Interview with EnVy

Winning it all, then almost losing it all: Team EnVyUs returns to the RLCS World Championship

May 21, 2018 - 18:01
Rocketeers / Interviews / RLCS / Spotlight /

Team EnVyUs has had a very eventful year. Under the Northern Gaming banner, their roster captured the Rocket League Championship Series title in Los Angeles last June and soon made the move over to the larger EnVy organization. After playing summer tournaments with former FlipSid3 Tactics player and fellow RLCS champion Marius “gReazymeister” Ranheim in as a sub, starter Nicolai “Maestro” Bang departed and gReazy took his spot.

With that, EnVy seemed primed for another successful RLCS run. Instead, the team crumbled. They went 2-5 in league play and finished 7th in Europe, putting them up for relegation. Luckily, they kept their RLCS spot—but going from champions to nearly out of the league in six months was startling. And things didn’t improve during the offseason. Ahead of RLCS season five, captain Remco “Remkoe” den Boer made a big move, shifting gReazy to sub and bringing in Rival Series sensation Jordan “EyeIgnite” Stellon as a new starter.

The move worked: EyeIgnite’s offensive prowess helped elevate EnVy’s play, and while their 3-4 record was hardly overpowering, they came up big during the regional playoffs and finished 3rd in EU. Now they’re returning to the World Championship for the first time since winning it all. We caught up with Remkoe, EyeIgnite, and David “Deevo” Morrow to discuss last season’s struggles, reforming and rebounding this season, and how they’re feeling about the London LAN ahead.

Overconfidence strikes

Northern Gaming famously won the RLCS championship with a substitute: Maestro couldn’t attend due to exams, so Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver filled his opening and helped them take the third-season title last June. Turbopolsa then joined with Gale Force Esports while the Northern starting roster signed with EnVyUs—but Maestro was still unavailable for events like the X Games Invitational and DreamHack Atlanta.

Instead, EnVy brought in gReazymeister, who was a free agent after departing FlipSid3 following an underwhelming post-championship season. And while they weren’t immediately dominant, they finished 3rd-4th at both X Games and DreamHack Atlanta, falling to the hot new Gale Force squad both times in close 4-3 decisions. When things went sour with Maestro and gReazy was made permanent starter, they felt great going into the new RLCS season.

“[We were] definitely overconfident, coming off of X Games and DreamHack Atlanta with two very close losses to Gale Force,” admits Remkoe. “We felt like we had a lot of potential but just didn’t end up doing much with it. It later became clear things just weren’t working out, of course, but then we certainly went into the season with the wrong mindset.”

EnVy finished 3rd-4th at DreamHack Atlanta last summer | Credit: Alexander Scott/DreamHack

Even with Gale Force’s emergence as a new EU threat and the consistently high level of competition in the region, the reigning champions remained a favorite going into RLCS season four. They lost 3-0 to Method in week one, but then bounced back in week two with a 3-0 takedown of the struggling Team Secret—easy pickings in hindsight. Even a loss against FlipSid3 later that day only put EnVy at 1-2 for the season.

But then they lost to both exceL and Mock-It the following week, and it was clear that something just wasn’t working with this revised EnVy lineup. Remkoe pegs the 3-0 loss to exceL—”a team everyone expected us to beat”—as the moment he realized that this wasn’t just a slow start to the season. It was a much deeper problem than that.

Ultimately, EnVy finished 2-5, taking a final-week series win against a 6-0 Paris Saint-Germain team that looked sloppy during their attempt for an undefeated season. Even so, it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs, and EnVyUs had completed the same kind of severe swing as season one champions iBUYPOWER Cosmic (now G2 Esports)—going from winning it all to imploding and missing the next postseason.

Behind the struggles

Remkoe and Deevo admit that there were a few reasons why EnVy struggled so much, despite a full roster of RLCS champions. As Remkoe suggested earlier, overconfidence came into play: they were on top of the Rocket League world, and the affirmation of being the best seemed to bring in complacency… and perhaps some cockiness too. Their work ethic suffered as a result, and the kind of practice and scrim grind that earned them the championship in the first place—the kind needed to stay elite—dissipated. It clearly showed in the results.

