Cyclops Athlete Gaming (CAG) may be relatively new to the wider APAC scene, but they can hardly be underestimated as newcomers who won't pose much of a threat as they have already demonstrated. A Season 9 campaign that went tremendously well for them saw them beat three other teams to an APAC Finals spot on the final day, where they gave Fnatic a harder fight than they likely would have bargained for.
Going back to Japan with immense experience gained from not only playing Fnatic on-stage, but also scrimming other APAC teams on LAN, CAG started their Season 10 campaign with two wins, only facing resistance in the third week from GUTS Gaming. While they drew the first map, the second map was a clean 7-3 victory by the more experienced CAG. Father's Back was then dispatched, and CAG were comfortably top of the table.
Slicing through the online qualifier for the subsequent Six Major Raleigh APAC LAN qualifier, CAG headed to Sydney with heads held high. Coming up against an Aerowolf that had seemed better than ever, CAG brushed their opponents aside in a 2-0, and then beat out a feisty 0RGL3SS (now Wildcard Gaming) to qualify for an international tournament on their very second attempt.
Of course, being as inexperienced as they were, the Six Major Raleigh didn't go well. Opening their international account against G2 Esports, CAG were swiftly defeated, and didn't do much better against their next opponents of Rogue. Combined across both series, CAG only secured nine rounds, but it's the wealth of of experience that would have been invaluable to them.
Coming back home to Japan, FAV Gaming held CAG to a draw on one map, but a second map win meant that CAG had little to worry about, especially with NORA-Rengo being held by a zero-point Father's Back, and GUTS being held by Lamy the next day. Going up against NORA-Rengo themselves the next week, CAG once again came away with four points and guaranteed themselves a spot at the APAC Finals. A final day demolition of DetonatioN Gaming closed out their season as they began gearing up for their Sydney fight.
To know more about their Season 10 campaign, and how they're preparing for the APAC Finals, SiegeGG spoke to team captain Shohma "Shokei" Shiotsuka:
Your team has been going from strength to strength, first qualifying to the APAC Finals in Season 9, then qualifying to the Six Major Raleigh, and now going undefeated in Japan. What has been the key to this success?
Since we have become a team, we have changed two of our five players. We have also modified parts of our team’s structure in terms of coaches and analysts, aside from the additions of SuzuC and gatorada, who were previously on the core roster of another team.
Despite your strength in APAC, your team struggled greatly at the Six Major Raleigh, only getting four rounds against G2 Esports and five rounds against Rogue. How have you used that experience to improve?
While we had mentally prepared to not be dominated by our opponents, we failed to adapt ourselves to the changing situations in the game that a team faces in its first appearance on the great stage of an international competition. That event allowed us to learn the strategies of each region and strategise for LAN matches effectively.
How different did you find the international play styles as compared to what you had seen in Japan and in APAC?
Japanese teams seem to be imposing upon themselves to play a lot more carefully as compared to overseas teams. For better or worse, they play a lot more rigidly, I guess.
This time, you face TRIPPY as your opening match at the APAC Finals. Were you relieved to find out you got probably the easiest game, at least on paper?
Objectively it does look easier than the other side of the bracket, but we won’t underestimate any participant that has made it to the APAC Finals, including TRIPPY.
Your side of the bracket also avoids all four “titans” of APAC (Fnatic, NORA-Rengo, Cloud9, and Aerowolf). How confident are you of your chances of qualification to the Season 10 Finals, facing TRIPPY and then either Wildcard Gaming or Xavier Esports?
We kept focusing on these APAC Finals even during domestic Pro League matches. We will not lose.
How badly does your team wish to qualify to the Season 10 Finals, given that they will be held on home turf in Tokoname?
We are really looking forward to the event held in Japan, our home country, so we are itching to qualify, and have put a lot of effort towards achieving this goal!
At the start of the season, you dropped Com and tetra, picking up SuzuC and gatorada, and benched Mocho while promoting BlackRay. How important have these changes been for you so far?
Adopting opinions and perspectives from our two new players we brought over from another team enabled us to play with more advanced strategies with clearer objectives. That’s highly beneficial for us.
Do you have anything to say to your fans at home and internationally?
So as not to repeat our previous results from Raleigh, we’ll work together as one team and give our best effort to win the upcoming APAC Finals, and qualify for the Season 10 Finals in Japan.
Catch Cyclops Athlete Gaming in action this weekend, as the Season 10 APAC Finals run from the 19th to 20th of October, with games starting at 10 AM AEDT (GMT+11) each day. Opening their account against APAC debutants TRIPPY, CAG are heavy favourites to win, and then also go on to beat either Wildcard Gaming or Xavier Esports.