OpTic established themselves as a top three team in the world after winning ELEAGUE Season 2 and placing second in the ECS Season 2 Finals. However, the loss of in-game leader stanislaw to Team Liquid has left the Green Wall in limbo, still yet to find a permanent replacement. Despite this, OpTic have still managed to find decent results, with a third place finish at the cs_summit and a semi-final appearance in Sydney.

Trial coach and stand-in leader James “hazed” Cobb joined me to discuss his transition into a strat caller, the team’s recent results and their performance at IEM Sydney.

Are there any major differences between your calling style as a coach and as an in-game leader now with the team?

The style’s definitely different because, as a coach, you can’t actually strat-call. You spend most of your time thinking about that one strat that’s going to guarantee you a round, whereas, when you’re in-game leading, you’re trying to focus on playing and taking it round by round. It’s much harder to think of that one strat and much more of a team effort when you’re in-game leading. You get input from everyone on the team.

How have you grown as an in-game leader between first taking it up with CLG and standing in for OpTic here in Sydney?

I think, at first, I relied on a lot of scrimmy-type rush strats and playing a loose style. But the more I’ve called, the more I’ve realised that you need a foundation of strategies to fall back on. You can have that loose style, but when it’s not working, you need to be able to fall back on something.

Considering you guys went a lot better at the cs_summit than many expected, grabbing third place, how much preparation went into that event?

Honestly, our preparation was kind of bad. We only had about six days of prepping for that tournament and we weren’t even able to scrim three of the maps that we prepared for. So, going into the tournament, we were really shaky on our map pool. This tournament was just as bad. We just had to rely on aim and communication and teamwork to basically win rounds, not really strategies. The Summit was not only a surprise for viewers, but it was a surprise for us too.

Going back to the group stage of IEM Sydney, your first match was against North on Inferno and it went to triple overtime. Did you or your team feel fatigued at all after that?

No, not at all. We were actually pretty hyped about it afterwards. We thought we could win. We didn’t know how close it would be, though, because we had literally not prepared for Inferno leading up to the tournament. I basically made a call before the game that we’re just going to gamble Inferno if it comes down to it and they agreed. We just played pretty loose. We should’ve had the game but I made a really bad call on 15-14 and that made us pretty emo. We gave it our best but just couldn’t quite make it. After the game, we were really happy. Like, these guys are top of ESL Pro League in Europe and we just took them on a map we’ve never even played. It was a good feeling.

With the swiss format, you don’t know who you’re going to be playing until all matches in a round are complete. Going into your next match, did you have any idea on how ViCi would play Train?

Not in particular. I think, as pros, we’ve just accepted that certain regions have certain styles. Chinese teams tend to play very aim-heavy. They will always take that duel against you. It’s very similar to the CIS region. They love those aim duels. So, we knew to expect that. We knew they’d peek us. They’re also known for having perfect accuracy and timing on their executes. They dry run them a lot. We knew that their executes were going to be solid, but there’s always holes in them. They kind of theory craft too much. And so, if you stand in a smoke and then wait for the execute to go through, you can usually flank a few. They’re predictable in that sense.

You guys played Train a few more times in this event. Would you say that was the main focus for you leading into the event?

We actually didn’t prepare for any map against any team in this tournament, other than SK, which obviously backfired, big time. But, we didn’t prepare for Chiefs, ViCi or North. We knew that we could play Train. We watched Chiefs play against Renegades, which was super impressive. I don’t think any of us saw that coming. We noticed that it didn’t seem like they had any strats; they were just winning all of their aim duels. So, we were like if it’s coming down to aim duels, we think we can win. We just said “fuck it, let’s play Train”.

What do you think went wrong in that SK game?

Even looking back, it’s hard to say. I did research for Train, we prepared a lot for it. I knew what they were going to do. I knew if they doubled AWPed, which is what they did from round three, they would always have a guy upper with an AWP and a guy ivy with an AWP. I knew that’s what they were going to do and, for some reason, the guys felt like we should default and try and out-pick them, and it just failed miserably. I tried switching to fast strats, we got some close rounds, but then we lost a really bad clutch which put us on another eco. They were hitting amazing shots and we played the first seven or eight rounds pretty poorly.

Looking forward, there hasn’t been any information on whether you or jasonR will continue in-game leading. Do you know anything about that or is it still to be decided?

That’s still to be discussed. I’m obviously not going to be a part of that discussion. That’s for the four guys and the organisation. It’s up to them. I actually have zero information.

Finally, are there any final words or shoutouts you’d like to give?

Thanks to ESL for inviting us out to Australia. I’ve love it so far. I wish I could’ve given the crowd a better show.

Cover photo credit: ESL Twitter