Sua: "[Shas and I] tackle our big mountain of work together"

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From Germany to Finland, now back to Berlin, Kevin “Sua” Stahnke went from leaving ENCE to joining G2 and winning the Six Invitational within a month. After almost eight months with the G2 roster, we had to talk with the German analyst.

A true fan of the game, Kevin “Sua” Stahnke has been in the Rainbow Six: Siege community since 2016, the year when he joined PENTA Sports Academy where he made his first steps as a player. However, most people know him for joining ENCE after the conclusion of the Six Major Paris. Back then, the Finnish roster was about to kick off Season 8 of the Challenger League after being relegated from Pro League the season before. 

Working alongside Willkey, Bounssi, UUNO, Gomfi, and SHA77E, Sua’s mission was to get ENCE back to the top division of the game. The roster was able to finish in second place, just behind Team Empire, then an unknown Russian team that had conquered the Challenger League with 13 wins. However, ENCE’s second place was enough to give them the chance to qualify to the Pro League through the relegation match, which they won against Team Vitality (2-1). The goal was complete.

Their next appearance was at DreamHack Winter 2018, where ENCE had a very poor performance, losing to Chaos (2-0) and Team Liquid (2-1), thus finishing last in their group with a -18 round difference. 

The Finnish team seemed to bounce back from their DreamHack appearance after a 7-2 win against LeStream Esport (now Vodafone Giants) on the first game week in Season 9, but immediately after the German coach decided to step down from the team. This was followed by two consecutive Pro League losses and two 2-0 losses to XTreme Video Esport and PACT in the Six Invitational 2019 qualifiers.

Despite this arguably poor track record, G2 Esports signed Sua as their new analyst just one month after he had left the Finnish roster and only two weeks before the start of the Six Invitational 2019. After a magical run through the tournament, he would go on to win the Sledgehammer, alongside Fabian, Pengu, Goga, Kantoraketti, jNSzki, and Shas[o]Udas.

After almost eight months with the Berlin-headquartered G2 Esports, SiegeGG had the chance to speak with Sua and ask him some questions about his thoughts about the team, the different regions and the role of an analyst in the scene:

You were “promoted” to coach recently, but were initially “just” an analyst for the team. What has changed?

I initially joined G2 in February as an analyst. The timing was really tight and announcing me as the new analyst was the most obvious way to quickly handle this before the Invitational. After the Invitational, we had more time to talk about specifics and we came to the conclusion that Shas would be manager and coach and I would be coach and analyst.

Nowadays, those lines are completely blurred and we both do all of the above. We tackle our big mountain of work together, making us one of the first coaching duos. Despite the fact that this is how we work, the analyst thing still remained as a meme within the team, but I am a coach. 

After a poor performance from G2 Esports in the first half of Season 9, the team decided to pick you up as their newest analyst. Less than two weeks after joining the organization, your players won the Six Invitational 2019 after smashing Team Empire 3-0. How did you feel after the conclusion of the tournament?

Immediately after I joined, Shas and I sat down to plan out how to prepare for the Invitational. We spent the most time on internal and external analytics and problem-solving, which led to an incredible run at the Invitational. The two weeks leading into the event were rough as all we did was eat, sleep, work, and repeat. But it was totally worth it for obvious reasons.

The statistics from the Six Invitational Grand Final 2019, which G2 Esports won 3-0 against Team Empire

What do you think you've brought to the roster after more than half a year with the team?

Before I joined ENCE, I was a competitor in both Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six Siege. I always strived and grinded to win. Shas is someone that likes to have everything go according to plan whereas I follow a looser reactive philosophy. So, I brought a new perspective to the team and new ideas on how to play.

From the moment I joined, Shas has taken my perspectives and ideas into consideration. When we have a problem, Shas comes up with idea A, I come up with idea B and we discuss together on how to get the best of both worlds. It’s important to see eye-to-eye in order to have cohesion in your support staff.

After some bad games from Team Empire -- two ties against PENTA and GiFu and a loss against G2 Esports -- and a winning streak for your players, G2 is back to top-two in the EU. How did you work to improve your performances ahead of the second half of the season?

I would love to take the easy way out by saying “we saved strats”, but that's only partially true. We had a massive change in our team because we picked up UUNO, who is by far one of the smartest and most mechanically-skilled players in the world. 

