ENCE have been one of the best teams in the world in recent months, and although stars like Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia and Guy “Nertz” Iluz might be the flashy ones catching the eyes of the community, IGL Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer has been the heart and mind behind their rise back to the elite level of the Counter-Strike world.
At IEM Cologne, we sat down with Snappi to discuss ENCE’s return to the top, the growth of SunPayus, and how ENCE is now a place for players to stick around, rather than move on to bigger things elsewhere.
Sam “AN1MO” McKenzie, BLIX: In terms of the team's ranking, ENCE are fourth on HLTV's ranking right now. You've been in the top five for a while and won Dallas, but it still feels like people don't talk about you enough as a team and in terms of your achievements. Why do you think that is?
Snappi: I think we're not, the organization itself I mean, just isn't as big of a name, so the fanbase isn't as big and therefore, despite our results, we don't get talked about as much. Then also, we're obviously missing out on some of the, what they call 'prestige' events, which in my opinion, they aren't, but we aren't playing BLAST and we can't get points there. We could get higher in the rankings if we had attended the Spring Final and if we could get points there, so we are in a tough place because if we want to get high in the rankings we essentially have to do good at every single IEM event. We've done that; we got top four at Pro League, won in Dallas, and now here [Cologne], so, I think that just by us being in the top five, we're proving that we are a top-five team because we have a tougher time getting there.
BLIX: On SunPayus and his development. When you signed him, he was viewed to be an incredible CT AWPer but lacking a bit on the T side. In this event he's got higher ratings on the T side than CT, how have you worked on that with him?
Snappi: We needed to push him. I think me and sAw have pushed him a lot, and he also pushed himself. I think at the start he was looking into certain teams that were not playing a style that would favor him on the T side, he wanted to be more of a supportive player, throwing utility and playing correct CS, but we told him to be a little more crazy. We pushed him to go in front of the pack, let others throw the utility, just go and set yourself up for the kills, don't set others up. I think with that, he's getting to a level where he's now a star AWPer; he won the MVP at Dallas and he's our best-rated player here. We needed a star AWPer, and he's really grown into that.
BLIX: In that sense of playstyle then, he's very different to hades now, was that always the original plan, or did you sign SunPayus knowing that he was more supportive and intended to use him that way?
Snappi: No, with hades, we also tried to push him in that direction, and he was also good at being aggressive, but the problem was that when he was having bad games he would be too tough on himself and then he wouldn't be as aggressive anymore. I think SunPayus needed a style change on the T side and over the last year he has made that change successfully and now, as you say, his numbers are better on the T side. It's something that if you told him it would happen one year ago, I don't think he would've believed it himself. I think it's a testament to how much he's grown as a player and how much he accepted our style and the way we've pushed him.
BLIX: What about Nertz then? He's the most recent addition to the team and while he always looked good, are you surprised by the level to which he's hit the ground running?
Snappi: Not that much, to be honest. I knew he would be good on LAN because he's from Israel so he plays on high ping and that means he'll get an advantage when he comes to LAN. His personality is also good, so I wasn't worried about it. I knew that when we were going to get him into the team we were going to give him good space. Whenever we bring in a new player, and I think it's why we've made a lot of successful additions, we try to accommodate the player and don't try to say, 'You were good here, but now you're getting these roles that are a bit worse', we try to make it very comfortable for them and try to push them. Sometimes they might not agree with everything, but we push them for their benefit. I'm not surprised about Nertz. Maybe I was a bit surprised at the RMR because he was the main reason we even got through; he was insane, but apart from then, I'm not surprised. This is what I expected and he's doing a great job.
BLIX: Do you think because of Nertz and SunPayus being stars to that degree, people might be underestimating yourself, maden, and dycha?
Snappi: I don't think people underestimate us, maybe they do, but I don't think it's that bad. I think people can see that I'm doing a really good job as an IGL, I'm getting more and more respect, and I think that people can see that when we added maden to the team, he changed a lot. He's a super selfless player who makes everyone around him better, he's a super good player, a key player for us. Dycha in general, may he's flown under the radar, but I think people see dycha as a very skilled player. I think we all get recognition, and to be honest, it doesn't really matter too much. In our team, we're all really happy for each other's successes. I think as long as we are a team, and we respect each other, that's all that matters to us. I think everyone on the team would never want to remove anyone. The atmosphere is amazing and everyone trusts each other, and that's the most important thing.
BLIX: We spoke at the BLAST.tv Major, and you said something along the lines of 'until the next player gets stolen from me'. Do you think now, with where the team is and the fact you've had to grind back to here after losing Spinx, do you think players might now be looking at ENCE as the team to stay on, rather than use as a stepping stone?
Snappi: I think ENCE is the team to stay at, but we have a disadvantage, and that is BLAST. It's a big disadvantage to us that we aren't able to be at the tournaments we want to be at because they have a franchised league. Despite us being a top-five team in the World, we can't change that fact until BLAST potentially changes their system. Because of that, we might still be at risk of getting players stolen, but I think if we remove that factor, I think people couldn't steal from us at this point and people would want to stay.
BLIX: Is there not a financial aspect to it though?
Snappi: I think ENCE has shown a financial report that is great, I can already promise you that the 2023 report is also going to be great, so I think that, while ENCE isn't my table, from what I understand, they are accepting that they are willing to go to the next phase now. They have the budget for it, and I don't think the financial part will be that big of a factor. ENCE is a well-driven org, a well-drilled org. It's the only organisation that runs on a profit and that profit can also be invested into the team.
BLIX: Finally then, about yourself, you've been around for a very long time, longer than most pros. CS2 is coming up and you're at the peak of your career, did you ever expect to be at this point by the time that CS:GO was coming to an end?
Snappi: I didn't really ever think about it, but it's true that now is the time that I'm having the most success in my career, but I also think the age limit has never really been explored. I think if anything, my level has improved a little bit lately and I think my calling gets better and better every event. As an IGL, you live off your brain more than your aim, but I think I have good years left in me and I think that one of my biggest strengths is that I'm very creative, I make a lot of strats, I don't like to copy other people, and I think that will be a big strength coming into CS2 where there's going to be a lot of new things and you have to figure out for yourself. I'm very creative in that way and know how to crack the meta open. I'll be fine for a couple more years.