Sergey “Sergiz” Atamanchuk is still trying to wrap his head around what happened on Monday. His team, Akuma, pulled off one of the biggest upsets of this leg of the Regional Major Ranking (RMR) circuit thus far as they sent current world No. 2 Natus Vincere to the lower bracket of EPIC League CIS after a one-sided affair.
Akuma will face Virtus.pro later today after stunning NAVI
The young Ukrainian side, ranked just eighth in the region, made light work of their opponents on Mirage, where they limited Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev to his worst performance since joining NAVI in 2016. The DreamHack Masters Spring champions gathered themselves and provided strong resistance in the second map, Dust2, but Akuma still managed to prevail thanks to a resolute defensive performance.
“The emotions are unreal,” Sergiz told HLTV.org. “You watch a team play at every event and here you are, beating them. You cannot describe it.
“We didn’t expect to be able to win Mirage by such a scoreline. For some reason, NAVI weren’t fully focused or something, and they were losing important duels. Perhaps they underestimated us.
“As for us, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could stand up to such a serious opponent because we were playing well in practice against tier-one teams and we wanted to see if we could do the same in official matches.”
The name Akuma may not resonate loudly outside of the CIS region, but the core of the team has been together for over a year now, joining CR4ZY in early 2020 alongside veteran coach Ivan “Johnta” Shevtsov.
With star player Dmitriy “SENSEi” Shvorak putting up consistent numbers, CR4ZY quickly broke into the top 50 in the world rankings. But their progress would be halted after the summer break, and in November, the players found themselves without any financial support after the CR4ZY organisation parted ways with its esports teams due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We continued working with the same roster alongside Johnta, but after a little while, ANGE1 offered him the opportunity to try himself out in Valorant with one of the best teams in the world,” Sergiz said.
“He helped us find financial help in the form of Ukrainian investors, but things ended up not working out with them.”
The team spent the next months playing as Project X, which had been their name prior to joining CR4ZY. This time around, however, they faced roadblocks at every turn and results remained inconsistent, leading to a division in the squad in March. Sergiz, SENSEi and Alexandr “Psycho” Zlobin stuck together and eventually brought back a former teammate in Sergiy “DemQQ” Demchenko. The roster was rounded out by Evgeniy “j3kie” Sergachev, who had been playing alongside DemQQ since the start of the year.
“The Project X lineup met its expiry date because there were lots of issues, both inside and outside of the game,” Sergiz said. “I think this team has managed to reach this level because we assembled great individual players who complement one another.”
SENSEi is leading the EPIC League’s rating charts (1.44)
Playing as WaitForTag, the team made it through the open qualifiers for EPIC League CIS in their first attempt and then topped their closed qualifier group in convincing fashion. Ahead of the RMR tournament, the roster rebranded to Akuma — a name that seemed more appropriate for an event of this stature, featuring the best teams in the region.
After surviving the Swiss stage with a 3-1 record — only losing against Gambit — and moving past NAVI in the opening round of the playoffs, Akuma face another tough task later today against world No.7 Virtus.pro. The bar is now set high for the Ukrainian team, but the players don’t seem too worried about the recent attention that they’re receiving. “We just want to play our game and see what happens,” Sergiz said.
Interest in Akuma has been piqued by the recent upset of NAVI, according to Sergiz, who says, however, that the team is still open to offers (the squad’s manager, Kirill Slyunin, can be reached on Twitter). After months of struggle and frustration, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for this promising team, who seem destined to follow in EPG Family’s footsteps. “Every day, someone new is expressing an interest or asking about us,” Sergiz said. “Before long, we will announce our new home to the world.”