We spoke with team captain, zoidbergenstein, about their time in the WGLNA. At the time of this interview, they were 1st in the Bronze League and had just negotiated a sponsorship with Exertus, prior to their merge with eLevate.
First of all, congratulations on acquiring a sponsorship with Exertus!
I’ve known about Exertus for a little while. I’ve actually done a lot of Battlefield competition and a couple of my friends got picked up to play for Exertus. We came over to World of Tanks from Planetside where we were the top team. We were holding out for a sponsor, waiting for someone that would be good for us and we’d be good enough for them. Exertus kind of fit that lineup perfectly and they’re really a fantastic organization. I know they’ve got an invite CS-GO team that’s doing very well. Our C.O.D. team is doing fantastically. And we’ve got the European Battlefield 4 team that’s doing really well too.
Tell us about your teammates and how you all met
Spanish is the guy who comes off the bench wherever we need him. And he’s really effective at that. Whether it’s a T1 [Cunningham] which is what he initially started playing, [AMX] 50-100, [AMX] 1390, T69, IS3, or anything. He’s been really important to us coming off the bench and being able to fill in at the level of a starter. Lipid was actually a fill in. We lost a couple of people right before the season started. So he was always going to be limited. And we replaced him with Banzai recently. Lost, Serho, bvic, myself and vash have been starting since the WGLNA Gold League qualifiers.
vash is actually my brother. And he’s been playing with me for the past decade. He’s actually one of the guys who started NUC which was the first team that we ever played with internationally. Lost and Serhoo I played with in Planetside2. They were both squad leaders for our competitive unit. Banzai I met through Refuse 2 Die. bvic was actually on The Underscores and they were one of those teams we continually saw in team battles and we were really impressed with his play. So when we had to part with two of our older members, he was one of the guys that we actively sought out to join the team.
It’s worth noting that you’re the first Bronze League team in WGLNA history to get sponsored
Yeah, it’s all based on past history. I mean, we feel like we’re improving very quickly at World of Tanks. But I’ve been doing [competitive gaming] for ten years. I’ve played in 4 or 5 world championships, in over 100 live events. So we’ve been doing this for a really long time. Really we’re just incredibly pleased to have partnered with Exertus and their sponsors like Zowie.
What advice do you offer teams looking for sponsors?
I think the best piece of advice, as far as looking for sponsorship, is don’t just take the first one. My first sponsorship ever was right after playing a world championship. We did pretty well and were just so excited to be offered a contract that we took it. We actually ended up losing money because of that. Esports is really in its infancy with a lot of teams, especially for World of Tanks teams where this may be their first, big, competitive game. Many organizations out there are just looking to take advantage of people.
Other than that? Just getting media out there. Media is one of the most important things for sponsors. So if you’re doing youtube videos, streaming- if you’ve got that venue to talk about the people that are sponsoring you, that’s what really makes it worthwhile. Because if you just go out there and win, that’s awesome. You can put your name with someone. But you’re not doing your sponsors any good that way.
You’re providing an impressive, public collection of team replays on your youtube channel
That’s actually on hold right now. We’re doing a bit of a rebrand. I’ve got a big backlog of videos that should be going back up on an almost daily basis pretty soon.
We try to do a wide variety of stuff. I like to focus my videos entirely on eSports. So one series that I do is a match break down. Where I’ll go in, get the demo from one of us from a match and say ‘this is what we did, this is what we thought they were doing and this is how we chose to respond to that’ whether we win or lose.
We also have what I’m going to call ‘war room’ and that’s where I take a specific situation. I’ve only done one of those but- say you’re in a one versus four [scenario]. And you’re in a [AMX] 50-100 and you’ve got six shells and there are five tanks that are going to take four or five shells to kill. How do you go about actually trying to win that? And then I break that down. But really just general esports, highlights type stuff.
And one of the things we really feel is necessary, as far as eSports goes, is that the teams that are involved in eSports are just as responsible for pushing the game as an eSport as the company. So we can go out there and we can show other people how to do some of this stuff. Because World of Tanks is so different from every other game we’ve played. It makes things a lot easier for newer teams to come in and say ‘hey World of Tanks is actually a very legitimate eSport, they have a lot of stuff going on, they have more teams than most of these AAA shooters that I come from’ so easing that transition is something that we’re very concerned with.
Do you worry about offering too much team information?
That’s something that I actually feel fairly strong about. There are strategies that we won’t stream. Let’s say we have a big tournament coming up, like the WGLNA Gold League qualifier. We will not stream for a couple of days before that. Because we have specific set plays that we don’t want people to see. But as far as your general ‘this is how we’ll react to something’? [World of Tanks] is so dynamic that it’s not like we’re pre-telegraphing our moves. So you might see our openers, but our openers are designed so that you can try to counter an opener, but if you push into us, we’re set up defensively, even if you know exactly where we are, we still feel like we can win that fight. And as soon as we start moving into a push? It’s different every time. We’re not always doing the same push. That’d be very predictable and we wouldn’t be a very good team like that.
So our idea is, if our strategies are good and we’re pushing the meta of the game as we should be, people can watch our strats. They’re going to watch our demos and stuff from casted matches anyways and get that. But in the long run it’s so much better for the game to have people watching, getting excited and becoming fans of the competitive game mode. It’s so much better for us because often times we’ll be able to break down our stuff better by going back and watching those videos while getting input from other people. Then we really feel like it’s definitely more advantageous to us as a team to stream everything than to try to hide everything.
We first heard about your team during the St. Paddy’s cup, where you reached the final 32 before losing to current Silver League front-runners Full Potato
Yeah that was actually our first competitive event in World of Tanks. We had just started playing before that.