However, it requires time to fully integrate a new player into your roster before you can get the blind trust and cohesion within the team, especially in stressful situations. Our run at Raleigh was incredible. We played an almost perfect and flawless tournament until the final and it gave us a small glimpse of what this roster is capable of.

DreamHack Montreal was the final wakeup call for us on what we needed to work on. Immediately after the tournament ended, we went back to square one to rework and reinvent ourselves as a team, knowing that we can still make Japan by winning all seven remaining games of the season. I am really happy with our performance. We take it game-by-game and focus on the overarching goal to qualify for Japan and also the Six Invitational 2020. 

It's only been one year since Team Empire's first Challenger League match. The Russian roster went from playing in the second tier to losing a Six Invitational Final against the best team in this game's history, G2 Esports. Three months later they won their first international competition -- the Season 9 Finals -- and, in September, they got their revenge against your roster. As a coach, what do you think is behind Empire's success?

I followed Team Empire closely as they were my main opponent in Season 8 of the Challenger when I competed with ENCE. What immediately caught my  eye was their strong droning. I have to admit there is no one even close to their discipline with drones. They place the drones in such a way that it builds a tight net of information which is hard to penetrate. And as we all know by now, they always do the same strategy repeatedly. I like to call it the “Bulldozer” because no matter how you set up around them, they are super efficient in establishing an initial foothold and making it really hard to win defense rounds.

On defense, you have JoyStiCK who is one of the best roamers in the world, in my opinion. He is just really good at eating your time, drones, and soul. But there is no perfect strategy in Siege and every system has a weak point that you need to find -- even Empire has weaknesses.  

The EU Challenger League qualifiers have never been as close, not to mention that Team Secret and forZe -- Semi-Finalists at the Raleigh Major -- will participate in Season 10 of the tournament. What are your thoughts about the European region?

Currently, I can say with confidence that the top teams of the European Challenger League (CL) can go toe-to-toe with North American and Latin American Pro League teams. The amount of raw skill in CL is scary. Teams like forZe, Secret, and BDS all deserve a shot at Season 11 of the Pro League, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds moving forward. Europe as a region is developing exponentially.

We can scrim against CL teams, try new stuff, and gain massive improvements from them without giving anything away to PL teams. In return, CL gets better from practicing against the best teams in PL. It’s a win-win for Europe as a region. 

Let's talk about other regions. None of the APAC teams won a single map during the Six Major, FaZe Clan was the only LATAM team that qualified for the Main Stage, and only two out of five NA teams survived the group stage (Team SoloMid and Spacestation Gaming). TSM currently sits seventh in the NA PL, while SSG got to play at Raleigh thanks to the Host Country Invite. Meanwhile, all the European rosters -- including two CL teams -- progressed to the main stage. What do you think these regions have to improve to give a tougher fight to the European sides?

As I mentioned earlier, Europe as a region is snowballing currently to a point where I always give teams like forZe, Secret, or BDS a fair chance to win on LAN versus NA or LATAM. 
I would say the biggest issue for LATAM and NA are their Challenger Leagues. They just don't have the density of teams to scrim that will challenge them.

TSM, in my eyes, is the hot newcomer and they are definitely on my radar, especially with Gotcha as a coach now. Jarvis being benched is questionable to me, but I am not in a position to question their decision as we don't know what’s going on behind closed doors. We will never get the full picture unless Jarvis or TSM discloses the situation entirely to the public.

Do you think that the analyst role is underrated in Siege?

The analyst role is definitely an unthankful task with little to no public recognition. I would like to get more credit for support staff in general. Currently, you don't get any achievements as analyst on Liquipedia and, in my eyes, that is wrong. You are a crucial part of your team’s success and deserve the credit for it. A good step in the right direction is ESL including the coach in their roster presentations during the pre-match talk.

Would you like to say something or give any advice to all those people that are working each day to become analysts in the near future?

If you are an aspiring coach, analyst or manager, keep on pushing because there will be a time your commitment pays off. Esports as an industry is still in its early stages and you will get your chance when you are good at what you do!

I would like to finish this interview by thanking every single person that bought the G2 Pilot Program skins or any other Pilot Program skin. You directly support what we love and everyone in G2 from the players to the coaching staff, and even all the way up to the G2 management, appreciates this. You guys keep the lights on! #G2ARMY

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Catch G2 Esports in action again later tonight as they face a Natus Vincere playing with Pie standing in for a banned Doki, and check back here at SiegeGG for more interviews and Rainbow Six coverage.