Comparisons can quite easily be made between Legacy’s Egor “LONS” Baranov and HUNDEN from the Danish scene. The Russian-Kiwi in-game leader has firmly sat just below the upper echelon of Oceanic teams since his breakout with Trident in mid-2015 and has had multiple contender lineups left in ruin after the poaching of his star players, including Sico, Hatz, BURNRUOk and RaZ. The caller, who is known for his appreciation of the slow, methodical style of the CIS region, is back in action with Legacy, alongside yellow, BL1TZ, soju_j and stat. The team, thanks to wins over Tainted Minds and Corvidae in the event’s qualifier, were able to claim a last minute spot at IEM Sydney when Space Soldiers pulled out over visa issues.

I spoke to LONS at the Qudos Bank Arena about his past lineups and his strive for consistency in players.

You’re a player that has led teams close to the top of the scene for a few years now. What is it about your calling style that keeps you and these lineups so consistent?

That’s a good question…. I give a lot of directions. I try to make players be consistent and don’t let players play off feeling. In all of my past teams, we tried to build something consistent rather than a ‘run and gun’ style.

Early into your breakout with Trident, there was talk around your admiration and replication of the CIS region’s style of play. What can you tell me about that? Does it factor into your calling now?

Back then, there were TeamSpeak recordings of major tournaments. They released the TeamSpeak of NaVi and HellRaisers, and I think I watched everything that was released at least 10 times. I basically learned how to call from the videos I watched of CIS teams. Since then, it was banned; they’re not releasing the TeamSpeak anymore. Now, it’s a bit of a struggle. But, yeah, back then – Trident, even early Parallax – I was getting that information from there.

The tragedy of Parallax, leading into Avant Garde, was that you guys were never able to hit that top tier in the region. Why do you think your teams in general have struggled to break into that highest echelon?

I don’t know. There were periods of time where people got poached. When they get poached – when they see an opportunity to go to another team – they either try less or they work for themselves instead of the team. That’s when the team falls apart. Like, literally every team, someone got poached; literally every single one. That played a big role. Otherwise, I don’t know. I think we were alright; we were competing. I don’t think you can make top one consistently. I don’t think there’s a team that has ever consistently made top one. You can consistently make top two and I think that’s a good result. Top one is like an extra.

As you mentioned, you’ve had a lot of players poached that have gone on to play in some of the region’s best lineups: Hatz, RaZ, Sico, BURNRUOk. How much of an impact do you feel you’ve had on these players’ careers?

I think I definitely helped Hatz, for sure. We spent a lot of time with him; not just in game, but also in preparing for the game. I showed him the way to prepare; I’m not sure if he uses it still. But, he got really good because I helped him, I think. That’s my opinion. That’s about it. The rest were just alright.

Coming into IEM Sydney as a late entry, the biggest storyline for you guys was yellow being unable to attend. He’s a player that has been your right-hand man from Trident to Parallax to Avant and now here in Legacy. Talk to me about him as a teammate.

I think he’s reliable in game. Out of game, maybe not so much. [chuckles] But, in game, he’s reliable. You can just leave him there and he does his thing, he doesn’t complain and I can focus on the other side of the map and get the other players in the right spots. As I said, in game, he’s reliable; out of game, not so much.

yellow has played alongside LONS since 2015 – Source: Liquipedia

When this Legacy lineup came together, I saw BL1TZ as a player with a lot of potential. However, stat and soju_j were players that weren’t standouts in their previous teams at all. What can you tell me about the role structure of this team and the way you’re using these players?

Basically, we got them to play in the roles. Again, the most consistent roles; so, after-trade situations. That’s where they learn the most, I think. From my point of view, they can be really good after-trade players if they try real hard. Both of them are after-trade players. I’m entrying, yellow is lurking, BL1TZ is AWPing and the other two are just trading.

You’ve mentioned consistency in players a few times now and I find that interesting with BL1TZ on the team, who I see as quite a streaky, volatile AWPer. How are you using him?

I don’t use BL1TZ at all. He’s doing his own thing; we’re split up. Because he was an IGL before, he knows what to do. So, what we did was we split up into pairs; I’m taking one side of the map and he’s taking the other side. I make the call, then he controls one side of the map and I another side. That’s how we’re split up. His AWPing style, I have nothing to do with that.

You’re just letting him do his own thing?

Yeah, he does what he wants. He’s not aggressive at all; he doesn’t take many risks. That’s the way he chooses to play and I have nothing to do with that.

SnypeR is a part of the organisation and has coached you guys in the past. How much input does he have on the team?

He’s coaching when he’s around. We haven’t been able to really learn anything yet from him. He’s got his casting thing on the side and there’s not really enough time at the moment. But, in future, we will do something with that. He’s definitely a decent coach and we’re looking forward to working with him.

The only other LAN event this team has played was AEM Season 4, where you lost to R!OT in the final. Was that a disappointing result for the team? How do you feel you played there?

Eh, not really. We played how we prepared. It wasn’t like “this is a tier 2 or 5 event or whatever and we have to win it”. It wasn’t like that. We prepared to play specific maps. Unfortunately, in the grand final, our map pool was bad. It was bad for that grand final, specifically, because we don’t play Cache and they played Cache; we also vetoed Mirage for some reason. So, we only had two maps and they vetoed one of them. We weren’t really disappointed. We were just like “okay, we’ll work on it”.

Immunity veteran SnypeR stood behind Legacy at AEM Season 4 Finals

Mirage is definitely your team’s strongest map and has historically been the most played map for teams you’ve led. Why is that? Would you say it’s your favourite map?

Nup, definitely not my favourite map. In this team, it was the first map we decided to practice, and, because it was the first map, we’ve worked the most on it. We’ve spent more time on it, we’ve thought about it more, we’ve changed so many positions and so many things on T side that we literally know the map inside and out now. I think it’s a good thing. It shows that the more time we get, the better we’re going to get. It’s a consistent graph that keeps going up.

You guys played Renegades in the opening round of IEM Sydney. Talk to me about that match. Was there anything you learned or took away from the game?

We started T side, we won the pistol, then we lost an eco. We get really depressed when we lose an eco because that’s just not supposed to happen. We could’ve broken their money easily, but, because of a lack of experience and miscommunication we failed two gun rounds and didn’t make the right moves. The half was supposed to be 10-5 easily to us. That’s how I see it. Unfortunately, it didn’t. On CT side, it was just too much panicking. Plus, we had a stand-in, which was really hard to play with on T side, even though Lacore is a good player; it’s just he’s not yellow.