When Jonji was met with a similar situation at the start of 2021 as ex-Chaos went their separate ways, the 30-year-old AWPer and the Canadian entry fragger reunited, and looked to build a roster to compete in ESEA Premier Season 36. Bad News Bears are currently leading their group with a perfect 3-0 record and also won back-to-back ESEA Cash Cups.
ptr chatted about the formation of his new roster and how he spent his time off, referencing it as a much-needed break after almost 16 years of grinding Counter-Strike. He also touched on his hopes for the new generation of North American players, the ones left following the departure of many to VALORANT, and how he hopes to help them build the fundamentals necessary to compete at a top level.
You were inactive for a while after Bad News Bears disbanded. What were you up to during that time off, and what prompted your return to CS:GO?
I took about six months off. I started playing VALORANT actually, I was playing with Mendo if you’ve ever heard of him. We started playing VALORANT together, we had a project going for about two or three months, but it just never worked out. Also during that time I was playing a lot of poker, grinding a lot of poker, MTTs [multi-table tournaments]. Honestly, I was just relaxing.
I saw that the North American scene really needed some help, and it’s not necessarily that I’m coming back just to help, you know, I want to win, but just in general to get my feet back in, see what I can do, help the young players and have fun again, play the game I love.
VALORANT didn’t do it for me like CS does, CS is just, you know… a very specific game that we’ve all played and loved for years and years
Given that you were playing VALORANT for a bit, a swap was clearly a consideration for you, but did you choose not to stay in the game just because you couldn’t find an organisation, or did it not appeal to you as much as CS?
I think a little of both. If we had found an organisation that paid well or just enough so that I could play it without going to get a real job, I guess you could say, I would have played it. But at the same time, it didn’t do it for me like CS does, CS is just, you know… a very specific game that we’ve all played and loved for years and years.
With you returning, you’ve also reunited with Jonji here on Bad News Bears. Is there something specific about him that made you want to return to this lineup? What does he bring to the roster?
Well, like you said, we were teammates for about a year. He just has a great personality, I love playing with him, he’s selfless, he just wants to win. He’ll do whatever is needed, he doesn’t complain, and I like that. He’s also just a good person outside the game, we’ve hung out a lot, we lived together for a little while, and when I found out that his team had died and that he wanted to continue to play, I was like, ‘Let’s do it, let’s make a roster,’ and we formed this five.
Talking about the five you’ve formed here, what led to creating this specific lineup?
The first player that we had in mind was Swisher. I knew he was playing for Yeah, he had always been an up-and-comer, but he got a lot of experience from Yeah in the last six months or so. So I knew that he was definitely going to be a piece that I would need in order to grow in Premier and have a stable roster, as us three.
Then Gabe, Spongey, was named and I knew he used to play on Triumph, he was a really solid anchor, really solid player for them, so I definitely thought we should give him a go. The wildcard that we have is alter. I had thought about him originally, and then Swisher messaged me and said, ‘Hey, what about alter?’ We just messaged him and he said he could play, and it all came together. Pretty lucky, to be honest.
I felt like it we would be in a honeymoon period, but we’re sort of getting past that and staying the same way, so it’s a nice thing to see.
What’s that experience been like so far, playing with this roster?
Actually, and I’m not lying at all, it’s been some of the most fun I’ve ever had. We just laugh all the time, we have a good time, we’re always talking to each other, communication is really good. In the past, I’ve played on teams that just completely destroy someone mentally and you can just never recover when you lose big rounds, but this team so far… I mean, I felt like it would be the honeymoon period, but we’re sort of getting past that and staying the same way, so it’s a nice thing to see.
Recently you lost mCe to Gen.G in VALORANT and brought in madcow as his replacement. Obviously for mCe it was an offer he couldn’t turn down, but can you tell me a bit about the short time you had working with him?
I’ve got to work with Matt for a week or so, week and a half. He let us know quite early that he had to keep his options open, for obvious reasons, financial reasons, so it was no problem with us. For the most part, it was great, everything he said really applied to our game and really helped certain players. It was sad to see him go, but we’ve picked up Nate (madcow) and we’re happy with him so far, we’re just going to see how it goes from here.
madcow was on the sidelines for a bit. What has he helped with so far?
He brings a stable, calm voice. He says things that are forgettable in the moment, like little things, fundamental things. Just stuff like if someone is not communicating enough, and important things in crucial moments. Nothing in detail so far, but it’s the small stuff that really helps our game.
I feel like I can bring a better mindset to the North American scene
Earlier you touched on you coming back to the game and some the issues that North America has been experiencing. You’re a pretty well-tenured player who’s been around for a while. What are some of the issues that you see around, aside from the clear lack of organisations looking to pick up teams right now?
Obviously COVID is the biggest reason why everything is going downhill. Organisations aren’t making money and it’s understandable that they’re not going to stay in a game where they’re not making any return. I would say that’s about 75% of it, about 10% goes to half the pros leaving for VALORANT, for obvious financial reasons. I would just say that now, you’re going to see all the up-and-comers that had a name, the ones that were coming up but never really had the chance, now they’re going to be able to shine.
So I sort of want to come back now to be able to instil fundamentals, discipline, just how to play the game at a higher level rather than just run around, shoot, and play for stats, right? It’s so much more than that, and I feel like I can bring a better mindset to the North American scene, just in general.
You’ve played in a couple of the Cash Cups here, and there have been a couple of changes in format both to it and to ESEA Premier recently. What’re your thoughts on those changes in general?
I like the format in Premier, I think they kept the groups pretty balanced, somewhat. In the playoffs I think it will work out nicely. I like the idea of the Cash Cups, it enables people who don’t have a job to be able to make some revenue. And I also like the fact that, for instance, we’ve won two in a row, so we can’t play the next one now, we have to sit this one out, and I respect that because it incentivizes other players to grind, try to win, and be the best they can be.
The biggest part about my downfall, my pro career, is that I never really took time for myself
In recent years you’ve played on more up-and-coming rosters, like the old Bad News Bears and Riot Squad. Before that though, you played on a number of top teams in NA. Do you think you can return to playing at that level, or are you more focused on helping younger players develop now?
I haven’t really thought about it. If it happens, it happens. Obviously, I’m going to continue to grind and play, but for the most part, I’m just going to help and see where it goes from here. Of course, I would love to play at the top again, I definitely think I still have it. For not playing for six months, I’m playing pretty well – obviously, I’m making mistakes here and there, but aim-wise and movement-wise, I feel pretty solid, so I just need to stay in shape.
The biggest part about my downfall, my professional career, is that I never really took time for myself. I never really took any time off. I think these six months really helped me mentally because, in the 16 years that I had played the game, I had never taken any time off. I’d take two or three days off, whatever, but never real time off, and I think that’s so important for players. For example, like when I was on compLexity, we would wake up at 9 or 10 AM, be at the office at 10:30 or 11, and play until about 8 or 9 at night, and that’s just the team stuff. Then I would go home and play FPL for four or five hours, so I’m playing 12 to 14 hours a day of Counter-Strike, every single day for four or five years.
It really just takes a toll on you, and you just start going through the motions. I think that’s what happened to me, I fell out of love with the game. For the most part, I’m just coming back to try to help anybody and everybody I can.
You say that you fell out of love with the game. Would you say that’s something you have back now after that break? How focused and motivated are you now, compared to previous years, and what’s your main objective now that you’re back?
Obviously I want to make a name for myself again, I want to be at the top level of North America for sure and hopefully further. It’s a little of both, help out the players and still be the best I can be.