Two weeks have passed since Team Immunity won the WCA APAC Finals. The players are settling in back home after a fast paced month of competition – beginning the month in South Korea for the PGL KeSPA Asia Minor, and ending it in Beijing.
The WCA APAC Finals demanded a better performance from the team than was presented in South Korea, and the team would be required to demonstrate the performance with a stand in; Chris ‘ofnu’ Hanley of Legacy eSports. Team Immunity would first meet with TheMongolz, whom they had recently defeated at the PGL KeSPA Asia Minor in a 2-1 fashion. After a first map loss to TheMongolz on dust2, Immunity were able to grind out overtime victories on cache and overpass. The victories at the Asia Minor were a grind, a test of endurance for the Immunity roster – victories in Beijing would require a more concise effort.
Facing TheMongolz in the first best-of-three of the tournament, the pick and ban phase had resulted in cache and overpass – the two maps that Immunity overpowered TheMongolz on at the PGL KeSPA Asia Minor.
Cache begun alike it had the last time the teams met, a grinding trade of rounds that ended 6:9 in favour of TheMongolz. Enkhtaivan ‘Machinegun’ Lkhagva and Ricardo ‘Rickeh’ Mulholland had explosive plays across the first half, and shifted momentum for their teams; the second half was going to be much the same. Winning the terrorist side pistol, Immunity had found the momentum they needed, only losing two rounds as they cruised forward to 16:11 final score.
Overpass begun on terms of revenge for TheMongolz. Launching themselves to a 9:1 scoreline in the first half before Team Immunity would collect 5 rounds to end the first half 9:6. Once again, a midgame reset followed with Immunity finding the surge of momentum that would lead them to the end of the game. A 16:10 final scoreline meant a 2-0 finish to the series for Team Immunity; practical proof that the team had learned from their mistakes in South Korea.
The win against TheMongolz put Team Immunity in the final against MVP.karnal. Though the teams had met at the ESL Cologne Asian Qualifier in 2015, both teams had seen a change in roster since. The grand final was a best-of-five series, and the first time Team Immunity had played the format in competition.
The series begun on cobblestone, MVP.karnal being led by Andrew ‘kaze’ Khong, and Ashraf ‘acAp’ Firdaus. Strong efforts from Zewsy and Ofnu would help Team Immunity in gathering nine rounds on the map, but ultimately falling to MVP.karnal on their map pick.
Moving onto mirage Team Immunity found themselves on familiar ground, and Chris ’emagine’ Rowlands annihilated the opening rounds of the map. The Immunity roster wasted no time in backing their team mate up, launching forward to a 13:2 scoreline in the first half. MVP.karnal worked hard upon switching to the CT side and gathered 8 more rounds before Team Immunity were able break the fortitude they had found, and get the 3 rounds they needed to close out the map.
Dust2 was a map where both teams could unleash their playmakers; a playground for skilled aimers and clutch plays, the map would prove to be a see saw of momentum – the difference being a superstar performance from Rickeh that would continually shatter rounds that MVP.Karnal needed to find more advantages. A 16:13 victory was a tight finish, but meant a 2-1 lead in the series, and Immunity would hunt their next map win on overpass – a map that had yielded good results for the team in recent competition.
MVP.karnal stole away the first pistol round to begin overpass, but it was one of only three successful rounds that the team would find on the map. Victory was on the horizon for the Immunity roster, and each player found opportunity to break open the map, and drive their teammates forward to victory – and a 16:3 scoreline to close the series left nothing to the imagination, Team Immunity ironing out their final match of the WCA APAC Finals in a dominating fashion.
Victory had been demanded of Team Immunity, and they earned it. A first place finish at the WCA APAC Finals meant they had now qualified for the WCA LAN Finals that will take place in December. A chance to once again compete at an international LAN was the prize the team was hunting for, and they had found the resilience and strategy they needed to take it. Continued efforts and adjustments to their game had paid off when they needed it most, a welcome confidence boost to a roster that had given much to even compete at the event.
Shortly after arriving back home, we were able to talk with the roster about WCA, and how it would impact their immediate and future plans (questions and answers below). The team as a whole had a positive attitude coming out of the tournament. A victory amongst teammates and friends can be more than just a victory if capitalised upon properly, and it will be important for the team to continue their practice efforts moving on to local competitions, as every round will serve as an opportunity to improve before another international performance.
James ‘JAMES’ Quinn:
Firstly, congratulations on your win at the WCA APAC Finals! With a fantastic victory to finish the tournament, and a seed in the World Finals you must be feeling pretty good. Explain what kind of emotions you were feeling the moment you had realised you claimed victory?
Obviously the emotion is a great feeling, it’s our first win on foreign soil which is a great accomplishment for us. When we looked at the teams playing in the tournament against us, our goal was to finish first and that’s what we did, while using ofnu as a stand-in. But we feel awesome achieving what our set goal was!
These tournaments hold great importance for teams who wish to make an impact on the international scene; and rightly so. Which leads to the question, what kind of preparations were made coming into this tournament?
