Blaze 'Draulon' Lengyel, March 9, 2017

In the Crossfire: IEM Katowice 2017 with Stewie2k

The story of Jake "Stewie2k" Yip is one of the most interesting ones in North American CS:GO history. Initially considered a rising star who has a way too puggy playstyle, Stewie2k became one of the best North American players under a matter of months and led Cloud9 to winning ESL Pro League Season 4, and placing second at DreamHack Bucharest 2016 and iBUYPOWER Masters 2016. I talked with Stewie2k at IEM Katowice about the recent performance of his team and the North American scene:

Draulon: The past year for Cloud9 was quite successful. You won the fourth season of the ESL Pro League, an achievement which was unprecedented back then in the North American scene. After that though, you guys fell into a smaller slump. From your perspective, what exactly happened with the team after that?

Stewie2k: We won ESL Pro League, then there was a series of events where we had to travel for months straight and we didn’t get any break. When you have to travel for that long, I think it really burns players out. I think you kinda need to take a break from CS, and at the same time we need to take a break to practice and implement new strats. We lost the major qualifier, we were down 0-2 but we brought it back to 2-2. When we played against HellRaisers on Overpass we were really confident on it, but it seemed like individually we weren’t on point, so that’s why we lost the major qualifier. After that, we sat down with everyone and kinda reevaluated our team, asked each other “do we really need changes?”. We decided to give our five another chance, so we have been working pretty hard on our T sides and fixing our CT mistakes.

Draulon: At Katowice, you guys had a marginally better performance than before, considering you secured wins against SK Gaming and Heroic. Could you talk about how you prepared for this tournament?

Stewie2k: We have been talking about bringing out Nuke for a while, because teams don’t know we play Nuke and before this tournament we have been practicing Nuke a lot and we’ve been kinda thinking about strats and how to play the map. When we played against SK Gaming, we knew if we left Nuke in, they would pick it, and we knew their Nuke was not that great so we were pretty confident on it. For Heroic, we were also pretty confident because we think we are better than them both individually and collectively, so we weren’t afraid.

Draulon: Before this tournament, you added valens as a coach. What are the biggest changes he made to the team?

Stewie2k: I would say he is more of a psychologist than a coach, I think he is a real smart coach and he can help us a lot. He is like another set of eyes, if he sees mistakes he is going to call it out and it is better to have someone with an outside perspective to call people out because then you know for sure that you have made a mistake. He is really good at calming people down and just keeping the team together.

Draulon: Does he help you with ingame leading?

Stewie2k: Yeah. He has been watching a lot of demos and he has been helping me a lot so I trust him a lot. Him watching demos and for me having to spend less time doing that is really helpful.

Draulon: How do you feel about ingame leading? One could say that the role has been kinda forced on you.

Stewie2k: To be honest, I don’t really enjoy ingame leading, but since no one is willing to step up, someone has to. Hopefully now with valens, he can help us out with some T side strats, and autimatic is willing to call on some maps, so we are gonna switch it up a bit and see what happens.

Draulon: Shroud has been receiving a lot of criticism as his performance seems to have dropped compared to a few months back. The thing is though, when you have players like Skadoodle, autimatic and you performing, you don’t necessarily need shroud to be that star anymore. Do you believe he is undergoing a slump or is this just the role has has to take up?

Stewie2k: I would say he is a little bit in a slump, but at the same time he sacrifices a lot for the team. You can’t have five stars on a team, you can only have so many stars. For example, on SK, coldzera is a star, but I think all five of them are stars because they are so smart, but if you have too many stars on a team it just won't work out. Someone has to take the responsibility and just support his teammates, so I have to say the criticism he has been getting is unreasonable.

Draulon: Let’s shift the focus to the NA scene a bit. Two of you your domestic rivals have undergone a few changes. OpTic’s ingame leader stanislaw has joined Team Liquid, and temporarily replacing him is Hiko, formerly from Liquid. How do you feel about these changes? Do you think either can return to that number one spot again?

Stewie2k: I think OpTic is losing a lot of confidence so they have been playing pretty poorly. They don’t really have a set team yet, meaning they don’t have the five they want. Going to LANs is pretty useless if you don’t have the five that you want. There is no point in playing right? For Liquid, I think it is a pretty strong asset that stanislaw is on the team now, I think he is a really good ingame leader and Liquid will become a really good team soon.

Draulon: What do you think is the biggest issue with the North American scene right now?

Stewie2k: I think people play for stats too much and they don’t play for the team. They don’t really put in hard work. You can watch an SK demo or a Virtus.pro demo, and you can get a lot of things out of it. If you can find the reason why they did something, then a lot of things will click. I don’t think NA works hard enough, and that is why NA is not as good as EU.

Draulon: Final question: You yourself were a rising star once who came from a relatively unknown background. Could you give us one name, one player from the North American scene who could become the next Stewie2k?

Stewie2k: Probably brehze, I think he is on NRG right now and I think he has a lot of skill. For now, we have to see if the leaders that he has will guide him to the right path.

Stewie2k and Draulon can be followed on their Twitter accounts at @Stewie and @Draulon.

Image credits: ECS
Interview edited for clarity

Blaze 'Draulon' Lengyel

Blaze is a student who currently lives in Europe and has a great interest in Counter Strike and competitive games. He spends his time hitting the gym or working on various game dev projects where he has a role in management or 3D graphics. You can follow him on twitter @draulon