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Pengu: "I think [our situation] feels worse than it is"

In our fifteenth article in the Invitational Insights series, we talk to G2 Esports’ star player of Pengu about his team’s preparation for the Six Invitational 2020.

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G2 Esports, once the team to beat in Rainbow Six: Siege, has fallen quite far from its previous dizzying heights. In an era that had spanned from Season 4 in early 2017 to the Six Invitational in early 2019, G2 Esports not only won the Six Invitational -- twice, defending its title in 2019 -- but also the Six Major Paris, three Pro League titles, and a DreamHack to boot. A year on from the Six Invitational title defence, though, G2 Esports is no longer that fearsome squad that smashed teams without dropping a single round.

The struggles first began in Season 9, when G2 had such a poor first half of the Pro League that a stellar second half was only good to see the team finish in third place. Missing out on the Pro League Finals for the first time in its history, observers began to wonder if it was the beginning of a downward spiral for the team. Despite that miss, however, a third place in the highly competitive European Pro League was nothing to be scoffed at. The struggles continued in Season 10 for the team, but G2 went to the Six Major Raleigh with confidence, crushing teams as it had used to -- all up to the grand final, where Team Empire avenged its 0-3 Six Invitational defeat by beating G2 3-1.

G2 Esports' former roster at the Six Major Raleigh. (Photo: G2 Esports)

Despite these strong results, it was clear that G2 was far from an unbeatable team. However, the team’s struggles in the Pro League continued, and despite a late, strong push, the team once again missed out on the Pro League Finals -- thanks in part to a stellar comeback by eventual title winners Natus Vincere, who overturned a 1-5 scoreline to win 7-5. As such, G2 Esports had then squandered two chances to qualify for the Six Invitational 2020.

Chopping and changing its rosters to try and find some success, first dropping Joonas “jNSzki” Savolainen for Aleksi “UUNO” Työppönen and then Daniel “Goga” Mazorra Romero for Pascal “Cryn” Alouane after Team Liquid and BDS Esport prevented qualification to the playoffs at DreamHack Montreal 2019. The experiment with Cryn was a certain failure, however, as two more chances went begging for G2 -- the first when MIBR surprised the team at the OGA PIT Minor, and the second when MnM Gaming stunned the team in the online qualifier for the Six Invitational.

Cryn at the OGA PIT Minor.

Now, having dropped Cryn for the loanee of Ferenc “SirBoss” Mérész from PENTA, G2 Esports heads to the Six Invitational after having been invited there. To know more about the team’s preparation, SiegeGG spoke to the longest-standing player on the roster, Niclas “Pengu” Mouritzen:

Through the invite your team has been given a chance to defend your title. How did your team receive the news, was there some surprise in your camp?

I don't think that anything other than “we kind of expected it” was said. Obviously when it was announced, us players let out a "LET’S GO BOYS", Kantoraketti himself was really excited and UUNO wants to really prove himself with us. I think Fabian and myself were less hyped due to the circumstance of the invite (failing to qualify via every way possible) and there being a risk of a VERY poor showing as we try to defend the title.

On the other hand, it sparked a reason to keep going hard and not have an “off-season” and reset; we grinded out almost the entire season with Cryn up until the Team Empire game and we really wanted to get better to at least make it to the quarter-finals.

So far, your Pro League season has been largely middle-of-the-road, much like your past two seasons. Could you shed some light on what seems to be the issues?

I think a lot of teams and casters say that we are “much worse” and “middle-of-the-road” as you mentioned, but despite all that, we were just one or two rounds off in most games to actually go from losing to winning -- very small details that snowballed into our defeat.

The thing that always impresses me the most is that even when we are “so much worse than before”, we still manage to be a few rounds off making LAN (the Season 10 Finals in Japan) or being top of the pack (current Pro League season). I am happy that we haven’t fallen THAT far, at least in the standings, and I think it feels worse than it is.

Your team has an impressive support staff, with Shas, Sua, and Fresh all helping out. How do all these moving pieces work together?

G2 Esports' two coaches, Shas (far left) and Sua (center, with caber) celebrating the Six Invitational 2019 victory.

I can’t disclose too much on the internals of our operation, but generally Shas as our main “coach” does the banning (with preparation from Sua and Fresh of course). He is still the man behind us on the stage despite taking on more of a management role in the past seasons.

Sua and Fresh work more hand-in-hand with analysis and direction and all three combined deliver us our report on the weekly games.

Do you believe another era of dominance, like your team enjoyed for nearly two years, is possible?

I honestly don't think it will happen again, teams are getting better, and they are more equal in support, salaries, and resources. Talent is being bought left and right from really good teams, weakening them, and with every team wanting to get better and create new forces, it’s very tough to keep a really good team together, more than ever before.

Everyone understands that your spot is never safe and there are probably always better offers out there. With international changes happening, players are much faster to change their minds about their current team, I believe.

The era that we had was legendary and it was some of the best Rainbow Six: Siege that I have ever played in a team, everyone was just on a whole different level back then.

Your team was surprised by MIBR at the OGA PIT Minor and MnM Gaming in the online qualifier. What steps have you taken to avoid that this time?

We’ve struggled with performance both individually and as a team, at times. If you look back, we have tried many different roles on different players in the past few months and have tried to reinvent ourselves. This obviously was without success as nothing seemed to fix the gap that we had with other teams. We are still trying to find our footing.

Much has been said about the seeding process for the groups. Does your team have any gripes with it? Some argue your team was favoured with an easy group.

Every event is always “rigged”, as fans say. G2 vs BDS is a good example of the whole “Pengu vs Shaiiko” fan drama-lama and viewers love it. It’s some of the most-watched games online in terms of numbers. I don’t think myself nor Shaiiko have any beef anymore, nor do we weigh the burden to be any higher than other games. 

Besides that, I think that it's a shame to have three LATAM teams in a single group (Group C). I think it’s a huge waste of potentially good games. After all, mixing regions is what LAN events are for, and with three LATAM teams being in the exact same group, it just makes for poorer games as they know each other so well.

How do you think that the double-elimination playoffs will change the dynamic of the event, and what is your opinion of the one-map advantage in the grand final?

I think double-elimination is always a better situation as a player, knowing you can play it risky and careless if you wanted to, while also having a safety mechanic if it backfires -- the better team should always win, so why would it be a problem for them to win twice?

When it comes to the one-map advantage Grand Final, I mean its a Best-of-Five, one map is very small in the greater scheme of things. I also think it would be highly unfair if you were to advance via the upper winner bracket and not get rewarded at all?

I think it's fair in every aspect and it also means that you really got to give it your all every game and perhaps feel like risking a game isn't “safe” just because of double-elimination, as the Grand Final would be even tougher if you were to climb back up.

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G2 Esports plays Team Reciprocity as the opening match, with matches against either Wildcard Gaming or BDS Esport scheduled afterwards. Check back here at SiegeGG for more Invitational Insights and full coverage of the event as it comes.