Giants Gaming in 2021 has, to put it simply, been very different to its 2020 self. While its roster has remained identical, the team's results have taken a sharp dive.
Where the Singaporean roster had won the Six November 2020 Major for APAC North, had been top in Stages 1 and 2 of the regular season, and had been second to Cloud9 in the August Major and the APAC North Finals, 2021 has been far more difficult.
Across the seven games in APAC South in Stage 1, the Giants could only manage two regular-time victories and one overtime victory. Outside those, they lost the other four games in what were almost all upset losses at the time.
Of the teams headed to the Six Invitational next month, Giants Gaming are possibly the only team that has part-time players. Matin "SpeakEasy" Yunos and Jordan "Jrdn" Cheng are both schooling, while star player Jeremy "HysteRiX" Tan is only midway through his mandatory two-year National Service with the police.
Team captain Glen "Lunarmetal" Suryasaputra and Adrian "Ysaera" Wui are the only two full-time players on the roster, with the duo stretching back to their first competitive appearance at the Six Invitational 2017 as part of the first APAC team to win a map against international opposition.
The Giants are, like the two Thai and one Taiwanese team alongside them, new to APAC South. The four Southeast Asian teams had been part of the APAC North Division in 2020, playing against teams such as Fnatic and Cloud9 regularly.
With the game being massively popular in Japan, games against the Japanese teams -- even though against organisations that are lesser-known internationally -- saw large viewership numbers.
APAC North would also gain the titanic organisations of T1 and DWG KIA in 2021, further boosting commercial attractiveness. As a result, the Giants had suddenly 'lost out' on that opportunity.
At the same time, the postponement of the Invitational had an adverse effect on the players, with the part-time trio having had put in great amounts of effort to obtain leave and shift other commitments to ensure their attendance.
As such, in hindsight, it is clearer to see just why the Giants fell so spectacularly short in Stage 1.
SiegeGG spoke to Lunarmetal to find out more about what happened and how the Singaporeans are shaping up for their second Invitational in a row.
Obviously, it's not been a great season for you. Talk us through what exactly went wrong for a team that was 2nd in APAC North and the August Major, and won the November Major?
I think the best way to answer this would be to go back in time a bit.
Historically, we’ve always been a very mentally driven team and in all the events we were really hungry; eager to stop being gatekeepers, prove ourselves internationally and represent a new org, etc. Every season had a big goal that made any sacrifice worth it.
In comparison, 2021 started out really terribly for us. SI being postponed had hit everyone’s motivations hard because we’d spent the whole of 2020 preparing for that event. Yes, it was our fault for getting affected but I think it would affect anyone and it’s no surprise that legends like Troy "Canadian" Jaroslawski and Niclas "Pengu" Mouritzen chose to retire then.
If I had the title of world champion that would’ve probably been a good a time as any because it really sucked to not be able to play for something you spent 1 year preparing for.
A second hurdle was being moved to APAC South out of the blue. I’m not allowed to go into it too much, but long-term plans which were previously made could no longer be carried out and put us (the players) and Giants in a very awkward position. It really wasn’t about the level of competition affecting us, it was the fact that we almost lost our jobs without warning that was truly a wake-up call for me.
With your team at the event being one of the few that won't be entirely full-time, how much of an effect has that had on your season so far and how will it affect your Invitational run?
I actually think at this point we’re used to it. We made it this far on a part-time schedule and are definitely at the level where we can beat any team here if they aren’t careful. Our schedules won’t be a reason for our under/over performance.
Last year, your team was on the ascendancy, yet came away from the Invitational winless. Is there a concern that that will happen again, especially with your currently shaky form?
Don’t think that performance was a fair comparison, we had just lost Pat (Mentalist) to Fnatic and Jrdn’s first LAN event was the SI. Not to mention, GiG had less than 2 weeks of work with us... yeah you can’t compare us now to us then. Even if we were to underperform it’s a totally different ball game now.
How does a team pick up from its current state, back to where it was last year, and to a level where it can challenge the best in Paris? Is there a real risk of missing out on the 2022 Invitational?
Spot the problems, identify if it’s easily fixable or deeply rooted, then problem solve from there. Make changes as necessary, it’s really that simple. Thankfully I think that we are still a team with solid fundamentals, good experience and a great balance of playstyles.
There’s always a risk of missing out. We had a risk of missing out on the 2021 Invitational right until we actually qualified. I think “risk of missing out” isn’t a good way of putting it because SI for most teams is a “work your ass off until you actually qualify” kind of qualification.
Speaking of Paris, will the entirety of your team be in attendance, given potential clashes with the schooling and NS schedules of the players?
As I’m typing this we’ve just got our flight tickets confirmed but three-fifths of the team hasn’t been guaranteed leave yet (because we still have to ask our superiors/respective schools for leave, etc.) Hopefully nothing too drastic would get in the way and you’ll still see us there.
What is your opinion on the changed format for the Invitational and how do you rate your chances in the group?
I’ve never been a fan of Bo1s, but I like the round-robin nature of it. The three-month hiatus also means that the strength of teams are very different now. Some are stronger, some are weaker but all are hard to gauge as there hasn’t been any inter-region matches in a long while.
I think we have a fair shot, but Bo1s also mean that whoever makes mistakes loses the game before they even realize it.
What is your goal for the Invitational and how confident are you that you'll achieve it?
Our goal for 2021 is and has always been Top 8; might be modest compared to other teams but it's an achievable one. Very achievable.
Funnily enough, we made that target right at the end of our SI 2020 run where we ended 13th-16th. It's part of a longer, more progressive plan.
Is there anything you want to say to your fans and maybe your competitors?
To all of our fans, thanks for believing in us for so long. Please continue cheering for us because we promise it’ll be worth it in the end, this slump won’t last ; )
To all the other teams at SI, GLHF.
Catch the Giants in action next on the 12th of May at 5 PM SGT (UTC+8), when they take on Ninjas in Pyjamas live from Paris.