To be completely honest, little to no preparation on our opponents was done. We go through a few VODs from the PGL Minor which was 2 weeks before the event, but that was focused on fixing mistakes we had made. We only had 3-4 days practice with ofnu which made things difficult, but pretty much we just tried to get him up to speed on our overall game plan, and game style, and he did awesome which is great.
It was fantastic news to hear that Michael “wLE” Auricht would be travelling with you guys as an extra mind in game. With many years of experience analysing and coaching other teams how have you felt he helped Team Immunity during this tournament?
He’s still new to our team, which makes it difficult for him to quickly understand where he fits in, but he’s doing well in just helping myself with the IGL role and it’s only going to get better.
Chris ’emagine’ Rowlands:
Chris, for someone such as yourself with several years of experience and opportunities to compete on the international stage, could you give us some insight into what makes these Asian teams game-style different compared to teams you play back home?
While the Chinese region currently looks to be ahead of the rest of the Asian scenes I feel like they are all generally more well-prepared than many Oceanic teams. They are also strong at the fundamentals of getting fast trade frags to even the rounds out quickly.
There has been some really fast growth in the Asian Counter-Strike scene. From what you have seen so far of these teams – both inside the game and out, what kind of aspects do you think Oceanic teams could benefit from using themselves?
As I mentioned before the basic teamwork aspects can be applied to all Oceanic teams, a lot of the Asian teams thrive on heavy executes and good aim. As well as that, heavy research on opponents is a trend more teams should focus on.
After winning this WCA qualifier you have been invited back to China in December to compete for a prize pool of over $200,000 USD. In these next six months before the tournament you have a substantial amount of time to prepare, improve and perhaps even relax a little, how do you think you are going to spend that time?
We will spend the time leading up to December practicing and competing in various domestic leagues
Rick ‘Rickeh’ Mulholland:
As a spectator, there were some fantastic things to see in this WCA qualifier. However, what amazed me the most was that the old “Rickeh” was back. By the end of the finals you had a K-D difference of +57 and the highest AWP kills per round by far. Was there some sort switch that flicked internally or has the old “Rickeh” always been there?
I think this tournament was a good reminder that I must take more chances in my game style to have more of an impact in the game, that being said I have been taking a more careful approach to situations making sure the right play is made regardless of outcome. The team lets me position myself in a way where I can make openings, and get important frags.
Although you did win the qualifier, was there any stand out moments where perhaps you or your team wished that they had done something differently?
I am happy with the way the team is forming chemistry wise, but it is still too early to tell if we are on the right track again. I think our biggest problem right now is just consistency/aim.
You are considered one of the best AWP players in Australia. In terms of the Asian region, have you met anyone that you consider a strong contender in AWP versus AWP engagements?
I would say my #1 rival for the Asian region would be CaptainMo from Tyloo, but there is other talent such as kazE, zilkenberg, havok, and they can all have just as much impact on the game.
Chris ‘ofnu’ Hanley:
It has been a while since we’ve seen you compete on the international stage. In fact, FACEIT 2015 Stage 3 Finals in November all the way back last year was your most recent venture. How has it felt to dust off the boots and get back to overseas play?
The prospect of playing overseas again was very exciting, as a whole I think the conditions at WCA made it a far less pleasurable experience than i would’ve hoped. Playing overseas however is a huge goal and it’s always good to experience other teams playstyles.
As we know, it can sometimes be difficult to fit in with everyone’s play-style as a substitute. How has your experience been so far competing with Team Immunity – knowing that you handled yourself quite well in the WCA SEA Qualifiers?
I was fortunate enough to have played with emagine and zewsy in the past, so coming into the team on a social level was very smooth. The role I was given in the team was a very solo role which meant there was little disturbance to how the core of the team plays. I’m glad that I was able to assist the team in winning the event and qualifying for the finals in December.
Ryan ‘zewsy’ Palmer:
During these last few of weeks there has been many trips around the continent for Team Immunity; PGL KeSPA Minor and WCA Southeast Asia Qualifier to name a couple. How has this need to constantly travel effected your performance and do you think you’re long overdue for some good sleep?
For me personally I don’t think the travel has affected me much at all. The thing that has affected me the most is still getting used to the team and my role. Yes, it’s always so good to get back home and sleep in my own bed and see my friends and family.
Now that you’ve had the chance to compete at the ceiling of Australian CS and furthermore Asian CS. What kind of recommendations do you have to some of the perhaps less experienced teams who are looking to achieve as much as you and your team have accomplished?
I think one of the biggest things that can make a difference for teams looking to get better is having a good attitude towards your teammates and the game, not just stopping when you get to a certain skill level and thinking there isn’t anything else for you to learn. Also lots of individual practise helps!
This would have to be one of your first international victories. How has the entire experience been since coming into this team and winning the WCA SEA Qualifiers outright?
The experience as a whole has been really good, I’ve been able to see, and travel to lots of different countries playing the game I love, while making new friends along the way. It felt really good to win the WCA APAC Finals because I knew all the hours, grinding and practice everyone had put in, and it had paid off.