Genuine Gaming is making waves in the Australian scene. Building on their 2-0 win over Chiefs at the ESL AUNZ Championships finals in June, the team made it to the grand final of the DreamHack Masters Malmo Oceanic Qualifier this month thanks to BO3 wins over the three giants of Oceanic Counter-Strike: ORDER, Chiefs and Grayhound.

The team’s leader and AWPer, Tom “apocdud” Henry, has turned his team of previous tier-two mainstays into threatening contenders for coveted international LAN berths and domestic trophies. I spoke to apocdud about his team’s rise through the ranks and his personal journey in the scene’s lower echelons.

Back in 2016, you were part of Corvidae’s academy team called the Jays. What was it like being backed by an organisation with one of the strongest lineups in the country at the time?

I never talked to any of the Corvidae people. I think I exchanged five words with INS once and that was it because we were complete shit back then. We were doing our own thing and they were doing their own thing.

From the limited experience you have, what are your thoughts on organisations having academy rosters?

I think it’s a really good idea but both parties need to be involved. The thing is, if you have an academy team, the pro team should scrimming them once a week – just as a ballpark estimate – to try and help them and actively guide them. We did a little bit of that with the academy team but we didn’t have enough time to play as it was, so we just couldn’t do it the majority of the time.

It can be really fruitful. Everyone needs to be on the same page and actually be committed to try and improve together. You can also learn things from scrimming them. With an academy team, they’d be a lot more willing to do pistol-only scrims or gun round-only scrims.

You’re now playing with Genuine. Tell me about the roles of the players on the team.

It’s less set-in-stone than you’d think. Ever since we’ve had stat in the team – he was replacing minnii, who was our hard entry – we switched everything around; SkulL in-game leading to me, SkulL AWPing to me, SkulL to entry and Jinxx from lurking to second entry. After that, it’s very in-the-moment, very loose. Generally, stat or Mayker are lurking. Jinxx is our main anchor player, just chuck him on a site by himself and he’ll be happy. Jinxx is a very passive person so we’ve found it best to put him in the more passive roles. That’s what we’ve set.

Jinxx was a player, during the Masterminds and Taboo days, that was looking like a rising star until wrist issues kept him out of the game at times. How much do you think these injuries have affected his progression through the scene and play in your team?

It’s been rough. The first time it happened, he broke his wrist – this was back in Taboo – so we had to deal with him being out and replaced him. Then, eventually, he came back, because we replaced some other players; he’s been with us since. Then he got continual pain in his arms, which progressed to the point where he found out he had to get surgery. He had massive issues in both of his wrists, had to get surgery, out for six weeks, and we had to find a replacement, muZ, who we used for a while. He played really well, he did his job, but Jinxx just had too much experience.

In answer to your original question, I think it definitely has affected his progression. Add onto the wrist stuff his medical degree and he just can’t commit as much effort as anyone else. He basically just hops on and plays; he gets home from uni and comes on.

You’ve been a player that’s floated around the tier two of Australian teams for quite some time now. What do you think has kept you there and prevented you from rising further?

Before this team, every team I was in just didn’t understand the game, basically. When stat came in, he brought a lot of knowledge from Legacy that I had just never thought about before. It’s the same with our coach Oxey; there’s just so many things that I never thought about in the game. Now that we’re actually setting things out and properly trying to practice, everything we do has a purpose. We used to just be like “fuck it, do this round”, and that sort of thing kept us [down]. The way we won games back in Taboo was we had really sharp individuals and kind of got a bit lucky. Now, it’s more consistent. There’s a steady progression because we’re actively improving the mistakes we have and not just patching them up. We’re redoing all of our stuff and making sure it’s clean.

stat, as you mentioned, has a bit more experience than the rest of the team, previously playing at Legacy under LONS where they attended IEM Sydney 2018. What impact does he have on the team?

He’s a really important part of the team. He brought the original stuff from Legacy, but the meta changes pretty quickly. While he brought the ethos of how to improve with him, he’s also able to think for himself and has brought a lot in terms of watching demos, working on parts of our maps that suck and different ways to practice better. In terms of value, he brings a lot to the team other than just his aim. He’s very smart as well; he’s sort of the secondary caller and he’s good at reading the game.

I see a lot of parallels between you at the helm of this team and the willyKS-led Ground Zero lineup of early-to-mid-2018 that you were part of for a period. He is another player that has never been able to break out of the tier two of Australian CS. What do you think separates you two?