We were really happy with our performance in the [St. Paddy’s Cup]. We feel like when we play well we play really well and can get wins off of just about everyone. Experience is a major issue with us. For most of us, especially in that tournament, we had been playing for about two and a half months. So we really had no idea what we were doing. And our lack of experience really bled through there. I made a really bad call on Ruinberg where I had us push, basically blindly, into the north and gave them very easy cross fire as we pushed into cap. And you can do that north push if you do a fast cap strategy with your tier 1s, but we left our tier 1s back at base. And we just got picked apart. So I wasn’t happy with that loss by any means. For that being our first tournament, top 32 I think was definitely a strong showing. Especially considering some of the teams we took down.
Did that help your team’s rep?
It kind of allowed us to start scrimming teams. Because before that, you can come in and say ‘well I’ve played shooters’ but everybody’s played shooters, everybody’s done something else at some point. After that, we were finally able to start talking to some of the WGLNA Gold League teams who were like ‘maybe these guys aren’t a complete waste of our time’ and get scrimming. And being able to actually scrim is so much better than doing team battles.
Yeah, we lost to Refuse 2 Die in the first WGLNA Season 4 Gold League Qualifier. They’re actually good friends of ours and one of our weekly scrim partners. And we lost to Doge Squad in the second qualifier. And we were really disappointed losing that. We really felt we were right up there with everybody. But again, a lack of experience- if you look at the match specifically against Doge Squad, we just made a couple of errors where we saw something that wasn’t quite what we were used to seeing and we reacted poorly to it. So on Ruinberg, coincidentally again, I made a really bad push in my [AMX] 50-100 trying to finish off an IS3. That exposed me. Their [AMX] 50-100s were able to burn me down. And then we almost came back. We had a couple of missed shots that kept us from winning that. Then they just took that momentum and kept beating us down.
And now you’re dominating the WGLNA Bronze League
One of the things that I really concern myself with, I think this is more important than anything, we should be the hardest working team and that’s completely separate from skill. Whether that means we’re watching videos during the day, breaking down videos of the other teams, scrimming all night, coming back on after we’re done with practice. There’s no excuse for not being the hardest working team. And I think in the WGLNA Bronze League, where a lot of other teams are new, you don’t have some of the really, really, talented players that you see in the WGLNA Gold League teams. That hard work can really help your team get through. Because I know a lot of teams in the Bronze League don’t go six nights a week. We actually have a hard time sometimes finding a team willing to scrim because they’re doing something like Clan Wars. I think that really helps us in this league. Just being willing to put that kind of work into making sure we stay in first place.
Did any of your 25 wins nearly slip away?
There were, a couple actually. We really hate coming in and losing the first round in the WGLNA Bronze League with the way it works. We just feel like if you lose the first round you can be in so much trouble so quickly, because the other team now has four rounds they can play with. We have to get those wins. We can’t draw out a lot of them.
So off the top of my head, W1N was one of those teams we didn’t know a lot about. We knew that they were solid from their performance in the WGLNA Gold League qualifier. We came out and lost the first round against them and then were able to win two. So that was one we were really pretty nervous about. And I think the same thing happened to A Potential Disaster very recently. They’re a team that we’ve actually faced a couple of times. And they got the first round off us on Mines I believe. And they just played, again, better than we did. But, fortunately, Mines is one of those maps where we were able to come back. We got the last two so we got out of that with a win.
Section 8 and Denial of Scrubbies own bragging rights for being the only Bronze League teams to defeat you
We lost to Section 8 on Abbey which is traditionally a weak map for us. We had heard that Abbey was being removed from the map pool this season. So we gave Abbey absolutely no attention until we saw the map rotation for the WGLNA Gold League qualifier that included it. So between that and not doing a lot of scrimming, Section 8 just came out and outplayed us. And that’s that hard work thing. They put a lot of work into it. It felt like, that week, we didn’t put a lot of work into it and we really got punished for that. It’s something I continue to kick myself for. But they outplayed us that match by quite a bit. We didn’t even pick a [battle] off ‘em.
Denial of Scrubbies is another one of those solid teams when they come out to play. They actually started out slow this season but have finished very strong. And Ensk is a map we consider to be one of our stronger maps. They came out with a strategy that we weren’t familiar with. We don’t really see T69s on that map very often. And I’ve gotta take a lot of the blame there. I made a bad call where we pushed and they were able to just punish us really, really, hard in the 1st [battle]. And then in the second, we came out and thought that because we had a [AMX] 50-100 advantage we’d be able to bully them off. We made a really aggressive push into the north trying to get our tanks on cap or create an engagement, and as soon as they saw we were making that push they just b-lined back onto our cap and got on. And I think there was only, maybe, 200 damage done total in that second match. But again they just took advantage of us not knowing how to handle the strategy that they brought.
Does this hurt your team’s confidence going into the playoffs against Denial of Scrubbies?
We go into every match confidently. It doesn’t matter who we play. We could go up against [global champions] NaVi. And while playing, we would be confident. Realistically, ofcourse, we’re not going to beat NaVi. That’s the goal. Eventually, we’d love to be on that level. But I think one of the cool things about this game, speaking specifically on playing Denial of Scrubbies again, is little mistakes can be so costly. So if we come in there and they play as well as they did last time and we make mistakes again, they can absolutely beat us. But at the same time, any time we play anyone we’re very confident. We feel like if we put the work in we should definitely win.
A win in that quarterfinal round guarantees a berth in next season’s WGLNA Silver League.
Really, our goal is the WGLNA Gold League. When we came into this game, our goal was [to qualify] in the first qualifier. And we thought we were pretty close. We didn’t make it so we’ve been practicing really hard still. And we definitely feel like we’re going to be a contender again in the WGLNA Gold League qualifier. So that’s where we’d like to see ourselves next season. If we don’t make that again, then we feel like we could definitely do very well in the WGLNA Silver League.