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Jess: “Hungry has been playing out of his mind this year”

We caught up with the coach and analyst of PENTA, Jessica "Jess" Bolden, at the Six Invitational to ask about her team’s performance at the event.

Jess joined the PENTA roster just after the Paris Major and has since made quite a name for herself, guiding her team to the German title at the Castle Siege 2018 tournament, and runners-up finishes at both the French 6Cup 2018 and the DreamHack Winter 2018 Minor event which qualified the roster for the Six Invitational 2019 -- the biggest event in R6 history.

At the Invitational, the PENTA roster defeated one of the European favourites of LeStream Esport, but then fell in three close maps against NORA-Rengo on two occasions to end their tournament in the group stages. Since then, PENTA has become the only team in Pro League history to defeat Team Empire, and currently is still mathematically in the race for qualification to the Pro League Finals in Milan next month.

Jess during the Six Invitational 2019 via @Jessica_r6s

We spoke to Jess at the Invitational to ask her about her team’s performance there as well as her thoughts on the newest operators to the competitive rotation -- Kaid and Nomad:

How do you feel about your performance here at the Invitational?

Honestly, I think what’s really important to take away from us being here is that when I joined PENTA, one of the kinda unspoken expectations of my role was to get us to the Six Invitational, and that was at DreamHack Winter. I felt like I could do that. Coming into a team, you’re a bit iffy about how much change you can make in such a short time, so I made sure I did everything I could; the preparation against SSG out of all teams was brutal.

We got that position, I’d done my unspoken job at that point and when the groups were pulled (and I’m from APAC, I know NORA-Rengo and I know how they've been getting progressively better and better), I said to myself “this is the death-group, D is the death group, and there will be some of us knocked out who probably should not have been knocked out”. So, we took a couple of maps -- both Oregon -- from NORA-Rengo.

The Six Invitational 2019 Group D results via the SiegeGG Infographic

The Coastline map we made a very bad decision on one of the last rounds that I think cost us the map; we would have won that map I believe, but the boys made a wrong strategy push. Standing behind them it’s excruciating that I can’t tell them they’re saying or doing the wrong thing so they lost that map. Then, of course, Border… just don’t take NORA-Rengo to Border I guess is the sentiment on that one. I think we are underestimated where we are placed now -- what are we, like 12th or something out of this whole placement? I think had we not gone against one of the best teams of this tournament we would have come up in the top six very easily.

Was there anything special in the way you prepared for this event?

When you prepare for a team like Fnatic, or NORA-Rengo, or Team Empire these days... well, not so much Team Empire any more, when they first came in, yes you would prepare the same way you would an APAC team.

What we prepared actually... and I’m happy saying this now ‘cause I don’t imagine we’ll be playing NORA-Rengo any time soon, so spilling some strat preparation here... a lot of what we came up against was “oh, we’re gonna breach a wall, and they might run out”. In the EU meta that would not happen. They breach the wall, you take the angle, you get your intel, you wait till they come in and you push the angle. In NORA-Rengo’s head, “there’s a hole, let’s run through it, and kill everyone”.

The statistics between NORA-Rengo and PENTA during their second matchup of the Six Invitational 2019

So we bring extra claymores, which we would never do, so we had to swap out utility for these claymores, we had to have people on rappels where their job was to watch window jump-outs for like 20-30 seconds at times... so when you play this -- and I’m not saying that NORA-Rengo’s like a ranked team -- but when you come up against a ranked-heavy aggressive playstyle, you have to play like a ranked game where you kinda just wade in. Are they gonna jump out? Do I bait it? Do I throw a drone? There was a couple of times we got Wokka jumping out ‘cause we knew he would. That predictability of aggression is something we wanted to play with -- we got a few good kills, especially on Oregon -- that’s my boys’ map. They know every single jump out, every single peek... it was impossible for them to be able to do anything, so that was some of our preparation.

Is there a way to define what’s commonly called a ranked strat?

I think after the Invitational there’s so many VODs I could pull out from a multiplicity of teams that would show that it’s not really about strategy anymore, it’s run and gun. Team Empire in EU shook up the whole scene because we’re all a lot slower, more calculated, smarter players because we like to think about the strategy, we like to think about how to take room by room by room, and then a taken like Empire or NORA-Rengo goes “the whole map is mine if I so wish to peek it and take it, and if I have a drone with me, even better,” and Empire has a very effective droning strategy themselves.