I like Wilson. He’s always had a great grasp of mid-round and how to read the game, but I think his calling was a bit too on-the-fly and didn’t focus enough on protocols. We had very different ideas of how to call, and we just didn’t mesh well together in a team environment. I do think I also managed to surround myself with a team who are great at thinking for themselves and require much less micro-managing from me. Overall I think we just have different approaches to IGLing, and I am also a big proponent of sticking with the same roster unless absolutely necessary, which is probably the main reason I’ve managed to get to where I am.

A rising trend in elite Counter-Strike now is the AWPing in-game leader, which you yourself are. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of occupying those two crucial roles at once?

The funny thing about that is I don’t want to be doing either of those things. No one on my team can really primary AWP, except maybe SkulL but he wants to entry. I took over IGLing from Jordan [SkulL] because I’m generally more vocal and a bit more level headed, I guess.

When I started leading and AWPing, it was really hard to adjust. I check the radar a lot, and when you’re scoped in you just get fucked by that. Also, when you’re just the AWPer and not the IGL, you can say “I’m going here”, whereas I have to say “I’m going here, you guys do this”. It’s a lot more in-depth. This is my first team primary AWPing – I’ve done IGLing in the past – and it is really challenging. Sometimes I hate it, but it does work well because you can position the team around yourself. I think that’s the advantage it brings, mainly. If I had the choice, I’d rather just rifle, fill roles and secondary call, but you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Let’s picture that in six months you have the same roster. Where do you see yourself and your team and how do you see yourself achieving that?

There’s been a steady progression with this team for ages now. There’s been ups and downs, obviously; there always is. I think the reason we improve is that when we find mistakes we fix them and we know what the mistakes are. It’s not like we don’t know what to do and I think that’s really important. I’ve had teams in the past where I’ve hit a wall and I don’t know what the fuck to do to improve. In this team, I always feel like we know what we need to do, it just requires more time. So, I feel like in 6 months we could legitimately be top four. It’ll just require everyone to keep putting in the same amount of work.

There was a period earlier this year where it felt like the tier two of the scene was really improving and had a lot of strong, stable rosters. But, with teams like Breakaway and Paradox fracturing, it feels like the tier two is falling off again…

Yeah, well Athletico’s gone, Breakaway died and split into Rewound. Avant came out way ahead on that.

What state do you see this tier two in at the moment?

I was thinking about this the other day. It’s super volatile at the moment. It’s hard to know who’s on top at the moment. Obviously, Grayhound is ahead, and then Chiefs, ORDER and Avant. After that, it’s Ground Zero and us who are the next two, and after that, I don’t know. There are teams like the new Paradox, MC and SYF. SYF don’t have a proper leader. Ekul is extremely talented. When they win games, it’s based on their individual ability. Maybe they could do something if they had a proper leader. I think below Ground Zero and us, there’s just nothing. There’s nothing really that I think poses a threat. Obviously, you lose games here and there; we lost to PC419 last season. I mean in terms of consistency.

Do you think there was ever a period where you had a lot of strong tier two teams below the top squads?

Yeah, so I felt like we were eighth or ninth until recently when it was like Athletico, Ground Zero, Breakaway, Paradox; I can’t remember the others but there were a lot of teams that were very competitive. Now, it’s really top-heavy and below that it’s really fallen off.

Your run through the Malmo qualifier drew a lot of attention. What kind of preparation went into the wins against Chiefs, Grayhound and ORDER?

Honestly there was little to no preparation done in terms of counter-stratting. We didn’t really know how the new Order lineup would play, plus we had to focus on getting our last minute sub (thanks prakM) up to speed with our basic setups and strats. When it came to Grayhound, we just went in with full confidence and focused on keeping a really hyped atmosphere, and I think on the day we had everyone performing at a high level and managed to catch them off-guard. The game against Chiefs, we didn’t know if they would play differently without Zewsy, and regardless we were trying to use the little time we had to fix the more glaring mistakes we made in our previous games. 

For you, do these recent results cement your team’s place in the highest echelon of the scene with those three squads or do you still see a gap between you and them?

I think it’s cemented us as the fifth-best team for right now, but it’s such a volatile position due to our inconsistency week-to-week, which is where I’d consider the ‘gap’ to stem from. The wins were great for confidence and proving ourselves, but meaningless in the end unless we can do it on a regular basis. We also still lose to teams that we should be absolutely be beating, which is a major problem that we need to solve before we can be considered at the same level as those other teams.