With barely two weeks into Season 4, our SMITE team qualified for the SPL (SMITE Pro-League) on February 11th.
Today I am joined by coach Andy ‘AlphaJackal’ Barlow and Captain / Support Petar ‘KaLaS’ Matejić, to discuss their plans and thoughts for the upcoming season.
First of all, congratulations for qualifying for this year’s ‘SPL’! Now, I am aware that you’ve only experienced the Season 4 gameplay for a very short time, but what are your views on the season and SPL, meta- and team-wise?
KaLaS – I think Season 4 is really good for me, because Duo-Lane is not as dull as before. It is now much more fun to play! The meta now also snowballs way less, meaning you’re kind of allowed to pick whatever, as long as you have a proper comp. Furthermore, if you win in the first 3 minutes, you don’t automatically win the game anymore and the enemy team still has a chance to come back.
AJ – For me from a coach’s perspective it is definitely interesting, because it is no longer “do X to get Y”. Everything is different and pretty much anything is viable, and to come up with strategies or gameplans for that, is a lot more of a challenge than it was for Season 3.
In terms of teams, I think what we’re gonna see is, that a lot of them will struggle at first until they’ve had some time to gel together and come the 2nd Split, if they stay together and work through those issues, that’s when the European SPL will be incredibly competitive and one of the best you’ll ever see.
There’s definitely a lot that’s gonna happen this year. And with that I am curious: How did you change your playstyle and the way to come up with strategies compared to Season 3?
KaLaS – We used to have a problem with our communication. It was basically either a complete lack thereof or too much, to the point where nobody understood anything. It was way too chaotic and we fixed that to a good degree. It’s still sometimes a problem, but not as much as it used to be.
I also think that Season 4 is generally working better for us than Season 3 did, which is why we are expecting to get close to the top.
AJ – For me it has not really been a difficult transition. You still have to look at the player’s playstyle, look at the game overall and see if anybody has done something wrong or built something incorrectly. So in terms of coaching it hasn’t really changed too much, apart from the stuff outside of actual scrims
I’m glad that it’s been working out for you guys so well thus far! In that case, what are your goals for Season 4?
AJ – I think that Season 4 is gonna be a gradual shift from the bottom to the top. We’ve had a look at the teams this split, so we think finishing Top 4 is going to be an achievable goal and then from there throughout the year, who knows, if we keep on improving the way we are, we may even end up going into the Top 2.
KaLaS – I don’t have much to add to what AJ said.
I too think that we are going to go from bottom to the top, though, I reckon if we play right, we could make first place. However, for that we’d definitely always need to play to the best of our abilities.
And – obviously without giving away any major “secret team strategies” – how will you mentally and practically prepare to achieve those milestones?
AJ – Scrims everyday, taking away their lunch money if they do something wrong…No in all seriousness. It’s pretty much just going to be scrims everyday and once a week we have a team-meeting about what we want to achieve.
I actually like that a lot! How long do you guys train every day, then?
KaLas – Scrims only are about 2-3 hours, depending on the enemy team and Adrian ‘DeathWalker’ Benko’s school, but minimum 2 [hours].
Alright! And speaking of enemy teams, which (EU) ones do you think are gonna be most challenging to tackle?
AJ – Well obviously if you are talking about “most challenging teams to face”, you can’t not mention ‘NRG’. 2 times World Champions and they’ve gone unbeaten for the past year…We hope to end that streak this split, but it’s not gonna be a walk in the park! It’s probably gonna be the most challenging match in the split.
Speaking of teams and players, do you have any personal idols inside of the SPL?
KaLaS – Not really. Everytime I need to talk about other players in an interview or alike, I never know what to say, because I don’t really pay attention to them. I just generally think that a lot of them keep playing the same things [Gods]. For ‘Frezzyy’ at ‘SWC’, for example, it was just Sylvanus. Wait, it didn’t work? Sylvanus. Didn’t work again? Sylvanus.
A lot of EU Supports in my opinion are very aggressive and play aggressive Tanks. I like to consider myself to be versatile. I can play both, aggressive and defensive, but I don’t know what AJ thinks.