NORA-Rengo’s complete Six Invitational statistics

I just think that they don’t think about it with as much risk calculation as an EU team would, and that’s what makes it a ranked style play because when you’re in ranked, the risk-to-win is nowhere near as high as a Pro League/Six Invitational match. These guys use that to their advantage and go “well their risk calculation is 70-30 and ours is the other way around -- that makes us more superior because we’re less predictable,” so I think it works for them when it shouldn’t.

What is your biggest takeaways from this Invitational as a team?

I do have to be very careful about this because there are obviously a lot of things said in private in debriefs and teams and everything that you’re always very careful not to share very publicly because of multiple types of reasons.

For us, specifically, Hungry has been playing out of his mind this year -- his role as a Smoke main has never ceased to amaze me. I think statistically as a Smoke he would be one of the best Smokes in the world at the moment, and I’d challenge anyone to show the statistics otherwise. He’s been playing out of his mind on his roles, he’s been communicating, he’s been practising a lot on the things we’ve been going on about like not playing independently, which is an issue a lot of players have where they go off on their own (they don’t think about it very strategically), he’s been playing tighter, and that’s what’s won us a lot of matches I think. The boys are playing tighter.

PENTA’s Six Invitational statistics.

ENEMY’s been IGL-ing out of this world. We decided to put Hungry on the secondary IGL to do an execution call, so now there’s a separate person on the execution, so now ENEMY doesn’t have to think 300% for three minutes straight. It’s really important that we separate that. Then, of course, bringing blas in was a blessing -- we have a roam clearer who can run and gun, and when we ask him to use his brain, he turns it on, and that’s a hard thing to get out of a player.

Unfortunately, we had a couple of players -- and I’m more than happy to talk about this -- SirBoss, unfortunately, didn’t have the games he was hoping he would have. We do think it’s a mental block thing. It’s something that, as a player, you will hit a mental block at one time or another, and you can’t really let it get in the way and I think SirBoss let it get in the way in this tournament, unfortunately. He’s a great shot, a great shot, he can follow a drone like no other player I’ve seen before, and he can work off the intel, prefire, and destroy someone. This tournament just something was stopping him -- I think he was too afraid to go in and die and risk that man down for the team so I do feel for him, and that, unfortunately, meant we were too late for a lot of rounds.

I think if we start speeding everyone up -- as it’s less about the risk calculation we were talking about before and it’s just “do your job if it works, it works, if not someone will refrag you we’ll pick up the slack and keep going” so that’s what we want to focus on now.

What impact will Kaid and Nomad have on the game?

Note: These responses were given prior to Kaid and Nomad joining the competitive operator pool.

I started off a month ago saying that Kaid was overpowered -- maps like Bank where there were hatches and you could hide claws where you can shoot them with an IQ, the Thatcher can get rid of, but if you ban the Thatcher you have to go down and shoot it or Maverick it. The Electro-Claw doesn’t have to be placed directly on the reinforcement which means you can place it next to it and a Maverick couldn’t see it so to me that was dangerous. My team’s gonna play Kaid -- bye Mute, here’s Kaid, or run both of them. Destroy drones and no one can open hatches.

The current defence win-deltas via the Y4S1.3 Designer’s Notes

So I was really concerned about that, and then a lot of my players started experimenting with Nomad and they go “Jess, no one can flank with this operator. You have now closed off an entire flank section and you get an extra body for the push” and I was like “Ok, go, show me. I’m gonna go on Border and you’re gonna Nomad East Stairs and we’re gonna see if I can flank up” which is the only place you can really flank up -- you can probably go metal stairs but someone should be outside Lobby to cover that, and I’m trying to go up and I’m like “stay all the way in fountain and let me know if you can hear me”.

As soon as it went off, my body’s flying, they’re putting claymores way back now where we can’t see them, my body’s flying into the Claymore firstly, which is very dangerous cause you don’t see it, you have no intel that it’s there, you can’t hear a Nomad charge (Note: you now can hear charges), and you can’t see the claymore which your body is aimed to fly into. Even if there’s no claymore there, all the way in fountain my boys can hear me. It goes BANG and your body flies.

