Sternab: "You have to cast everything you can get your hands on."

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We sat down with James “Sternab” Parkinson to talk about his opinion on the Six Invitational Grand Finals, and what its like being a caster.

Sternab has been present within the Rainbow 6 scene for quite a while, however, he rose to popularity from the large amount of casting he has done over the past year. Such casts include OGA PIT, Challenger League, the Six Invitational Qualifiers, and many more. He now casts Challenger League for ESL professionally.

Aside from his impressive casting portfolio, Sternab also has some history with the player side of things. During Year 1 of Rainbow 6, Sternab played a fair bit competitively, until the team ended up disbanding. Sternab was also a coach for the former Polar Ace esports team, featuring Yoggah, DotD4sh, Beauloo, Descriptive, and E-X-O as well as the previous Epsilon eSports roster during this season of the CCS.

Sternab casting the Six Invitational 2019 qualifiers via @ESLRainbowSix

We were able to dive into some of his thoughts at the 2019 Six Invitational to ask what has made him so successful:

How has Invitational been for you so far?

It's been great, I mean I went to last years invitational, this is way way bigger. Much greater scale. There's a lot more people here, and I keep bumping into absolutely everyone I know. It's great for everyone to get together like this, and we’ve had some amazing games as well.

What's been your favourite game so far? Who do you think will win it all?

I think honestly the Spacestation one, I mean i’ve been a big long Spacestation fan for a very very long time. I’ve also known ThinkingNade since he started playing the game. I still think G2 because they’ve got lots of hype but I really can’t tell who’s gonna take it. I was a bit surprised by the end result, but also was surprised by how long that game ended up being.

The Six Invitational 2019 statistics between G2 Esports and Spacestation Gaming
There's a lot of talk about how G2 are looking really good, do you think Team Empire can match up to that?

I was just talking to gohaN a couple matches before about this, and he thinks they don’t. I was saying, well Empire has had this kind of competitive strategy that favors G2 a lot more, but I mean if it works don’t fix it, right?

How did you get into casting, and the kind of work you were doing in APAC?

Well, I did just stop doing the work in APAC because I didn’t have any time for it. Yeah, I did do SEA Pro League a lot. It was very cool for me to see all the very dedicated volunteers who do all the work over there. It’s a very weird region, completely foreign to me, and it was very good for me to see how to competition differed between the regions.

When I got into casting, I never thought that it was going to be like this. It was never going to be widespread, events like this were going to be impossible. I just started casting before the last Invitational, and absolutely no one knew who I was. However, I worked really hard for a year, did loads of community casting and was a volunteer caster. I’m sure anyone who has seen any of the streams I’ve done, I did about 80 hours of casting for the Invitational qualifiers for NA and EU, if you try hard, and you wanna make it happen, it can be a ton of fun, it can be a bit tough and it's not for everyone. It's good for you.

Overall with everyone you’ve met at the event, has there been anyone that has stood out to you?

I think just everyone honestly, there's just so many people that I’ve known for so long, and especially ThinkingNade, who I’ve known for absolutely ages. I did meet him very briefly at USN, but we get to hang out a lot more here. It really makes me look back at how far we’ve both come from our own successes. It makes me think, “what's it going to be like next year”, “what the invitational going to be like next year”, “what are we going to be like next year?”. It just makes me think about it a lot more.

So you’ve been coaching for quite a while, and of course, have been casting. How do those two compliment each other?

When you’re casting, you’re looking at the very play by play aspect of it. You’re not thinking about the kind of strategy, or how to beat a strategy, you’re looking at the detail of it. When you’re a coach, it's completely different. You have a lot of notes. I am going to be doing more coaching work, however I left Polar Ace. Nothing against those guys or anything, but I left for a better opportunity which will be announced very soon.

In terms of the finals, you talked quite a bit about your predictions. Is there anything in terms of the style of G2, that in particular could counter Empire’s “predictable aggression” as I would call it at this point?

I think that G2 are a very unpredictable team, and they always choose the best strategic option in that case. I mean it's kinda been widely seen in the Season 7 finals because not only did Liquid play very unpredictably, but they play in a very similar style to that of G2. When you have a similar playstyle to another team, It kind of just comes down to gun skill and communication. I think this happens a lot. I think for Empire to replicate the same success, I think Empire have a very similar strategy to Nora, and I know Nora and G2 have been practicing a lot together.

So maybe some of that will come into play. As to how well G2 is used to that playstyle, I think that the more info G2 has on a team, the more success they are going to have. Also, Empire is a relatively new team to Siege

So with Empire being new to the scene, along with going against G2 in the final, as far the mental factor during the match, what do you expect from G2 and Empire?

From what I understand about the Empire players, they can get a bit restless with each other. While i’m not saying that G2 don’t, and I know that Empire definitely does, I think they have a better way of dealing with that physiologically than potentially empire do. The experience comes with time, but what we’ve also got to realize is that Empire have this experience too. Empire has a lot of LAN experience within the scene as well, they’ve been to multiple LAN events around Europe, however at some they were beaten by G2, and it could be the same case here.

During the map ban phase, is there any significant advantage you think either team can gain?