“Besides us not fitting well together, it was obvious we put in way too little practice. The laziness got to us for sure, and we felt like we didn’t need as much practice as we did end up needing. Overconfidence, laziness, and a bad team composition,” Remkoe surmises as the key reasons for EnVy’s season four decline. He adds that they would sometimes go a week only scrimming once—or possibly not at all.

Deevo affirms that a lack of practice was at play, but points to his own school obligations as part of the issue there. It’s the same kind of dilemma that Team Secret captain Stephen “Tylacto” Griffin encountered during their own rough season four run. “I think our lack of success was down to play time: last season we didn’t scrim as much as we should have,” Deevo admits. “Especially for myself, it’s been hard dealing with college and playing Rocket League, and mixing time between the two.”

Deevo struggled to maintain his Worlds MVP form last season | Credit: Psyonix

As Remkoe mentioned, he believes that their problems went further than just investing the time on practice and preparation. He suggests that Deevo and gReazy’s play styles were too similar, and it caused both of them to fall short of their potential. In his eyes, that’s a big reason why Deevo went from a dazzling mechanical master and RLCS World Championship MVP to one of last season’s weakest offensive performers.

Team EnVy survived the promotion/relegation tournament, beating both The Juicy Kids and Team Secret to hold onto their RLCS spot, but the experience of landing at the bottom of EU league play spooked Deevo. “At the end of season four, I felt extremely nervous knowing that relegation was a possibility,” he says. “I knew that I needed to put more hours into Rocket League and practicing with my team in order to stand a chance for the next season.”

“It hit hard and was one of the biggest wake-up calls in my life.”

For Remkoe, the experience was a harsh but necessary reminder of how fleeting success can be, and how critical steady hard work is to staying competitive at the highest level.

“While it may be obvious, it was definitely the lowest I’ve felt in my career so far,” he says. “Dealing with that and other personal stuff, there’s things I’ve said that I later on regretted saying. I just got to a point where it all didn’t matter much to me anymore. Making Worlds is easily the most important thing to focus on being an RLCS player, and missing out on that for the first time after winning the season before that—it hit hard and was one of the biggest wake-up calls in my life.”

Making the change

Unfortunately, that realization alone couldn’t fix what they increasingly saw as an incompatible team composition. It all came to a head at January’s DreamHack Leipzig tournament, when EnVy fell 2-1 to London eSports, a team they’d beaten 2-0 earlier in the day. Paired with a previous 2-0 loss to NRG, it was enough to send EnVy packing on day one. Even with EnVy’s well-known RLCS struggles, it was a shocking upset by an unknown team.

“After being on a team together for over half a year and still having the issues we had, it was very clear that a change was needed after DreamHack Leipzig,” says Remkoe. “With all respect to the players we lost to, it just seemed very wrong to lose to a [pickup] team as an experienced RLCS team, when we were at least expected to make playoffs. While bad days happen to everyone, our results as a team had just been bad in general.”

“All three of us at the time agreed that gReazy and Deevo hadn’t been fitting well together, clashing play styles because of how similarly they play, leading to double commits, rotational issues, etc,” he continues. “Honestly, there was no obvious weak link in the team at all, which is why it was very hard to pick who to change. I knew we couldn’t continue with gReazy and Deevo on the same team.”

Remkoe already had EyeIgnite in mind as their new third, but trying to decide between cutting one of two struggling past champions was no easy task. He also didn’t want to string both of them along by pitting them against each other to compete for a spot on the team.