AJ – I think he’s got a pretty expansive God pool that helps cover all options in the team.
As for comparing myself to anybody from the player or coach perspective…No, but I also do casting on the side for the ‘Challenger Cup’ and somebody who really got me into it and made me wanna do it was ‘Drybear’ back in the day.
It’s actually funny that you mention that, because when I saw your picture first, I thought “Wait, that is their coach? He looks more like a caster” and I immediately thought of ‘Hinduman’.
AJ (laughing) – Well, ‘Hinduman’ and I are both British, so there is something there.
Funny enough, that’s how ‘KaLaS’ actually got me into coaching the first time around. I was casting ‘EGL’ (European Gaming League) and him and his team – I think it was ‘Flash’ at the time – they were looking over the VODs and really enjoyed the analytical side I did and brought me on as a coach.
And how did you two get into SMITE in the first place?
KaLaS – I used to play ‘World Of Warcraft’ with ‘DeathWalker’ all day long and at one point we got bored, which is when we decided to play ‘DOTA2’. During the time we did, we saw PewDiePie play SMITE, so my friend from high school asked me if I wanted to play.
The reason why I ended up liking it so much is, because ‘WOW’ and ‘DOTA2’ were really fun games, but I hated the bird perspective, since it feels like I am playing an RTS (Real-Time Strategy Game) with one guy, so it wasn’t as enjoyable. SMITE uses a 3rd person view instead, which is why it’s perfect for me.
AJ – I definitely feel like the experience is more immersive when you play from third person, as opposed to top down. And for me, I used to play ‘Paradise’ and ‘Call Of Duty’ every now and then, but the “view at the action” perspective, so to speak, is what got me into SMITE.
Did you actually play a lot of SMITE before you started coaching, AJ?
AJ – To begin with I wasn’t actually looking to go into any sort of direction with eSports. I just played SMITE casually with a few friends back in university, but as we kept going and kept on improving, I decided to try and make a team with some of them. Some time later our squad started to dissolve a bit, which was right when ‘EGL’ were looking for casters. I was just going to wait until our members who were taking a break would come back, but then instead ended up sticking around in the casting scene ever since.
Thanks for sharing, AJ! KaLaS, how did you actually end up with Cyclone?
KaLaS – Last year when I was at Dreamhack with ‘PARADIGM’. We just won and our manager was trying to get us a sponsor, which is how we ended up with Cyclone.
Awesome! Is there anything else either of you would like to add about Season 4, SPL, teams or anything at all?
AJ – In terms of the SPL, I do think that this year is gonna be a lot more competitive than it was the last. There was sort of a disconnect between the top 3 and the bottom 5 teams in the SPL last season and this time, I think, it’s gonna be a lot more focused around the middle. We’re gonna see 5 or 6 teams fighting for those final few spots.
(After he has been quiet for a while) Do you want to say anything too, ‘KaLaS’? Maybe “My ADC sucks” or…No, just kidding! Don’t say that!
KaLaS (jokingly) – My ADC sucks and I wanna add that, everytime I don’t have kills and have somewhat of a bad-ish score, people say I’m feeding. But everytime I take the kills, people say “Stop stealing kills” and I am like “I’m not even stealing them, I am just getting them myself. I did all the work”…Actually, I didn’t do all the work, I just pressed 4 with Bacchus and everyone died.
Alright! Well thank you guys so much for joining me and answering all my questions! I will definitely be voting for you during the split! Good luck for all your matches!
Now if you, dear reader, would like to know more about these amazing and energetic guys, please follow them on twitter at the handles below!
~ Andy ‘AlphaJackal’ Barlow (Coach)
~ Adrian ‘DeathWalker’ Benko (Solo)
~ Aleksandar ‘IceIceBaby’ Zahariev (Jungle)
~ Alexandru ‘Wlfy’ Lefterică (Mid)
~ Petar ‘KaLaS’ Matejić (Support)
~ Liam ‘Vote’ Shanks (ADC)