We caught up with Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski from Team Liquid for a two-part interview at the BLAST Premier Spring Groups. In its first installment he talks about Liquid's last season, changes in the team and more.
Hugo “TheSwedishJoker” Nilsson Meier, BLIX.GG: Did you practice in North America or Europe coming into this event?
Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski: We did both to start the year off and I'd say so far, it's been a decent start to the year. I mean before the Major we had our best practice at a boot camp ever and we didn't do too well. So, I don't think having a super insane practice boot camp where you're just destroying everyone is indicative of anything and neither is like the inverse as well. So, I think overall we're coming into the event pretty well.
BLIX: Was it a conscious choice not to try and make it the best?
EliGE: No, it was not a conscious decision or anything but more like it's just not indicative of our performance at the event. You could do really well right before an event and be destroying everyone or you could have on-and-off practices but you're learning a lot in those games because you're either losing a lot of rounds and you're learning from them so you're not going to lose them in the match, things like that.
BLIX: How would you describe the last season for you guys?
EliGE: I would say that it was a pretty rocky start to the year, but we consistently improved as the year went on. I think as soon as the second half of the season started, we just consistently were getting better and better and all of our placements kept improving, except for the Major. So, I mean it was a pretty good year for us considering how we started. Like we were only a top-20, top-15 team when we started the year before we made the roster change and everything. Considering how that all went and the progress that we made in the second half of the year, I'd say it was overall pretty good.
BLIX: On a scale from one to ten, how far is YEKINDAR from being perfectly embedded into the team after being there for a little while?
EliGE: I would say we're already past the honeymoon stage. We have all the structure that we want and need and at this point considering our results at the end of the year, it's just about maintaining the good stuff and keeping on adapting to the meta that's constantly changing and making sure that we're not falling behind and we're the ones that are pulling ahead of everyone else.
BLIX: You guys had this huge peak with Stewie2K and Twistzz. Do you feel some sort of pressure or a will, so to speak, to come back and reach this level again?
EliGE: It's not about thinking about the Grand Slam or anything. There are new challenges that we're facing every day and life moves on. You can't be living in the past and we're just motivated here to make new experiences and new memories as we continue our careers. So, for everyone on our team, we all just want to win and make new memories better than our old ones. We're supposed to be living and hanging in the past, but we are not. We're all wanting to win right now.
BLIX: Lucid, your former analyst, departed the team a few months ago. Are you guys looking to make your staff around the team stronger now?
EliGE: We have acquired a new analyst since then, he's a full-time analyst. We have daps as our coach, we have Steve as our manager and that's pretty much our main structure for staffing in the team.
BLIX: How is it to work with Steve?
EliGE: I mean, Steve is just the type of manager that is going to just try to make sure what needs doing gets done. He always likes putting in the best efforts for the team and if we need anything or something needs to get done, he's always a helping hand if someone has to get something done with a visa or more of like the background type of stuff with the team because obviously anything in, like, the front end of playing in the team or strategy.
Obviously, that's all with the players, analysts and coach. So yeah, he's more of like someone that's working in the background of the team and making sure that we have everything that's needed.
BLIX: You guys also brought in daps last year. Does he bring his experiences from NRG and everything?
EliGE: Yeah, of course. I think daps has been doing a really good job. I think it's always really helpful when you have a former player, especially daps because he was an IGL on his team. Former IGLs are always going to be really strong coaches because they understand how the game works in the macro sense and how to deal with people as well. They know how to manage certain personalities on the team or how we can be optimizing our play and our strategy, our practice and all that type of stuff.
So, I think that is a really big strength, especially from former IGLs and I think that we've clearly shown that in the second half of the year, we improved a ton when we made the change with daps and YEKINDAR.
BLIX: What sets him apart from adreN, your former coach?
EliGE: I think they're both very smart with strategy-type stuff. Both adreN and daps are both very knowledgeable about the game, they understand it very well, the macro and everything like that. I think that daps is a little bit different in terms of like... I think that he's good at making sure that issues don't run out of hand. If there's any issue that happens with the team, if there's a disagreement, it gets addressed face-on a lot quicker than it has in the past and I think that is obviously super helpful for a team.
BLIX: oSee has been with the team for about a year now. How do you feel he has been developing and what do you think is his potential for the team?
EliGE: I think that Josh has a lot of potential. I think that there's a lot to learn. Of course, when you are coming from North America and you don't have as many opportunities to play against tier-one teams, there's just a lot that you just haven't learned because you haven't had to learn it yet. And that's just kind of like the struggle, coming up from tier-two teams in NA because you just don't have the opportunity. And as we saw with Party Astronauts when they came to ESL Pro League, they just kind of got destroyed because there's just a lot of things that they just haven't experienced yet and had to learn and it's just a very different environment.
So, as he kept on playing with Extra Salt, kept playing within our team, he's had to learn a lot of stuff and keep going through a thought process. But he's very diligent about his learning process, where he has been efficient in learning and it's just a continuous process of learning more and refining his fundamentals and flow chart of what he thinks are good options, good picks, good rotations, stuff like that.
BLIX: Have you guys been able to set any expectations for this year coming in with the full new roster and everything?
EliGE: Yeah, so we talked about it right before we got here. Our whole goal is going to be to win the Major and make sure that we're having steady results that are improving as we start the year and not like, feeling like we have to be like 150% winning off the bat and being disappointed and burnt out and frustrated, like going into the Major. Because obviously everything is about winning the Major and I think that is how the season is structured. This year is way better compared to the other years because of the clear division in the middle. I think the player break being at a better time this year is way more beneficial for the schedule and I think it's a lot better. We expect to do as well as we can here and then go to Katowice and have a strong result there and then we have time in between and we're just expecting for us to continuously be getting better as the year goes.
Read more in part two of our interview with EliGE.
Feature Image: @TeamLiquidCS