“I didn’t want to start practicing with both of them at the same time to see who fit better with EyeIgnite, because with around two weeks left to go for the RLCS deadline, I didn’t want either of my teammates to feel like they’d be the third wheel. EyeIgnite and I being the core, then having our third who had been a starter for the team already, but really turned into a player who was technically ‘trying out’ to become our third player for the season,” he says of the complicated scenario. “The mental state of players plays a huge role in how they play, and I wanted zero internal issues with the team just to make sure we could play to our full potential.”

gReazy was moved to sub following DreamHack Leipzig | Credit: Jennika Ojala/DreamHack

Ultimately, he had to think back to past successes and what had changed, and make what he hoped would be the best decision for their future. As announced on February 8, EnVy moved gReazymeister to sub for RLCS season 5 and officially signed EyeIgnite as the new starter.

“I can’t look into the future, so it was impossible to see what team composition was gonna end up being better than the other… but I ended up replacing gReazy because I figured Deevo couldn’t play his best as soon as someone with the same play style joined the team,” Remkoe explains. “I had more results with Deevo, the biggest one being winning RLCS Worlds of course, so naturally it felt like a better idea to stick with Deevo over gReazy.”

While gReazy spent most of the season on the sidelines, he filled in for Remkoe during the last series of the regular season against Fnatic—and he popped off in classic form, scoring 1.25 goals per game with 45% shooting accuracy (stats via Octane.gg). Unless something changes with EnVy’s starting roster, however, it seems very likely that we’ll see him wearing another jersey next season.

The new recruit

Given his rookie status coming into the RLCS season, EyeIgnite’s confidence might surprise you. But he earned it as the standout player in Europe’s Rival Series last season, notching a staggering 1.32 goals per game with ExRay—that’s 0.32 more than the next player. He posted nearly a full shot per game more than the next player, as well. And thanks to the Gfinity Elite Series, he also has high-level LAN experience under his belt.

EyeIgnite had been playing with Team Secret on a trial basis during the offseason, but he got an assist from Linus “Al0t” Möllergren when the compLexity captain heard that Remkoe was considering a move. “I’d love to say it was because I was rampaging through the European scene on my lonesome, but that’s not the case unfortunately,” says EyeIgnite. “It was mainly down to Al0t. He’s had my back for quite a while, and it was him who originally got me on Remkoe’s radar of possible teammates.”

EyeIgnite proved himself RLCS-ready in the back half of 2017 | Credit: Jennika Ojala/DreamHack

“EyeIgnite was already playing with RLCS players for a couple of months in 6 Mans and performing pretty well, and he just seemed like he could be a good teammate in general,” says Remkoe.

“Sometimes it’s good to get some fresh talent on your team, because they have this insane drive and motivation to become one of the best players in the game,” he adds. “I knew that if I gave EyeIgnite the chance to perform on an RLCS team, he’d do everything he can to show everyone what he’s capable of. His incredibly accurate shooting was perfect for our team, so as soon as I knew I could get EyeIgnite, I made sure we got the chance to play with him.”

“My main thought was what I could accomplish now with this opportunity”

Even though EnVy had been struggling mightily, EyeIgnite says he didn’t second-guess the opportunity to team up with Remkoe and Deevo. “Honestly, I didn’t even think about that,” he says. “Everyone has rough patches; my main thought was what I could accomplish now with this opportunity.”

As for a bit of since-deleted Twitter drama with Remkoe last autumn, EyeIgnite says it’s all water under the bridge. “That whole thing happened well before there was even a whisper of me joining EnVy, and I never had any hard feelings towards him,” he explains. “We had already played a ton of 6 Mans together with no problems.”

EnVyUs evolves

Even amidst the tougher competition of the RLCS, EyeIgnite still thrived this season. He was the team’s offensive leader during the regular season, and then he turned it up another notch during the crucial EU regional championship: he averaged a goal per game, landing only behind Gale Force’s Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant (1.2 gpg) in that stat, and had a phenomenal 41.03% shooting percentage for the day. It helped EnVy get over the hump, as they defeated FlipSid3 and compLexity and turned an OK 3-4 regular season into a 3rd place EU finish and World Championship slot.

