When Chiefs decided to swap out veteran in-game leader Lightstep for the unproven pecks, many speculated on whether the move would help or hinder the young side. 6 months, 2 national LAN wins, 2 qualifications for international events and an impressive performance at IEM Sydney later, Chiefs have undisputedly become one of the most accomplished lineups in the region’s history and have maintained their place at the top of the scene.

Despite a loss to Athletico 2-1 at the Zowie eXTREMESLAND Australia finals, I sat down with team captain Tyler “tucks” Reilly to talk about the team’s recent downswing, their approach to LAN and financial support in the scene.

I want to go back to when you first brought pecks into the lineup. Was the success of that transfer predicated more on your leadership or his individual skill?

It’s a bit of both. I knew that when we signed Pete [pecks], he was someone that’s really keen for it. He listens, which was one of the big reasons why we got him. I knew exactly what he was like as a player. I knew that I could tell him what to do and he would do it. I could tell him when he was wrong, and he would admit that he was wrong. I knew he’d work really hard for it. Definitely a bit of both. With the roles that we have, we really try and help him. When he joined the team, we tried to help him with his roles.

A game you guys will be remembered for for quite some time is the win over North at IEM Sydney, where your T side used a lot of variations on an interesting execute. How much preparation went into that match on Nuke?

We didn’t look at North at all, to be honest. We tried to prepare a bit for everyone. I didn’t think we’d play Nuke against them. We were thinking it would be Overpass. We had more stuff for that. We didn’t look at their Nuke at all, but we knew that Nuke was one of our strongest maps. We wanted to get any team on Nuke, we just wanted Nuke or Overpass, which were our strongest maps for the event. The Nuke strat was just something that we thought of the week before. We knew it was really strong and that no one had seen it before and we could change it up how we did. We didn’t look into North much, it was more just how we played it.

Chiefs have been in somewhat of a slump online lately. What can you put that down to?

We’ve been playing a lot lately. We had the CG LAN and then we flew straight to Perth and played [WCA]. We had a lot of success. When we came back, I wouldn’t say we were lazy – we were practicing – but we didn’t really know what to work on. We sort of innovated a lot with our strategies for that CG LAN and Perth, so everything was kind of stale and these teams back here had been working really hard. So, we were certain that these people had been looking at our game and knew what we were doing. What happened was we were playing and we felt we were being counter-stratted so we tried to just go on the fly and change up things during the game which didn’t really work. We were really sloppy and people weren’t playing well individually. Everyone was just having a slump. I just put it down to that. We knew the competitions were important, but we didn’t really prepare for them and we hadn’t really had a good taste of what these teams were like. Athletico are a completely new team now, I feel, Kings, we’ve never played, and Grayhound are also a pretty new team now with dexter coming in.

Kings have really hit the ground running in the past few months, even besting you guys in a few encounters. What are your thoughts on the pieces that have come together in that roster and the team’s play as a whole?

I think the roster’s really good. I think they play good Counter-Strike. We’ve played them a couple of times. I feel like a few times they played us maps that we’re not so good at or we weren’t really prepared for. They have bested us on Train lately. We felt like they destroyed us on their T side and we beat them on our T side. Our CT side has just been really terrible lately. I think their team has really good players, but I still think they’re a team that you can’t really judge off these first few weeks. They could go really good in the long run or they could go quite bad and be making roster changes because maybe the parts don’t fit together as well as we thought. I know that their coach has helped them a fair bit. I think that’s a massive bonus; dayV1D, who they signed. They had him for a bit before they signed him. I think he’s a really big thing for that team. I don’t know why, but they didn’t play too well vs Avant when we saw them on LAN for the first time. It’ll be interesting to see how they go here.

What is it about LAN that makes you guys perform so well?

I think it’s our preparation for LANs. Before this week, we had a few bad online results. But at the start of this week, we knew we had to practice properly, go over some new things, fix mistakes. We do that every time. We sort of call it an online bootcamp, where a week before the LAN we get on early during the day, dry run a couple of strategies and scrim that night. We go really hard, we feel really refreshed and we fixed a lot of our stuff. I think just being together, we get really hyped and we enjoy each other’s presence and just the seriousness of it. When you’re online, people lose focus a fair bit; they make mistakes, they make plays that they shouldn’t have, we don’t really communicate as well as we do on LAN.

DreamHack recently announced that they’d be complying with ESIC’s ban rules. What does that mean for you, as a VAC banned player, and Chiefs, who have thus had to field stand-ins in qualifiers before?

I think it’s really big for us. After IEM, we looked for any events that we could go to overseas. But, the ESL ones, they didn’t want to give us qualifiers or invite us to other qualifiers – we wanted to go to America and play in the New York qualifiers, but we couldn’t do that – wanted to try Cologne, but couldn’t go to China for that. So, I think it’s really good, because the DreamHack Open events invite younger team, so I think we’re going to look at trying to get in contact with them and see if we’re able to get to a few of their events next year and then build off that, to be honest. It’s really big for us.

Finally, we’re seeing the increase in sponsorships, prize pools and general financial support in the scene. Is it becoming viable to play CS as a full-time job at the upper ends of the scene?

I think soon it will. I think, right now, we’re sort of getting to the stage of teams coming in. There’s going to be some big salary increases soon. Not just CS, but all around Australia, with AFL teams buying in and big sporting clubs buying in in general. Right now, our team’s pretty much full-time, just cause we’re kids. Whatever jobs we had, we were able to quit, because the salary that Chiefs pays us is sufficient for us to live with our families. Soon enough, people will be able to quit their jobs. They won’t be living as good as they would be with their normal jobs, but if they want to make the dream work then they’ll have to do that.