Dark Sided’s rise from a decent division two team to a regional powerhouse started at the ZEN League offline qualifiers. Taking down Avant Garde to earn their spot in the biggest CS:GO league Oceania has seen was a huge result in itself, but their consistent play through the season, despite the replacement of in-game leader BASS with DickStacy, saw them qualify for the event’s offline finals. The team also managed to win ESEA Premier Season 24 and take the fight to Americans Enigma6 and the Swedish GODSENT in England.

I was joined by Samuel “flickz” Jones at the ZEN League finals to discuss his team’s progression, the addition of big rig DickStacy and their first international event.

This lineup were relatively unknown up until the start of the year. What’s changed in the team that’s taken you guys from a CGi-level to top four in the country?

Well, it started six months ago when we first came to the ZEN qualifiers. I think we realised, at that stage, that we were on the cusp of becoming a better team. We had the skill but we never put the work in. So, we got this opportunity, started grinding a bit harder and realised that we’ve got a pretty good chance of bringing our game to that next level. We just had to put in work. We were all individually talented but we’d never played together in teams. None of us really had a lot of team experience at a semi-high level. We started scrimming a lot more and just put our individual talent together. Since then, we’ve only had one roster change with Dick[Stacy] coming in. He came from the same sort of background but he’s slotted in quite nicely and taken us to another level again.

What was the reason for BASS’ removal from the team?

It was BASS’ decision as well. He didn’t feel like he was performing as well as he could. There was a bit of internal issues and normal stuff that happens when you’re CS-ing; just a difference of opinion. I think he himself didn’t feel like he was performing as well as he could and I think he thought it was the environment that he was playing in. So, he made the decision to step down. We were playing against Dick in PUBs and things like that. He hadn’t really played in teams we’d played against. He filled in for us for a few games in ESEA and his style of play definitely fitted ours so it became a pretty easy transition.

BASS was the team’s in-game leader. With DickStacy coming in, was he slotted into that role?

Dick’s come in as our in-game leader. BASS had already implemented a system that we were playing so we knew the style that we wanted to play. Dick being an IGL for us isn’t really tactic-based. It’s more mid-round calls and getting a general feel of how the other team’s playing and how we want to play. Dick’s come in and got really good at it. He’s giving us direction mid-round, which is what we lacked, and badge has moved to the AWP. BASS was AWPing, so we needed to move someone into that role. If we need to, we can play with five riflers, cause we’re all strong riflers, but badge picked up that AWP.

You guys qualified for the ESEA Season 24 Global Challenge. What was your first international event like?

We were obviously really pumped to get that international experience. The whole experience was amazing. ESEA run it so well. They’re very big on player comfort, so we didn’t feel out of place at any stage cause they directed us really well. It was just a really good experience to play some really, really good, up-and-coming European teams. We got a bit of practice against an American team as well, and we beat Enigma6 who are now in Pro League. It was really good to beat a team who are now in Pro League in America and a good step in the right direction. It was a great experience. We learnt from it and came back a better team.

The matches your team had against GODSENT were very close and, as mentioned, you managed to pick up a win against Enigma6. Did you go into those maps with a gameplan in mind or was it all based around your style?

We knew GODSENT were big on Mirage and Cache, which are two of our strongest maps. So, we went into it knowing they’re the two maps we were likely to play. Mirage, we definitely felt we were going to just play our style and if it didn’t work, we’d try and adjust slightly mid-round. We knew their basic systems and things like that, but we were more focused on our style of play. It really worked out.  They started strong, but we brought it back. Then we had that lead and a bit of inexperience let us down in that last round, which would have won it for us. I think if you read too much into their style, you’re trying to change the whole way you play your game to match it, and your strengths turn to weaknesses. With the Enigma6 game, we didn’t really look at them too much; at all, really. We just came into that saying we’re going to play our game and how it goes is how it goes. We started really good against them and we didn’t take the foot off the pedal, which we can sometimes do. I think it was a comfortable win in the end, 16-11. In the last GODSENT game, we didn’t play as well as we knew we could’ve. We just weren’t as fired up as we usually are, which we need to be, and we just let them take some rounds that they shouldn’t have. It just snowballed; we didn’t feel like we were in it for a lot of it, which is unfortunate. But, it was a good experience and we learnt a lot.

Talking to some of the Chiefs players, they weren’t big fans of the veto process during the ZEN League online stage, where teams would only get one ban. What are your thoughts on the system?

You need two good maps. Cache we’ve played for six months and everyone would veto it against us. They just went “don’t play them on Cache”. We thought “everyone’s taking away our Cache, we need to find another map”, so we picked up Mirage and we’ve started dominating Mirage. Now everyone’s going “ok, let’s not play them on Mirage”. I understand teams like Chiefs, Tainted Minds and Grayhound, the top three teams with us. They have quite a deep map pool, so they’re not big fans of veto one, pick a map, veto one, pick a map. If you have two really strong maps, you’re taking them on one. I’m not for or against the veto process, I don’t really mind it. You’ve still gotta win their map and you’re in the same position. The excuse of “we’re playing them on their strongest map every time”… well, you’re playing us on one of two of our strongest maps, and we’re playing you on one of two of your strongest maps and we’ve gotta beat you on that. Have two really strong maps that we can’t beat you on if you want to take advantage of the veto process. I’m not here or there against it, I don’t really mind it.

You guys were forced to use IyeN as a stand-in for Texta during the recent DreamHack Malmo qualifiers, but still managed to pull through and progress to the next stage. How did IyeN work within the team, coming in as a substitute? Is this performance indicative of Texta’s role in the team, where a player can slot in with ease?

It’s interesting. IyeN is an incredibly talented player and I think, sometimes in the teams he’s in, he gets a bit restricted with the roles he plays. That Athletico lineup was a bit of a star-studded lineup and I don’t think he got utilised for his style of play. He’s very aim-based – take picks, try to get the big frags, basically, which is what Texta does for us. Texta, you can put anywhere on the map and he’ll get a pick or he’ll get those multifrags. So, fitting IyeN in, IyeN really works in those situations where he doesn’t have to have a set structure of “you have to do this, this or this”. He’s really good when you can go “play your game; go towards this side of the map and let us know what you can do”. He’s very good at that, and I think that’s why we were so successful. I mean, the whole DreamHack qualifier was a bit rough. Us and Legacy, pretty much from the get go, were gonna be the two teams. It’s a bit rough that Chiefs and Grayhound had that direct invite, and Tainted Minds had people away. It wasn’t exactly the strongest qualifier to get through. We’re incredibly happy that we got through, obviously; we don’t want to lose anything that we go for. But apart from Legacy, there weren’t very many big name teams that went into this. We would’ve been very disappointed if we lost it, even with IyeN as a stand-in. I think we’ve got a good shot at the next level of the qualifier.

Photos source: Darksided Pro Official Site