“His shooting helped us play on par with other teams again. EyeIgnite plays with little hesitation, which really helped too,” says Remkoe. “It’s easy to play around him because he’s very predictable for his own team. He definitely took over the attacking role in the team, whereas Deevo has started to play more defensively, and it’s working pretty well so far.”

“EyeIgnite, as a player, is no doubt one of the best,” adds Deevo. “His consistent shot accuracy is one of his key attributes, and his determination and passion for the game are impressive. It’s obvious he wants to win RLCS.”

EyeIgnite’s confidence and enthusiasm have likewise reminded his teammates not to rest on their laurels or try to coast—helpful after last season’s struggles, no doubt. “His motivation was a breath of fresh air to the team for sure. Just having someone on your team that’s so new to everything reminds you of the position you’re in,” says Remkoe. “There are people out there so motivated to be in the position you’re in, so getting EyeIgnite on the team just reminded me to not take my RLCS spot for granted. Gotta keep up hard work to stay where we are.”

And they’re putting in the work behind the scenes. Ever since EyeIgnite joined, Remkoe says they’ve been scrimming six or seven days a week. They took a slight breather after securing a spot at Worlds, but says they’re ramping back up to daily scrims in the run-up to London. “Compared to last season, it’s incredibly different,” he suggests.

Back to Worlds

Given the highs and lows of the last year, it’s no surprise that landing back in the RLCS World Championship has been an immense source of happiness for Team EnVyUs. “The joy I had of making Worlds this season was greater than winning Worlds last year,” Remkoe asserts. “Being able to bounce back from a miserable season and knowing you’re still up there as a professional player, even after what looked like a downwards spiral, is the best feeling.”

“Making Worlds was easily the best moment of my life”

EyeIgnite wasn’t there for EnVy’s decline, but as a key part of their rebound season—and as an RLCS rookie making the World Championship in his very first top-level season—he’s absolutely thrilled. “Making Worlds was easily the best moment of my life,” he affirms. “It’s not often you feel that kind of overwhelming joy.”

Making the World Championship is one thing, but surviving the gauntlet of the world’s best Rocket League teams is something else entirely. Remkoe and Deevo know this well, and their records are tremendous. Both won the World Championship in their last appearance, of course, and Deevo was a grand finalist the prior season, as well. Remkoe, meanwhile, has a pair of 3rd-place finishes to his name from the first two seasons. But the competition has only gotten stronger, and they’ll face off first against North America’s revitalized NRG, who went 7-0 in the regular season and finished 2nd in the NA championship.

“Worlds gets more stacked each season. Anyone can beat anyone at any given day. We’ll be adjusting in the series as necessary, but for now it’s best to focus on our own team, practice as much as we can, and be prepared for one of the best North American teams,” says Remkoe. “They have a good chance of beating us, but it’s definitely possible for us to beat them as well. It’s going to come down to who ends up having a better day.”

EyeIgnite and Deevo will also be playing on home soil in the UK, which could provide a nice advantage. Deevo says he “always feels confident playing on the RLCS stage” and looks forward to competing next month; surely he’s hoping for another MVP-caliber performance like the one he put up in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Remkoe’s comment suggests that he’s been humbled by the struggles of last season; it’s his first World Championship since winning it all, but there’s no sense of cockiness in his approach.

“[I’m] going to be treating this World Championship like every other I’ve played: not going to be underestimating anyone while still remaining confident,” he says. “Every RLCS Worlds I’ve been to so far I’ve had a pretty good result, and I’m hoping I can keep that going.”

And even if it is EyeIgnite’s first RLCS World Championship, it might be his own swagger that helps his teammates reclaim their former glory on the game’s biggest stage. “I’m confident, always,” he proclaims. “I feel like there’s no one in the world I can’t hang with, and if me and my team play our games, we can beat anyone.”

Andrew Hayward will never be an amazing Rocket League player... so instead, he writes about it. He's been covering the pro scene since RLCS S1 for the likes of Red Bull Esports and Waypoint, and has interviewed dozens of the game's top players and personalities.