The current attack win-deltas via the Y4S1.3 Designer’s Notes

So, I’m worried, I’m a little bit worried. When Mira came in and changed everything… I have a feeling that the defensive sided statistics we’re seeing at the moment will skyrocket backwards because the attackers now have the advantage that they once did not, and that flank that gets my team (and I’m sure gets a bunch of other teams) will be locked down. I think we’ll start seeing more double flanks which we got in our most recent Pro League game against Secret (or LeStream, I can’t remember) -- they ran a double flank on Bank, and you can’t combat a double flank if you’ve got one flank watcher. Same way if you sacrifice someone to the Nomad and then you run up after them, that might now be the new meta and you might now need the two flank watchers to watch the double flank… So it’s really confusing and I think the meta will change a lot, yeah.

Do you think NORA-Rengo is a grand-finals team?

Note: This was asked during the Team Empire vs NORA-Rengo semi-final

Yes, absolutely. I know by the time you guys read this the game will be well over, but to have Coastline as the decider (between NORA-Rengo and Empire) really upset me cause I want NORA-Rengo to make it to the finals -- they’re finals capable. I think they’re a real contender to take the Six Invitational, I really do think so. When I saw Coastline as the last map... we’ve gone against Empire on Coastline and they’re a force to be reckoned with. There are certain ways to counter them, but not on both halves -- there is only one half where you really have a counter and the other half you’re like “oh I hope I can hit my shots or something because that’s all we’ve really got for them,” so I’m worried. We took NORA-Rengo 7-5 on Coastline and we stuffed a lot of rounds, and Coastline isn’t our best map and if we did that well against NORA-Rengo, then for this to be the decider, I was worried straight away.

It's 3-4 at the moment as we currently speak, and I do hope that they come back. They will go onto attack which they’re pretty good at and I think Empire is less good at their defensive side more often than they are their attacking side, so fingers crossed, but I’ll be really sad if they got knocked out now, I really will be.

Who do you think will win the Six Invitational?

Note: As with before, this was asked during the Team Empire vs NORA-Rengo semi-final

Let’s say NORA-Rengo wins this map and they make it to the finals as I anticipated they would... I thought Team Empire would make it with NORA-Rengo but as the groups developed that’s not possible -- one of them has to knock out each other, which is such a shame that the groups kinda spiralled into that. I do think G2 will make Finals. I don’t think they are the G2 that they were maybe six months ago, I think they've come down a little bit… they’re resting, they’re just laying low. I’m a big fan of Empire, I know a lot of people aren’t a big fan of Empire which is such a shame… they’re a great team and so I’d like to see them prove everyone wrong at a LAN to say “we’re in a LAN environment, we’re just as good as we are online and here’s the hammer to show it”.

I’d like to see that, but out of this matchup now if Japan doesn’t go through, I’d be very surprised firstly, and would be very upset as I think Empire would have won out of gun skill -- which I don’t think Siege needs to be brought down to, which is such a shame.

Anything you want to talk about?

I want everyone to know firstly that PENTA is very, very grateful for everyone’s support. I personally have gained a lot of support over the last few months myself. To all the females that look up to me in Brazil especially, and globally, I really appreciate your support. It means a heck of a lot to me, it does motivate me, and it does motivate my players to work harder, so I appreciate that.

And I do want to say that I guess if you are following the Siege scene and you’re not understanding something and you want to know more about the scene, make sure you contact people like us ‘cause it’s our job not to just do the best in our job but also to ensure that the future generations of Siege -- analysis, coaching, support staff, playing -- are taken up at a higher level, and you can’t do that unless you reach out and you find out how to do it, so please do reach out, it’s really important.

The current PENTA roster via @PENTA_Sports. From left to right: SirBoss, Jess, Hungry, RevaN, ENEMY and blas.



PENTA’s penultimate game of the season will be tonight against mousesports, followed by a game against LeStream next week, with a LAN spot still on the line for the roster. You can learn more about the roster by reading our interview with RevaN right here and keep up to date with future interviews as well as the full coverage of the Pro League right here at SiegeGG!