Last week, Cloud9 shocked the world by adding Tarik “Tarik” Celik and Will “RUSH” Wierzba in place of fan favorites and long time members, Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Mike “Shroud” Grzesiek. Having added Tarik and RUSH to Cloud9 has undoubtedly added a lot of firepower to their roster but has also added a lot of pressure on the team to find success, and find it quickly. Everyone has their eyes on this new roster and hope they are destined for great things.
After his blockbuster move from OpTic to Cloud9 we sat down with Tarik to discuss life on North America’s new super team. His team played their first LAN together this past weekend at DreamHack Malmö, finishing a disappointing 12th place.
You’re coming fresh off your first LAN with Cloud9, what were your expectations going into the event and how do you think it went?
I don’t think our expectations were too high because we all knew that we were a new team and we had limited practice. Our expectations were to make it out of groups, that would have been the best case scenario for us. We sort of of fell short, we got eliminated by SK but I think we did the best with what we had. I do think that there is a lot of potential and that we can do a lot of damage but it’s something that’s going to take a lot of hard work and effort. I don’t think it will come naturally or click instantly but I do see good things coming from our team. It kind of sucks that we even went to this event because it was so early, it almost would have made more sense to skip out on this event and practice for the next event. Overall, I think going to the event was good because we got experience on LAN and playing against top teams.
The Cloud9 roster change shocked the world, was it as surprising for you or was it a long time in the works?
It happened super quick, the whole process probably took less than a week. We didn’t really know until last minute either. We both sat down and thought about it and it seemed like a decision that made sense for the both of us. With the OpTic lineup, it felt like we weren’t really going anywhere and our motivation was at an all time low. I don’t want to say we did them a favor but in the end it feels like everyone came out in a better situation. OpTic has a very strong lineup, me and RUSH are on Cloud9 and I feel our roster is incredibly strong as well and NAF is on Renegades who have looked good as well. I don’t think there’s any bad blood between anyone. We came to the decision pretty quickly, Cloud9 was a team that I’ve wanted to play for, for a very long time.
You join this roster only having played with RUSH in the past, what are your opinions on the rest of the team and how do you see you and RUSH fitting in?
I know all the guys on Cloud9 pretty well, we’ve all played on Rank S and scrims and we’ve all hung out at events before. I have a pretty good understanding of what kind of people they are and as far as players, they’re all great players. We all know how good they are, there’s no question about that. Stewie, Autimatic and Skadoodle are some of the best players in North America and even worldwide. I’m not too worried about skill, it just comes down to cohesion at this point and it’s something that we’re working on.
Autimatic said in another interview that there were some issues with communication at Malmo, is it simply a matter of you and RUSH meshing with the rest of the guys?
I think it just comes down to making everyone comfortable, once we find that comfort zone for everyone then people are going to notice that everything is clicking. During Malmo, we weren’t quite there yet but even now I feel like we’re that much closer. Going into Montreal this weekend I have high expectations for us, we’re one of the favorites and the team is confident.
Having brought up DreamHack Montreal, obviously the competition isn’t as stern as it was at Malmo, are your expectations going into the event to win it or is it simply a matter of improving and working out the kinks?
I’d say our goal is definitely to go to Montreal and win it. I think if we’re not in the finals we’ll all be disappointed. We can’t keep using the excuse that we’re a new team and that we’re under practiced. It’s going to get to the point where people will point to the fact that it is our fault and maybe we shouldn’t have gone to these events if we weren’t ready.
In Tim’s interview he also expressed that you had taken over the IGL role, despite this not being something the team had planned when picking you up, was this something you personally planned on doing before you joined?
Coming into the team, I didn’t have the intention to take the role but after a couple days, I felt like it would be a good idea because I wanted to do it and I knew Stewie wasn’t too fond of being the IGL. I figured I’d try it out so I could use what they have and bring in the experience that I have from OpTic and put it together. I also wanted to take some workload off of Stewie and have him focus on his game. Again it’s a process but I think I’m doing a good job mixing in what I know with what is already existing, and what has worked well in the past. Honestly, I think I’m a level headed guy and I’m confident in my own ability and as long as the rest of the team shares that confidence I think it will be very good for us.
What in particular attracts you to IGLing? Many shy away from it especially those with high fragging power as it typically detracts from their ability to impact the game.
For me personally I don’t think it’s had that big of an impact on my personal performance. When I’m playing, I know everyone looks at stats, but honestly if we’re winning it doesn’t matter for me if I’m at the bottom or the top of the scoreboard. On top of that, the way I like to call is more of a group effort, I definitely have the final say but I want the rest of the team to be able to play how they want to play and also be vocal. I think that is really important, I think the best thing I can help do is put my team in positions where they can shine. Again, I don’t really think IGLing has affected my performance too much but it is definitely stressful and it’s not an easy job. Whenever you lose it’s demoralizing and it really gets to you but I also feel like I can handle my emotions and stay level headed and keep focused on the task at hand.