There are only gonna be two maps banned out, so I think G2 will want to ban out something like Oregon, just because it's not really a familiar map for them. Empire is kind of a weird one because they can probably go to any map they want to. I would say that out something like Bank because its a very strategic map, and your not exactly limited on movement, but are with the type of structure you can do, as G2 might be a bit better on a map like that. It depends about how you think about a best-of-5. Going into that, do you ban their best map? do you ban their worst map? it kind of just comes down to what each team decides to do.

So at the end of it all, who do you think will win?

I think it's going to be G2, however i’m not too sure about the scoreline, maybe 3-2 G2, but it's tough to say.

What were your methods and strategy for developing yourself as a caster?

I looked at the Pro League casters and the other casters, and what they did to get to where they are now. I then noticed that the best casters were the ones who had played competitive, that understand the game at a competitive level, and then they kind of make their own story out of that. They come from the community, they’re well know. I can’t really think of others besides those who professionally casted previously, but those outside casters definitely had such a great impact on the game.

I mean look at Interro, he came in the same way that I did. He went through CCS, casted a bunch of smaller leagues and then moved to Pro League. KiXSTaR used to be a pro player himself, mzo came over from a smaller league, Stoax as well. He used to be an analyst for flashpoint, who is a european Challenger League team, who he also played a decent amount for himself. Myself, I played a lot of comp in year one, once we disbanded I tried to get into casting. So, if you look into the community, try to be informed, and really look into how to play the game, and how to get involved in the game.

Casters who say this is how I feel about the game, this is where I would be in it, and this is how I think it will go. Casters like that are definitely knowledgeable of the game. I am always trying to improve my knowledge, which is kind of also why I became an analyst.

From this viewpoint of being a caster and an analyst, how do you think the two new operators, Nomad and Kaid, will shake up the meta?

I do think Nomad is a bit too strong right now, and I do think she needs a bit of a nerf. Kaid is still kind of a weird one for me. When they came out, we didn’t know if they would be allowed in CCS at all, because I was on Polar Ace at the time, so when we scrimming with the new ops. When Kaid was released, they mentioned how you could trick X-Kairos pellets, but were unable to trick a Thermite charge. However if you have info and you have ears, you can tell when thermite is going to place down his charge.

One of the things I remember us doing when we were scrimming was hiding behind half wall on Border, and constantly tricking the armory wall. Now that he only has two electro-claws instead of three, its a bit harder to do, however there are multiple cases where you are able to effectively trick using the electro-claw. I think this will lead to teams using their information around these walls to effectively be able to trick them, because tricking with the electro claw is so easy to do.

With more and more attention being given to Challenger League, do you think there are any up and coming teams that can make it to Pro league and really shake things up?

It's kind of weird, because i was in Challenger League last season. While I was there, there was definitely four teams that were going to make the playoffs, and four that were quite mixed around. I think this season is going to be a lot closer in comparison. Vicious Gaming, formerly known as '92 Dream Team, had just been absolutely flawless during the Challenger League Qualifiers. Part of this was them being very aggressive, and challenging anything they had the opportunity to. This is because as a defender you have to be flexible and ready to move around, and they executed that perfectly. I’m very interested, as I will be casting the Challenger League, for North America with Stoax. I’m very interested to see how that team develops because if we look at the past few Challenger League seasons in Europe, the teams who have gone through that flawlessly, such as Empire and Secret, have gone into Pro League and really shaken everything up.

The current NA Challenger League standings via play.eslgaming

Secret went from being knocked out of Pro League to grinding their way back into Pro League through Challenger League, then to the Paris Major, and finally to their first LAN event since they became Secret, which is truly incredible. Empire did the same thing. They had a lot of experienced players, went through the Challenger League flawless, came into Pro League, and now they're at the Invitational Grand Finals. If we look at that kind of aggression and see the people who say "Oh, I'm just in Challenger League, I could never make it to Pro League." You can! Those teams have proved it's possible

What do you think makes a good competitive player?

The good competitive players are always the ones who can adapt consistently. This game is always changing and there's always going to be something that people have to adapt to. Some teams are more reliant on their current strategies, but the good competitive players will learn to adapt because there's been so many patches. Patches come out every few months, and you have to learn how to adapt, or you are simply just going to fall out. Some teams are having more success because of the current meta, but they are good comp players, which I know they are. I’ve talked to them of their success recently, and I know they’re capable of it. It’s just something that Siege requires. Maybe they will adapt, even to the same success, but I think that they will adapt and find a way to pull themselves back into things.

What advice do you have for casters who are trying to make it to this level?

Just grind. If there's a scene or a tournament that you want to cast, just to get used to how siege is played, doesn’t matter how small or how big, cast it, just get into it. There is no easy way to do it, you have to cast everything you can get your hands on, it is how you will improve as a caster.

Don’t burn yourself out, because I knew some very dedicated casters who would burn themselves out do hours and hours on end. Make your schedule something you can accomplish, but do not turn down a tournament because of the prize pool, or because your not being paid, or that your above it, because you’re not. If you’re not casting Pro League, nothing is off limits.

 

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To keep up with Sternab, and all the action he covers while casting, you can follow him on Twitter here and if you want to learn more about Sternab check out our previous interview with him here.