passed up a trial for HenryG’s C9 roster to stay with his old teammates.
Thus far, Liquid has also been a solid answer for oSee. In his time on the roster, he’s marked his name down as an NA talent that can survive in tier 1 and find fraternal vibes outside of that Extra Salt core and on a radically different style of team.
This roster was really made with vibes in mind. There was a sense [that] things fell apart last year because there was never a cohesive voice and there [were] a lot of battles internally. [...] How are the vibes on Team Liquid?
In general it’s been really good. We click really well outside of the game, just as friends. That’s one part you really need on a team. If you don’t enjoy each other's presence outside of the game when you’re spending every single day seeing each other, there’s gonna be issues.
In game, as well, vibes are usually really high. There are certain times where we hit a wall or we don’t know what to do to counter the other team, then the comms can dip down. In general, we’ve been trying to keep the energy up in our matches as Ii’s super important that we’re all at 100% with comms.
Within JT’s system [on Extra Salt], he said you were basically an IGL’s best friend. Throwing great utility, understanding that system very well, and here and there lending some depth. Do you have a similar role with Liquid’s strategy and IGL as well or is it something you’ve leaned away from?
Definitely leaned away. I did bring up a lot more things on my old team. It just makes sense though, right? You have Shox, Elige, Nitr0, NAF, people who have been playing at the top level forever. I still wanna bring in my input - which they respect. But also I know where my place is, I guess.
You can’t just come in and be like, “Yo, I want it this way.” When you have all these veterans. [...] I’ve shifted away from the second voice on my old team to now I’m just there, I’m just doing my job. It’s been honestly not too much of a change though because I think everyone is pretty vocal on my team [...] everyone’s bouncing ideas off each other so I still have my chances. It’s a good balance, I’d say.
In an HLTV interview, you mentioned that Shox helped you out a lot. I was curious what specific things you learned from him.
I would say the biggest thing is actually using my AWP to the full potential, as it is the strongest gun in the game. No one can argue against that. Knowing exactly when to re-aggro to get info; what fights are good for me; what fights aren’t; what my teammates need from me in certain situations.
I’ve been asking him a lot of questions, trying to pick his brain. He’s obviously been playing tier 1 EU CS forever and it’s just night and day difference with the stuff that he brings up. Half the things he brings up, I wouldn’t have even taken into account before. [...] Having someone lay out the blueprint of how to play properly, quote-unquote, is super helpful.
Do you feel like he’s more hands-on in the teaching?
For sure. I can see he still has the passion for the game, which is why he’s been playing for so long. After every match he’ll watch back the demo or the VOD and point out the mistakes we’re making, win or loss. [...] If I ever ask him a question he’s always ready to help me. He’s super supportive, it’s just like what you want out of a teammate.
You said that [the AWP] is the best gun in the game - inarguably. Do you feel like this is one of the strongest metas that there has been for the AWP? Do you feel like it has gotten better - and what do you think some of the reasons are for that?
Definitely. If you look at all the top teams right now, all the AWPers are super, super consistent and that’s what you need on a CS team nowadays. Having a consistent AWPer to be a consistent team.
A lot of it is info gathering, I’d say, on the CT-side. Teams nowadays, they love misdirection. They’ll throw certain nades on one side of the map in order to make space for the other side of the map, right? [...] Using [the AWP] to regather info, re-aggro certain areas is something that AWPers have been doing a lot better nowadays.
I just think people didn’t realize how strong the AWP could be. Nowadays with how consistent people are at the top level, these guys don’t miss. They don’t miss any easy shots. Back then people weren’t as consistent with their aim. Now, you give the AWP one opportunity and you’re just dead.
Elige has said you remind him a bit of Dev1ce in the way you play. I’ve also heard broky and a few [other] names brought up. Are there other AWPers that have caught your eye or that you’ve taken things from more often?
There’s no doubt that s1mple is the best but some of the things he does he gets away [with] just because of his pure mechanical skill. For me, trying to come up in the scene, I was trying to focus on things that were replicable. Positioning, re-aggro timings, what util to be using, where I should be.
That was my focus. It wasn’t to become a s1mple, I guess more a dev1ce like Elige said. I’d say my style more leans towards that than s1mple where he’s just popping off, peeking everything, headhsotting everyone, not missing. It’s not replicable for me, I’d say, because I don’t feel like I have as good mechanical skill as him. In order to balance it out, I want to have good positioning, good decision-making. [...]
You watch dev1ce back and you don’t see any flashy shots but he hits all the easy ones and he puts himself in positions where he can have those easy shots. It’s not all, “Oh they’re just peeking into him.” He has certain timings, [reasons] why he wants to peek. He’s just really good at that style and it makes the game look easy for him.
In Extra Salt and in this team too [...] you’ll supplement the team with a lot of utility. To you, is this a skill that is necessary to be a top tier AWPer - to have that ability to support? Or is this something that is stylistic?
Oh 100%, you need your AWPer to be a really good support player. Even if you are one of those players who likes to run in first, if there are situations where you do take control of one area and you wanna have a set exec, it doesn’t make sense for the AWPer to run in second or first. It’s definitely a necessity on a team, knowing how to use your util correctly as an AWPer. On T-side especially.
Your flashbangs especially were exceptional on ATK, C9, Extra Salt. Was this a talent you learned specifically in order to play within the system that JT was running?
When I was playing under JT, we had a style where we were very execute-heavy and pretty quick. We weren’t too default-heavy. When we’re doing a lot of executes and popping a lot, you need good flashes so that was something that JT and I made sure that we had perfectly down.
You can look now under Liquid, my flashes aren’t even close to what they were before but that’s also based on the style. If you’re a more default-heavy team, you’re not executing as much, you’re not gonna get as many flash assists.
For many NA fans and much of the audience, Liquid has a lot to prove. Since 2019, the team has tumbled from the apex of CS and never really gotten close to a return. Even as they’ve looked better in 2022, they’ve also had their dips (like a loss to PaiN that came after this interview).
But for oSee, the path is not a return to old form as much as it is a new height finally within reach. On Extra Salt and Singularity, oSee had chances to make it to a major. Both times he fell short. Now, that it’s in his sights, it also reminds him of how distinct he is as a Major rookie in this roster of veterans.
“Excited is an understatement, you know?” oSee is all smiles, answering a question about his mood heading into the major.
“Finally making it, it’s honestly huge for me. Obviously, my teammates have been to multiple majors now but when we finally made it I got kind of emotional. And everyone else is kinda chillin’ - just another day - and I’m tearing up and shit.”
Sitting where Elige and Nitr0 were all the way back in 2016, oSee has a narrative that’s both distinct and familiar. He is not shouldering same weight, the return to the top, as the rest of the veterans on Liquid but he is walking right on the footsteps they’ve left. That kind of rhyming history is assuring for a region like NA, where talent struggles to truly take root.
It also helps to mute expectations. Even NA diehards would be happy just to see Liquid make playoffs and for oSee to show more of that promise. For his part, oSee is there too. When I ask him for his predictions on the upcoming Major, he is cautious.
“I don’t wanna put unrealistic expectations for us. I’ll be nice and say top 8 for now. Top 8 at the Major and we’ll see from there.”
But he’s also confident in that potential and patient as ever in proving that it’s real.
“I think we have the potential to upset any team at the moment. I think we’ve been clicking really well, we’ve been playing really well as a team. It’s only a matter of time until we start pulling off upsets against big teams.”