Deja Vu, I’ve just been in this place before. We can’t tell if MNM Gaming has reached European and international heights driving a Toyota AE86, but the Deja Vu is real following a second promotion to the European top flight.
The Molotovs and Marshmallows squad has not only replicated its successful 2019 run, but also improved it. From now on, Jan. 23 will be remembered as the day where a former Challenger League roster played eight maps against two top-flight teams to become a Six Invitational contender.
Following his retirement in late 2020, the now 25-year-old player went back to his roots and signed for MNM Gaming. However, neLo admitted having had trials with “three European League teams” before signing for MNM Gaming. “They were looking for new players, I trialed with them and it worked really well, we also had a CL spot so it was easier.”
You know what’s the deal, sequels are never good. But just like Initial D, neLo has given fans some hope for the future by proving this proverb wrong.
MNM Gaming’s current roster was announced on Sep. 22, with Callum “Neonical” Humphreys and the GSA League sensation Fatih “Solotov” Türker joining the squad.
Such a young roster with only T3 experience gathered in different European regional leagues makes a huge contrast with the squad’s IGL, Leon “neLo” Pesić. The Croatian was part of MNM Gaming in 2019 when the roster was bought by Natus Vincere, an acquisition that was followed by a Pro League Season 10 victory in Tokoname, Japan, and a Six Invitational 2020 appearance.
NeLo is leading the roster as the IGL, and considers himself to be able to “calm down things when needed”. With four under 21 players, and him being 25, neLo admitted calling them “the young kids”.
So far he has done an excellent job at that, as the team were promoted to the European League back on Dec. 2021, a situation neLo admitted to be “different” as it “was not my first time, as the whole emotions of the first time weren’t there, but I am still happy because I have managed to get in the new lineup, teach them, and it also proves that I deserve to be at the top of this game as well.”
MNM Gaming’s biggest test to date came a month later at the EU SI 2022 Closed Qualifiers.
In order to qualify for the Six Invitational, MNM Gaming had to win an open qualifier before facing three European League rosters in the closed qualifier. The schedule for the final tournament made things even harder for teams, with MNM Gaming facing cowana at 10:30 am CET.
“It’s pretty easy: my kids are not the early type. We had to play at 10:30 CET, which is 9:30 in the UK. We had to play our warmup at 8:30. It was so much harder to concentrate,” neLo admitted.
Things were different for the match against Team Vitality, as neLo admitted the team had “taken a nap”. Nothing could be compared to Sunday though, as the team played eight maps. “We didn’t care, we didn’t think about it, we focused on Secret. Due to the map ban advantage we knew we would play Bank, a map we always banned. It was rough, but we managed to pull it off.”
MNM Gaming had won four of their first five maps of the day, as the team defeated Secret by 2-1 and began with a 2-0 advantage over cowana. “Then fatigue started kicking in, when cowana won the following two maps I said to forget it, drink an energy drink, and get back our strength.”
The Croatian went through the keys behind the Grand Final against their UKIN neighbors cowana, but he admitted that “it wasn’t all about being tired”. MNM Gaming’s IGL admitted the team being nervous on Oregon as “we were losing 4-0 in our best map”. Again, we are talking of a young squad with very little to non-existent experience in high-pressure and demanding situations, so a BO5 to qualify for a Six Invitational is a hell of a nightmare.
Believe it or not, this is not the first time a recently promoted squad qualifies for an Invitational through the regional qualifiers. In 2019, Team Empire would finish in second place of the Six Invitational three months after being promoted to Europe’s Pro League. Just a year later, Team BDS finished in fourth place of the Six Invitational 2020 three months after its promotion.
With these precedents, teams must face MNM Gaming based on history: one of the old continent’s main threats in Siege. These kids aren’t playing around.
However, neLo wants to keep his head down. This team was put together four months ago, and has just been promoted to its region’s top-flight. Dreaming big is appreciated, but the team must be humble.
MNM Gaming’s mentality could be compared to that student who always completed his homework early and had the chance to do extra homework to improve his mark. The team has completed its main task, getting promoted. Now, the roster has the chance to enjoy a unique experience. “We will obviously prepare, but honestly, we didn’t have pressure in the qualifier, if we win we win, if we lose we lose.”
That doesn’t mean MNM Gaming is on vacation in Sweden. “Winning is the goal, but I think we shouldn’t care. Winning is our job, but I know there are worse things in life than losing. We don’t have that pressure, and I won’t try to push my players. And it’s working out. The less pressure, the better.”
MNM Gaming will take part in its first international event at the Six Invitational 2022 between Feb. 8 and Feb. 20. There, we will see if this young team still eats at the kids’ table, or makes its name in the scene with another notable run.
MNM Gaming will compete at the Six Invitational 2022 with the following squad:
- Josh “Yuzus” Pritchard
- Leon “neLo” Pesic
- Luke “Tyrant” Casey
- Callum “Neonical” Humphreys
- Fatih “Solotov” Türker