In terms of calling, how would you describe your style, anyone in terms of IGLs that you’ve been trying to learn off of?
I would say I try to maintain balance in the way we play. I do obviously want it to be structured but, I also want it to be flexible where people can do what they’re comfortable doing. From there it’s a matter of adding teamwork in and having all of it fit into a bigger picture. As far as how I like to call, I want the team to feel comfortable chiming in, I want it to be a group effort. In the end I might have the final call but I want to create an environment where everyone feels like they have a voice. If someone is in a good position and has a read I want them to be vocal about it. I don’t think in this age of Counter-Strike it’s possible for one person to control every aspect of their team. I think one person can have a gameplan and explain how he wants to carry it out but I don’t think they should micromanage everything. Everyone should be able to think for themselves and play accordingly but with a plan in mind.
Since seangares left there’s been a significant lack of a stable calling/IGL presence at Cloud9, is this something you see yourself doing long term for Cloud9? Do you see this as a long term role for yourself or just something you want to try?
I haven’t really thought about that too much, especially in the future. How I see it is that I want to do whatever works and I want to do what I can to make my team the best possible, if that means me IGLing then that’s what I want to do, if that means someone else IGLing then that’s what I want to do. I’m not sitting here saying that I have to be IGL but I am saying that I think we are in a better position if I do. In the future if it comes to a point where we’re losing because of me, I’m not going to argue about it, if it works then we keep at it, if it doesn’t then we find solutions. I’m committed to trying it, if everyone in the team believes in me, I’ll keep calling. I just want to do what’s best for the team.
Many have described this new Cloud9 roster as the best North American team in quite some time, what are yours’ and the team’s expectations going forward?
Making these changes we’re obviously trying to improve and become something better. I don’t think we’re aiming for number one in North America, our goals are definitely more focused on becoming a consistent top 5 team in the world. I don’t think we formed this roster just to be the best team in NA, we formed this roster because we want to be the best team in the world.
What about your personal expectations, do you see yourself changing or developing in any different way with this new roster?
For me personally, I feel like when I play with other skilled players it pushes me and makes me play better. Playing with this team I definitely see myself improving constantly and I also think my teammates will improve by playing with me. That’s the goal, for us to all improve individually but also together as a team.
The OpTic roster obviously hit amazing heights with the ELEAGUE victory, having now we moved on in that chapter of your career, how do you look back on it?
We did some great things on OpTic, we had an impressive run at ELEAGUE and it’s a chapter of my life that I’ll never forget. Looking back on it I think it was a great team for me to be a part of and I learned a lot from it. I don’t think there’s any bad blood between me and any of the players. We all found teams that we’re happy with, I think going forward everyone we'll all be satisfied with how things worked out.
Given DreamHack just joined ESL in ubanning the iBUYPOWER players, what are your thoughts and expectations of those players going forward?
I feel like they should be actively working if they really want this. These are players that had a lot of success in the past and they won’t settle for anything. It’ll be hard but they have to take some sacrifices to build a team so they can start somewhere. They’re definitely talented players but at the end of the day it honestly depends on how committed and dedicated they are.
Touching again on OpTic, they’ve obviously undergone a huge roster change which now sees a European mixed team playing in the North American Pro League.
I think it’s weird that there is a full European lineup coming to compete in NA but I honestly don’t really mind it. I definitely think we need more competition in our region and more top teams. Honestly, they have a pretty nasty lineup and like I said before I think OpTic did really well transitioning.
You left one fan favorite team for another, how has the reception been and how have you enjoyed your short time on Cloud9 so far? Anything you want to say to all of your fans as you start this new journey on Cloud9?
I think at first it was a lot for the Cloud9 fans to handle, we had some really big shoes to fill, coming in for Shroud and n0thing. It definitely came out of left field and was something that none of the fans expected. Initially, I don’t think they were super supportive, knowing those guys it’s definitely not easy to just come in and replace two players who have been part of the team for so long. I think going forward me and RUSH will prove ourselves to the fans and show them that we can make this team great. Hopefully all the fans from OpTic are still supporting us, I don’t think there’s any bad blood and they seem understanding of the situation.
I definitely want to thank everyone that supported us and is still supporting us. It definitely goes a long way and I think it does a lot for players like me and our careers. Seeing their tweets and their messages of encouragement really bring us up, especially when we’re feeling down. It honestly means a lot and thanks again to all my fans and the community for supporting me.
Photo Credit: Adela Sznajder / DreamHack